The Intellectual Fake

3 Jul

Happy Fourth of July! This past week I was house sitting in Redwood City, for people whom I would consider intellectuals and I noticed that they had a book on their shelves that I have been wanting to read for a while (Forces For Good) and I started to try to read it. Emphasis on try. I couldn’t manage to read the first paragraph. This of course made me feel the need to share with my partner the fact that I often feel like an intellectual phony. I have my bachelor’s and also my master’s, but even still I feel like I faked my way through. Some background on me:

I was born to a mother who was a crank addict and alcoholic when she got pregnant. My father too partook in serious drugs and alcohol. Throughout my young years my parents were in and out of my life and that had a deep effect on how I value myself. I’m sure you can imagine that it’s really easy for a girl of about six to begin to think she isn’t worth much when she can’t even convince her parents to stay off the street just one night. I was also teased  a lot when I was in elementary school. I stayed home a lot, faking illness to avoid ridicule and eventually falling behind. Unfortunately, my teachers let me move up to the next level instead of holding me back, I say this is unfortunate because I really feel that if I had stayed behind a year and not been in the same classes as the people who tormented me, I would have actually grasped the material instead of mostly getting it by the end of the year.

In middle school I became a loner who began to see the effects of missing so much school in my younger years. I didn’t have the fundamentals down. I couldn’t do addition, subtraction or multiplication quickly in my head and I wasn’t improving. While I was a fine reader and pretty good with comprehension, when I look back at it I know I could have been better. This persisted for my three middle school years but not into high school. Why? Because I knew high school was a different game. If I was going to get away from my troubles and be someone else, I knew I needed an education and the only place to get a good education was college.

When I think about it honestly I think I started faking being an intellectual in Elementary school. Because of my being bullied I spent a lot of time in the library, looking at the pictures in books or reading the beginnings of novels and never finishing them. Despite the fact that I wasn’t doing well in my classes I began to get the reputation of being a nerd. The librarians all knew my name and I checked out a book a week. Once I got them home, I barely looked at them, opting instead for hours of television. In middle school, I still spent my time in the library but the technology was more sophisticated. My school library had nice apple computers, which we didn’t have at home. I spent my early mornings, morning breaks, lunches and anytime after school not spent making up work for class looking up things on the internet (mostly anime at the time). By high school I had perfected the art of bookworm. I wore pretty thick glasses, had only a few friends and spent much of my time leaning against book shelves searching for a book. The librarians loved me, took an interest in my interests, made recommendations and lauded me to my Grandmother and teachers. In high school I was well liked by my teachers because I worked hard. I almost never got the answer to my math problems right but I made a good attempt. They gave me extra time, showed me easier ways to understand things and even though it took me forever I kept at it. I was better at working hard than I was at doing the work. This a long with hours of tutoring and a well written personal statement got me into college and not just any college, a small private liberal arts school in Minnesota.

At Macalester, it was a sea of kids who were nerds in school. Everyone had a story about being a dork, a loser, being passionate about something no one else was and feeling out-of-place. Everyone spent hours reading, writing, doing calculations and studying. I spent a few hours here and there studying but I didn’t work as hard as everyone else. I spent more time trying to find new opportunities and gain real-world experiences than I did hitting the books. But I passed, I had a 3.3 GPA but I was jealous of my friends and their straight As and aptitudes for math, science and sociology. I survived college through language courses and English writing classes. I wasn’t the best in class but I survived. When I graduated I felt a little like I wasted four years and even when I started graduate school I wasn’t certain what I was learning.

In retrospect I learned way more than I realized at the time but I managed to get through school because I kept up appearances. I made myself say one insightful thing per class period because then professors took my silence for being observant and engaging with the discussion. I used the language they had given me and in most cases when people heard me use it, especially if they weren’t sure what they meant, they assumed I was well-educated. Everyday I felt like I wasn’t. People look at me and think its amazing that I’ve finished my degree at my age but I feel like it’s misplaced.

So here  and now I would like to come out to the world as an intellectual phony. I would like to take the opportunity with the rest of my life and pick up the education that I didn’t in my youth (yes I said youth!). I want to engage with people in discussions and learn what they have to teach.


2 Responses to “The Intellectual Fake”

  1. yocellie July 3, 2011 at 7:02 PM #

    It’s like you read my mind. I looked over my Mac transcript and was like, “I could have done so much better in my classes, why didn’t I?” I feel like an intellectual, lazy phony about 95% of the time. Le sigh.


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