I have a deathly fear of being perceived as stupid.
If you were to accompany me to one of my therapy sessions, the word that would come up most often is “stupid,” followed closely by “weird” and “annoying.” Most of my neurotic behaviors can be traced back to my unfounded, irrational belief that everyone I’ve ever met (and probably even people I haven’t) has collectively decided and agreed upon the fact that I am an idiot.
I’ve spent much of my life combating this by trying to prove my intelligence through schoolwork, placing all of my worth in test scores and report cards. I was hypercompetitive in high school, needing to top GPA rankings. I never voiced it to anyone, but the implication that anyone might be smarter than me was soul-crushing. My brain prefers to deal in absolutes, insisting that if I’m not the best, I must be the worst.
When I arrived at UC Berkeley, much of my energy became geared toward settling on a major. I was interested in film, but, still weighed down by self-imposed expectations, I tried to find anything else to study. It wasn’t even economic viability I was concerned about (I considered majoring in English and history) — it was a fear of appearing stupid, of seeming to settle for the easy academic route, that I simply wasn’t smart enough to handle a STEM major or even a more challenging humanities program. In my mind, nothing screamed stupid more than coming to one of the most respected academic institutions in the world just to watch movies.
In a few days, I will graduate with a degree in film studies. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Choosing to study film has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. The fear of being stupid didn’t vanish when I turned in the major declaration form, but after a while, I had to move past it.
According to my own logic, my major permanently designated me as an idiot, so any attempts to escape that title would be fruitless. If I presume myself to be stupid from the start, I don’t have to expend all my energy trying to prove my intelligence, and instead, I can just exist. In time, taking on a film major removed the obstacle entirely.
I’m sure some of my peers at UC Berkeley harbor negative and condescending opinions about the film program, whether privately or openly. But I don’t particularly care. I don’t need to prove to anyone that I’m smart. I’m probably not! I’m learning the things I actually want to be learning. My studies are exhilarating and fulfilling. I’ve tried other majors, but I just can’t force myself to care about supernovas or Faulkner the way I care about Buster Keaton and the monstrous feminine.
Being a film major has allowed me to enjoy my time on campus so much more (and not because I have less work). I can unashamedly scream the lyrics to “Toxic” along with the other editors and steal one of my boss’s pens every time she pisses me off. I’m no longer so caught up in how others are perceiving me that I can’t enjoy the moment as it’s happening. I can exist more freely, without having to hover above myself and monitor my every move.
Thank you to all the people who have allowed me to be stupid around them over the past four years, and who have been kind enough to be stupid with me.
To Jessíca and Charlie — I highly doubt either of you are reading this, but in the rare event that you are, you’re my favorite people I’ve lived with. I will miss hearing about Wendy Williams’ latest shenanigans and yelling about “Parasite.” Thank you, Charlie, for taking me to the emergency room, and thank you, Jessíca, for that joke about Drake from spring 2018, both moments that carry equal importance in my eyes.
To Kaitlan and Courtney — thank you for all the TikToks. I promise to continue sending them at inappropriate times.
To Sarah and Jessica — nothing improves my day more than when either of you walks into the media room. When I switched from news to multimedia, I was worried I would lose a sense of community, but working alongside both of you, I have come to feel at home at the Daily Cal. Also, R.I.P. Pearl.
To Sakura — thank you for the past four years. You’re one of the most accepting, empathetic people I’ve ever met, and I feel safe being an idiot around you. Thank you for all the meaningless arguments in prelim and for checking in with me every day by asking, “How’s it f—ing?”
To the Daily Cal’s spring 2020 editors — thank you for my best semester in college. I wish we had more time together, but the few months we did have were incomparable.
To UC Berkeley — thanks for everything. I leave you stupider than I was when I arrived.
Sydney Fix was the spring 2020 multimedia editor. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2016 as a news reporter and was the lead schools and communities reporter in spring and fall 2017 and assistant news editor in spring 2018. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in film.