How is it feel to be the most stupid person in class

I watch Reply 1988 lately and I just found out that I can relate so much to this girl stories, Deok Sung, the most stupid person in the neighborhood in Ssangmung-dong, dobong. She is the middle child of her family and she is infamously ranked 999th in the school, Her older daughter, Sun Bora, was the most smartest person in the neighborhood, she goes to Seoul National University and his brother, even not as smart as Sun Bora, Neol Sung, rank somewhere 100th–200th in his school, so not as stupid as Deok Sung.

Deok Sung is the girl in the middle

Along the movie, we can see how much and how little Deok Sung try to fix her grade. She’s consistently try to fix her grade by study, but she’s consistently failed as well. Most of the time she just sleeping, almost everywhere while study. But one thing, she never give up. She just stubborn in her own way.

We can see on how much people around her start lowering expectation, one scene show that when her mother and friends go to fortune teller, while the other mom asking “Can my son go to Seoul University?”, her mom only ask “Can she go to university? anywhere is okay”. We never know what Deok Sung really feel, but I think I knew. That’s why I want to write this.

Being stupid is sad

Let me tell you my story first. I’m a guy with average to low IQ, my last IQ test only reach 100 points [I cannot remember the detail since it’s a long time ago but I’m sure its not lower than 100]. When I was in elementary grade and junior high school, I always get top 5th ranked in the class, and I go to one of the most prestigious Senior High School in the country.

Wait, is it supposed to be the story about how stupid I am? nah, here’s the story. When I’m in junior high school, I start to realize that I have very low proficiency in two things, logic and spatial. It later proof by my IQ test which I get very low score in these both of areas. It could be two things:

  1. I’m just stupid
  2. The teacher was not good enough to teach me basic logic

But school life is hard, the expectation always high, parents give you good reward if you success and heavy punishment if you failed, just like all Asian parents. Competition was harsh, everyone go to additional tutoring after school until night. The result was clear, I need to be thrive in class, at all cost.

So I try to do what I do best, cheating! No, I’m not cheating in exam or anything, I just understand in the very beginning that I have one thing and the only thing I’m good at, memorize things and see pattern [this is later prove as well in my IQ test]. So when other students learn the basic and exercise [especially with math], I’m never doing that, I never learn the basic exercise. I try to memorize the subject [including math] by memorizing and understanding the pattern.

This is very easy to do when the complexity is low, you can just memorize of all the option, and somehow I’m good at memorizing things. So I build pattern map in my mind, and memorize it. The result was good, Math score always >90. for other subject except Math, it way more easier to memorize.

The problems come when I go to high school, now they split science into biology, physics and chemistry, and of course, the subject are getting complex. The combination of options are getting crazy, since in math, physics and chemistry, we start to build logic after logic after logic. Things start to crumble, when I’m in the 2nd grade in high school, I know for sure 2 things:

  1. I cannot keep up.
  2. I cannot go back again to understand the logic from very beginning. It was too late, very time consuming, no one can help me and I’m too ashamed to asking for help.

Result are expected, I always top 3 from the bottom in school until I graduate, just like Deok Sung [surprisingly, sometimes I found someone more stupid than me hahaha], every semester, my parents will talk to my homeroom teacher and asking for help so I didn’t get expelled. They start to understand and change the goal, from success to survive. Not just my parents, but also friends and teacher. There’re a lot of harsh underestimate words from teacher that I can still remember vividly until now. Before, I will be very sad every time I hear that. But now I can understand, if I was a teacher and teach myself, I’ll desperately give up and angry as well.

Every time exam time comes, my spirit to fix my grade are coming, I try to learn hard, but it just can’t… Imagine this, for this A subject, you need to understand B subject, to understand B subject you need to understand C subject. The problems is , I can’t even understand the C subjects, while this subject are taught in the 1st grade. Usually I’ll try hard to understand C part for 2 hours, and end up sleeping or crying [or both]. I cannot ask for help from friend or teacher, who the fuck gonna waste the time to teach one person from the beginning again?

Every year, my goal is just to survive, pass the minimum grade. Sometimes I got remedial exam until 3–4 times until I pass the minimum grade. Most of the time I never pass, I think the teacher just have a pity on me :))

It’s sad to know people are look down on you [I know some people try so hard not to and I really appreciate that]. It’s sad to know that you’re already too late to fix things. It’s sad to know that people thinks I’m lazy because I always sleeping… Man I just give up, I’m not lazy. It just the darkest time in my life, even just to remember it and write it down here, it such a mental breakdown.

