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Relatively Smart

My best friend and I have adopted a fun habit of sharing our scores for a series of simple daily games we play. In general, my friend is better at the music and movie identifier games. In general, I am better at the geography ones. But we come out basically even in the New York Times Connections game.

For those who aren’t familiar, Connections begins with 16 words. The objective is to put them into four groups of four. The four categories vary in difficulty. They range (in recent games) from “archery equipment” and “drinks with caffeine” (the straightforward group) to “units of vegetables” or “words pronounced differently with accent marks” (the trickiest category).

We both love Connections and love having our own opinions when we disagree with the difficulty ranking or think a grouping was—for lack of a better word—garbage. The other day, I completely bombed a Connections. I mean, just immediately struck out and didn’t get a single category. My friend got it with no errors. 

It’s so interesting, I texted later, we’re both relatively smart people and I couldn’t for the life of me see the puzzle this morning and you just got it no problem. 

Lol, “relatively smart,” he replied. 

I’ve been thinking about the exchange a lot since then. Ultimately, where I’ve landed is based on many conversations I’ve had with another friend about knowledge being incidental. “I know this because I randomly happened to have some history with it” or “Those four words in Connections immediately popped out to me because xyz.”

Missing a Connections doesn’t mean we’re big idiots. It might just mean we don’t have the same lived experience to see something quickly. 

We joke, sometimes, about how our days are defined by our Connections score. Of course, that isn’t really true. 

But… how often is it true that I let some untrue narrative of my own perceived intelligence, worth, or value creep into my day and sour my mood? 

Wouldn’t it be easier to just believe that I am a relatively smart person who happens to be stuck on something?

How important it is, then, to not define a lifetime by an imagined limitation. 

How important it is, then, to have a little faith in our abilities. 


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