The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Born This Way

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If you were hoping for some comments on the Lady Gaga song of the same title as today’s post, instead you’ll have to suffer through my thoughts as I enter my 41st year of existence.  That’s not to say Gaga’s song isn’t worth commenting on; I just watched the massively over-wrought video and feel bad that it lessens what is otherwise a pretty kick-ass tune.  Still, I admire her flair for spectacle.  And it’s okay to use the same title; the internet hits on this post might be higher than normal as a result, and I don’t mind the exposure.

So yeah, I’m 41 today and for some reason can’t think beyond one of the many cliches that infect our common lexicons of thought and language.  This particular cliche is that you should never stop learning about yourself.  It’s been said by a thousand wise men, and thus has been chewed through; worse, it has drowned in oceans of ink spilled by every potboiling memoirist who ever came of age.  None of that makes it any less true, and with my apologies, I’ll wring my way through it for the sake of it being my birthday and to fulfill the obligation I feel to reflect on the moment.

First, let me tell you that the Truth was delivered to me this year in an envelope from my Aunt Pris.  She told me last year on this day that she had found a letter that my mother wrote her a few days after I was born.  She thought I might like to see it, and she finally got around to forwarding it a few weeks ago.  So, in another cliche-ridden moment straight out of 19th-century melodrama, a long-lost letter revealed everything I need to know about my life.  I’ll return to that if you’ll suffer through a few other things I learned or relearned this year.

One thing I found out is that my Intelligent Quotient is around 122.  I’d feel like a jackass if it wasn’t, and that’s worth explaining.  This whole mess started a few years ago when I was researching Intelligence to serve a story I was writing for a Literary Journalism class.  My research led me to taking and “passing” the Mensa qualifying exam.  By Mensa measures, that put my IQ at least in the 98th percentile nationally.  I was stunned.  One thing I quickly learned, though, was not to talk about it.  Intelligence (and Mensa) are uncomfortable subjects, and many people defend themselves by making the IQ score or Mensa qualification the gauges by which they measure you (don’t know the three moons of Pluto?  didn’t know that Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his dead wife?  I thought you were supposed to be in Mensa…).

Despite qualifying, I still didn’t know my exact percentile or IQ score.  I didn’t necessarily care because I also researched the racial and cultural subjectivity of how IQ is measured, and besides, Mensa didn’t disclose scores.  But a few months ago, Mensa announced a reversal on their policy.  Curiousity got the best of me, and I requested my scores.  Some quick conversions showed congruity between my Wonderlic test score and the standard Mensa qualifying exam (you take both when you test to qualify for Mensa).  Both scores were around 122.  I reflected back to my SAT score from 1987, and saw that my 910 converted to an IQ score of about 97 (42nd percentile).  Why the big jump in the 20 years between measures?  That falls in line with a widely-accepted theory of intelligence that states people can become more intelligent through study and practice, access to appropriate tools, and learning to make effective use of those tools.  In short, IQ is not a fixed number; you should become smarter as you grow older if you strive to continue learning.  As a teacher and chronic student, study and practice are as much a part of my life as baldness and baseball.  So I should have a higher IQ than I did at 16, and would feel nonetheless like a jackass if I didn’t.

I relearned something this year, too:  We’re not promised anything in life, and what we have can disappear quickly.  In fact, I’m still relearning that even as I type these words because I can feel the slight pain in my foot.  It all started when I ran a 5K two months ago and smashed my personal record by a minute.  My stay on Cloud Nine was brief, though.  Three days later, I pulled up lame after a morning run.  My arch hurt; it was a deep, vivid pain like I had stepped awkwardly on a jagged rock in my bare feet.  The pain took up residency in my foot like an unemployed brother-in-law who slumps on the couch all day long.  The doctor diagnosed plantar fasciitis; the podiatrist confirmed that and fit me for a new pair of orthotics.  Two months later, and I’m still not back to full strength.  I can run without pain, but I haven’t regained all the strength and stamina I need to run as usual.  Still, I’m managing to live life, write, and do most everything else despite not being able to do something that is central to my existence.  So take it from me–benefit from my 40 41 years of wisdom:  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

This is all making sense to me–the late-blooming intelligence, the strange ability to run faster at 40 than I did at 17, and whatever other oddities I can lump into this sticky glob of existence (my addiction to NES Baseball Stars, my penchant to take a whirl on the swings in the park across the street, my insistance that Night of the Living Dead is one of the five greatest films ever made, my loyalty to Kiko Garcia…).  It was fated to go this way, and I can prove it by what my mother wrote in her July 6, 1970 letter to my Aunt Pris when she described the circumstances of my birth:

“I’m feeling pretty good today, the breach birth was sort of hard & I sure was out of it for a couple of days…”

Had I known years ago I was a breach baby, I would have known from the moment the doctor smacked my rear end that life was supposed to be ass-backwards.  I could have all the sooner grown comfortable with it.  I was born this way!


Written by seeker70

July 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. First things first. Happy belated birthday, my fellow Cancerian!

    For what it is worth, I also suffer from plantar fasciitis and instead of getting a cortisone shot every time it flares up, I found this cream that seems to do the trick. Its called Topricin (, and while its not the easiest thing to find, I’ve found it to be worth it if you can. Worst case, if you’re interested and can’t find it, shoot me an email with a mailing address and I’ll send you some.

    I hope you truly enjoy your month at Skidmore. =)


    July 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

  2. Happy late birthday Jeff; I was born breach as well, but on June 14, and several years earlier than you. I didn’t know we could improve your intelligence. I always thought you were born with it, it is our ability to learn and that it was knowledge you could improve. Also, I have experienced physical stamina with bike riding and running that I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as a teenager. Love you articles, thanks for sharing.


    July 11, 2011 at 9:23 pm

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