“Exceptionally bright, good class participation, bad handwriting.”
I have always been very bright, and very very patient. This pairing was, until recently, what I considered my greatest gift. I wasn’t verry pretty, nor graceful; healthy; successful — But smart as a little monkey and patient enough to wait out the goldrush suckers and bamboozlers, wear out the brutes and the quick, until I could bring the powerful leverage of my monkeysmarts into play. And at each step of my social and educational journey, I was attentive, intuitively capable and intellectually open, able to make rapid leaps between active cognition, internal synthesis, and then re-communicate core ideas of lessons learned. I boil down the lesson very efficiently, I regurgitate it very convincingly, and I follow it very well. I did great on tests. Teachers loved me. I could not pay attention in class and finish all my homework before I got home. Other students hated me, but my ability to turn that blanket of attentiveness and communication to them gained me a small but insanely close group of friends. I excelled in almost all areas of academic study, I was taking college level math, english, chemistry (a subject which I hated and still loathe, but whose central concepts were so easy for me to regurgitate that after an all-nighter out dancing I managed to best all my classmates in a state chemistry competition), and had fully exhausted the physics program available at my school, instead spending the after lunch period idly toying with electronics while talking to my Physics teacher.
There are really two major crises which can arise when an intelligent person is made to believe at an early age that they are smart enough to not have to _learn_ things. One, it can make them into a sociopath. Learning how easy it is to dupe people around you is intoxicating. (Donald Trump is many things but he is not dumb. He is smart enough to realize he can get people to agree with _him_ and not his _ideas_ by using the right tone.) The other is that they get convinced that they are the smartest person in the world. Guess which one I picked (and I thought I had self-esteem problems! Hah.)
Being the Smartest Person in the World
Being so smart that people assume you know everything sucks. At first it’s fun because it’s titillating to impress people. And as a kid, I assumed eventually I would find some core group of competent adults that is out there running stuff while all “the idiots” meander. But eventually, the fun wears off and by the time I was about… ten I had become so nervous about ever NOT knowing the answer, about ever NOT having the solution, or being awkward at a task, that I was embarrassed about being taught. Embarrassed about learning things FROM other people. Because they were all dumber than me! How could THEY, with their slow moving brains and their chubby stupid hands, teach me! ME! The boy who was so smart his dad just _knew_ he didn’t need some gross “sex talk”. The boy who was so bright he just learned things by _being_! So without realizing it, I committed myself fully to the idea that I was the smartest person in the world. I obsessively collected “farcts”, specific details which belie deeper knowledge of a process or concepts. When I didn’t know a thing it was embarrassing, so when I found out about anything I needed to delve as “deeply” into it as I could as quickly as I could, just so I’d sound knowledgeable if somebody happened to want to talk about frost-damage on cactii or old tractors or South American regime changes. And each time I was rewarded for farctical information, it emboldened me further. I _was_ the smartest person in the world. Everyone agreed! Because they were always impressed by all the stuff I knew. And knowledge is power! So I knew I had power, and I was smart enough
to know have read that with power comes responsibility. And being the smartest person in the world must be a seriously big responsibility. It meant I could never ever ever let other people be better than me.
This interestingly idiotic assertion of intelligence wasn’t really conscious. Or not wholly. I knew I was separating the world into two camps, the competent (me and some unknown army of people who make the world work right) versus the incompetent (everybody I had met in my entire life), but it didn’t feel mean, it just felt like I was doing the retards a favor by not expecting much from them. I was angry at the world for not opening every door for me, in awe of my smartness. And I fed that burning anger, like it was ragefire that sustained me.
Into that fire, I fed five jobs, eight years. Countless friends. Unknown chances at bliss. I fed it my energy and my sadness and my hatred and my love and everything I had. Every single thing I had I fed into the same stupid fire, convinced somehow that I could make it burn so hot that struggle itself would cease to exist.
And one day I woke up and tasted the ashes in my mouth — the charred cumshot of a decade of masturbatory rage. I’m done with being angry that the world isn’t perfect. I’m done with being angry that I am not perfect. And I’m done with assuming I’m too smart to have to learn.
Next time: How I learned to stop worrying and love Dr. SpaceJesus.