Author’s note: I have heard that internal monologues can be quite boring. So, to spice this one up, it is being presented as a dialogue between me and Abraham Lincoln over a plate of nachos at a Mexican sports bar. Hopefully this makes it a little less dull.
After taking our order, the waitress gave us both a pert smile. “Your drinks and nachos will be out in just a moment,” she said before scurrying away.
As she hurried off, I caught our 16th president’s eyes wandering. “Hey, Abe,” I called. “A little focus, please?”
The tall, crane-like man shrugged at me. “Sorry, but my wife’s been dead for over a hundred and thirty years,” he replied. “Nothing wrong with looking. But back to you. What’s bothering you?”
I sighed. “Look, I know that I’m a smart person,” I began. “Let me cite some evidence: I aced the ACT, back in high school-“
“Hold on a second,” Lincoln interrupted. “Aced? As in a perfect 36 on it?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “When I got the scores back, I thought they were out of 40, so I assumed it was a decent score. It wasn’t until I got to school that I realized it was the top score.”
“Dayum!” our esteemed leader bellowed, as the waitress brought over our margaritas. “That is impressive, and that’s coming from the POTUS!”
“That’s not all,” I continued, indulging Mr. Lincoln. “I also scored in the 90th percentile or higher on both sections of the general GRE, the 97th percentile on the biology GRE, and the 95th percentile at the MCAT. So, on paper, I’m pretty smart.”
“But that’s the rub,” I continued. “While that’s good and all, I still have issues day to day, just like everyone else. I forget shopping lists, I mess up math calculations at work, and do a hundred other stupid things.”
Abe shrugged as he sipped his margarita. “Everyone does that, though. I bet Stephen Hawking messes up stuff like that.”
“Yes, but that’s just the thing!” I insisted. “What if this means that I’m not smarter than everyone else? What if I just happen to have a small and narrow talent for acing standardized exams?” Lincoln opened his mouth, but I held up a finger.
“Look, I use this as my coping mechanism,” I said. “When I see some pampered idiot zip by in his sports car, I can tell myself that at least I’m smarter than him. When a girl shoots me down, or some guy is just way more attractive than I’ll ever be, I can always use this as my consolation. It’s my defense, it makes me feel better about myself. But what if it isn’t true?”
Abe was about to speak, but we were interrupted by the arrival of our nachos. For a minute or two, there was only silence, as we scooped up corn chips covered in cheese and beans. At length, Lincoln finally sat up straight, fixing me with a truly presidential stare.
“First off, let me point out that I’m just a figment of your subconscious,” he began, his voice deep and reassuring. I could see how he had been elected. “But I think you’re missing the issue here.
“The question isn’t whether or not you’re smart. It’s clear that you are definitely very smart, and you should be proud of that. It is completely acceptable as a defense mechanism, and preserving your self-esteem is worth it. However, the true test doesn’t come from what gifts you have; it comes from what you do with those gifts.”
I nodded, considering this, as Abe finished off his margarita. “I think I see what you mean,” I said. “So I should be happy with the gifts I’ve been given, the way I validate myself to the world is what should be the lasting judge of my success.”
“Exactly!” crowed our president. “Now, I seem to have left my wallet in a previous century.” He gestured at the table. “You’re picking up the tab, right?”