Samantha Miller was not brilliant, nor was she a beauty. Her job was ordinary, her daily routine unremarkable, her love life a vanilla series of dinner-and-a-movie outings that failed to inspire her or her potential beaus. She was, in short, boring. Except for one thing. She asked questions. A lot of questions.
Despite an intelligence that was far from formidable - it took her three tries to get through algebra, two to pass US History, and, now as an adult, at least a month and a team of helpers to get through her taxes - Samantha possessed remarkable self-awareness. She recognized and accepted her weaknesses young, and chose to turn them into strengths. While the result may have been something uninspiring to the world at large - she was, after all, plain in most every way - she was, in fact, an extremely valuable conversant precisely because she was slow to understand and quick to point out her lack of understanding.
“Wait, what do you mean by that?” Was her favorite phrase. Far from shame at her inability to grasp the subtleties of some interlocutor’s blathering, she was proud of her stubbornness, her determination to undermine the pretensions of others. She wielded, then, her so-called stupidity with what can only be described as genius, knowing exactly how to ask a question, when to interrupt a monologue, and what to do when her question was disregarded or misunderstood (that is, ask it again, and more loudly).
As a result of her inquisitiveness, and despite being slow to learn, Samantha had a formidable knowledge base. Or, at least, she understood extremely well the things that she did understand. Her shamelessness, furthermore, allowed her to interject not just with questions, but with vehement disagreement when the topic of conversation happened upon one of her strong points. Though she would never venture more than a sentence or so at a time, even when on the terra firma of acquired knowledge, her questions and interjections became more pointed, more direct, and even sometimes scathing. It was as if she was saying, “If I can understand this, why can’t you?”
That’s not to say Samantha was arrogant. Far from it. Rather, her self-awareness granted her the confidence that comes naturally and rightfully with knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses. That she had turned the latter into the former was a source of pride for Samantha, but also - and not accidentally - a source of humility.
Perhaps, then, Samantha Miller was a tragic figure? Blessed with a gift that she had identified and refined early in her life, she grew up to find a world that found her particular gift far less desirable than physical beauty or pure intellectual strength. Instead she was seen as a nuisance, an idiot, even. That didn’t bother her much, because she was, above all emotionally self-sufficient (and even, as she grew older, distant), but the result was that her extremely useful skill was lost to a society very much in need of it. The tragedy was not hers, but ours.