"Smart" is a man-made concept

Blog inspired by this tweet:

For the majority of my short-lived 14-year-old life, I’ve been referred to as smart, gifted, a prodigy, and names of the sort. At first, I was smug of it but began to realize, what did I do to deserve such high praise? It certainly didn’t earn me anything, yet it felt good. Some other people in this situation find themselves satisfied by this fact and rely purely on that as their reward.

I’ve had my fair share of rough times. Everyone needs praise from time to time. It feels good to satisfy that reward pathway and claim that award. But for me, I was never really hard to satisfy. I never complained about my situation or anything, I just took things at face value and cherished any moment above average. That’s what our system was trying to encourage. Not every kid thinks like this though. By forcing everyone to go to a unified education system, those who excelled are praised, with the downside of the “average” being left in the dust. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the unified education system is a great way to learn general things about education, figure out what you like, and connect with people outside your field.

I never knew if I was credited with those accomplishments. Was it because I was Asian, studied really hard, or was naturally gifted? The more I aged, the more I began to question this. It turns out that I’d been looking in the wrong place. The more people I met outside of school, the more I proved my own claims true. For a split second, I was put into the shoes of the “average. ” Whether I was in a different field I had no idea about or just met people that were simply smarter, it was certainly demoralizing. I learned a lot from them, but knowing that there was a guilty feeling that I felt so far from them made all the difference.

It just happens to turn out that all those perfect qualities that I mentioned earlier were the paragon of a system that was flawed. Just like a kid loving his hobbies, results skyrocket if a child loves what their doing. An isolated environment limits the person’s thinking, and it could be a double-edged sword. One extreme could lead to dedicated thinking. That’s your typical example of the “smart” person. The other extreme could lead to a path of failure or highly egoistic person with a false ideology of the true world. They have no idea what their doing but human influence has fed them so much to the point where they are completely disoriented. Your surroundings decide everything.

A great example of proving this point is my mom. Back in the Philippines, my mom lived in the shadow of her 11 siblings. She never received high marks or had accomplishments that distinguished her from the rest. She didn’t care about looks, guys, or money. She was just an innocent country girl that loved playing soccer, eating snacks, and learning practical things. She hated math past its practical use, physical education with no application, and the history of those that’ll be forgotten. She was hooked by the sciences though. It made sense to her. Biology explained why certain things happened in the Earth, chemistry explained why certain things reacted the way they did. Around the time she went to college, she was still the same. She only liked the sciences and still had no direction in life. The one difference she had compared to everyone else? She loved the courses she chose, even when certain people tried to put her down. She graduated with a double bachelor’s in teaching and nursing. She even had plans to earn her MBA as well, if it weren’t for my father marrying her. Look at her now. She’s one of three siblings that made it to North America and is the second-highest earning member from her family back home. Just shows how far you can go if you’re in the right environment.

TLDR: Just like time, intelligence is not only subjective, but human made as well.

my mom and I

Back when life was simpler. | Taken Feb. 22, 2007