It need a lot of bravery to give up

In the 3th grade, I know my time here is up. Doesn’t matter how much I try, I won’t make it. So I just give up :) I know my parents will be sad, but what else I can do?

So I start to think again, if I give up, what next? I want to have a new fresh start again, so I set to make a border, what I’m good at, what I’m bad at and what next.

What I’m good and bad? I’m good in memorize things and make pattern, I’m bad in logic and spatial, so definitely I won’t go for science degree in college. At that time, is the time the first Apple iPhone 3G launch [LOL I’m old] and I see how cool Steve Jobs when he showcase the products and I said to myself, I want to be this guy! So I choose marketing management in college hahaha, the closest thing I can get to be Steve Jobs without science degree.

What next? I want to go to the top economics faculty in the country, that’s my friend… was my moonshot. If I fail, I can go to low tier university, my parents already ok since they already understand how stupid I’m. So why not make a moonshot in a life time?

My concentration in high school was science, but since I want to take economy degree, I need to take social exams. It consist of math, economy, history, geography test. Means, I need to learn all of these from 1st grade to 3th grade. The problem is one, time. I don’t have time, preparations only 6 months, and I know my capacity, I can’t make it with the way it should be.

So I learn to do what I do best, memorize things and building pattern. This idea come up when I borrow my friend books of “exam collection from year to year”, when I see the questions, I got one things that surprise me to the core, the questions always repeat, it have patterns.

So lets say for question number 1, they have 4 answer options — A,B,C,D. In this year the answer is A, but maybe in several years before or after, there’ll be the similar questions and the answer is B or C or D. Social exams is different than science exams, the combination of questions and answer are limited.

Based on this finding, for the whole 6 months later, I just do one thing and one thing only, I memorize this exam collection from year to year book to the level I can know exactly what page the question in the book are located hahaha. 6 months, I memorize hundreds pages exam question compilation in the past 15 years and all possible answer combination. So when other students are busy study with many book and try to mastery different subjects, I only have 1 books for the next 6 months. I made a gamble of my life, some of my friend was confuse why I do it, its a desperate moves, I know, but this is the only thing I can do.

The exam day comes, and it’s exactly just like what I’m predict. 90% of social exams is repetition. 20 question from Math, 30 for each economy, history and geography. for Math, I can only answer 2 out of 20, but for other social question, I made 95% correct answer! when the exam was over and I see the answer from the teacher, I know I made it.

1 month after that, announcement of exam results are coming. I made it to the top faculty [economy] and top university [University of Indonesia]. Me, who always finish last, who always have remedial exam, who always get the lowest expectation from everyone, who always made the teacher desperate to teach, who always get extra lessons after class until night, made it. The biggest gamble of my life.

To know your limit is humble

Things are better in university, my concentration, marketing, didn’t required a fancy logic [only accounting and some economics were hard]. Most of the time I just memorizing and build pattern and that’s okay. After finishing my economy degree with good results, and years of working in different company and industry, I can humbly said that “I know my limit, there’re things I wouldn’t never reached and that’s, totally okay”.

After 6 years of working experience, 5 companies, 3 roles [sales, marketing and product manager] 2 industry [FMCG and tech], I start to know which part I can excel and success, and which part I’ll end up sucks. If the company culture is class smart, I’ll sucks. If the culture is street smart driven, I’ll excel. If the job is full of repetition, I’ll do good but boring fast. If it required a lot of logic to finish, I’ll end up sucks. If I can do the job by building pattern map in my mind [product manager is one of the best thing to solve by using pattern map in mind] , I’ll do good.

So I understand my limit. Since I’m in university, I really really want to work in investment or consulting industry. I know despite on how much I love to work in these industry [venture capital, private equity or angel investor], I wouldn’t make it. The job required a lot of logic to do some fancy calculations, it also required you at least post grad in economy, finance or business, which I know I wouldn’t make it. It’s my dream, but I know not every dreams need to come true, and that’s… okay

Things are getting better now, every time I look back, it still surprised me that I can go this far. It takes a lot of courage to write this, finally I was able to do it. Watching Deok Sung give me a lot of courage!

I made a lot of mistake and failure, but I also made some success that I proud of. I still hungry to try and learn new things, but now I know my limit and options, so I didn’t push it carelessly. Even for stupid people like me, I still have my own place in this world, just like Deok Sung :)

So for all other Deok Sung out there, please stay survive! your time will eventually come and you’ll find your own place, fighting!

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