When I was six I participated in the Annual First Grade Spelling Bee. And shockingly, I won. I was so surprised at my own intelligence I stared blankly at Ephraim, the second place winner, expecting him to claim the first place prize. When he didn’t step forward, my teacher nudged me to the front of the classroom. I was queen of the six year olds, or my teacher tried to convince me. I had to make an acceptance speech, but I was rather speechless.
I consider myself fortunate to have been raised in a home where academics were valued, knowledge was power, and books were limitless. My family reinforced these values. But perhaps more importantly, my friends– intellectual badasses that they were/are–always challenged me to challenge myself.
They gave me the words to my acceptance speech when I had none to offer. They encouraged me to fly when I thought I was only really capable of walking. They told me to shoot for gold rather than settle for bronze. And they continuously assauged my deflated ego with words of academic encouragement. Perhaps that is why my new position– one in which I am cast to play the “brainiac”– is so particularly blogworthy.
In my time with my new company, I have been referred to as “The Brain,” “Smartypants,” and “Lil’ Hilary,”– a reference to Mrs. Clinton to be clear. And each time I am characterized as such I greet my coworker with a puzzled expression. Who, me? Or, the imaginary girl behind me? Because if you think I’m the future of American salvation, you need to reexamine my resume.
I know smart people. And not just win an elementary school spelling bee smart. I’m friends with build a nuclear reactor while simultaneously mastering Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish sort of smart. Basically I know the Steven Urkels of America– the academic superstars who are slightly socially inept. And I, both given my limited intelligence and definitively superior social skills, am not a member of the Urkel group.
Though every so often (example, today), I wish I were a member of this group of Renaissance elites. That way when others acknowledged my intelligence I wouldn’t feel like I was living this huge lie– like I wasn’t letting everyone in on the big secret of my only slightly above average intelligence. It may just be new beginning jitters, but I honestly wonder if I can fulfill the duties of “the brainiac” I was hired to be.
And as one friend inadvertently said, “Why you? Why hire you when there are so many up and coming young writers and producers they could have chosen?” My response, of course, was, “I don’t know. I really don’t know.” But thanks for planting the seed of paranoia in me. Perhaps, though, the answer is irrelevant. They chose me. They believe in me. And the lesson– one the majority of my friends have been trying to teach me since that fateful spelling bee is– if I don’t believe in myself, why should anyone else?