“The limit does not exist.” -Cady Heron

How do we quantify intelligence?

Many of us have preconceived notions on what we find intelligent. Most of us view surgeons as the pinnacle of intelligence, capable of performing surgery under stressful conditions. Some find engineers intelligent, since they hold the ability to solve complex calculations in order to develop technology/structure. Others see scholars or authors as intelligent, finding new ways to explain the ineffable.

Meryl

The standard for excellence was high within my family. Everyone was heavily involved in business, computers, or studying to join the medical field. This was, after all, where I’d be able to financially prosper. The pursuit of higher income seemed a necessity, because it meant the development of an efficient and comfortable lifestyle.

Even high school was stressful: I was surrounded by students who tested margins ahead of me and attended elite universities. A vast majority of my graduating class attended the top 25 universities of America. Even I, by some fortune, had the option to attend notable universities that would’ve appeared amazing on a résumé.

But I chose N.C State.

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So my family was puzzled. I had attended a prestigious high school, so why a Southern public engineering school that no one in the family had heard of? They reassured themselves: “He’ll definitely do Engineering. Good, we don’t have those in the family yet.”

I chose to do a Business Management major. They accepted what I later grew to hate: early 8 A.M Accounting classes were not kind to me. So after the 2013-2014 academic school year, I decided I needed a break. (On a personal level, I think everyone really does need a break from continuous education. Travel, learn, work, and grow.)

I told my father that I’d join the military. People had questions: “Why is Kam joining the military? He should be doing research at an Ivy League.” Others remarked that the military was a poor decision, because people only joined the military if they weren’t intelligent enough to do anything else. Nevertheless, I was supported by my parents and endured the physical/mental challenges the military had stored.

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Hold on. I really like this other one (which has little connection to the point I’m trying to make).

Until he decides to continue on his dating apps, and forgets you. What else do you expect him to do all day in the barracks?

When I completed my training, I re-enrolled at N.C State. This time, I switched over to English. That drove my family through the roof: “What is he going to do with an English degree?! Have you ever seen an Indian English major? Is he trying to be a teacher? Will he go to law school?”

It was hilarious, and I laugh whenever I think about it.

I laugh because we’ve become accustomed to the idea that wealth equals happiness. For some of you, maybe it does. You enjoy the new pair of shoes, the exotic vacations, or the ability to associate to the lyrics of your favorite rap/pop song. And I personally don’t find anything wrong with that!

What I did find initially frustrating was the assessment of my intelligence.

Let’s use Stanford as an example (since my best friend’s roommate went there). In my family, it didn’t matter if you were the worst engineering student at Stanford, because you still graduated from Stanford. You’d be able to hang the Stanford flag on your wall, add that you graduated from Stanford on all your social media accounts, and then casually slip into all conversations the fact that you attended Stanford. I’ve met numerous graduates who love to tell me that they’ve graduated from Duke, Harvard, or Stanford. 

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I don’t hate Stanford, I swear. It was just bizarrely hilarious walking into a room covered with Stanford memorabilia.

What if you disliked attending a school that you weren’t fond of, and taking courses you weren’t excited about? (I know way too many people pursuing engineering degrees, with no desire to do anything engineering-related.) Do you only enjoy the school because everyone around you loves it, or is there something unique? Is this all you bring to the conversation? Is it intelligent for you to attend an institution, in pursuit of a certain degree, that doesn’t satisfy you? All for the brand-name institution to appear on your resume? It certainly does fulfill an excellent networking opportunity. And sure, you may be creating a secure financial future, but that’s a gamble. Anyone’s life can drastically change within a week *looking at you, South Carolina Mega Millions winner*. (I do have some friends that attended noted universities, and they’re quite happy with their decisions. But they don’t confuse their schooling with their education.)

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Cognizance is essential when choosing universities. I valued my intelligence, but I knew I wasn’t the brightest of my class. And that’s perfectly alright with me! By my understanding, intelligence is the ability to consistently acquire knowledge and develop skills. Ignorance would be the opposite of intelligence, because it expresses apathy in developing oneself.

I have constantly challenged my deficiencies. I went from a prestigious private high school in the North, to a Southern public school university. (I even worked on a few farms, which has resulted in my hate for chickens.) I joined the Army as Military Police. My major is English, with a concentration in Literature, and my minors are Military Science and Business Entrepreneurship. I run a blog to work on my writing skills, and I also lift heavy-ass weights (because I like looking fabulous). None of the aforementioned really connect, but they keep me actively engaged and well-rounded. Don’t compare yourself with others; you’ll do fine in life.

Happy Halloween! Enjoy some chocolate today. (Wait until my roommates find out that I’m about to buy an entire box of Lindt chocolate truffles. I have a problem.)

If you need me, I’ll be up in my room alone with chocolate.

Jack Skellington

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