Before we begin, let me give you a bit of a back story here. Please try to take this story with a grain of salt.
Looking back at my life, I tried to figure out when the word “smart” started to be a part of my identity and I couldn’t pinpoint when it actually began. Even as a kid, I was told again and again that I was smart and that was what I was meant to be. You can thank my grandmother and the Philippine educational system for that. I was smart because I learned stuff relatively quickly. I can recall how much people (my family included) would alternate from being impressed and annoyed with me and my twin sister. We were quiet (way quiet by normal kid standards), preferred to read over watching TV or playing, listened intently, and recalled things the older people just said once. That’s what they say, anyway. If we were, I’m not really that aware. What I could recall, though, was the day when the brand “smart” took a step further up.
I just turned 11 the very first time that I took an IQ test. Believe me when I say that I wasn’t expecting anything. The whole IQ thing just hit the mainstream in the Philippines thanks to the Promil kid movement. If you’re not from the Philippines, that was a TV ad that featured kids who had high IQ. After a clip showing what the kid was good at, their name would flash onscreen. Then, their IQ follows suit.
I had absolutely no idea how I did. Then, I was told that my IQ was 140. I was, officially, a gifted child by Promil standards. And (maybe because I really was) I immediately knew that everything’s going to change.
Life’s been rough after that. One good thing, though, is that I’ve met a lot of smart (and smarter) people who share the same issues I struggle with. Here’s the list of some of the problems we share.
1. No matter what we do, people always think that we’re proud. If there’s one thing you must know about me, it’s that I am (almost) always aware of how careful I have to be to avoid coming across as arrogant and prideful. Do you know how hard that is to do?! Every waking moment, each time I open my mouth, I have to think about what I say.
Growing up in an Asian country doesn’t help. We’re all for humility here. I can’t even call myself smart out loud. I’ll be ostracized for that in a heartbeat.
Then, I’m told to “be myself.” How can I be myself if being smart, which is a big part of who I am, is something I can’t be vocal about it? I can’t even begin to explain how many times I’ve had to dumb myself down just to fit in. Man, it’s hard work!
And that doesn’t end there. the second point is related to this one.
2. We’re very lonely. If you’re smarter than normal, that means just one thing. You’re NOT normal. When I first learned about my IQ, that was exactly what I got from it. I’m not like the others.
When my classmates learned, it became even more awkward. I became even more conscious about being called smart. They would share jokes and tell me that I won’t get it because I was too smart. I start telling a story and they’d tell me not to bother because they’re not smart enough to get it.
It didn’t take me too long to learn that finding a friend would be hard. There’s one of us in 250. What are the odds of encountering someone who knows exactly how I’m feeling?
It’a good thing that my twin sister is also very smart, but she’s my sister. She doesn’t count. Who do I talk to when I have issues with her (which is most of the time)?
Now, I’m blessed to have a core group of friends who I can have intelligent conversations with. It took me all of 25 years to find them. I had to wait until our little sister shared the same developmental stage as we’re in. Not all smart people are as blessed.
There’s been a lot of noise about studies proving that there’s a correlation between high IQ and suicide rate. I understand how that’s true. The loneliness comes with the inevitable depression which can sadly be followed by suicide.
3. People hate us out of envy. That may come off as arrogant, but it’s true. It’s one thing to have people hate us because we hurt them. It’s another to have them hate us because we’re smart.
I’ve had my share of ruined relationship because of this. Let me tell you a story.
I used to have a very dear friend and classmate who told me that she hated me for being smart. And if that wasn’t hurtful enough, she added that we couldn’t be friends anymore because of that. She was very straightforward about it, too. She said that she couldn’t bear how I’d get better grades than her when she knew that I didn’t study half as much as she did. I didn’t show it then, but I’ll say it now. I cried that entire night.
I’ve had people say out loud that my intelligence would be my ruin. I’ve had people threaten to take me down and follow through with it. I’ve lost opportunities to “less smart (their words, not mine)” just to even the odds life served us with.
Writing about it now still stings a little bit. Ahh… The memories.
4. It’s very hard to keep us motivated. It’s relatively easy to get us motivated, but to keep us in it is a totally different story. You can blame it on our attention span, but that’s not entirely what it is, methinks. We learn fast. So, it makes sense that when there’s nothing else to learn, we lose interest.
When people ask me to tell them something that I know how to do, I don’t really know what to say. My skill set is quite heavy. I write (duh.), I delve into design, I draw, paint (a little), play music, read (a lot, but not as much as I want to), watch and critique films, write scripts, direct plays, and work a bit of magic if you give me a PC with internet connection.
Then, they ask how I learned to do all that and the answer is our tendency to have a fixation. If I want or have to learn something, I go on full student mode. I absorb knowledge like a sponge. The only problem is that I lose interest like a sponge, too. Once it’s full, give it a bit of a squeeze and I’m out the door.
Doing something again and again can get very tiresome for us. And when we close a chapter, it’s takes the extraordinary to open that chapter again.
5. We are deathly afraid of failing as evidenced by our obvious aversion to trying.
Don’t confuse this point with the previous one. We like learning until we’re good at something, but it’s very rare for us to push that to the level of greatness. The trying part is not in learning. That can come very easy with us. It’s working to be the best and failing at it that scares us.
I always thought of it as a pride issue. Maybe the reason behind this fear was that our ego can’t handle failure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We want to be sure before we do something. And with a lot of decisions in life being based on gut feel with little assurance of success, we’re left shaking in the corner. All of these problems are interconnected, you see. If we fail, there’s bound to be a bunch of people laughing their rehearsed maniacal laugh in the background. That’s enough to give me nightmares.
Another reason is that since being smart is part of our identity, losing that means losing ourselves.
I would never have made it this far if not for God’s grace. I say that with full conviction. My head can go to a really dark place really quickly and really deeply. It takes a LOT of praying and a bit of a miracle to pull me back to the light.
Why am I writing this? I’m writing this to try to save lives.
If you’re smart, hang in there. I won’t say that it’ll get easy. It’s not, but it’ll pass.
If you know someone who’s smart, please be kind. We may understand a lot about the world or life, but we rarely understand ourselves. We’re not better than you. You’re not better than us. We’re all just trying to get by. Let’s make the most out of it.
And that’s my two cents on that.
(Well, make that one, because there’s 5 more things that I’ll write about in a separate post)