after my Little Mermaid final directing project I had a one-on-one with my professor where she gave me feedback both about my piece and about my performance throughout the semester. What she told me boiled down to: I didn’t understand your piece because you are too smart. your brain works faster than other people and so people have a hard time following you.
I was really stunned by her comments and completely dumbfounded. How do you respond to that? I tried going back over the details of the piece and what I was trying to accomplish to see if she could give me some advice on what didn’t work and what I could have done to make things clearer. She wasn’t interested in engaging on that level. So, that was that. I was too smart.
Being shocked it was all I could talk about for two days. In person, over the phone, on gchat all of my conversations were about how my teacher told me I was too smart. I think most people’s reactions probably were somewhere around ‘stop showing off.’ But the thing is, and the reason why it effected me so much, is that I really don’t see myself as that smart. I’m not saying I’m not smart but I tend to think most people I meet rank above me on the smartness meter. I would instantly classify maybe 90% of my friends as smarter than me. I was in special ed in elementary school, I am unable to do basic mathematics, I can’t spell to save my life, I am unable to play an instrument, speak (or easily learn) languages, and anything having to do with the combo of any of the above tends to go over my head. Try to explain the economy to me and you get very frustrated. Things just don’t stick.
But here is what I am: I am curious, I am bright, I am (despite the ADD) I am attentive to details and logic. What those skills boil down to is a desire for discovery. I would rather question than answer. That’s one of the reasons I think why I am a dramaturg, I get to ask questions. I find some answers too of course, and offer some solutions, but it all comes down to, that very Jewish trait, of answering one question with more questions. The path of learning is infinite. There are no right answers just clues along the way.
When I see a show I want the show to engage my sense of curiosity. I don’t like to have hanging logic, the piece needs to make internal sense, but I don’t want answers and neat little bows. I want questions and discovery. I don’t want to be told I want to find. I guess the work I create reflects that too. I’m not saying my mermaid was perfect, it wasn’t. I know some things I could have done to make it stronger. But the point wasn’t to ‘get it’ and it’s not because I’m so smart but because I like a challenge. And it’s not that my brain acts quicker, because trust me it doesn’t, it’s just that I enjoy piecing things together. I think in part, it is the challenges that I’ve had, with learning disabilities and ADD, that make it even the more exciting when I do understand something, when I can solve the puzzles. I grew up knowing that I was a step behind, that I had to push harder than others, I was able to change that pushing from a chore to a joy. It feels remarkable to me that I am smarter than others. I just have learned to enjoy the challenge, push, and enjoyable struggle of learning.