It's a good question. I say that because it's a question I don't know the answer to. I just went through my archives because I remember writing something about this. Basically, like everyone, I have a bunch of different facets to my personality. One of them, the sharpest pencil, perhaps, was my easy-breezy ability to excel in the classroom. Let's call this part of me Academic Success Barbie. I've always gotten a lot of praise from grown ups when Academic Success Barbie was out. And so I guess it became natural for me to believe that I was really smart, and (more fatally) that being smart was the most important and valuable thing about me. I wrote about that assumption here, as I was thinking about what kind of jobs I might want to look at after I stopped practicing law.
Of course there were plenty of inklings that I'm not that smart all along. When I got to Yale, I was around some people who could see things that I just couldn't see -- physics and math stuff, mainly, although some wonderful writers, too. I could hang, just barely, but I was able to see people who could fly, and I knew that there are worlds I don't have access to. Perhaps because of that I gave Academic Success Barbie some time off, and spent my college years cultivating Sailor Barbie and Rock Star Charisma Barbie.
But it's only been in the last several years that I've started to realize being smart doesn't mean that much to me. And as I've loosened my hold on that as my primary sense of self-worth, it gets easier and easier to see clearly how silly it was to cling to it. There are so many smart people out there, who have mental skills I will never have. I'm not a very abstract thinker. I forget things. I am distractable, so distractable. I'd rather dwell in my senses than in my head, most of the time. And many of these smart people have a foundation of knowledge from specialization and a kind of single-minded focus that makes it impossible to imagine ever catching up. But that's okay with me.