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Trying to Look “Smart”

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Trying to Look “Smart”

Kayli Mak, Staff Writer

The first time I realized that I was trying too hard to appear smart was at the end of freshman year. I had just come out of programming, and the counselor had pointedly mentioned the little sticker stuck to the front side of my paper that warned me that the school does not recommend taking four AP/Honors classes. Naturally, as I’d been raised to disregard anything inhibiting my academic prowess, I ignored it. However, I went home that night and took a hard look at my decisions. I was basically taking all the advanced courses I was allowed to take, and it still didn’t feel like enough.

Now, I don’t consider myself “smart”. Years of listening to my grandparents’ degrading speeches and watching my classmates consistently know much more than I do has taught me that much. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying to look like I’m smarter than I am. This process includes pushing my glasses up my nose in a condescending fashion, using words that I really don’t know the meaning of, and taking classes that I’m really not interested in for the sole purpose of bumping up my GPA.

I don’t know exactly when these habits started, but I do know that they aren’t just mine. I knew a kid who carried a dictionary around every single day in elementary school, despite his inability to read anything more advanced than a picture book. In middle school, I knew kids who applied for tutoring positions, even though they didn’t have a complete understanding of algebra. Then, in high school, when classes started to have “AP” and “Honors” slapped onto their titles, the hype surrounding the whole “genius image” only grew.

It’s all about image. Being more intelligent will make you superior to your fellow classmates. It’s the law that we’ve been raised on, that our parents have told us since we learned how to talk. We’ve been taught to believe in the whole idea that if we’re smarter, it will lead to a better college, and ultimately a better life. Without that extreme intelligence, you’ll get nowhere in life. Then, of course, there’s the haunting threat that “if you don’t study for that math quiz now, you’ll end up a 50-year-old working at…McDonald’s.” It’s come to the point that we fear not being smart enough so much that we decide to fake it until we make it. We try to “look” like we’re good at something, even if we don’t quite meet that kind of criteria.

Subsequently, there’s the AP addiction, the inability to do anything that isn’t “advanced”. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as oftentimes forcing yourself to think higher than your level can compel you to work harder and do better. Unfortunately, it can also devolve into competitions of, “Who is the most dead?”, and late nights (or very early mornings) cursing life choices while writing essays. I’m sure that these would not be included in a list of tips on how to actually enjoy life.

The point is that, even though it may go against every single one of your beliefs and every fiber of your being, it isn’t completely necessary to look smart or overload yourself with advanced classes. Sometimes, what we really need to grow as people is to take a step back, evaluate our choices, and make a decision that we genuinely want, as that will be better for us in the long run.

Graphic courtesy of FREEPIK.COM

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Trying to Look “Smart”