I am the smartest person in a room all by myself. Perhaps you too have felt this feeling, the idea that you’re too smart to be where you are right now in life. Maybe you felt that you were destined for greatness, something fitting for your intellectual ability. Yet you find yourself stagnant, directionless and spinning your wheels. You are both goal-oriented and yet unable to focus on a single ambition. As time goes on, you start to compare your situation to others and find that excuses such as a bad economy or high cost of graduate school are not sufficient excuses. You’re as smart as they come, but you have nothing to show for it. This is what it feels like to be the smartest person in a room all by yourself.
At Twelve, I was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism, specifically Aspergers. According to my school psychologist, and my scores on IQ exams, I am a certified genius with an IQ over 145. Yet much like other MENSA members, I am the smartest person in a room all by myself.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now at that revelation, because who cares about someones IQ in a vacuum. You’d be correct to think that way, because it means absolutely nothing without accomplishment.
Like many others with Autism, I have found it hard to put myself out there for feedback and professional opportunity. More troubling, I have found it even harder to ask for help when directionless.
I have considered many careers, most notably my passion for the arts and desire to work in feature film/TV development. Before that, I studied political science and law with the hopes of becoming an entertainment lawyer. At other points I have found myself interested in studying conflict resolution and international relations in Europe. I applied to Sciences Po in Paris for the MSc program in International Relations, and was accepted to that institution (a school the last three French presidents have also attended). Undergraduate, I was accepted to NYU, and Columbia. I scored in the 97th percentile on my LSAT. Yet, I remain directionless, spinning my wheels toward the concrete wall of the big 3-0. While a lot of those declines on my part were financial, others said Yes to those opportunities and took the financial risk; a risk I was unable to take myself.
I strongly believe in the limiting factor of the ‘genius complex’; the idea that we have grand visions for ourselves. When you’re told that you are MENSA certified at 12, you come to expect great things of yourself. You begin to set unrealistic expectations, and then judge yourself for failing to live up to your own definition of success. It’s very narcissistic to believe that because you are brilliant you will succeed on that intellect alone. Yet this is one of the reasons many intelligent people are most unable to admit they need help and guidance. It’s hard to focus on the amount of years it takes to become successful when learning and new information came to us with such ease, so quickly.
While I’ve been told that I have a gift of language by the producer of my favorite films, an idol of mine, I am no closer to making films of my own three years later. Despite my solid academic performance, I am no closer to another degree or career. My resume seems weak in comparison to those even five years younger than myself. I have sat in a room all by myself whether I realized it or not. It is my fault that I am where I am today, and I accept that.
Sometimes when you have such lofty goals, it is almost impossible to put them into action. We remain our own worst critic. I crave intellectual experiences but have been unable to seek them out. My resume speaks nothing to my intellectual ability. Where most of my Twitter seems to be moving forward with projects of their own, I feel this constant state of imposter syndrome despite once having mentorship from a highly respected member of the filmmaking community. That fact alone keeps me lingering for a past that I wish could still be playing out in the present. Worst of all, my autistic interactions with him ruined any chance of future work for him.
I am the smartest person in a room all by myself. I am an autistic introvert with extroverted tendencies. I may socialize better than many of my autistic counterparts, but much like others on the spectrum I remain in a rut unable to propel myself forward. I am a genius but I am also a bum. I feel like I have wasted valuable years of my life, but I know my life is nowhere near over. I have failed by my own expectations. I want to get out of this room all by myself, I want to ask for help, but don’t know where to turn… except to the page, to this post.