Nobody needs to be born intelligent

Beautiful.
Smart.
Talented.

The epitome of a perfect person.

But if you would be watching pageants and contestants would be asked to choose between beauty or brains, they would usually choose brains for the reason that beauty fades and intelligence is sexy.

That is ideal if we live in that kind of ideal world. Unfortunately, this is the life we have: prejudices and general beauty standards. We wish beauty were relevant but the relevance could only vary to some little degree. And of course, intelligence is measured in somehow non trivial matters: the foolish tends to be louder while the real Einsteins of the generation become smart shamed or tagged as elitists.

However, as much as people would wish for an intelligent child so they could be honor students, I would prefer I’d have kind children.

The Average Child

When I was a kid, I was always left behind: I had never been on top of my class though there was one thing I was the best at: reading.

In fact, my first memory is my parents teaching me how to read.

I could read fast. My reading ability at 4 was like that of a 7-year-old and as early as 10, I knew I wanted to be fluent in several languages so I started with English. At 11, my teachers were in awe at how eloquent I was. At 13, I was highly conversant in English that my verbal ability score in the language is always almost perfect.

Then again, I was never in the honors list but I could go on a head to head debate with my top notcher classmates and score in educational arguments. Why? Cause I was more wide read than they were.

Still, I was also lazy. I would get failing marks in most my subjects but given things I love, I produce good outputs: I write and one of my teachers told me that she likes the way I write and that in my words she sees more of talent than skill. That moment, I finally understood what I was for. That was a happy moment for someone like me who was bullied due to being fat. Well, I got back at them by saying, “E ano, maganda naman” (So what? I’m pretty).

Academically I was a mess but in other things, I was authority.

The willing child

Toss me a book, except academic books, and I was good. Back at 11, I preferred reading English stuff that my classmates began teasing me that I am, in Rizal’s words, a malansang isda (pungent fish) for I was apparently discriminating Filipinism. I wasn’t. Anyone who was open-minded enough, if there was anyone in my batch even that young, would understand that learning is growth and that development is not always a hostile act that pulls people away from their roots — that hostility is brought by the intent behind the actions. And for me, I just wanted to be a good speaker because no matter what, Filipino is in my roots. Filipino is me. And I had never been insecure about my nationality.

So, I continued what I do: read, speak, breath English and I improved a lot. Regardless of how eloquent I had been then, I know it didn’t chip off even a bit of me being a Filipino so I knew I was doing right.

The excelling child

My academic mishaps continued up to my high school days. I flunked every Math exam there was. I got low scores in English but I was the editor-in-chief of the school pub and I did not understand a bit about the technicalities of a newspaper. I was the essay writer, the programs host, the school’s broadcast journalist. I was winning quiz bees in English Literature, I bested representatives from Region IV-A when I became the champion extemporaneous speaker.

I was not smart academically but I was achieving momentous prices in the area I was good at: communication. I was lucky my school looked at my skills more than my ability to memorize history books.

And so I found my place. I knew what I wanted and I grew tired of people maligning my talents.

“The only thing you’re good at is English. Nothing else” became a household joke in school. My parents were happy at what I love and they were supportive. They never pushed me to become an honor student because I did not want to.

But people outside my family circle started talking at me and I told myself, I will show them my true potential.

From being a nobody, a flunk, an academic so-so, suddenly, I was The Full Academic Scholar, The Dean Lister, The Department Top One. I worked willingly hard enough that I got to a point my education was almost free: I was only paying $21 (P1K) per semester. Not because I was smart but because I chose to excel.

Four years after, I was the class valedictorian in my College Graduation. I was not smart. I had to work harder than the rest: my focus span is short I had to continuously remind myself that I was doing something, I had to do things ahead of the others so I stay within the same pace as them. It was hard. It was draining but it was all worth it.

I became one of the good ones not because I am intelligent. I am not and I will never be but because I chose to excel.

Success always starts with the decision to become one and follows suit after we have worked out our plans.

To people who say only the smart ones get the privilege, introduce me to them and I will prove them wrong.

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