I was minding my own business recently when someone close to me called me stupid. I’d lapsed into ignorance, slipped up, made a mistake, forgotten something important – because I’d been distracted by something more interesting. I’d chosen wonder over logic.
I haven’t had much experience with being called stupid (my issues were around the way I looked). I was raised in an extended family of overt smarties. Valedictorians, patent-holders, and unabashed nerds populate the family tree. (During a Thanksgiving dinner at my Uncle Garvin’s, encyclopedia volumes were fetched to the table to resolve debate regarding the invention of margarine.)
Mom was a proud member of Mensa (“The International High IQ Society”). She would take me and my brother to the local public library to check out stacks of books within 48 hours of moving to a new town (which we did often). Dad had a “Let’s try it and see what happens” attitude and could be counted on to shrug and consider mistakes part of the experimental process.
Though I was teased often about the way I looked, no one ever called me stupid. I found solace in learning and in having answers. If people stuck around long enough to get to know me, my thoughtfulness and ability to learn, my patience and ability to teach seemed to make the way I looked immaterial. I loved that. It changed the way I thought of myself and helped heal the effects of the teasing.
When I was called stupid recently, I became interested. I’d been caught being an ignorant doofus, but it hadn’t felt the way I always thought stupid would feel. It felt good, actually. It felt … promising. Like the corner I was stumbling around could only be navigated on my hands and knees, and as I rounded the edge I’d find amazements I couldn’t find while trying to be smart. While being stupid, I felt open and awestruck.
STUPID = lacking in ability, ignorant, simpleminded, slow, vacuous, unthinking, foolish, dazed, half-baked, half-witted, thickheaded, naive, nonsensical, out to lunch, simple, daft.
Stupid’s early life as the verb "stupere" was spent describing the state of being amazed or stunned. In fact, many of the synonyms for stupid describe states I want to (and often do) embody in my quests for creativity, knowledge, and wisdom.
Not knowing but wanting to know, following trails around corners in a state of ignorance, lured by amazement – that’s how we learn. Being stupid is the first step toward being smart, even when that step is a crawl.
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
I’ll confess now that it was me who called me stupid. It’s really okay. I’ve decided I’ll take it as a compliment.
Remember those t-shirts that were the rage a while back (or maybe you weren’t born yet)? “I’m with stupid,” they said, with an arrow pointing to the side. If you want to wear one of those t-shirts, I’ll gladly walk beside you.
Grace founded The Curious Writer to help writers and other creative explorers find their own path, with the assumption that creativity and writing involve the whole person. Curious writers use the art of writing in order to grow, and grow in order to further master the art of writing. The Curious Writer focuses on creativity and empowerment, for writers and anyone interested in finding their own way.
Grace has published articles online and in print magazines. She's the author the healthy boundaries guide, Stay Afloat When Theiy're Rocking Your Boat, and a series of devious daily Creativity Prompts.
As a Writer's Shepherd, Grace helps authors who want to finish their writing project but don't know how, helping authors find their own trail through the wilderness of possibilities. As an editor, she also evaluates and tweaks in the substantive and copyediting phases of writing.