I’ve been called a lot of things by a lot of people, but hands down the worst things I’ve ever been called are smart and stupid.
Growing up I was always the stupid one. How did I know? My teacher told me so, frequently in front of lots of people. So then, all these people get it in their heads that I’m stupid, so they start calling me that too. And, as I’m sure anyone who’s ever been there knows, I felt like crap. By the time I hit jr. high my self-esteem was about as low as it could go.
Then, seemingly overnight, I got smart. How did I know? Everyone told me so, but until this day I still don’t know how it happened. One day I was stupid, and the next day I was smart.
But the kicker was that every time someone called me smart all I could think of was my teacher saying I was stupid, and it made me feel like a fraud. Here I was working my tail off for every grade, staying up until two and getting up at six, editing and reediting papers, and fooling everyone into thinking I was smart when I knew I wasn’t.
Smart was something that came naturally. It wasn’t like superpowers. You couldn’t get it by flying too close to the sun or by being bitten by a radio active spider. It was like perfect pitch. You either had it or you didn’t. There was no half way.
Then, last week after spending my lunch break with a crying little girl who’d just been called stupid by one of the smart kids I finally realized that smart and stupid are a joke. They aren’t real… not really anyway. It’s not something that can be tested or proven. Intelligence can be kind of tested, but smart and stupid is subjective. It’s what the people around you happen to think about you at that moment.
I can be smart today and stupid tomorrow, but I’m intelligent 24/7.