Just the other day my friend said “Never apologize for being smart or educating yourself.”

On the way home from the Cape today, I was listening to NPR which is my newest routine.  The program I was listening to was interviewing a man with dementia.  He had been a brilliant physicist and was now unable to draw a clock which is part of the tests he undergoes with his doctor.  I guess it’s a common test for this disease.  He was so disheartened by this.  Being a physicist, he decided to figure out a different way to bypass the disease by rebuilding his understanding of how a clock works so he might be able to tell time a different way and find a way to draw the clock for his next appointment,  it was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. I was imagining what it might be like when my parents become unable to do things they once took for granted, how I will bear witness to this and try to walk them through it without letting them see the sadness in my eyes for them.

The other day I found out I was being made fun of behind my back for being smart and for getting excited by being able to answer a hard question.  You would think at my age I would be able to shrug this off as juvenile millennial behavior and not be hurt by it.  But I actually don’t have that much expertise in handling “bullying.”  The last time I was bullied was in Junior High when I was called “pink porker” for being chunky and wearing pink pants to school.  After enduring that crap and having my house egged over it, I was relieved when, one night at CCD, a girl from a local private school came to recruit.  I went home and promptly told my parents I wanted out of public school for High School and they made it happen.

Once I went to High School, I was around a bunch of smart kids with strong values so nobody really spent a lot of time picking on anyone else.  The class size was too small to really segregate so we all got along.  And the friends I made there are the core of who I am now and my deepest friendships now.  That behavior is what I know and what I practice in life.  So, yes, at 42, I find myself a little dismantled by bullying at work.  Bullying is a strong word for this one incident but it’s actually one of many over a long period of time.  It’s just the simplest one to mention right now.

Nonetheless, bullying is exactly what it is.  I do get excited when I get the answers right on Jeopardy,  So do Norma and PJ….high school friends….so it’s normal for me.  I get excited to read a new book whether it’s something historical, scientific or even an Oprah recommendation.  I love walking book store aisles over kindle.  My clutter at home is an abundance of books finding a place to retire when I am done with them.

I didn’t have much self esteem when I was a younger.  I had an undiagnosed learning disorder that I powered through on my own.  So freaking hard but I did it.  I didn’t take the traditional college path but not for lack of intelligence.  And when I could get back on the horse, I rode it straight through honors and into a highly competitive masters program at a very hard to get into University.  So, yeah, I get excited.  I fist pump sometimes.  I tell my parents that I am the smartest Dolan when I get answers right on Jeopardy.  I smile when I know words others don’t.  Not because I think I am better than them but because I exceed my original expectations of myself every time I do it.  It’s a personal win for someone whose math teacher once told her how dumb she is

These people who judge me don’t read and don’t know a lot of words.  It bothers me only in that I know I have gotten myself into the wrong career and it’s helping me figure out my next steps.   I don’t think less of others.  There are areas of life they know more about than I do which I like to listen to when they share.  Bottom line, they get paid more than me, get promoted and 40 is still a long way off for them so they don’t have the same barriers I do.  They could at least let me have “smart” without taking that away from me.  It’s all I have and I won’t be sorry or ashamed of it.