Dear Harriet Walter,
Oh lands. I used to think I was clever. I admit that now. These past few years, I had good discussions with my parents and mentors about literature and history and theology and poetry and philosophy. I got good grades. I had close middle-aged friends who were charmed by me, I was used to talking about interesting, mature things with intelligent middle-aged people. I made people laugh with my wordplay. I thought I was on my way to becoming a Proper Intellectual.
College has revealed to me that my intellect is not gazelle-like in its grace and speed. Academically speaking, I am in fact a grubby, dirty little three-legged kitten with many fleas and only one eye.
The odd thing is, I care more about how this is perceived by some than others. I'm proud when I do well for Math Professor because I have been shedding my mathematical fleas and doing better and he's lately become quite happy with my progress - being a dirty three-legged kitten is fine because I started from rock-bottom and have been improving, and he is a kind handler of kittens. I can handle Dr Mac seeing me as not brighter than average; I can't think of a good simile for him, but maybe he's like an intellectual bear. I respect him very very much, but his intellect comes across as being built on a normal person who's quite smart. Being a dim kitten is fine with him because he's approachable and understands dim wits and hurried writing and the struggles of students. In a way, I suppose he requires his students to work hard without expecting brilliance matching his own.
Professor Mine Enemy, on the other hand, is a saber-toothed tiger whose brain operates on a Higher Level. I'm not sure he understands how dumbness works. After his class yesterday, I paced furiously around campus, occasionally stomping, occasionally tearing at my hair, occasionally muttering, "I hate not being clever I hate not being clever I hate not being clever." This three-legged kitten wants to be able to totter up to the great, looming saber-toothed tiger and say, "Look at me! Look at me! I'm clever! I'm clever! I can brain, too! Just like you!"
Except that that is only wishful thinking.