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1:16 am - Thurs 6/1/06
The Smartest Kid In Class

The Smartest Kid In Class

So apparently, Im a very bright guy.

Or I was at one point, anyway. At least if you believe that IQ tests measure anything beyond your ability to take an IQ test.

(To backtrack: Don Z. recently emailed and told me that a friend of his, who worked in the office when we were in high school, snooped around in school records, and saw I had the highest IQ score in the class of 1980.)

For the purposes of this entry, Im going to dispense with the Do IQ tests measure anything beyond your ability to take an IQ test question, and assume this indicator of intelligence indicated I was intelligent.

(And for the record: Not only don't I know my IQ score, I don't even remember taking the test.)

I was writing about this off-line, and realized I was going on for days, writing about how and why I always thought of myself as being "smart" when I was growing up.

It really wouldn't work as a Diaryland entry, so I'm going to try and boil that part down.

When I was younger, I thought I was "smart" because:

1. I read a lot, and as a result of all that reading, I had a large vocabularly.

2. I "thought about things" (Which as a troubled kid, pretty much meant thinking about myself. But still, I was thinking).

3. I was funny.


For a time, I even thought of myself as an "intellectual", but that was basically before I knew what the word really meant (And before I met actual "intellectuals").

(In short, I am not an "intellectual".)


I've thought about Don Z's email since he sent it, and I know I've kept promising to "address" it in here (As if you've all been waiting on pins and needles ever since...).

But now that I've tried to take a crack at it, I'm realizing how Don Z. tapped into a very big thing for me--any discussion of how smart I am, what that means, etc, basically has to address my lifelong struggle with my own "potential".

If I'm honest with myself, there's a lot of self-pity that my considerable potential, early on, was not noticed or cared for by the people around me.

And a lot of disappointment, and downright self-hatred, that I was not able to "rise above" that neglect, to accomplish more than I've accomplished in life (I've read enough biographies in my time to know that lots of great people didn't get much emotional/intellectual support growing up, but somehow they still managed to realize their potential to do great things. And all my life, I've wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to "triumph over adversity". For that matter, I still do).


An alternate title for this entry was goign to be "Did I Fail My IQ, or Did My IQ Fail Me?".

While I'm probably not living the life my abilities and potential should have afforded me, my intelligence, considering my early circumstances, probably saved me from a worse fate than the life I currently lead.


A question that just popped into my head one day put a permament dent in the idea that I was "smart": "Okay Jim--Here and now, in any kind of practical, meaningful way, just what exactly are you smart at?".

As time goes by, it seems like my definition of myself as "smart" gets more and more vague and amorphous, while the list of things I don't know and don't understand gets longer and longer.

In short, the older I get, the dumber I feel.


The idea that I was "The Smartest Kid In Class" has pushed buttons I didn't realize I had, or that I didn't realize I still have.

That self-pity and anger I mentioned.

A sense of validation, of something I felt when I was a kid but could never prove: "See? I am special!".

A hope that that potential hasn't dried up yet, that I can still make interesting, meaningful things happen, that I can "work things out".

Thoughts of "What might have been". And a battle to not give over to fear and despair, to not assume my life is essentially over at this point, and instead, to think of "What might still be".

"The Smartest Kid In Class" graduated high school with a C- average.

"The Smartest Kid In Class" is a college dropout.

"The Smartest Kid In Class" is currently a 45 year old man who works in a movie theater.

But "The Smartest Kid In Class" hasn't given up yet...


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