Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brilliant Smart-Assery

The Final for my Dystopian literature last semester was a simple two-page essay to be inspired by one of three prompts given. We had two hours to complete the assignment.

Tentatively, I titled it "One Crappy Title." This is something I do every time I have to write an impromptu assignment, with the intention of going back and filling in an appropriate title once I've typed out all the genius things I have to say.

I chose the prompt about dictators which was a George Orwell quote from 1984.

I have always felt I do not work well under pressure. I spent most of my time staring at the numbers in the corner of the screen that indicated I was quickly running out of time. I hand-wrote an outline while the little whipper-snappers next to me typed away with graceful speed on their keyboards. I stared at the big, white, round-faced clock on the wall as I silently worked through my argument in my head.

I type very slowly. Despite being ambidextrous, I am quite sure my left hand has no idea what my right hand is up to. Perhaps I was secretly lobotomized as a child. Also, I cannot play any piano tune that requires both hands. I cannot dance.

I scraped out a compelling argument. I supported my ideas with examples from various novels we read during the semester. I read, re-read, revised and edited. I wondered if it made sense at all, or if I was just deluding myself into thinking I'm such a smarty-pants, I can whip out an impressive essay with such short notice. I'm just that good, folks. Brilliance, corporealized. I settled on my final product with forty-five minutes to spare, yet, I was not the first student to complete the assignment. Nor was I the second or third.

I began to doubt if I was brilliant at all, since the others were obviously so well-versed on the subject, they could materialize an essay out of thin air with no pencil-tapping, no screen-staring, and no nail-biting involved. I handed over the printed paper with a grimace. Dr. Dodson smiled and told me I was a wonderful student, and that she would see me next semester. I wasn't so sure she'd feel the same way after she read the crap I was turning in.

Relax, people. I got a 95 on the essay. Ninety. five.

I heard a rumor over the break that a few students had grouped up and gone to the Department Chair to complain that Dr. Dodson was too strict with her grading methods. This completely obliterated the idea that Dr. Dodson had been too generous with the grade I received. She does not strike me as a generous grade-giver, yet I have never received a grade lower than a 90 in any of her classes. What does this mean to me? It must mean, I am brilliant, Right?


seriously, psh.

I was thinking about that essay this morning. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to realize I had titled that essay "One Crappy Title." Hadn't I? That's the default beginning title for every essay I write. Surely, I had renamed it before printing it and handing it to my strict, comma-nazi, literature professor who spent a great deal of effort to remind us that the wittier the title, the better our grade would be. I fixed that, right? I couldn't remember.

I didn't inadvertently turn in "One Crappy Title" for my final and then bounce back into her classroom with a cocky little grin on my face for a whole new semester of Western World Literature. Did I?

Surely not. Brilliant people do not make such mistakes, and we have already established that I am as brilliant as they come. After all, I got a ninety-five.

But there it was, the nagging thought that I had indeed choked on this one aspect of the essay, and perhaps I could have gotten a hundred if only I hadn't been such a doofus and filled that line with such a stupid little quip that was obviously not witty at all. In fact, it seemed to me that a professor might consider it lazy, or, worse, smart-assy.

I'm not brilliant. I'm a smart-ass. (Which I've suspected all along, to tell you the truth.)

Here's the thing, though. I saved it on a flash drive just at the last minute. I almost forgot to do it, but I like to have a copy of everything I turn in just so I can go back and agonize over the placement of all my participial phrases and moan about my overuse of the words "very" and "just." Apparently, I can't get enough self-inflicted misery. The flash drive has more than two-hundred pieces listed in its various folders.

I didn't find the one titled "One Crappy Essay," but I did manage to locate the one I wanted.

Relax, people. I called it "Feed Me, Fear Me, Worship Me."

Because I'm brilliant.


  1. Indeed you are. Congrats on your score.

    1. Thank you, though I'm going to be exposed as a fraud at some point, I just know it.

  2. Well done. Save the hundred for a big surprise the next time you gnaw pencils and type slo-mow to the last second. Save it for being the last person out the door. And, well done, again.

    1. Oh yes, because I've got a hundred stored somewhere in the bottom of my purse. I'll take it out, shake it off and use it in Western Lit this semester. :)

  3. I think I might have been too nervous or embarrassed to actually go back and check the title later on. Once something is done and there's nothing I can do about it, then... better just to move on to the next thing.

    1. I was laughing at myself so much, I had to look so I could stop thinking I was a fool.

  4. Will you post your essay for us to enjoy? A 95er deserves a wider audience than lone Dr Dobson. Congratz Nessa :)

    1. No way, man. That essay is only interesting if you took the class (which I highly recommend).

  5. It probably means you got some talent, not surprising, taking into account the stuff you have written on your blog. Congrats on the 95. I guess that's an A (in our system the range 90-100 is A).

    I kind of work as a professor from time to time, not in literature, but in geophysics (my favorite subjects were math, physics and literature; I found that the first two made the best combo). Anyway, it means I'm teaching a course from time to time and grading exams. I think it's pretty easy to spot the really talented students. They hand in perfect exams on a minimum number of pages, not a word too much (I like that). On the other hand you have the not-so-talented students, who write (or talk) like crazy, filling a ton of pages with bullshit, random fragments of things they misunderstood in the textbooks.

    Congratulations with your 95. You might go for 99 next time >:)

    Cold As Heaven

    1. Yep. That's an A. The most professor-ing I ever did was teaching my brothers and my children, and my nieces and nephews how to read.