an author 10 years younger and 20 years more awesome than me.
This is not a post about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Instead, I thought I'd tell you another secret.
When people look back at things they wish they had done differently, I have an unusual one.
I wish I'd never been told I was smart.
When I was very young, I was told that I was smart. Very smart. Which seems like a good thing to do, to build a kid's confidence. But because of that knowledge, I developed an enormous ego, a crippling case of constant anxiety, and an overwhelming fear of failure.
I never tried anything new or difficult, because I was afraid to suck.
I never had any ambition, because I was afraid I wouldn't reach my goals.
I never chose a career or a life path, because I was afraid to choose the wrong one. I didn't go to grad school because I was afraid it would be too hard.
I basically opted out and coasted along. I was content to let other people think I was smart. I never did anything exceptional because I thought *being* exceptional was enough.
And I wasn't.
You know how Hagrid and McGonagall told Dumbledore that Harry should have been kept in the wizarding world, and Dumbledore knew better? How he knew that Harry would be better growing up normal and without the heavy yoke of expectation?
Lots of times, I wish it had been that way for me. Being told that I was a genius set me up for failure, or, at the very least, a heraldic sort of mediocrity, at least for the first thirty years of my life.
Let's get one thing straight: I'm not saying I'm a freaking wizard genius like Harry, although I do have several interesting scars.
I'm not saying I'm all that-- I'm actually saying I'm *not* all that and was too scared to try to be *all that*. My own expectations for myself held me back. Who knows what I could have accomplished, if I hadn't been afraid to strive?
The saving grace was marrying Dr. Krog and having children. Motherhood altered my brain in two major ways: fearlessness and object tracking. I started writing, and I think that was the savior of the me that was lost, all those years ago, thanks to an IQ test.
Suddenly, there was nothing to lose.
One day, with Dr. Krog's help, I finally tried something new. Then failed. Then tried again. Then failed. Then tried again.
I catch myself sometimes, telling my kids that they are brilliant or clever. And then I shut the hell up and focus on telling them that they're kind or generous, two traits that I would much rather possess.
So there's the good news.
It's never too late to build a cupboard under the stairs.