Everything so far has been a lie

I know nothing about history or geography. I know neither when the First World War took place nor World War II. I know about them but I have no idea about when they happened, what exactly happened, who fought where and why. I also don’t know where places are. I’m completely missing interconnected thinking and can’t join the dots. There are some key words that are stuck with me but I can’t relate them.

It’s so embarrassing because everyone speaks about it. Everyone speaks about history. Everyone knows what happened. Everyone knows something. I know nothing.

I have developed some techniques to conceal this lack of knowledge.

I pretend that I already know everything, I try to save the situation with jokes and acting extra silly, I change the topic, I bluff that I am taking part in guessing, or I answer in the affirmative or negative, always depending on the situation. I often go to the toilet with the hope that the topic is over by the time I come back. I never try to seriously participate because that can only be a complete flop. By not participating in substantial conversations I get bored very quickly.

As long as I can remember I have been doing this. So far I have cheated my way through life and no one really noticed.

This has mostly worked quite well, but sometimes it does not. Sometimes it has gotten me into unpleasant situations. Particularly because I am acting a part that I am not. I pretend I am stuffed with knowledge that I actually don’t have. When I’m unsuccessful with this I die inside. To be unmasked is my greatest fear. But nobody knows about this. I am glad no one has ever really probed or wanted to discuss something in depth, because that would have been embarrassing.

I changed schools often mostly during school years. I think this is the main reason I lack general knowledge. Every time I had to find new ways to muddle through existing social structures and class materials. Personally and in school. I could not focus on classes because my main focus was to survive and to be well received. I constantly had new schoolmates. Subject material was secondary to being accepted by them.

I was successful in reaching my primary goal, but at the expense of gaining general knowledge.

I imagine history like a book, starting from class one, where you chronologically learn about each era step by step. But with each school I had to dive into random topics. I lost interest because I could not follow any structure — for me, there were no apparent connections. So I feel like I missed everything and cannot make up for that.

I learned to memorize everything very quickly. This knowledge was then available for an exam but right afterwards it was all gone. I still learn some things by heart and forget them right away. Other people who continue their education have actual knowledge afterwards that they can apply. With me, no knowledge sticks.

In the form of a story I can pick up information. For example, if the reference point is a person I am interested in. Like I watched the film “Titanic”. My grandmother sometimes told me stories from the past, from the war, and I still remember some of them. But again, I don’t know the context.

I think this is the reason I have developed social intelligence so much more than I might have otherwise.

I’m a good judge of character. I know very quickly who I am dealing with and how I can manipulate people. This is an important skill that I benefit from till today.

I don’t think that social intelligence is more or less important than general knowledge but to have a balance would be nice. Like 70% knowledge and 30% social competence.

It dogs me for such a long time now. In my everyday life it is before my eyes all the time and everywhere. When I see a poster of an exhibition on the occasion of some revolution, I am reminded immediately that I have no clue what this is about.

On the other hand, I don’t feel the urge to acquire knowledge because I don’t know where to start. Should I take out my old school books and read them? I would have to study everything starting from grade one. That’s something I can’t imagine, it’s just too much and it’s overwhelming.

I’d like to be a good storyteller, who can easily contribute to discussions and has something smart to say about everything.

If I could turn back time, I would go to school again with the awareness I have now, that I’d like to be such a person, I would try to find a middle ground. It would be easier because I would have the goal of not being worrying that I have to hide my lack of general knowledge. I would focus less on my short term memory and put more effort into catching up.

If I had more knowledge I would have many more topics to think about. I believe that knowledge enriches life in general.

One can think and rethink in different directions. I suspect that my lack of knowledge causes many prejudices in me. I have strong prejudices and that really annoys me and I am working on changing that. I don’t want to be this person. This is burdensome.

I understand that I don’t have to know everything, but to say “I don’t know” to every third thing is rather stupid, and I don’t like stupid people. Stupidity generally triggers something negative in me. Stupid people are the worst and throughout my life I have often reacted negatively towards them. If I revealed myself to be one of them I would have to turn the bad treatment towards myself.

I respect people more who have knowledge in terms of facts. That’s what I perceive as smart. Yes, there are extremely intelligent people who have no social skills whatsoever, but they are not stupid in my view.

Maybe I was conditioned to think this way.

My grandmother always said that academics are smarter. I somehow know that’s nonsense but I still believe it. I’m aware that I have different competences but they are not enough.

I actually don’t know if I come across as stupid. I never asked anyone. My grandmother told me from time to time that I was stupid, particularly when we studied together and I did not remember things.

What if I told someone? What if everybody knew?

This never crossed my mind because then everybody would know that everything so far has been a lie.

If an old friend of mine disclosed to me that she was essentially stupid, when I always thought she was normal, this would not change my opinion about her because I know her for a long time and I like her. I would not believe her and tell her that I see it differently. But that’s easier to accept than when I am judging myself.

I manage to hide my deficiency quite well, maybe that’s also some kind of achievement but obtained by swindling.

With my boyfriend, this has become somehow difficult because he is slowly understanding the scam and does not give up easily when I don’t elaborate a sentence or a topic. I am not sure if he already knows that I am stupid, but it may be. I think he may become the first person to really see through my facade. That’s why the topic is more relevant than ever.

I think I will be able to find peace with it one day, but my boyfriend should know. Because if he knows but he still likes me, then maybe the whole thing is not so bad after all. And maybe the older I get, the more other topics will become more relevant, and then my problem will be more irrelevant.

Most of the time I shove it aside.

But I guess that’s not an act of spirit and purpose. Probably it’s good to generally reflect on my lack of knowledge because otherwise I might not try to overcome my prejudices with sincerity. The ongoing “I am stupid” thing is rather exhausting. But sometimes such situations lead to new insights. If the level of suffering reaches a certain high and I still hide my shame I might buy some books after all, or I will cope with it, admit and accept it. At best, no one will care because it doesn’t matter. In the worst case, people might see me differently and judge me like I judge others.

Most probably things will continue the way they are now. I should start preparing myself for the day that I finally get busted.


Originally published at Ungesagt.