So often people say to me, “I wish I had a brain like yours!”
No, you don’t.
What they mean is ‘I wish were more academic and I wish I could write about quantum physics and have a better understanding of philosophy and human psychology’ and sure, I get that. Although I fail at several of those myself from time to time. But I know what people mean: they see status updates about writing papers, they notice how many books I read on a weekly basis. I will admit to a certain kind of scholarly intelligence.
That does come at the expense of other kinds, though. Perhaps not for everyone (and perhaps I’m just a living tired cliché), but certainly for me.
I am the archetypal absent-minded professor, except I’m not even a professor, so all I am is an absent-minded human scribbling away on sheets of paper and blu-tacking them all over my house.
“Your flat looks like something out of A Beautiful Mind” is a sentence I’ve heard several times from people who have walked into the places in which I’ve lived.
And yeah, sure, the Beautiful Mind guy was intellectually bright, but he also went crazy. And wasn’t exactly fabulous in other areas of his life.
I am similar in a lot of ways.
These, for example, are the alarms I set for myself on my phone reminding me to eat meals, otherwise I would forget.
This is stuck in my kitchen, just below the boiler, next to the sink where I go to top up my water bottle.
This is on the cupboard to your left as soon as you walk into my kitchen. Every time I look at it I get a little frisson of panic: how do I know if it’s Monday? I know I need to take the bins out on Mondays, but when is Monday? Is it today? Tomorrow? Yesterday? Another day entirely?
And heaven forbid something happens that isn’t part of my normal routine. For example:
I know these may all look amusing, and yeah, they are. But I am so incredibly bad at the day-to-day stuff that I feel it outweighs how good I am at the less usual things: the physics, the maths, the psychology, the intellectual crap I can do. My brain is very very good at abstract thought on theoretical themes. It is equally awful on practical considerations and physical images. Somewhere in between is the wasteland of trying to remember who I am and what I’m doing with my day.
So next time you look at someone – anyone – and think I wish I were them, take a look at the parts of yourself you don’t generally show to others, and remember that those people probably struggle with stuff too. Other people’s challenges can sometimes look easier than our own, but that doesn’t mean they are. This life shit’s hard, and I’m not sure any of us have it figured out.