“I’ve been thinking about neurosurgery,” I said.
“Wait, let’s go back. You’re pre-med? Like, are you sure?” she said. She being a girl in my residence hall.
“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.”
“Can you even handle hospitals?”
“I think you learn along the way to be desensitized.”
“It’s a pretty serious profession.”
“I’m just saying you should think about how it’s serious and how you kind of aren’t.”
Can’t I be smart and funny? I mean, I know I can be both. As someone who has been in the advanced math and science track since sixth grade, as someone who survived tests that were impossible to finish, teachers who explained nothing, I guess I’m pretty smart. And I think the reason I merely think I’m smart is because I’m never acknowledged for my subtle, near-genius state. I’m still pretty sure I was snubbed out of a spot in my elementary school’s gifted program; my IQ was definitely higher than those runny nosed kids who got to leave class a couple of times a week to go share their smartness with each other, drinking coffee, not paste. I make people laugh, too. I’m a quick witted, sometimes asshole who feels comfortable in situations that aren’t serious. I think this started in elementary school as well. If people were laughing with me, they couldn’t be laughing at me, right? But sometimes when you’re funny and like to have fun, people forget that you can be smart, too.
It’s a weird balancing act. I mean, most of my wit is because I am smart. Don’t people know that? Can’t they see me as an outgoing funny girl who also aspires to be a surgeon? Actually, scratch that. Can’t they see me as any of the things I am and an aspiring surgeon? I like chai lattes better than coffee, I play vinyl while I study, cats are pretty cool, and every now and then I like to stop what I’m doing and have some goddamn fun. I don’t brag about my knowledge, in fact, I see that as tacky until you have some actual qualifications to do so. We’re in college, basically all equals. I don’t want to hear about how much smarter everyone thinks they are and how they should be at Princeton, but got cheated out of a spot. Bottom line: if you were meant to be at Princeton, you would be. Stop whining and get to work. Oh, you studied all night and bragged about how well you knew the material, but didn’t even finish the test? Great work. I could run circles around so many of the people I am working with, but I don’t. Why? Because everyone has their own talents, and I’m not going to point out the weaknesses they are more than likely already aware of.
What type of society do we live in where the only respectable smart people are the ones who sit for hours on end studying until their eyes are glazed over and they’ve forgotten how to be humans? We are breeding a society of sleep-deprived, work-obsessed, unoriginal creatures who forget that individuality is just as important as being a serious worker.
Next time I tell someone I want to be a neurosurgeon, I just want them to be proud. Or not even be surprised. I want them to think, “That makes sense,” and not question my abilities just because I do yoga and skip an occasional class to do something that makes me happy.