We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 344: In which we are reminded I’m not that smart


It will pass, it always does, but for now I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being average, or more than likely below average. It means I have to do twice the work for half the result. I see genuine greatness and know that no matter how hard I try, that will always be out of reach for me. What do you do when you want something so bad you would die to get it and you know you will never reach your goal?

The senior author on my latest paper that I’ve been working on is literally the person I want to be some day. She is brilliant, talented, and I don’t know how, but she manages to explain things in a way that even I can understand. She has an effortless mastery of complex concepts. She can literally derive these things, it’s like watching magic. Not a trick, I mean real-life magic. It’s incredible.

You may be thinking I’m being hyperbolic, if anything I’m underselling her. She was one of MIT’s Top 35 under 35, she’s just that good. It’s a little intimidating working with her, well a lot intimidating. I can’t keep up and I know it. I was lucky when I took her class and managed to do things that impressed her, but it’s a mixed bag for me.

I’m not that person, I struggle at everything I do. I got lucky and saw a use for the things she was teaching that made me seem smarter than I am. It was a fluke at best, so maybe she expected more from me when I sent her my latest paper revision. The one where she specifically asked me to double check my equations and to make sure they were correct. That everything flowed the way it was supposed to and she was kind enough to meet with me and give me tips on how to do just that.

I failed.

Last night at about midnight I got an email from a fellow grad student in her lab who is a co-author on the paper. He said and I quote, “she was not happy.” I have that effect, people expect more from me because on occasion I get lucky and do something smart. But the truth is, I’m not a smart man. I just push myself harder because I want to be smart and sometimes I get lucky.

I have already been dealing with the consequences of stress and it’s left me tired and in pain. For the past four days I’ve barely done the minimum I need to do. I was already down for the count and then I got kicked on top of it.

I’m not disparaging my intelligence, there is nothing wrong with being average or like I said in my case, probably slightly below average. I’ve had a hard life, a TBI, all sorts of trauma, and that doesn’t even include all the other shit that I’ve been dealing with like this breakout I’m having or whatever it is. I just want to be better. I want to be on someones top 35 under 35 list. I want to be able to effortlessly connect concepts and do things that are impressive.

There’s nothing wrong with being average, I just wish I could be more.


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