I'm finding it incredibly difficult to feel intelligent at the moment. It's not surprising, really, when you consider that I've gone through life being told that I'm a clever boy and subsequently treated like a bit of an idiot. For my own part, I am aware that I'm in the "higher intelligence" bracket. Not that I actually use it for much. Academically speaking, I didn't put much effort in until I got to secondary school, when I started to work harder - and even then, not particularly hard. I coasted through the first three years without much difficulty, put in a bit of work for my GCSEs and then stepped it up for my ASs and A2s. Not that my results pleased me much, but at least my 9 A*-Bs got me through to the sixth form, my A-Levels getting me into university.
My problem with academia has always been that it doesn't necessarily reward intelligence, as such. It rewards one's ability to jump though pre-set hoops, certainly, but that's no indication of how bright you are. By the time I got to university, I was overwhelmed with a mass of creative/expressive energy that I wasn't able to channel anywhere, except through my guitar (not doing A-Level Music was a big mistake) and my IRL-style blog, which I'd been writing for three years by that point. I was intelligent and in higher education, and eager to set myself free.
And yet, through the first two years, the work was uninspiring. I joined a band to get the energy out and, although the music was great, I was bullied there... especially by the bandmaster, who used to treat me like I was completely devoid of intelligence. Every time he mentioned stupidity, he pointed at me. He constantly told me I couldn't play my instrument (and at one point hinted that this was due to my not eating any meat!), and used to send me home crying. Yet at the same time, I was the champion of the underdog in that band. I came to represent the downtrodden and ignored - when he fired one of our players and boasted about sending her away in tears, I was the only person to e-mail her to ask if she was okay. I stood near the younger players to help them with their parts. I chatted to the tea ladies and found toys for their children. I am aware, yes, that my good heart was more apparent than my big head. I didn't mind that at all - and it did help, somewhat, that a lot of the other musicians in the band were aware that I was far from vacant. My thoughts move very quickly inside my head sometimes, and so sometimes I'm concentrated on selecting the one bit of information; I haven't zoned out. I'm thinking.
So I unleashed my intelligence into my degree work. My tutors loved it. Okay, sometimes it wasn't exactly what they wanted, but I was doing an English degree. Here I was, contributing to every seminar with an eager voice. Being unusual and original in essays. Making it my mission to make everyone laugh. Sometimes I slipped, felt despondent, overwhelmed, unable to cope. But my heart picked me up and my head made the break forward once again. What a team.
I ended up with a 2:1 a the end of my first degree. I cried for about three days before I realised that that's a pretty good mark. My dad got a pass without honours and he's done okay. But why was I so upset? Because I was well aware that everyone was expecting me to do more. At five I was told I was going to read English at Oxbridge. At ten, I was told I was going to my local selective grammar. At sixteen, I was promised a string of A* grades; at AS level, at least four Bs. And when I started university, having failed to achieve any of those things despite trying hard, I was told I was clearly good enough to get a First.
But of course I didn't. Not that it'd have made a difference. But I liked the fact that my tutors were aware that I was intelligent. They treated me like a person, rather than a statistic, to the point of calling me by my nickname as opposed to my real one.
When I did my second degree, however, everything flipped. I wasn't clever any more - I wasn't allowed to be. Gone were the heady days of studying English - this was a science degree. Academic brilliance wasn't meant to shine in a world of citations and figures. I wasn't even meant to analyse. Adamant that I wasn't going to play their game, I continued to use my language in their essays - foreign phrases like raison d'être, modus operandi, apropos and even et ceteri (not cetera - I was indicating not "and so forth" but "and the rest"). I even ended every essay with a humorous aside. My tutors hated it, but it made me give a wry smile. Every time a lecture mentioned intelligent people, I nodded sagely. My friends grinned. Here I was, hating a course with a passion, but safe in the knowledge that my intelligence would get me through (despite people telling me, for the first time, that I couldn't do it).
The last time I felt intelligent was last year, at college for the third time. That course I enjoyed. I did okay (again I didn't quite get the mark I wanted, but by that point I was resigned to the fact that that would be the result), and I was allowed to use my intelligence in a productive way.
I don't feel clever any more.
All weekend, my brain struggled to work. It was firing thoughts back and forth as always, but there was no motivation to channel them anywhere. I started things I didn't finish. I didn't write. I barely worked. I only went outside once. I sang, but only a bit. It was a quiet, lazy, lonely weekend. Sitting on the train this morning, a random memory - that of my sixth form philosophy teacher telling my mother that I was clearly the most intelligent person in the class, but that didn't mean I was going to do particularly well - swam into my head. I stepped onto the platform, and felt lost - strangely detached from the throbbing mass of people, with a void of emptiness swirling around me, with my head screaming out to be noticed and my heart aching to be set free.