Think of the smartest, most intellectual person you know. Is he or she a physics expert? Does he or she know every war in American history? Can he or she carry out a conversation about any book you name?
That scientifically gifted, history-loving, well-read person is what I used to think of as “smart.” Grades aside, I used to think that true intelligence was marked by a natural curiosity and talent for all things “scholarly.”
This insecurity has never affected me until this year, when I began to think of myself as “dumb” because I wasn’t talented or constantly interested in these subjects. I’ve gotten fairly good grades all my life- that’s not the problem. My issue was that I thought I was less intellectual than my friends because I’d rather go on a walk than learn about artificial intelligence, and I’d rather binge watch Netflix than teach myself what happened in the war of 1812.
Obviously, this insecurity wasn’t something that ate away at my brain all day, every day. Still, it was something that made me self conscious around all my “smart” friends. It stinks to feel like you’re less intelligent and thus less interesting to talk to. It stinks to feel like you’re missing out on relating with people and bettering your life by acquiring certain knowledge.
I felt stuck for some time because while I wanted so bad to be “smart,” I didn’t want to force myself to study subjects I didn’t have an interest in. I didn’t want to change who I was just to seem more interesting to other people. At the same time, I knew that if only I could train myself to like these subjects, I would be able to partake in so many interesting conversations and feel so much “smarter.”
A month ago, I was talking with one of my friends, (Karen, if you’re reading this, I love you girl), and we were talking about what it means to be “smart.” She reminded me of something I knew, but didn’t yet truly believe. She reminded me that we’re all smart at different things. And now I’m here begging everyone reading this to believe in that sentiment.
No matter what your GPA is, no matter what SAT score you earned, no matter what you pursue in your free time, you are smart at something.
I, for example, am smart at talking to people. I love being a therapist for many of my friends, and I truly feel smart when I can analyze their situations and offer them advice that helps them in the end. I’m smart at reality TV- and yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Seriously though, I can name pretty much every bachelor contestant from the past ten seasons. Is that knowledge what most people define as “intellectual?” Probably not, but it lets me have the best conversations with fellow fans, and honestly, that show has taught me a thing or two about love that I may not have learned otherwise. I’m also smart at certain subjects that I’ve chosen to research and books I’ve chosen to read, whether for school or for my own knowledge. From Me Before You, to Walk Two Moons, I love sitting down with books I choose to read. From the death penalty, to euthanasia, to pop culture of the 1990’s, I love researching the topics I choose to delve into.
I also realized how smart all my friends are. Obviously, the people I used to think of as the epitome of “smart” are very much gifted, but they’re not the only ones. I have friends who are experts in music, film, makeup, philosophy, art, and any other subject you can think of. Some are geniuses at thinking, others are geniuses at doing. Some are passionate and extremely skilled at the jobs they have, others are just as passionate and skilled in the sports they play and the strategies and knowledge they acquire through their competitions.
Do I think it’s important for people to have basic knowledge about certain subjects? Yes, and that’s why we have school, where we’re forced to obtain fundamental knowledge about subjects we might not be completely interested in. This freedom lets us figure out what we are and aren’t curious about, allowing us to spend our time outside of school pursuing whatever we want.
My point is, you are smart. Whether or not you believe it, you are intelligent. I truly believe that every person on this planet, no matter his or her circumstances, is smart at something. If we all pursue what we love, we’ll find people with similar interests. Profound conversations will happen with these like-minded people before we realize it. We don’t have to fit into a mold to be smart, we just have to create our own molds of intelligence.