Monday, May 28, 2012

Measuring Intelligence

My mother has guided me through many of life's crises. Or, those moments that feel like crises anyway. Episodes of self doubt, when you lose something you needed, that first time your heart breaks... etc. But one of the most valuable, that memory that keeps coming again and again and just keeps you going... that came from our conversations about intelligence.

And we've had them a few times:

First during the high school application process. 

Then, more importantly, during the college application process when suddenly grades, the SATs and everything else related to scoring and comparing students felt like it was the forefront of every conversation I had with any adult who spoke to me. It was as though it was suddenly kosher for people I had never met before -- a new family friend, the customer service rep at the AT&T store, and the librarian at my local library suddenly had permission to ask me for those numbers. The supposed, measurement of my success. Brain power. the culmination of all of my years in school. 

I hope that scenario made as little sense to you as it did to me then, and still does to me now. Even today people will still ask me what I scored, and my response is often a lie about how I dont remember. General policy: if you ask me a rude question, I will give you a rude answer. 

And how much does this measure anyway? I can take standardized tests well. I practiced them numerous times, first on state level exams, then to get into my middle/high school, then the SSATs etc. It was everywhere. It was so easy to lose perspective and assume that a perfect score was really the only way to go, and we needed to do everything we could to get there.

To be honest, I've met so many people who scored well on these tests and would not survive for even a day outside of their carefully programmed lives. Because thinking on your feet is not taught in schools. Be creative is rarely encouraged anymore. And because living within sterile and predictable environments at some point became the accepted and sought end.

Then in the race for the "right job." What I realized is that I KNOW I cannot compete with you for the cookie cutter job. I wont score as high because I dont learn the same ways. I cant produce your numbers, hypothetical perfect A Yale student you. But I dont want to. I'm going to beat you by being creative and fixing problems in ways that we were never taught to. That I come up with from what I picked up through experience, rather than lectures.

Life isnt about those numbers. I've learned the most from late night conversations sitting in the hallway of a hotel after a conference. From afternoons chasing a friend down winding sidewalks in Boston. From office hours. From admitting things that I am afraid of and having a friend stare at you and tell you, it's all in your head.

We lose perspective.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is have those conversations with ourselves, where we realize what it is that we are actually afraid of when we refuse to try new things. Is it the feeling of loneliness when you arent sure if you will be accepted... or not? Is it fear of failure? Rejection? The Unknown?

Maybe its time to recalibrate. Try measuring yourself in a new way: are you proud of who you are? Can you look at yourself in the mirror everyday and say that you have lived as you know you should live?

This, and more, in memory of MK. You were someone I respected beyond words.

1 comment:

  1. I am seriously combing through your blog right now, and absolutely loving the clear way you write and the things you have to say and share. Keep writing, I'm so excited to keep reading :)