I used to be intelligent. When I was in primary school, I was praised for advancing quicker than everyone else in the reading levels. Into high school, I got consistently good grades in all classes but maths…words I could handle, numbers confuse me. As I got older, I was often considered the nerdy one, and words like smart and intelligent were often used to describe me. These days, I feel like I mostly just come across as angry and spacey. It’s like somewhere along the line, my brain contracted a serious case of The Dumb, and now I often feel like I’m the most stupid person in the room.
I was thinking today, about the books I’ve read this year. I track my reading habits through Goodreads, so I know what I’ve read, and can set a reading goal each year. I checked today, since it’s been a while since I last picked up a book, and something struck me. I’m a sucker for a good fiction novel, and everything I’ve read this year has been in that category. But then, scrolling through, I saw all these really intellectual sounding titles read by a woman I went to school with, and suddenly the books I have read this year sounded juvenile by comparison. If anyone were to guess who I was based on this year’s books, I imagine they would picture a 17 year old girl. Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, a handful of YA fiction, and a couple of Michael Connolly books. Not a single book amongst them about real life people, or current issues, or essays on women and motherhood, or…anything to spark thought or conversation.
It sounds silly, perhaps. After all, you like what you like and I don’t think anyone should ever judge another person’s taste in literature. But this comes off the back of a conversation I had with my brother’s fiance a couple of weeks ago. Apparently she had a conversation with a mutual acquaintance, where the other girl said “Amy is so intellectual. I feel like I could learn a lot from her” and I had a moment of feeling chuffed, before my future sister-in-law said “yeah, she could almost give me a run for my money!” Cue a heart sinking feeling of inadequacy, a flush of embarrassment in my cheeks, and the nasty voice inside my head hissing that once again, I wasn’t good enough. I know she didn’t mean anything by it, and she certainly didn’t mean it unkindly. I think it was a compliment, actually. But she’s a nurse, and was studying to be a lawyer, and knows a lot about a lot. And here’s me; working in a shitty retail job, living at home, and struggling to convince people that I’m not a complete idiot because I don’t go to university, or because I don’t read thought provoking non fiction.
Part of my problem, is that I have an inability to clearly and eloquently put thoughts into spoken words. I can write pages and pages on a subject without a problem, but when it comes to explaining things in a face to face setting, I get tongue tied and end up sounding stupid. The other part comes from having a terrible memory, and getting overwhelmed when presented with a big block of information. I don’t know much about political issues, I can’t tell you dates of the wars, and I wouldn’t know how to have a conversation about intersectional feminism without probably offending people with my lack of understanding. Most of the time, I just kind of stumble through talking to people and hope that they don’t focus on me too much.
As a former smart person, feeling stupid is an in unpleasant thing. Maybe one day I’ll be cured of The Dumb, but until then, if I sound like an idiot, just remember to be kind in your judgement.