I have a lot of insecurities, as I’m sure you’ve deduced if you’re a regular follower of this blog or my life. Some were spawned by the era I grew up in (the ‘70s), others by geography (the Deep South) and others, I am convinced, purely by DNA.
And while I’ve had varying degrees of success over my lifetime in my struggle to remain on speaking terms with myself despite my self-deprecating tendencies, there is one area of insecurity that keeps coming back to bite me over and over again. It is a worry I can’t seem to shake. And it is this:
I am not smart enough.
Whoa! Typing those five words felt really confessional, and a little embarrassing. (Am I really gonna publish this?) It’s not that I don’t think I’m at least a little smart. I graduated from college. I read lots of books. Hell, I even wrote a book. But I can’t seem to shake the belief that I am not quite smart enough.
Enough. Hmmm. Enough for what? I wish I could answer that. If I could, well, then, I could go study whatever it was I needed extra smarts for, and then, voilà, I’d be smart enough. But the bull’s eye keeps moving. Once I’ve studied the concept of say, cortical reorganization, well enough to be able to explain it to my class, I realize that I know nothing at all about quantum physics. And believe it or not, that just happened to be the topic of conversation at dinner with Ted and the boys at Sidelines the other night. I was mute. I had nothing at all to contribute. I’m a big old dummy.
Ha! But I do realize that it is all relative (and isn’t relativity a physics thing?) and that I’ve been fortunate and unfortunate enough to have been surrounded, my entire life, by Einstein-ish family and friends.
My parents were country-folk—brought up in rural Alabama during the Depression. And yet they both had the smarts enough to make it to and through college, the first generation in their families to do so.
My siblings are also beyond brilliant. Sandee has a whole gallery of Master’s degrees, and such skill, insight and expertise when it comes to teaching reading, I’m sure that given a weekend or two, she could teach Shuba (my dog) to read up on quantum physics and tutor me. My brother, Jem, is so freakishly talented, ingenious and original, that I don’t mind still being referred to as “Jem Sullivan’s Little Sister.” I’m honored just to be associated with such genius.
My husband and his siblings and families could start their very own Mensa chapter if they weren’t all so busy innovating, educating, and repairing the world. Ted is a 21st century MacGyver, only without the mullet.
Our boys are in college. Myles is finishing his last class for his degree in Physics this summer. Taylor is studying digital media in hopes of getting into the highly acclaimed and competitive FIEA (Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy) Master’s program in 2018.
And then there’s me. When I finally spoke up after that dinner at Sidelines the other night, I think I said, “I like your shoes.”
Ha! Just last month, Ted was coordinating a plan to surprise me with both boys home for Mother’s Day. He was texting with Myles who was riding with his girlfriend (Janna, another shining star in my cosmos) and their conversation, precisely transcribed from Ted’s iPhone, went like this:
Ted: Where are you? ETA?
Myles: Milky Way Galaxy. Planet 3, aka Earth. North America. USA. Northwest Region. Approximately 6×10^11 angstroms due east of your location. In other words, I’ll be home in about 45 minutes.
Ted: You’re weird. I’m locking the doors.
Myles: I have a quantum lock pick. It uses probabilistic mechanics to determine the proper tumbler setup in nanoseconds.
Ted: I’m burning the house down.
Myles: I have a time machine so I’ll just rebuild.
Ted: Makes no sense. Time machine removes the need to rebuild. Rebuild would not need time machine. You lose.
Myles: Well, according to your timeline, yes. But for my timeline which includes the burning down of the house, the time machine rebuilds it. Not directly, but by consequence of the reversal of time needed to get to the desired space time location.
Ted: I’ll wait until you are in the house, then burn it down. You will not be alive to use your time machine. Janna has already told me she would not go get you.
Myles: I have so many quantumly entangled versions of myself scattered all across the multiverse, so all of my subatomic information will just transfer (due to conservation of information) to a different and almost exact replica of this universe. I’m pretty sure we have all died thousands of times, but since the transformation is seamless from our individual perspective, we don’t notice. Isn’t it interesting how other people can die, but we never actually have ourselves?
Ha! Now if I had been the one to start a conversation on ETA, it probably would have gone thusly:
Mom: Hey Buddy. About what time do you think y’all will be getting in?
Mom: Love you. (Followed by six to ten happy face, heart and sunshine emoticons.)
So, do you get it now? Can you understand how I, on occasion, might feel just a wee bit dum-dum-ish? It used to really freak me out. But now, even though “not being smart enough” is still an insecurity of mine, being surrounded by brilliance usually makes me smile or laugh instead of cringe. Kind of like how beautiful young women used to invoke jealousy in me when I was myself a (beautiful?) young woman. Now that that ship has sailed, I find myself admiring them and feeling such an appreciation for the beauty and vitality of youth.
And besides, I like their shoes.
So, if you don’t think I’m a Dumbo, and you like this little story, please share it or comment below. What is your biggest insecurity? And how valid is it, really? Hmmm.