Growing up, I was considered to be a very smart kid and there were circumstances to support that opinion.

To start with, I called my father at the age of four without anyone dialling his number for me. At least, that’s what my mother tells me. I was always first place in my academic work in class – from classwork to homework and not to mention examinations! I would literally score 100% in those, and by that I don’t just mean 20/20 or 50/50 but 100/100. Yes! My Technology teacher used to make us write exams with marks totaling to a hundred from fourth grade onwards. I’m not sure, however, if that was as per the curriculum or just his personal preference.

As time went by, people started altering their opinion of me, though they never explicitly called me dumb. I remember that at home my mother and grandmother would make fun of me, saying I had no common sense because I couldn’t think on my feet. I had some ‘blonde’ moments, but we all do, at least I hope.

In high school, some of my peers used to call me book smart because I was only smart at school and not in my everyday life. One time, I was visiting one of them and she had locked her burglar door, with the key hanging on it. She stared, amused, as I struggled to open the burglar door from the inside. Then, after a few tries without success, she finally hopped out of her bed to the door, took the key out and gave it to me to open from the outside. I opened the burglar door awkwardly and she giggled and said: “You stick to books and let us do the rest of the thinking.”

Perhaps to her it was funny but to me, it was heartbreaking.

Even now, at university, my friends usually laugh their lungs out when I don’t catch a joke or when I say something dumb. Whenever the three of us walk together, I’ve observed that they talk mostly between themselves and say less to me. You will hear one calling another by name and telling them something, making it very obvious that they are only interested in that other person’s input. Well, I always encourage them with my silence, because less talk means less being made fun of.

Looking back, I don’t even think I was ever really book smart because all I did was to imbibe content through memorisation, without ever really grasping or understanding it. That strategy doesn’t work well here because of how limited the time is and how great the workload is.

As much as what other people think and ultimately say hurts, it doesn’t bother me much anymore. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need to have common sense. I can think independently, even if it’s not as quickly as most. I believe I’ve matured more rapidly than most people my age and to me, that’s a great achievement. Knowing that I’m in the process of realising my dreams is also soul soothing and satisfying. I’ve chosen to be self-defined and to not let other people’s beliefs about me hinder my own.


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