Maybe I Am Stupid


I was one of the smart kids in the class when I was younger. Everything came so naturally to me. I never struggled for anything, and when I did, I’d sit down and then figure it out.

I remember being in first grade (I was already deemed one of the smart kids by then), there was one week when during the morning announcements, there were math problems to solve, and if you did it correctly, you’d win some sort of a prize. This particular day, it was involving the clock. Something like what time it would be 57 minutes past 12:48 – something that would bring me into the next hour, but I had a hard time figuring out that the numbers could only go up to 60 before they reset. This was such a defeat to me because I saw other kids figuring out the problem and I didn’t know why I couldn’t since I was one of the smart kids in class. I remember starting to cry over this problem because I couldn’t figure it out.

I moved past the problem, I learned how to tell time properly and learned what 57 minutes past 12:48 is (it’s 1:45, in case you were wondering). Then I carried on my merry way. I was on the honor roll every single quarter of the year, and I grew close with most of my teachers. I was in the special groups that read advanced books. We read the fun books like City of Ember,” and would read plays to put on shows for the other kids. We read “The Phantom Tollbooth and created a board game about it in pairs because we were the smart kids and we could do things like that.

Nobody would say we were the smart kids because you shouldn’t make anyone feel bad about not being as smart, but everyone knew.

If you had good enough grades, you could join a club called Spectrum that would meet after school, and you’d get to be smart with all the other smart kids in all the other classes.

My teachers would sometimes let me read off the words for the spelling tests for the other kids because we got different lists than they did, so I could do that and help them out. I would finish my multiplication tables in no time, usually being one of the first in the class sitting there with my paper flipped over. In fifth grade, I was selected to go down to the first graders a couple times a week to help teach the ones who struggled the most with reading how to do it. That was my favorite part of the day. I had my reading buddy and I was making a difference for her, I was doing what she wasn’t even able to do in her class, and I helped her learn how to read. I got this opportunity because I was one of the smart kids. We weren’t allowed to tell people that we were going down to help the kids, because some people thought that it was unfair that we got to go down there while everyone else was still in class, but it was part of being one of the smart kids.

Why am I even talking about elementary school? I’m twenty years old now, and that was such a long time ago. I don’t even live in the same town that I went to school in then. These are things that happened over a decade ago, and I’m still thinking about this.

When middle school got started, I wound up on the Blue Team while all the rest of the smart kids got placed on the Gold Team. Everyone knew that there was an order for how smart you were. Green meant you weren’t very smart, Blue was average, and Gold was for the smartest kids. So why was I on Blue when all the people I’d taken every class with for the past six years had been put on Gold? Was I not one of the smart kids after all? It certainly seemed that way.

When I got older, I started doing less. I had an English teacher tell me that I was the smartest person in the class and I could do so well if I just applied myself. But why would I apply myself when I wasn’t one of the smart kids anymore? I fell off the wagon. It didn’t matter anymore because I wasn’t one of the smart kids anymore.

When I was young, I loved that I was separated and considered one of the smart kids, but as I got older and I wasn’t part of them anymore, it ruined me. I was separated from my group and became lazy. Had I not been up to par with them the entire time? I stopped doing my work on time, and my teachers would always ask me why. They’d mention my potential, and how I was wasting it. I’d get calls home about missing homework assignments or bad grades. I wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the pool days that would be had to celebrate the kids who did their work, and I’d sit in a classroom with all the other people who were forced to stay there for the whole school day.

I lost all my friends that same year. I’d eat lunch in the cafeteria alone. Maybe if I stayed with the smart kids, then I would have had them to sit with at lunch, but I wasn’t one of them anymore and that became more and more apparent every day.

Two years later, I almost didn’t get to go to high school because I didn’t apply myself. I did so poorly in school that my mom had to go in and have a meeting with every one of my teachers about how if I didn’t get my act together, I’d be staying in eighth grade another year. But I had more important things to worry about. What were those things exactly? I don’t remember, but I know that school was certainly not my main concern.

One of my teachers told my mom there’d be no way in hell I’d pass, which only pissed me off and I really think that’s the only reason I worked so hard in those last two months to do better. I started going to therapy too, as suggested by my mother. Surprisingly enough, we never even talked about the fact that I wasn’t one of the smart kids anymore and how that affected me.

You’d think after a year that I almost didn’t pass onto the next grade, I’d try harder, and I did. Kind of. I did enough to pass my classes, but I was never one of the smart kids again. I’d excel in English and grow close with those teachers, and with my math teachers too, but I wasn’t one of the kids that would do great things in school and everyone knew it at that point. Why would I not stick to that and try harder? That’s pretty much how my entire schooling went, from the point I started high school up until the point I started college. Now I maintain a 3.4 GPA, which is fine by me (it would have been much better but my freshman year Art History professor was the WORST and I got a C-).

My mom always tells me how smart I am, how I’m one of the smartest people she knows, but she has to say that because she’s my mom. Almost all of my friends are STEM majors and talk about how hard their classes are, so when I’m struggling or say I have a lot of homework to do, I almost get scared to be ridiculed. None of my classes are as hard as theirs are, and that’s just the truth. That struggle seems to be a constant reminder that I’ll always be one of those not-smart kids anymore.

Maybe if I hadn’t been labeled like that at such a young age, I’d be better now. I’d learn that it’s a normal thing to struggle sometimes and that if I didn’t get something right away, it didn’t mean that I was stupid. That’s something everyone should know. Not knowing something, or not being able to grasp something, does not mean that you’re an idiot, but it sure does feel like it sometimes.

It’s really just easier to say that or to even tell people that than it is to believe it, though.