Saturday, January 12, 2013

Different kinds of stupid

Talking tonight to a friend of mine, I decided to write about the subject upon which we stumbled.

There are different kinds of smart.

This is a light in my head on a dimmer switch, slowly growing brighter over the years.

My personal experience goes something like this:

When I was young I did very poorly on spelling tests and expectations on reading ability and strength. I was tested for dyslexia and didn't have it. I would study for those spelling tests very hard but without fail I would get one or many words wrong. Math I found enjoyable and it made sense to my seemingly feeble brain. Socal Studies, another "important" subject I found dull. Science was fun, but isn't it to all children who have turtles in their classroom and are allowed to play with mercury? What an amazing element. But when you can barely read out loud, are as slow as molasses in January with all school and chores, you may as well just sleep. (one of my fondest past times)

Junior high school began and my days of private school were over. This was the wonderful place where I learned my sex education, I learned that my black English teacher was racist, I learned what racist meant, I had many crushes on many boys, I turned down boys who wanted to "go out", I learned what "go out" meant, I played soccer, I played basket ball, I learned that people could be very cruel, I cheated my way through Algebra 1 (thus no Algebra learned but the life lesson that when you cheat you don't learn and have to repeat the subject was learned, never did that again), I scribed my first graffiti into a library book, but for the life of me I have no recollection of being in any classroom during those 2 miserable years sans the horrid English and the cheating Algebra. Now that I really think about it, the other classrooms that I can remember at all was in Home Economics where I got to sew and Shop class where I made a cutting board.

High School was not as terrible of an experience but I do believe graduating from High School was the best day of my life. Wait, I'm married, I meant to say the second best day of my life.

I learned soon enough not to go for those AP classes, those students had to work WAY too hard and learn WAY too much. I would go along and play "dumb" and take the required classes and the lower level options and the easiest most fun classes I could find. I did fine in Math but chose not to take Trigonometry in High School (wish I would have), I had "honors English" for my 9th grade year but that was entirely too much reading of entirely too many boring books. One of which being "My Antionia" by Willa Cather in which case after I read the lovely book my teacher had to point out that the author was a lesbian and how did we feel about that? (personally? I didn't like knowing the authors sexual preference, thank-you-very-much) I discovered later that my simple poetry class was really quite fun and I enjoyed writing poetry. When I was in 9th grade our History class was hijacked by the Berlin Wall falling, it was on my birthday in fact, and thus our world history was dominated by learning current events. In general I did not engage myself in High School. I realized that I just didn't have to. I didn't want to. I wanted to learn fun things like photography and cross country running and Algebra (the teacher was ever so handsome) so I chose those classes, stayed awake for those classes and slept through the rest. I must have, as I only have recollection of the classes that made an impact on me. The rest have faded away. My GPA was nothing to speak of. I managed the honor roll sometimes but only because the average was so low. I was not cut out for Ds, I got one in typing class and that grade deeply bothered me. I don't know if it was the D pulling down my GPA or the fact that I couldn't type fast enough. I took the class again and got an A. I could handle Bs, I was a B kinda girl. I knew I could do better but didn't really want to.

What I was never taught in all my years of private and public education was how to think critically. This is a big one for me. Because once I was made aware that I did not have to follow the sheep of this world and think everything the way they do, the door to my new life was opened and I stepped through, into the light.

I think that I owe my husband the most gratitude for teaching me how to think. He may not like a thinking wife these days, after all, my opinions don't always match his, but nevertheless, he can't stuff me back into that box.

First Lesson he taught me the first year of our marriage: "You are not stupid. Your education was flawed, but you are not stupid." This has taken me years to really grasp onto. I think I finally believe him. My husband is a "very smart fellow" he's good at memorizing facts, he can navigate books like no other, he has read the bible many times and can quote from it, he knows more about more things than anyone I know. He actually REMEMBERS things he learned in school. Who does that? I felt like a dullard compared to him. He once mentioned something about that Nero and his wickedness. I asked innocently, "who's Nero?" He about flipped his lid horrified that I'd never even heard of this monster. I was indigent that he would be so horrified at my stupidity, but he had to explain how it wasn't me that was stupid. I was never taught it, that wasn't my fault. Thus it began, I learned many things I either hadn't been taught or things I hadn't deemed important enough to stick into long term memory. He gently coaxed me to speak with better grammar, teaching me small things one at a time. I would sometimes get angry at being corrected until he explained that I would be teaching our children to speak and homeschooling them. I'd best know how to speak properly. The first year of marriage he broke me of some bad TV habits like soap operas and the Today Show. He explained simply that he didn't want the mother of his children watching such things and I may as well stop now. I was taken aback that he would actually forbid me from watching them, but after just a short time they were not missed. Little did I know that this slow breaking me of TV would gradually lead to my new world of thinking for myself.

I don't know how many times he has corrected me, I have overreacted, we have gotten into an argument and he finally convinced me that he's not telling me that I'm stupid, he only wants me to learn the truth of the matter or for me to research it on my own before spouting that nonsense to someone else. I have learned (with all my new mad thinking skilz) that correcting people is very tricky. He doesn't always have to correct me, but if he does I always learn something new. I have also taught him that correcting me is a real blow to my psyche and I don't like it. So he'd better save it for the really important things.

