How would you describe someone? Kind? Smart? Mean? Annoying? Conceited? Generous? To me, all these terms seem too general to apply them to a specific person. Someone could be so nice they’re boring, or be mean but also have a generous side to them. All of these terms are used so broadly, or stereotyped so rigidly, that it’s hard to convince someone that you can be truly ‘nice’ or ‘smart’ if it’s not blatantly obvious in the first place.
For me, this was a problem I had to deal with for awhile, especially in Middle School when I started to meet new people and blend into different groups of kids. Surrounding me were friends who seemed so incredibly smart compared to me; straight A’s, perfect MCA scores, and with brains that were able to comprehend math and science concepts faster than I could, which, I used to think, left me with what? I was smart, but compared to my friends, it seemed like I should be a lot farther than where I was. What made me so different from them? Why couldn’t I grasp a concept the minute a teacher explained it, or get 100% on a test without having to study for it?
Well, some of it I couldn’t control. Growing up with a learning disorder, it was sometimes hard to pay attention, especially when I had to sit and listen to a teacher explain something instead of getting up and doing it. Also, it was easy for me to forget something we learned, and it usually took me a few more explanations to finally get a concept.
Other aspects were my fault. There’s definitely been more than one occasion in which I’ve turned something in late, and there have been times when I’d forget to study for a test, or else not care.
But as time passed, I realized there was so much more to intelligence than getting straight A’s and easily comprehending ‘smart’ subjects like math and science. I came to understand that grades or state tests don’t necessarily reflect how smart you are, just how well you’re able to turn things in and study. Though I make mistakes at school, I feel like I’ve got a grasp on the world that not many other people have. I can understand people, places and events on different levels and perspectives. And along with that, I consider myself advanced in music and literacy.
I believe there is more behind ‘intelligence’ that meets the eye. In America especially, it’s so easy to label someone as ditzy or stupid if they have a few dumb moments or get a C+ on their report card. But the truth is, most people are smart—just in other ways.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.