When I think about all the times I’ve felt stupid, or did stupid things, I begin to wonder how I made it this far in life. But the experience of feeling stupid is really pretty commonplace among humans. I’ve yet to meet anyone who at some time along life’s journey didn’t do something stupid.
“Hey, y’all. Watch this.”
And stupid raises its ugly head. A trip to the ER will often follow. When you’re trying to be stupid, you probably deserve what you get.
It’s the unintended stupidity that can be embarrassing or debilitating. You work hard at something. You give it your best shot. But you come up short. You come up less than adequate. You don’t cut it and you know it.
One of the early experiences that made me feel stupid was choosing up teams on the playground. Captain America and Captain Hero were always the self-appointed captains of whatever we were playing. The rest of us stood off to the side hoping to be chosen. More often than not, I was in the lesser 1% at the end of the selection process.
You get chosen last enough times and you start to feel stupid. You start to imagine that something is wrong with you, which is the worst kind of stupid feeling.
My academic career was not glamorous either. One of you commented recently that I must have made all As in Mrs. Pridmore’s Senior English class. You must have me confused with Jan, or Jimmy, or yourself. You know I’m right, Donna.
The first serious paper I ever wrote was in 9th grade English Lit. I wrote a review of Romeo and Juliet. I could hardly make sense of Shakespeare’s writing. The words ran together.
The teacher tried to prompt and inspire my thinking.
“What does the feud between the Montegues and the Capulets tell us about the experiences of life common to a deep sense of passion and love?”
“What? Could you repeat that, please Ma’am?”
I was lost. I got mostly Ds in that class and was sure that I was stupid.
Farther along in school I had professors that bled enough red ink over my papers to fill up a five gallon bucket. I wrote like I talked. I turned one syllable words into two syllable words. You could almost hear the twang and slang coming right off the paper. Split infinitives. Run on sentences. Improper use of prepositions and adverbs. Double negatives. I got used to seeing C- at the top of the page.
Don’t no one need that kind of grief to haunt them from.
But I made it through school. It was time to be stupid out in the world. In school you get called stupid. In adulthood, you make mistakes. Which is a polite way of saying that we do stupid things from time to time.
You’re doing something rather simple, like mowing the grass. The mower shuts off for no apparent reason. You tinker with it. You replace the spark plug. You yank on the rope a few bazillion times until you feel like your arm is going to hemorrhage. Finally you check the gas tank and it’s empty. Duh! Stupid kicks you in the gut.
I got a call from Publisher’s Clearing House the other day.
“You’ve just won 3.5 million dollars and $5000 per week for life.”
Your head spins. You question the guy relentlessly. It seems legit. You get drawn along. You start allowing your mind to think on how lucky you are. All the stuff you’re gonna do for kids and family and God and third world countries. Then the story starts to fall apart. Little details that just don’t feel right. You’ve been hooked and reeled in. You’re almost in the net and then you shake free.
I hadn’t felt that stupid in years. I was perilously close to getting scammed. I was stupid for letting myself believe.
No one is immune to it. Life is full of stupid. You yell at the kids and feel stupid. You get sideways with your spouse for three days and you feel stupid. You make financial mistakes and you feel stupid. You forget someone’s name and you feel stupid.
If you’re not careful, stupid can so occupy your mind that you start to believe it. You start to think that Captain America who always chose you last was right to do that. You start to think that a C- is all you’ll ever get in this life.
But don’t you believe it. I’m going to declare right now that no one is stupid. Well, maybe almost no one. Certainly not you and me. We may do stupid things, but we are not stupid. We’re just making our way through life one experience at a time. Sometimes we hit gold. Sometimes we swing and miss. But we keep living. We keep working at it. We keep going.
I took a creative writing course in college. It was probably dumb for me to do that. It wasn’t like I had a newly discovered passion for writing. We are talking about the kid who couldn’t put two words together on Romeo and Juliet.
But there was this gal from Alabama with hair down to her belt line that needed my help. She was on crutches. I was her gallant knight, meaning I carried her books and opened doors and carried cafeteria trays. Stuff like that. She was in that class. I wanted to sit next to her, so I signed up and took my seat.
I don’t know about how much good that class did for me. I don’t remember anything I learned in there. Maybe it worked out some of the stupid. But I know this. I eventually married the gal with the long brown hair. And that’s about the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
Stupid is not forever.