He is better at certain things and I'm better at others. We have come to appreciate each other for our strengths and try to make up for the other's weakness. That includes each others brain skills and work skills. We encourage the other at what we're good at, we even sometimes try to do the same things on different levels. I encouraged him on a day that he has a list (in his head) that is a mile long he should not feel obligated to the phone ringing or to the three things on his list that I can do for him. When I feel overwhelmed with my life he encourages me to eliminate large things that take more time away than I even realize and how important priorities are. He convinces me that I take on too much and can't do it all.  He's better with the bigger picture.

I'm not stupid. Sometimes I don't know my limitations, that makes my life harder and me a less dependable person for others. I am learning my limitations. This makes my life simpler and more enjoyable I'm finding.

I never knew how to spell. I think that I never wanted to learn how to spell. Have you ever looked at the English language rules? Have you seen the lists of words that broke those rules? Apparently that can madden a young child like me enough to make them say in the deepest depths of their brain, "Screw the English language, it can't even follow it's own rules, why should I learn how to spell those words when even English can't spell them right." Grammar rules I do like, however. I know where punctuation goes (don't tar and feather me when you find punctuation mistakes). I know how to form a complete sentence, though sometimes very run-on. I know when and where to use Capital letters (just kidding, capital). I know when to indent. And I love new vocabulary words!

I was forced to write a few book reports in gradeschool, but remember, I was a terrible reader. Still a very very slow reader to this day. Didn't like the books I had to read (except for Heidi, see a theme here?) so had a very strong disregard for book reports. But after having children, writing yearly Christmas letters and of all things Facebook, I discovered a new "like" for me. Writing. Crazy, I know, I really still can't figure out how it works in my brain. But I think the non-wit from my younger years has finally been overcome by the new "smart" me who's not afraid to speak up for myself, stick a foot into my mouth now and again, and put fingers to key board and type my little heart out. Good thing for that extra typing class.

All this wordy nonsense to say: if you think you're "stupid" you probably are not. You have been sold a bill of goods that is not true. What are you good at? What are your strengths? Look to those, that is what makes you important, useful and smart. If you feel the itch to dive into more detail in those things that you love, do it!

You have to unplug from the Matrix of life; the television, NPR, talk radio, you will discover that your brain can actually function much better with out the excess noise and clutter. You may even like to listen to the sounds of your own head. It will not make you smarter but more aware of your real surroundings. Even if you unplug from one TV show at a time like I did, and don't let the times of those shows control you (we still like a good thriller or sitcom on Netflix). There really is more to the world. It's yours for the taking. You're not stupid. Stop acting like it.

The answer is out there, Neo, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to. -Trinity, The Matrix


BaronessBlack said...

Wow! The Berlin Wall fell on my birthday,too! We share the same birthday-How cool is that?

Also, your piece made me think of the quote:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

(It's sometimes attributed to Einstein, but I don't think he actually said it. Never mind, it's still a good quote! :-))

AKmamaOf6 said...

I like that quote. I guess for a while I believed I was the only one who had the "stupid complex" but am realizing I'm not.

How funny about your birthday, same year?

Melissa said...

I keep talking to Jacob about this... "Don't play the role of the kid who can't do anything for himself! Take some initiative and solve your problem!"
And I have to ask, is the ever so handsome teacher Mr. Strauss? Lol!! I'm so sorry you hated Algebra. I do algebra for fun. :)
Now I will test to see if this comment works... for a very long time I could never comment, and now I'm really behind on my blog reading and haven't tried in a while. I have a long list of posts in my google reader though, and yours are at the top of my favorite list!

by the creekside said...

lol, I was going to ask if it was Mr. Strauss too! I took Algebra for the second time, with him, and got an A.
I love your new found love for writing and thinking, it inspires me. I once loved English, but over the years I have lagged. I need to work on it again :)

AKmamaOf6 said...

Aakk! Amber & Melissa you are too funny! Yes, Mister Strauss! I actually liked Algebra (with him) and did well in that class. Geometry not so much which is why I opted out of Trig. I liked it fine in 7th grade too, but the answers in the back of the book were far too tempting for me. Some things I've had to learn the hard way...

I'm glad you can comment again, Melissa. One of my main goals for my kids adult life is that they can solve their own problems. Not something readily taught. I know us moms like to enable our kids in their weaknesses with out even realizing. When my kids spill something, even large, I make them clean it up. I will teach them or tell them how to do it, but I will not do it for them. They have to suffer the consequences of their own actions, even actions made on accident. That's a tough lesson.

I enjoy your blog, Amber. I love your pictures and it really makes me want a better camera...oh and to be WAY more organized like you. ;)

Carol G said...

Wow, if you can't spell and you are stupid (see the if), then you sure write amazing essays like this particular blog. It has great spelling, grammar, etc. The thought concepts are deep and the conclusions make sense. "You've come a long way baby" or you picked up the wrong conclusions at the start that you are finally seeing through. I enjoyed your blog today.

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