Posted by: Jae | October 15, 2008

I Used To Be So Much Smarter

— is my current gripe with myself these days.

Do you get those feelings at all, those panic attacks that maybe yesterday’s you was smarter than today’s you? I know I do.

Like a few hours ago, in Rockwell, I was looking at the books in Fully Booked while waiting for my blockmates who i’d be meeting for dinner, and I saw this book that goes something like “100 Books You Should Read Before You Die”. I browsed through it idly and then realized I have only read maybe one third of the selection. But that’s not what REALLY scared me. What scared me was the realization that an overwhelming majority of the titles that I actually read from the list of must-read books was read from the period of 1995-2000 (late high school to College graduation.) That means, I have not been getting my fill of the important books for nearly a decade.

Second. I have recently been reading stuff I’ve been writing, and this I can say with utmost conviction: the best stuff I wrote (and certainly, they were “best” only in comparison to the other Jae works), I wrote from 1998-2000, the period of time when i was under the instruction of the best journalism and creative writing teachers of the Philippines. Not only have I not been able to polish my writing, but it has apparently been on steady decline.

Third. While I love my work and the people I work with, 90% of the things I learned in law school I do not apply on a day-to-day basis. I worry that the time will come when I eventually forget them and I lose, not only the stuff I learned, but also the rigor and discipline we were taught — the skill of looking at the law as one does a puzzle or a rubix cube. I am grateful for the instruction of my former boss, Mabel, one of the sharpest and meticulous AR lawyers around, because of her mastery of the law and her work ethic. I liked showing my work to her and it gave me a high when she validated my legal arguments. Her command of the law is something I aspire for, but I’m still a long, long way from that.

Fourth. I haven’t learned anything new (as in a hobby or a craft) recently. I told myself I’d learn at least one exotic foreign dish, but I’m way past the deadline I set for myself.

Fifth. I have a sneaking suspicion my comprehension skills have gone down. A few days ago, I was reading a recent article in The Economist recently on the world financial meltdown and I discovered to my consternation that I have been reading the same paragraph over and over. And this isn’t even some fancy highfallutin economic treatise. This is The Economist. Sold in 7-11, beside the pack of condoms by the counter.

I woke up at 3am today (it’s 5am now) and scared myself silly at the thought of going completely stupid. As in completely daft. As in malunggay-deficient, Sarah-Palin-level kabobohan.  I know, it’s so weird, people usually stay up at night over a wide variety of fears like dying or getting their house foreclosed or being cheated on by the person I love. I on the other hand am scared that I’m dumbing down. Which is not to say that I think I used to be brilliant. Hell no. You can still go on a steady decline from a peak that’s not very high.

I’m not simply whining here. I’m identifying a problem in order to come up with a concrete action plan. I don’t have an action plan yet, but I’m giving myself three days to figure it out. Feeling ko it has to be something super clear like read one important book a month, or digest cases instead of doing Facebook in my free time. Or get one complicated issue completely outside my realm of experience or knowledge and understand it completely, enough to be able to talk like an expert on it. Any other suggestions?

The only thing I take comfort in right now is that I know what the Bush Doctrine is. 🙂


  1. You are not alone. The title of your blog describes what I’ve been thinking for quite some time now. The feelings have been aggravated by various life events. It’s gotten so bad that I’m now thinking that the reason a particular guy hasn’t called me is that he doesn’t think I’m smart enough. Which is a strange, new feeling. I mean, that’s supposed to be my selling point — that I’m smart. If I’m no longer smart (or no longer as smart as I used to be), what’s left?

  2. Haha. Ako din! I sometimes worry that the guy Im dating thinks Im stupid and shallow. The upside of dating brilliant men is that you get stimulated and learn so much, the downside is, minsan kakastress talaga. Parang, oh no, I might “blow my cover” or, baka mabuking na akong bobo. Haha. I exaggerate, of course (as you have!) but we get each other’s drift… 🙂

  3. uhhmmm… the Bush Doctrine is like so 8 years ago. hehehe joke lang. Matalino ka Jae.

  4. “Or get one complicated issue completely outside my realm of experience or knowledge and understand it completely, enough to be able to talk like an expert on it.”

    Baka gusto mo pag-aralan ang tubig.. hehe.

  5. dianne, gusto ko hindi NGO-ish. hehe.

    emman, tell that to sarah palin.

  6. digest cases instead of facebook?anobeh!pero oo, dumaan din ako sa ganitong stage.advise, meron akong to-read folder every week.I read new legal journal articles every day, different topics.Tska ibang topics.So pag walang ginagawa sa office, nagbabasa ako ng mga ganun.

  7. hey golds! ok din yung idea na yan, one legal journal article everyday. i think im goinna try that.

  8. mag chopsticks ka lagi, nakaka smart daw yun. i think that should be easy, more salmon sashimi for you!

    which is not to say i agree with your assessment of yourself that you are in your words “dumbing down”.

  9. mag dance lessons nga kasi tayo. belly dancing. harhar.

  10. for some reason this article reminded of your distinctive POIs during the first ndc when you and diane were still teammates. 🙂

  11. bakit sinasabi ko ba sa mga POI ko dati na bobo ako? haha.

  12. baka nga totoo suspicion mo, Jae — mali spelling mo ng Rubik’s Cube e. hehehe… JOKE lang ha.

    pero take heart in the fact that as your overall “intelligence” decreases, the possibility of making it big in politics increases 🙂

  13. really? oh well. haha. see?

  14. Mwahahahaah!

    Ateng, eto ang teorya ko bakit ganyan ang feeling:

    1. ang pagiging inlababo ay nakakabobo; (when love is dumb)
    2. kapag tumatanda, mas simple, mas masaya; (oversimplication)
    3. iisang sirkulo, iisang pananaw, iisang dogma; (groupthink)
    4. kapag sumesexy, nababawasan ang pagiging resource person (wink!)
    5. dahil ang simpleng bagay, ginagawang kumplikado dahil sa self-doubt (over-analysis).

    Sa dulo, feeling ko lang, either PMS ka o may hormonal imbalance o naturukan ka lang ng anaesthesia.

    Yabyu, kahit you’re not brillian na.

  15. naku, (1) in love ba ako? haha. pag-isipan ko muna. its safe to say, in a “whole lot of like.” (2) oo, tama, tumatanda. (3) exposed pa din naman siguro sa madaming grupo at natututo from the different groups, at kaya ko pa naman maging critical. (4) di ako sumeseksi, tumataba nga. (5) overanalysis? hmmm, pwede.

    o baka nga PMS o hormonal imbalance. 🙂

  16. I can relate. Di na ako mag-Eenglish kasi it would prove that I can relate hahaha!

  17. hi psyche! i’m sure you’re smarter than you think. 🙂 wala ka na sa fdc kaya di na tayo nagkikita. hope you’re doing great. ingat…

  18. Aji-no-moto. Nakakatalino ang betshin. Tumalino ako nung panahon na tatay ko ang nagluluto ng ulam sa amin at marami sya mag betchin. Di na sya ang cook kaya ayun, nakaka relate na ako isyu ng slow steady decline.

  19. sabi mo sa akin dati, ang agitation nakakatalino. hehe. ano ba talaga? 🙂

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