Why I’m not smart
January 23, 2012 1 Comment
Yay new semester! That means new classes, new profs, and new classmates! Yeah, not so much. See the problem with grad school is that you are constantly surrounded by the same exact people, peers and profs. No such things as new beginnings. Even if you don’t know a prof in particular, they know you by reputation already. For some people this is good. For others, not so much.
Some people are really good at playing the Academia Game. This means using big words, acting as though repetition of mediocre theories is some great breakthrough in the field, knowing which theories are appropriate to criticize and how, and acting like your opinions are facts. Being smart is defined as being right and being right is defined as not letting anyone else be more right. The best way to win an argument is with a cocky shrug of the shoulders, followed by an apathetic “Well I suppose we just see things differently”/”I guess it just comes down to theoretical differences.” This is most expertly done with the eyes closed and the head tilted slightly upward and away from the person being debated. The implication is “I’m so pure in my convictions I don’t even have to convince you that I’m right. You’ll come around to my way of thinking because I’mjust that right.”
I suck at this game. I just can’t get down. I’m regularly told that I’m too casual. Mostly because I say things like “I can’t get down.” And have several times told my research mentor/dean of the school “naw son.” I once told a classmate “sometimes you just gotta smack a bitch”—this had nothing to do with class material, I was telling a story about my weekend (don’t worry, no bitches were actually smacked.) Oh, and I love humor. When I was a little kid, I got teased for being smart. So I developed this really awesome wit and combined it with my natural ditzy-ness. This is looked down upon in academia.
But in reality, I’m really bad at using big words, I’m socially awkward, I hide in corners at conferences, I hate talking about myself (in person, I’m good at it here!), when I try to make a professional comment it’s always the completely the wrong thing, it takes me a good 2 minutes to put an idea into a comprehensible sentence, and when someone asks my opinion about things that I haven’t researched, rather than just say “Ya know, I’m not sure, I’ll have to look up some info on that and get back to you,” I just stutter into oblivion.
So, in sum, my casual demeanor and social/verbal awkwardness officially make me worthless in the academic field.
Here is why that sucks though: For one, well I’m stuck here for a few more years, probably longer considering that I’ve grown to like research. For two (told you I suck at words), I get really really annoyed when I see people acting “smart” when, in my head, I can poke a thousand holes in their arguments or, at the very least, request some evidence for their claims. But, my word-suckiness and my social awkwardness make this sound dumb or bitchy. So I’ve given up. I let them be the smart ones. I sit hunched over and alternate between grumbling and making jokes…to myself…defeated.
The few profs who know me really well are cool with me and have come to accept the way I act. My diss chair even said “you know, your word vomit is actually fairly clear.” I downplayed my reaction, but really it was like the biggest compliment ever! Sadly, the academic world as a whole will always regard me as a complete ditz.
Oh yeah, I’m also super-clumsy. I have fallen on my face in front of profs. That doesn’t help.
**Now, of course, not all profs and peers are like this. I have had some very excellent profs that have truly challenged me and my peers. Those individuals deserve real praise and admiration.