One step closer
I know what it’s like to feel smart, and I know what it is like to feel stupid. People who know me: if you were to ask them which one I am, half will give you one answer and the other half will give you the other.
After Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of EQ to the world in 1995 (that was the year that book came out) the idea of multiple intelligences has truly caught on. But already in the 1980s Howard Gardner has classified intelligences into roughly 7 segments. We now know that the brain is a Swiss Army jackknife, and all the components have differing capabilities relative to the rest of the population. The nerd has got great analytical skills but poor psychomotor skills. The jock, vice versa.
I suppose when I went in to take a standardised test, there were already some good omens. First, the astrological readings said that I had high energy today. That’s good. The second thing is that I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen very much since primary school. He later went on to shingot’s JC and probably was top student there or something. Talking to him, I realised why they gave him a prestigious scholarship – he’s a humble guy, feet on the ground. He was going to do his master’s in public admin. I suppose he’ll stay in the civil service for quite a while – he might become somebody famous, or not.
We talked for a bit. I suppose you can always talk to your old friends. But considering that the last time we interacted meaningfully – I had him over for my 12th birthday party. He gave me a birthday present, a pirated copy of Phantasie. I was to play that game a lot in Pri six, and to date it was the only computer based RPG I played a lot of. From Pri 4 to 6, we always played police and thieves during recess. That was the last year of real childhood, just before they start grabbing you by the collar and tell you right in the face that you’re growing up to be a real man and you better start acting like one. (Or if you can’t act like one, at least be as smart as one.
The bad omen, the extremely bad omen is that the scores may not come in time for certain uni applications. But since I know my score, that may not matter very much.
It was weird going to the building. The testing place was opposite the Science Centre, which I also last visited while in primary school. The process was very meticulous. My friend said that the ante room looked like a police station, where you held all the suspects before taking them in for questioning. You had to sign a declaration saying that you were indeed the person who registered for the test.
When they called your name, you found yourself in some kind of a control centre. There were closed circuit cameras on every test taker of a computer monitor. It was like motherfucking 1984. When you left the room, you had to sign out, and they checked your signature against the one in the passport.
They had a locker for you. You were to empty all your pockets. I was shunted around by a grumpy short Malay woman. (Reminds me a bit of the grumpy short woman I know at work). I asked, you want my coins as well? She said, “which part of ‘everything’ do you not understand?” Then she shunted me over to the computer, and asked me to look at this funny webcam. I looked at it as though it were that machine from Men in Black that makes you forget everything.
I went to the terminal, and I was fairly amused that the picture that they took of me froze me in a kind of a “what the fuck” position.
The test itself went well. I had the first indication that things were going OK when they told me that they weren’t repeating either the verbal or the quantitative section. Instead, they asked me to be a guinea pig and help them test a whole new quantitative section.
I had a pretty decent score. I was glad I didn’t have to take the GRE again. The computer based GRE will repeat one of your sections if you did badly, but that didn’t happen to me. Instead, it said, here’s a new section for you. If you're one of the top 100 scores, you stand to win a $100 dollar prize!!! So I did that section too.
I don't know how I did on the writing but since I do so much practice over here for the benefit of you guys I think I should be OK.
I felt a bit like a man again. There was this time when Dr Old Fogey gave a short academic quiz to everybody, I was the only one who got full marks on it. (But then there were only 3 people, including myself and Dr Old Fogey, who had gone through that material in a graduate-level course). That was quite satisfying because I did feel that Dr Old Fogey had been looking down his fucking nose at me the whole time we were in the same department as each other.
Well sometimes in my current job I don't really feel like a man. And this is where I'll tie it in with the stuff I've written earlier. There were some skills the job required and I realised, to no small panic, that I had to develop them from scratch. And when I saw people who were so much better than me, I felt a certain despair that I hadn't really felt before.
I think that people who never had to deal with their own stupidity are lucky in their own way. Probably the way that I was back at school, when I was just good at learning. I took 5 minutes to learn what some others took 1 hour to learn. I was never allowed to think, "well I'm more hardworking, aren't I?" but I can see why people who have more talent just think that way. Other people around them struggle, and they can put in more effort, but because the results don't come, they're lazy and useless. I've had to deal with that relatively late in my life.
Will I learn those skills? To be fair, I hadn't learnt some of those skills because I wasn't really interested in them. And it was hard to pick up those skills because I still aren't really interested in them. Was I going to stay in this state for a long time? I thought, shouldn't I just try to run away to another place where those skills were not as crucial as they are in my current place? I always had an intention to do so, just never got around to doing that.
And now - the future? It's hazy. Very hazy. But at least, I think, it will be somewhat different from marching on the spot forever. Another tentative step towards the door, then...