Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Am Not Smart

I wanted to post an obligatory blog post describing my experiences on the first half of my second semester at BYU, but a lot has happened and I feel I need to write about something else. I feel that I should write about the biggest thing that I have learned:

I am not smart (as far as the popular definition goes).

I am surrounded by people who "walked into the ACT without studying and got a 33" or "thought American Heritage was the easiest class in the world and didn't even need to study" or "got into Harvard but turned it down because they knew BYU would be a breeze". Although smooth sailing looks golden and desirable, I seriously find myself questioning whether or not it is a more (or less) advantageous lifestyle. People like this are known as "SMART". I seriously question how such a word has such authenticity that we use it on a regular basis and tend to judge people on the "smartness" scale strictly based off of this "easy" learning life.

Does being smart mean that you can get A's on anything without studying? Does it mean that you can somehow fit fancy words together magically so that you get higher essay scores? Does being smart mean that you got into Harvard, Yale, or Stanford? Does it mean you are a chemical engineering major or math major?

Because if that's what smart is, I am not smart.

On the contrary, if someone were to look at my life by judging on this type of scale, they would classify me as someone who would probably be unsuccessful at a prestigious university.

Recently I read a post from a girl who said (summarizing) "Hearing girls complain about their food and health tests while i'm over here studying [insert intelligent educational word] equations is annoying" or something too that degree. In no way am I discounting those who are science and math majors, in fact I highly respect you. Those classes are difficult because of the competition and programs. Do I think that memorizing recipes is easier than memorizing physics equations? Absolutely.

But that's the point. To me that is easier, along with the girl who posted that. But who is to say how much work it takes someone else to memorize a recipe? Or a physics equation? Just because they are studying food and health, are they not "qualified" for a university like BYU? Do they not get just as much out of college as someone who does major in one of the "smartier" majors?

I find myself worrying that this is how students not only measure how smart someone else, but how smart they are.

In conclusion I'd like to share a story about my best friend, Elder Heimuli.

One time when we were younger (around 8th grade) he showed me how he could play any song that he listened to on the piano. He could play anything by ear and was very good at it. This automatically made me a little bitter because I had been taking piano lessons since I was 4 years old and couldn't manage to do the same. Suddenly I looked at him as someone less deserving of the gifts he had. But suddenly, my anger subsided when he let me play (pitifully I might add compared to him) and he told me "It's so cool that you get to work so hard to play. It must feel so accomplishing when you get better! Want me to help you with listening by ear?" Yes, Tohi has always been well beyond his years. And he is my perfect example for this post.

There are people who are naturally smart and naturally gifted with school. I think they are fortunate to be able to catch onto concepts and ideas and remember them enough to blurt them out when appropriate. The issue isn't the smartness, it's when those people forget how to work hard. It's when they never learn that hard work is what gets people somewhere. So maybe the problem isn't that they don't know how to work, maybe it's that they look at those who have to work as somehow lesser. Tohi was perfect at accepting and using his gift, but holding no one else to his standard.

Then there are the people like me, who has to work through problems and concepts a million times until I have a chance for it to stick in my brain. The problem with people like me is that sometimes I look at those "smart" people and think somehow they are less deserving than me. They aren't.

So what is my call to action??

We no longer refer to someone as smart or dumb. Instead, we refer to someone as "skilled" in an area or "hard working". We refer to the educated as "educated in their field" not "the smartest people alive". Because there is a whole lot more to being smart than test scores and final exams. And no matter who you are, 'smart' or 'dumb', we all have to learn how to become educated in the way of living, surviving, and becoming truly human.

We all have engines in our chest that drives us. We all have dreams and hopes and accomplishments that to others might seem mundane. I call out to everyone....

accept and use your gifts, help those who need help, and don't hold anyone to your personal standard of excellence