Am I A Genius Or Just Difficult?
I have considered myself to be a glorious troublemaker and generally defiant for as long as I can remember. For equally long, I have believed myself to be a genius.
Growing up my mother worked as a Montessori teacher, this meant that I got a Montessori education — at least until she was told in no uncertain terms that I was not suited to the Montessori style of schooling. When this story was recounted to me, the word “pestiferous” was used as a means of describing exactly why I wasn’t the right fit for a system my mother spent years studying. I asked what the word meant and she told me, “It means you just want to do your own thing and prefer to play and learn at your own rhythm.” I believed her. She lied. The actual definition is, according to Merriam-Webster, 1: dangerous to society, 2: carrying or propagating infection, or 3: troublesome or annoying; I assume the latter was the intended meaning. Nevertheless, for years I bought into my mother’s bullshit and really enjoyed being recognized as an independent spirit so early in life. This foundation belief has never left me, even after finally researching the word as an adult. The false meaning was, in fact, accurate, but admittedly, so was the truth.
My falsely described, but simultaneously accurate, assessment as an independent spirit has led me down all sorts of interesting paths over the years. Growing up mostly as an only child, and being raised in areas far from other children my age, has resulted in a preference for solitude. Living in ultra-rural Deposit, NY, I spent my time outside of school in the woods or at the edge of an open field, far from the sight of another living being. My time inside school was spent quietly seated at my desk during class and sullenly seated in an empty room or stairwell during lunch. Once it was time for college, I leaped at the opportunity to return to Brooklyn where I knew no one, with the exception of my ailing grandmother in deep Canarsie. Once I was done with school, I made quick work of establishing deep drug connections and then proceeded to spend every night alone in my bedroom, getting high on coke and weed, drinking coffee or beer, and listening to the same Deee-lite album on repeat for hours. Once I got sober, I rediscovered my love of travel and dance and began engaging in both activities entirely free from companionship. Most recently, I have gone from being a worker among workers to being an independent creator, again, total solitude.
As introverted and comfortable with seclusion as I am, I do enjoy the company of others. I most certainly do NOT enjoy being advised, instructed or accompanied by others and I am even more loath to partner with anyone, at least in any kind of productive capacity. I don’t much enjoy instructing others either, but I strongly prefer it over being subservient to anyone.
Which brings me to the ‘pestiferous’ assessment; I really enjoy provoking people. Mostly it amuses me, but also it makes me feel effective. There’s a casual acquaintance in my life who, upon introducing me to new people, always exclaims, “She’s so NORMAL!” when describing why I’m such a swell chick to know. I cringe inside and out every single time. Nothing haunts me like the fear that I am plain, average, ordinary, mediocre — i.e., NORMAL. Ugh. The fucking worst. But as a provocateur, well that’s memorable at the very least.
Even beyond being interesting, it just feels very true to self for me to be a challenge in any way to people or ideas. I don’t even try, I just seem to behave in these ways despite all norms, etiquette, rules and expectations. Historically, this fact has proven problematic in environments like schools and offices.
In early grade school, I was the kid who had their seat moved several times a week. No matter where I was relocated, shortly after I made quick friends with those in closest proximity and spent the majority of my time entertaining them with my sharp wit till the inevitable disturbance of laughing children prompted admonishment and further relocation. In high school I warred with multiple teachers over their behavior and teaching incompetence, even attempting to attend a class from the hallway so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to the stupidity inside the room. There was also the year I decided I was through standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance because it included the word ‘God.’ This later evolved into my declaring myself a Satanist after reading the Satanic Bible cover to cover and subsequently fighting for my right to have the solstices, the equinoxes and Halloween off as religious holidays. The school administration loved me. When studying Industrial Design in college, I enhanced all of my product and environmental drawings with graphic depictions of women masturbating just to make the male professors uncomfortable, and also I had discovered I had a knack for rendering such subject matter so of course I didn’t wish for it to go to waste. In my senior year, I spent the first semester designing abstract sex furniture and the second, on a thesis project that translated text into mathematical coordinates. That project was meant as a tool for both the layperson and fatigued designer who, with zero inspiration, could generate raw data and material from which to create any sort of object or layout, solely through the application of numbered information into the x-, y- and z-axis system of graphs and physical reality. To say the project didn’t go over well is an understatement but also a story for another day. There are countless other tales of hijinx and controversy during those advanced schooling days — the point being: the older I got, the more trouble I wanted to make.
Which brings me to Brianne as a working professional and presumed adult… If you’ve read any of the resignation essays on this site, then you already know I recently, and somewhat dramatically, left a very corporate position in a fancy schmancy company to deep dive into the unknown, all to the end of cultivating my previously not-fully-realized genius. This glosses over the fact that I did spend nearly 20 years “working for the man” and not being noticeably troublesome — I often thought of myself during that time as being broken, like a wild horse by a cowboy, but that’s not the whole story. Under the surface, I was still raising hell, but internally and privately and mostly in the form of drug addiction, daily drinking and putting myself in the most dangerous positions possible. That secret mess meant that I largely shut off the part of my brain that thrived on creating new things and developing crazy ideas. It’s no wonder that such outward dormancy took nearly six years of stone-cold sobriety to shake.
Now that I am free from the shackles of that soul-sucking “career” I feel like I’m back in touch with that fire, the piss, vinegar, chutzpah and moxie which have always been inside me. Being older and wiser and generally more capable of enacting change, it’s as if I can really stick my finger deep in all that good stuff and potentially make some really revolutionary shit happen instead of just the superficial disturbances of my youth.
Which brings me to the idea of genius. I read all the time about the major change-makers and revolutionaries and how they are almost always difficult assholes. That alone should be enough to convince me right? Except I’m not that egotistical or delusional, hence the question mark in the title. I really do wonder. Especially when it comes to my revulsion towards other people’s opinions in regards to changing, or God forbid, tempering, my ideas. Don’t even get me started on my reaction to those who attempt to talk me out of doing something — you don’t know defiance until you try telling me 'no' when it comes to something I believe in my gut. So is that reaction the same as the fiery and protective stance of someone like Steve Jobs? So convinced of the worth of his ideas that he blasted anyone who dared argue? Or is it just me being a little bitch who can’t take criticism?
I would argue that for the big stuff, I am a fucking genius and it’s just a matter of time before it’s entirely self-evident. This is, of course, assuming I am able to continue believing in myself and taking risks. I would also admit that I am also a little bitch when it comes to taking criticism, but I actually am quite capable of hearing, digesting, accepting and acting upon criticism as it relates to the ideas and projects I would deem to be “non-revolutionary”, which to be fair, will always be a part of my output. But again, the whopper ideas that get me all jazzed up, are born of precious material and I’ll fight like a rabid dog to protect their integrity, existence and future.
Can I really get away with declaring myself a genius? Time will tell. In the meantime, that question mark in the title declares a whiff of humility and the possibility that I’m merely being humorous. Except that I’m not.