Although this is written to “you”, it is so purely for stylistic reasons. Feel free to read it as a letter to myself. It could very well be.
One day you’ll realise you’re not smart enough.
Perhaps it will happen when you are rejected by your dream school. Maybe you’ll know you’re an average person when you bite off more than you can chew and end up barely finishing what you started, and with mediocre results. It will happen when you struggle to read just the first page of Ulysses, or when you give it all only to get acceptable grades while you see someone else getting perfect marks without overstraining themselves. Perhaps you’ll realise you are “book smart” enough, but will find yourself lacking intelligence in the emotional department. You will find yourself unable to empathize, and the feeling of inadequacy will be raw and new for you, and it will hit you harder because you’re so used to scholastic achievement that you think success is a natural part of life and failure is just a rarity.
When that happens, it’ll break your heart. A piece of your inner child will die a sudden death (that piece that was born when your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, if you set your mind to it). You wanted to matter. You wanted to be special. You were afraid of death, and being intelligent was your shield. It guaranteed you’d be relevant after you had left this world. It would leave a legacy (a book, a theory, an invention, a piece of art) that would last forever. Now you’ve realised you’re uncapable and unworthy of such a legacy – of such immortality, although even the brightest geniuses are eventually forgotten, so the immortality your brains provided you was only partial. But that last piece of information won’t really matter. You wanted any piece of you that might have survived after your demise, that might make you greater than. And you feel that you have lost that.
That night, you’ll cry yourself to sleep. You’ll wake up being a little less innocent, feeling a little more like a bitter adult who goes about life cynically criticising everything and feeling he’s smarter than Nobel Prize holders, although his feeling is a foil. It’s just thinly veiled insecurity. This adult is actually longing to be a five-year-old who believes he can be president of the nation someday.
Days will go by a bit slowly. You’ll gradually adapt to your new discoveries about yourself. Here, you have a choice. You can become an insecure adult who’s always second-guessing his intelligence and creating an arrogant persona to use as a protective mask. Or…
Or you can understand that being intelligent is not about being, it’s about doing.
You can realise that Albert Einstein could have spent his days in a basement, high on heroin or crack, and still, he didn’t, because he made different choices. He chose to unleash his potential. He could have let his potential rot. He could have lost himself in oblivion. His memory would have been obliterated by his death.
And yet, he chose differently, and that’s what made all the difference. He actually did things with the potential he had, and this potential was great. And a great potential became a great reality. That was the key.
As you realise that, you’ll start to observe all the wasted potential around you, all the people that devote their lives to just talk about doing and to criticise those that are actually doing anything positive within their reach and with what they have, and you’ll abhor these bitter critics. You’ll aspire to be different. You’ll start doing what you can with the potential you have, however little it is. And that’s what will make all the difference.
At some point, you’ll realise it’s not good to be an elitist, because perhaps the person who makes a small positive change and leaves it as her legacy is just as important as the famous cinema director, just as important as the political leader, just as important as the Nobel Laureate. That person made that small change, and only she could do it. Only she could be the social worker who saved that child from abuse. Only she could be the judge who didn’t let her rulings be bought by the best offer and brought more justice to the world. Only she could have been the teacher who inspired someone smarter than her to achieve their full potential. Only she could have been the neighbour who spoke up when she witnessed a case of domestic violence next door. Only she could be the firefighter who saved that family pet, inspiring a child to become brave, like a firefighter. Only she could have been in the right place, in the right time… And she was the right person to do what needed to be done. More importantly, she has set the example, not for the future great intellectual, but for the common person. She could spark change in someone else. She could begin a huge series of small changes. A small change can then become a great one.
And perhaps, one day, you’ll realise that, all along, it was never about having brains. It was about having a heart. It was having a voice that was loud enough to call out on injustices. It was about having the guts to do something no one else dared to do. Brains? They were only a mere tool. So, does it really matter if you’re not that smart if the fighter in your is strong enough to change the world?