I’m afraid to admit a couple of things about myself. However, this isn’t my flaw post, nor an extension of it. I’m afraid to admit my obsessiveness when it comes to school. In fifth grade, a light-switch flicked on in my head, and I largely wish it hadn’t. Before then, a 95 and 100 where the same things to me. Grades. Numbers. A sensation I would later write off as cluelessness, but now wish I had never let go of. It’s true that the child is the father of the man. 1o-year old Marley knew way more about me than I ever cared to admit.
A few weeks ago I asked my mom if she knew if I was smart at a young age. She replied yes, citing that I was speaking in full sentences by the crisp age of 8 months. I then proceeded to ask her if she had any doubts when I pulled Bs and the occasional C in Elementary school. She said “no, I knew you’d figure it out eventually.”
I did figure it out. And I now fully comprehend what she means by “figure it out.” It’s all just a game. A meaningless fight to gain and accomplish some intangible rank, prize, grade, score. I’ve become pretty decent at it too. But I’m beginning to realize that the more I play the game, the less “intelligent” and “aware” and “perceptive” I’ve actually become. The more I play it, the more obsessive I become. And it took me until this very moment, this very blog post to realize it. Ranks come back next week. And I’ll see if my rank climbed or fell in the last semester. This gentle reminder by one of my close friends set off a reaction in my head. Ranks. Grades. Last semester. What were my grades last semester? I instantly began rummaging through piles and piles of old mail to try to find my final report card for sophomore year. HEY I FOUND AN UNOPENED CARD WITH 20 DOLLARS!!!!! That wasn’t what I wanted though. Disregarding my grandmother’s sweet Valentine’s day wishes, I proceeded on. “Where is it?”, I thought to myself. “Where is that darn report card so I can calculate my GPA?”
Wow. It took me putting that in writing to realize how ridiculous I’ve become. Why? Because as I was doing this my mother reminded me that my sister is visiting us from college, and that I should watch T.V. with them. I’ve become shallow as heck. I’ve become a robot that is starting to care LESS about what is meaningful for the meaningless pursuit of just a bunch of numbers. Last year I prided myself with saying that grades don’t motivate me, and that I really do enjoy school. And I do. But I’m starting to think less about what I’m learning and more about how my grades affect my GPA.
But there is an inherent flaw in this drive. I have no real goal I’m striving towards. No, I don’t want to go to Stanford or Yale or Rice. I foresee a continuation of the academic competition that has held me captive in high school; I don’t want that.
Yesterday evening and this morning I had a meltdown, which isn’t typical for a largely level-headed person like me. But words like “PSAT” “SAT” and “perfect score” have gotten the best of me. I haven’t enrolled in any classes, so I likely wont master the PSAT. While all my closest friends will make the list of kiddos who got National-merit, I wont. But in reality, I shouldn’t care so much. It doesn’t matter provided that I’m doing something else I enjoy more.
Back to the fear thing. I’m afraid to admit that I never read the Harry Potter series because all my friends have. In truth, I wasn’t the most avid reader as a child. I preferred to speak rather than read. I’m afraid to admit that I’m actually a pretty slow reader, too. Bare with me here, but I’m beginning to understand why I’m so afraid. My head is constantly making these micro-comparisons with other people and it’s driving me off the deep end. I don’t want to be the one amongst my friends who hasn’t read Harry Potter. I don’t want to be that one person amongst all my smart friends that isn’t in BC calculus as a Junior. I feel like I’ve always been hiding this secret that I’m not actually smart at all. That if I didn’t work as hard as I do, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.
All of these concerns though, and all of these micro-comparisons and obsessive thoughts stem from our metric of intelligence. Intelligence isn’t rank or a score. It’s perspective and understanding and thought. It’s seeing that sitting with my sister before she leaves again for UT on Sunday matters more than finding my report card. It’s reaching out to people when they need me. It’s listening to people even when I disagree. That’s smarts. Social skills, and the ability to have perspective and awareness is smarts. So thank you dad for unwittingly throwing my report card from last year away. I couldn’t be happier you did.