We have all been there at one point or another. And many of us, despite how illogical we know the thought is, periodically still revisit the demon of our secret humiliation: questioning our intelligence and awareness of what was happening to us as the abuse began and progressed into the debacle that was laid at out feet. It’s like kicking a tennis ball up hill. No matter how hard you kick it, it always makes its way back down.
This has been one issue for me that, while it has improved drastically over the past months, still likes to pay me a visit during nights that insomnia gets its nasty tentacle-like grip on my subconscious. Last night was one of these nights. Before I get started, however, I do want to make sure that none of you misinterpret the tone or the intention behind this post. If you read too far into it, you may mistakenly think I am being a braggart. I guess I feel it is important to post about, because when we leave this is an issue that has a huge impact on our confidence and worth not only as woman but as human beings. The abuse calls into question things about ourselves and the level of intellect and awareness we think would have saved us from the abuse if we really had it. My goal is try to help some of you who may still be struggling with the issue to take a second look at how extremely unkind and cruel you are being to yourselves when you not allow yourself to think but to speak those five words: “If I was so smart…”
Let me tell you all a little story about my background. I have made no secret here that I am a geek. In fact, I relish in it. It is one of the things I like most about myself, and it has helped me focus on things other than obsessing about pain I have been through at different times in my life. To me, it’s a huge part of what life is about: learning, adapting, and learning some more. Every day. It’s a lifelong process that I am enamored with to the full. When I am deprived of it, in fact, this thing in and of itself, has the power to cause me to fall into depression. It isn’t quite as important as my love for Jehovah, Kerwyn, or the blood flowing in my veins, but it runs a pretty close second. Without it, I wither away and die inside.
When I was a child, I discovered that I was a geek through others’ perceptions of the things I liked to do, the things I could get lost in for hours. I read constantly. I always adored getting lost in the books I chose, and the odd thing about them wasn’t that they were fiction. No, my secret addiction as a child was reading things like encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies. In sixth grade, I tested at a college reading level. I retain things like a sponge, but even when people try to squeeze it out of me, it stays. I also liked to pull things apart and dissect them, jumble the parts up in a heap, and put them back together from memory.
Eventually, I got bored with just reading for hours and taking things apart. I developed an obsession for instruments, and I had to struggle with my parents’ wills to get one, as I absolutely insisted that I had to play the flute. I had already started teaching myself to play the piano my great grandparents had purchased for my father’s mother as a child, but it was not enough. Until I got my way, I persisted, and one late summer day before fourth grade, my persistence paid off: I had a flute! Of course, I had to promise my parents that I would stay with it or else I would have to turn over my firstborn to them when I became of age for such things, but I got it! And I played it incessantly. So much so, that during warm weather, I was banned from the house for hours. I would play until it got too dark to see the notes punctuating their way across the pages.
I stuck with that all the way through high school, eventually also taking up oboe and piccolo. I became first flute / first piccolo in band. I received perfect scores at my solo competitions. For a while, okay fine. from third grade through ninth grade, I was also in chorus, and a handful of us were chosen to be in a vocal ensemble, which I adored. (PS I will die without music. You should be taking notes right now, there may be a quiz later!) Unfortunately, because of my triple major in high school, I had to choose one thing to give up. I wish I had fought harder, because I didn’t need those study halls. Totally.
Junior high and high school were crazy for me. I saw a program on public access once about a woman who spoke five languages, and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. So after being forced against my will in junior high to take French for five weeks, despite being emphatic that I wanted to learn Spanish, my love affair with language began. I can’t really say it was in junior high this happened, because I was addicted to literature from the get-go. And I always loved listening to people speak other languages. It was, however, where it was finally able to grow unabated.
Against the wishes of my guidance counsellor, I took on a math / science / Spanish major. They refused to add the music major into the curriculum, because they said I had too many credits I needed to complete. Bah, I was already in band for four years, hello! They disagreed. In ninth grade, I was put in honors English against my will. They felt I wasn’t being challenged in Enriched English, and this is where they put the geeks after all. I spent the last three years of high school also in AP English. Add the induction into the National Honor Society and my outside writing pursuits (looked down upon by some in my family), and I was just a geek-fest. I probably shouldn’t tell you that I got a perfect score on the State Spanish exams or that I was salutatorian, but I will.
After high school, I decided that Spanish was too easy. I never studied. Before eleventh grade, I was speaking at native fluency. I had begun learning Japanese in high school, really a necessity at the time, seeing I made a few extended trips there. I thought it would be more of a challenge since the language was based in pictograph. Yeah, I was wrong. I have a Japanese certificate from my exams I took at Columbia University.
So when I went to college, I naturally chose this as my major, again ruffling my parents’ feathers. I took a placement test once it was made available, and I was allowed to skip the first year of Japanese. The professor made a mistake in telling me that I should have actually skipped two years, but he was not allowed to put us ahead any further. I had a 3.86 GPA there. This was thanks to my algebra professor who thought it necessary to put himself on a pedestal, calling himself a guru, me making a not-so-quiet comment in class directed at him, and skipping the next two classes because I refused to sit in a class with a pompous jerk who thought we should honor him just because he was a professor. So I moved into the Japanese Lit class. I had a 98 average. The professor gave me a B because I transferred in, and the college wouldn’t overturn it when I protested. In theory, I had a 4.0. I was also nominated for honor society there, too. The second time around at school, I had a 4.0 on the books, which was no small achievement. Considering I not only took more than a full-time courseload, I also worked full-time. I was on the Dean’s List at both colleges every semester.
Other random facts: I was included in Who’s Who (US high school students) for two consecutive years. I have work published. I revel in writing papers and doing research and experiments. Once out of boredom, I took an IQ test and scored a 136. I am a geek’s geek.
So now my motives for telling you this. Go back, and read it over if you need to. I will make no bones about the fact that I am intelligent. I may not be the smartest person on the face of this earth, but it’s obvious I have a mini-geek running free in the confines of my skull. When I left, the shame of what I had been forced to go through with Kevin fed off the “I should have seen it coming” garbage profusely. I couldn’t reconcile how I could be so smart on paper, yet I allowed some monster to decimate me. Destroy me. My logic at the time told me that perhaps I wasn’t so smart, because of all the things I can analyze and categorize to nth degree, I failed to see so much here. I was humiliated by this.
I had so many blind spots at the time, however. I couldn’t see what he didn’t reveal. There was no way to know by looking at him that he would beat on me like a man, steal from me, and several times almost take my life. I also, I didn’t know that abusers are just as skilled at manipulation, deceit, and brainwashing as I am at learning. The only difference between now and before is that I have the benefit of hindsight. Having a map after the fact helps no one avoid it.
Most days, I am pretty good at reminding myself of all these unknowns. Some days, not so much. I wanted to write about this, because I have read several posts mentioning this very subject, and I wanted to touch on how it doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter your age, your talents, your upbringing, your economic standing… All that matters is that there are people out there who live to abuse and therefore have adapted and honed their talents so sharply that we can never see it happening until it’s too late.
If you or someone you know are struggling with this, I would love to hear some feedback on ways you keep yourself from slipping back into the “If I was so smart” tirade. Maybe those who authored the other posts I mentioned will end up here, and it will be of help to us all.