Didn’t I Used To Be Smarter?

I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I think I could pass for fairly intelligent when I was still working.

At work, I usually knew the answer when someone asked me a question. If I didn’t know the answer, I could reason through the possible options and choose a response that would work.  I could think analytically and figure out creative solutions to problems.  I could distill complex tax processes and ideas into concepts that the average person with or without technical background could understand.  I could communicate interactively, changing my approach when I saw that I wasn’t getting through to my audience.  In short, most people thought I was pretty smart.  Maybe not Einstein smart, but fit-for-use smart.

Then there is Jeopardy!  I love Jeopardy!  One of my earliest memories is watching television with my Nana in the early sixties, happily listening to Art Fleming read out the answers and field the question responses from the contestants.  Ever since I was a little girl, I could play along with the contestants. I might not have known all the right responses or even understood all the questions, but I was able to respond enthusiastically and confidently in a lot of categories.   Even when I was a child, most of the answers I called out were correct.  When there was a “kiddie lit” category, I usually smoked the participants on tv. I once tried out to be on Jeopardy!, but, sadly, did not make the cut.  For a long time after that, I kept a running tally of how much money I would have won if I was on the show. My total was always pretty darn respectable.  I followed Ken Jennings’ run of 74 wins with the same kind of obsession that hypochondriacs track their blood pressure.

I realize this passion for Jeopardy! probably automatically qualifies me for the Dork-of-the-Month club, but I can’t help it.  Through the years, I have learned a lot from Jeopardy!  Also, Jeopardy! increased my confidence about my level of smarts.  Watching Jeopardy!, I could almost feel my brain building IQ points.  On the other hand, Jeopardy! is also what leads me to ask if something might have gone wrong with my thinker.

I have noticed, over the past few years, that I seem to be getting more responses wrong when I play along at home.  I comforted myself with the idea that maybe my mistakes were about new technology, pop culture, or global politics.  After all, the world keeps amassing more and more information and maybe I just wasn’t paying close attention.  Unfortunately, that theory exploded yesterday when I missed a question about the integration of schools in Little Rock. I incorrectly identified Little Rock as being in Alabama.   I am pretty sure nobody moved the capital of Arkansas to Alabama in the last few years.  Somehow, I find the fact that I have misplaced Little Rock to be very disconcerting.

On the other hand, maybe Jeopardy! prowess isn’t the best barometer of intelligence.  Even though my game show skills might have taken something of a nosedive, I’ve recently acquired a bunch of new knowledge.

Ever since I can remember, I have struggled with all things mechanical.  It really goes even beyond that.  It is more that I have dismally poor visual reasoning skills.  Asking me to do anything that requires me to imagine what the finished product is going to look like or makes me look at a picture and recreate the action in the picture is enough to drive me to despair.  I can’t look at furniture and have any idea of what it will look like in a room.  I can’t lay a pattern out on fabric.  I can’t assemble the most basic “some assembly required” product in the world.  At least I can’t do any of those things without hyperventilating.  In my new life, I have had to face my fear and learn how to do some of these visual reasoning tasks.   Here is a partial list of tasks I’ve accomplished using my new knowledge:

  • Transplanted a rose bush
  • Decorated a home (and, despite my terror to the contrary, all $14,000 worth of furniture I purchased actually fit!)
  • Hooked up a computer, monitor, and printer
  • Assembled mass quantities of wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats, and other adaptive equipment
  • Rigged up extensions for the ceiling fan chains
  • Set and adjusted the timer to the irrigation system
  • Established a website (when I first saw television commercials for GoDaddy, I couldn’t even understand what it was that they were selling and now I’m a client- go figure!)
  • Added a riser to a toilet seat
  • Filled gaps around the garage with steel wool to thwart reptilian invaders
  • Hung a series of nightlights down a mobile home hall (all right, I did it with Command, but STILL!!!)

I’ve also learned how to treat and maintain my mother’s legs and feet to keep her various dermatological and circulatory problems under control.  I think I’ll be qualified to be a Vietnamese nail technician before the year is out.

So, although I may no longer be able to make it into Final Jeopardy with a positive score, maybe I’m not getting any less smart.  Instead of storing an impressive warehouse of largely useless facts, maybe my grey matter is applying itself to learning something practical for a change.  And I’m still smart enough to know how to Google.  So I guess I’m good.

So what do you think?  Is your brain just so full that you have to let some things go to make room for anything new?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at www.terriretirement.com.  Have a wonderful day! Go learn how to do something new!

Terri 🙂