Is there a certain hair color or eye color? Height or weight? Maybe it’s determined by your major or job? Is it by how high your GPA is? Is it based on how well you beat the systems and make them work for you? How wealthy you are? Or is it determined by how happy you are?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at step one: What does it mean to be smart?
We’ve all heard the terms “street smart” and “book smart.”
Street smarts are the type of smarts that aren’t recognized in a classroom. There is no GPA involved, and no A+ to receive. It’s knowing when you’re being scammed, and knowing to not turn into a dark alley when it’s late at night. It’s being at a club and knowing to keep an eye on your drink, and to not leave with a stranger without letting a friend know.
Book smarts, on the other hand, are accepted in an educational setting. It’s being able to read texts and understand the symbolism and allegories within them. It’s being able to do math with imaginary numbers and do God knows what else. It’s getting high scores on tests. It’s what we are told as high schoolers is the most important factor in our lives and for our futures.
I don’t know how to define what being smart really is. I used to think that being smart was becoming a doctor or a software developer. But we use the term so often that it has lost some of its meaning. We call people smart for nearly everything and anything — “Smart” can mean anything from cheap strategies to make a dorm room to look less like a jail cell or a life hack on how to get a stain out of your carpet. A lot of things are labeled as smart. And they often are.
To be honest, I don’t think of myself as smart. I’m a Creative Writing and Theater major with the intent of doing an MFA masters in screenwriting or production. I can’t really do math well aside from splitting up my paycheck to pay bills. I don’t really understand any type of science too well. But even still, I was smart enough to get into this school. I’m smart enough to know when I’m wrong and take responsibility for it. I’m smart enough to know when I’m being lied to or bullshitted. I may not be smart enough to be a doctor or a software developer, but I know I’m smart enough to make it in this world and live a happy life.
Everyone is smart in their own way — it might not be the same as someone else or in the same way. And that is okay. There isn’t a certain dress code or GPA or career that equates with intelligence.
You are smart — and don’t force yourself to be a certain type of smart that isn’t you. I would be a horrible doctor and I would hate my life if I were one. So I won’t be a doctor. I’m not going to be that type of smart and I never will be, but I am my own type of smart and I will not be afraid to lean into that.