the nature of intelligence

“I Want You Back” by Jackson 5
This song doesn’t match the tone of this posting at all. But I’m in the mood. So listen to it.

I have notoriously childish sleeping habits: I go to sleep before eleven almost every  night and I wake up before nine on the weekends. But this weekend has gotten ridiculous. Yesterday and today I have woken up at 6:30 in the morning and been unable to go back to sleep. Great. Now I’m going to be tired all day. But while I’m up, I might as well write. Because I’ve got a long list of things to write about. We’ll start crossing them off now.

I once heard that a good way to measure yourself as a person is to look at the five people you are closest to. Sometimes I go through phases in which I feel like I’m the only person in the world who understands me. But this is not one of those times. At all. I look over the last people I’ve texted or called, and I’m proud. I have friends who are smart–no, brilliant. They are the most likely to succeeds and the perfect SAT scores and the class presidents and homecoming queens. Please don’t think that I am tallying up the merits of my friends just to store them away in a private fund, only to be withdrawn in times of grave self-doubt. No, I am simply stating the facts. And another fact? I am so proud of all of them. I am proud that they would want to be my friend. Amazed that they see something in me that would merit a quality conversation and time spent alone, either in person, on Skype, or on the phone. I would be honored to be able to say that some of their qualities are reflected in myself. Any day.

From being so close to them, however, I’ve seen a side which not everyone sees. It’s not a secret side by any means, but at the same time it isn’t something that is broadcasted for the world to see and know. I’ve abandoned naive beliefs to realize that for every spot of sunlight  on the grass there is something else is sitting in the shade, in the dark. I’ve seen the darker side of some of these people. I’ve seen the troubles that they’ve faced and are still struggling with. Nobody’s perfect. I know it’s a cliche that should not be reiterated because it’s so overused. But really. It’s true. I forget sometimes. Sometimes I imagine people that I don’t know well to be perfect. I imagine that they live this charmed life without any of the trouble that speckles my own.

This leads me to another train of thought that I have wondered and pondered for years. Do people who have lived through difficult times gain an advantage in life over the people who have had it fairly easy? Last year, I wondered constantly whether I would ever accomplish anything in life because I have had an relatively peaceful childhood. The clean slate of my childhood has been tainted with some pain, yes, and some extremely trying periods, but I was worried that I missed out on some crucial character building because my parents worked so hard to provide everything for me. I sort of had this conversation with one of my friends. Yes, hardships build character. They make a person stronger than she would have been without it. Part of it might be out of your control. But everyone has a choice. Even if you were raised peacefully and happily, with everything handed to you without question, you have a choice. You can either continue to live your quiet, charmed life, or you can go out and absorb the aspects of life that were deliberately omitted from your childhood, ironically for your well-being.

So does turbulence breed genius? It certainly breeds something. I believe that the extent of a person’s intelligence is beyond the hands of manipulation, but that highest level cannot be reached without the desire to be enriched.


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