“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.” -Albert Einstein
In highschool, I decided to take an art class. The first day of class, I walked in and I immediately felt at home. The room was full of different bright colors and inspiration was in the air. All around the room, you would see people creating. This brought my heart so much joy. At the core of my being I knew I was born to create and couldn’t wait to get to know the beautiful minds of all of these creatives.
I glanced around the room trying to decide where to sit. I met eyes with this girl and she smiled at me. She seemed friendly, so I made my way over to her and sat down next to her. Her name was Kristen. She had beautiful curly brown hair and big blue eyes. She was a chatty one, which was a nice change of pace, since usually I was the one talking someone’s ear off.
Not only did I enjoy her friendly nature, as the days went by, I began to realize she was a pretty good artist. Her notebook was full of “silly doodles” as she would call it, but in reality they were beautiful sketches. There was this one drawing especially, she did that I just loved. It was a simple picture of a rose, but the details she drew were incredible.
Pretty soon, I couldn’t help but notice how terrible my drawings looked compared to hers. At first, I thought I was just being overly critical of my own work, until one day she looked at one of my drawings and chuckled. “What’s that supposed to be?” I was embarrassed, but I played it off by cracking a joke and telling her that her guess was as good as mine.
Clearly drawing wasn’t for me. The good news was that in this class we got to try our hand at different expressions of art. I breathed a sigh of relief when the drawing phase started to end and we went into pottery. “OK, so maybe drawing wasn’t for me, but pottery. That I can do!” I reasoned with myself. Later the teacher gave us our first assignment. She wanted us to combine three different animals to create a beautiful piece.
At first I was excited. That sounded pretty cool actually. Kristen was just as excited. She already knew the exact animal combo she wanted to make and immediately went to it. I looked around the room and already saw people forming together these amazing pieces. Intimidated, I looked down at my blob of clay and started forming together my idea and it was beautiful!
It was awful!!!
Kristen looked at my work. “Well that’s…nice.” “Yeah” I said dryly. “It’s supposed to be a pig, snake and bird.” (I have no idea why that was the combo that came to mind!) “Oh ok…I mean yeah I can kind of see it.” she said trying to be positive. I laughed. I knew it was terrible. I was mortified and amused by what I just created.
The teacher began walking through the room admiring everyones work. She LOVED Kristen’s piece! Then she got to mine. She paused for a moment and then said “Oh wow!” trying to hind the horror in her voice. “Yeah. It’s supposed to be a pig, snake and a bird.” The teacher nodded with a fake smile frozen on her face. “Oh ok…Well ok. Alright. Cool.” My heart sank. The only thing worse then being bad at something is people trying to pretend you aren’t.
I left class that day so discouraged. This was a huge blow to my ego. It wasn’t just the fact that I wasn’t good at art, it was more that. This confirmed I was officially bad at everything in school. You see, I was already not good a Math and Science. It was bad enough, that “in order to be successful in life you HAD to be good at those subjects.” I wanted to be successful, but since I was bad at those subjects, I felt doomed.
The thing that made me come alive was music, writing, the arts and theater. That’s what I felt made to do. I was told over and over again though “Unless you make it big (which is very hard to do) prepare to be a starving artist.” This always made me feel defeated, but then sometimes I would have thoughts like “Maybe I am creative enough, to be successful with it.” I thought, “maybe I can be such an amazing artist that my parents won’t mind that I never had a heart to be a lawyer or a doctor like their friend’s kids. Maybe I could still make them proud after all.”
This class killed all of those hopes for me though. “You aren’t even good at art! You aren’t creative! You are just dumb!” Those thoughts plagued me. For years, I walked around thinking I was the dumbest person to walk this earth. I hated that I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t pretty either. The only thing I had going for me was my sense of humor. I clung to it and hoped it would distract from how unintelligent and plain I was.
Flash forward years later, I was venting to my husband over something and made the comment “that I wasn’t good at anything.” He looked at me stunned. “What? You are good at a lot of things! I think you are very smart!” he said. I kind of chuckled “yeah ok.” “You are! You are good at music, and writing and- ” I KNOW I KNOW, I’m good at all those things. I just wish I was good at something that actually mattered.” The tears streamed down my face, betraying the fact, that I told myself I was “ok with being dumb.”
Much healing has taken place and I don’t feel that way anymore. At the time though, I didn’t understand my genius. I was too busy judging myself over things that weren’t my gift. To this day, if you put me next to a Mathlete, I’m not going to look that smart. If you want to have a scientific debate with me, I’m lost. I still am not great at drawing. I’m pretty bad at painting as well. That’s ok. I still love those things, and you will still find me in art galleries drooling over paintings, that I’m not able to do.
I am no longer discouraged by what I can not do. My weaknesses allow me to marvel in others strengths I don’t posses. The reality is, I may not be good at Science or Math, but I’m definitely not dumb. I’m no super model, but I am certainly beautiful. I can’t draw amazing sketches like my husband or kill at pottery, like Kristen, but I know in my heart that I am an artist. I was born to create.
You are a genius. You are brilliant.You are beautiful masterpiece that no one will ever be able to imitate. They can try, but it will never be the same. I am so tired of brilliant minds, being fooled into believing they are dumb. It’s time to embrace your genius. It’s time to un-apoligetically be who YOU were created to be. Next time the world tries to tell you just how dumb you are because your genius doesn’t look like someone else’s, you respond like the fish. You respectfully admire, the birds that can fly and the cat’s that can climb trees. Then you swim. You do what you were made to do, brilliantly.