Let's just accompany this post with Sunday's outfit: Baju Kebaya done casual.
I am unusually academically gifted. It was extremely hard to type that sentence, and I can already feel a physical reaction of anxiety rising as I think about people reading it. Most likely, you'll read it and think, "Okay, you got As at school, so did I."
If you want to translate it as that, that's totally fine. But that's not really what I mean. I have a feeling, that, all over the world, there are unique "smart-alecs" like me, hiding behind a facade carefully created out of purple hair and a reputation for being a conscientious student.
I managed my own education from the time I was about 8 years old until I started college. Mom bought the books and graded my tests and essays, but I chose my courses and chose how fast I finished them. My parents held me back a grade in middle school so that I would graduate high school at 16 instead of 15. I scored in the 99th percentile on both the ACT and SAT exams without really studying. I never had a course in college where the academics really, really challenged me. A few classes took a little more time than others, but I never did homework past 7 or 8 at night and one could say I had a social life...I was married for nearly half of my college career (and there was that wedding one week before final exams). I routinely had research papers written and ready to hand in weeks before they were due. I am really, really good at multiple choice tests, especially, as I have an exceptionally strong ability to guess--Angel and I have joked about me possible being able to pass the NCLEX without ever stepping foot in a nursing class because I've taken some of the little "practice tests" he's had for different certifications and have gotten remarkably good scores based on pure guesswork and no actual knowledge about the medical field--but really, it's so easy to figure out the answers when you just apply logic. I took the written portion of the Michigan Cosmetology Exam (100 multiple choice questions) in 19 minutes and got 100%...but to be fair, I think I could have done the exact same thing without even going to cosmetology school.
I was very surprised on the occasions when I got less than 100% on an exam in college--but when my classmates bumped into me in the hallways before a test and told me how stressed they were about our final I'd say, "Yeah, I know right? Sounds like it's gonna be ridiculously hard, I've been studying a lot."
When I had to work in a group project, I'd routinely write the entire paper, present it to my classmates, turn it in to the prof, and then act surprised when my group members told me, "Wow, look at the grade we got! Hey, you wanna be partners for the next project?"
I never begrudged doing a group project by myself--honestly, I wouldn't have wanted my classmates' lower-level work to lower my GPA, and writing papers that got As was easy for me, so i was happy to do it.
But college was where I really began to hide my academic abilities from my peers. Because I learned from those group projects that people really like classmates who know their stuff when final exams come, but outside of asking you to email them your class notes, they don't really want to be your friend.
I made a point of not pursuing any extracurricular academics during college. I never wanted to be known as someone who was "smart." I didn't do the school newspaper or get my degree with extra honors. I did ballroom dance club, theater club, Bible study club. I acted in student films. I dressed in every color of the rainbow and wore my bellydancer scarf bedecked with jingly coins on exam days to make people laugh. I ignored the academic side of me as much as one possibly can while taking 16 credits (no more, no less; good enough to graduate on time with ease, but nothing ambitious) a semester.
I cringed when my professor would hand me back my exam in front of the whole class, with 100% emblazoned in red across the front and the comment "As usual, La Perfecta." My Spanish prof used to give me a wink and put his finger to his lips in a signal that meant, "Yes, Rachel, I know you know all the answers so I will call on everyone except you." My Greek Mythology prof wrote me a rather incoherent love letter about how it was students like me who made the field of academics a worthwhile profession.
So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe some people like you if you're bizarrely good at school. But it's mostly your profs--it's definitely not your peers.
I got an A- once, from a prof who said snottily to a student who was complaining about her B+, "I don't give As. Be happy with your B+, that's an exceptionally high score for this class." At that point I decided to take my A- and be happy about it.
The fictional character I have always related to most has been Sherlock Holmes--only I think I like people in general a little more than he does. And I do like them, very much. Like Sherlock, though, I can't relate well to most people, and I find that when I reveal how different I am, they tend to keep their distance.
I can't give my siblings or cousins or closest friends advice on strategies for learning a language, or taking a college class, because they write off anything I say with, "I'm not like you, Rachel. Everything is easy for you, okay? No one else is like that."
And I guess they're right. I often feel, with Elementary's version of Sherlock, that it doesn't seem like there's anyone else out there who's just like me, although I know there is, there's just not a lot of us. Unlike every version of Sherlock that exists, on a daily basis I choose to hide the way I observe and learn and seemingly "just know" stuff.
People don't like people who learn effortlessly. I imagine it's because they feel that I might look down on them because they don't learn as fast as I do. I don't. Being academically gifted doesn't give me any right to look down on others and because I am so smart I can recognize lots of skills that other people are better at than I am (i.e. parking large vehicles). I'd never say people are jealous of me. I wouldn't necessarily wish this on anyone. I wouldn't wish to be different myself, not really, I like myself very much--and never ever even the slightest bit having a hard time at school is not truly a heavy cross to bear because I got the good grades and I got to play all the time--but still, it's not the sort of thing that makes people want to be your friend.
I'm not claiming I'm the smartest person in the world. In fact, for the most part I actively try not to encourage my brains. I spend my time going on adventures at the park and reading fiction and watching movies and playing games and being a class clown of an ESL Teacher. I don't want to encourage myself to keep learning more because that's only going to widen the gap between me and all the people I love.
(*side note: Maybe, since I'm lazy with this brain of mine, I'm actually more like Mycroft than Sherlock...but then again, I'm extremely physically energetic, which is Sherlock all the way. Never mind.)
I know that my family (immediate and extended) loves me. But they also roll their eyes when I go into a rant about how people totally miss the point of the Ru Tradition, popularly known as Confucianism. They send their papers to me to edit--but they just click "accept changes" and ignore my beautifully worded notes about WHY they needed to use the subjunctive mood of the verb in that particular instance. And they openly claim to hate me when I come back to Malaysia after 6 years away and can figure out the general meaning of written signs in Bahasa when I haven't done anything with the language in years.
So there it is. I'm Sherlock--with a habit of pretending to be dumber than I am. I love people, but I'm often lonely, because I find it difficult to build deep relationships. And yet I've found that the only close relationships I've ever been able to form have formed with the relatively few people who both know this little fact about me and accept me, too-big brain, and all. So maybe, after all, secrets like this are worth sharing.