I is gifted

Had a painful yet insightful interview today about gifted children and adults.

I knew at age 3 that I was gifted. Several years and straight-As later, my mom was contacted by the school to see about having me skip a grade or two, as I was bored out of my wits in the public school system. We discussed it and I decided to stay where I was because I loved being smarter than everybody else. 🙂 That, and I had a crush on a boy who was dumb as rocks who would NEVER have gotten such an opportunity. lol. He moved away that summer, and I was stuck in elementary school for too many years. (And we wonder why she’ll never let a man dictate her life course ever again. …) ::smile:: At any rate, she felt I’d be socially awkward around older kids, and without any older siblings, I had no one to teach me those weird social interactions among kiddies. Then again, I befriended my friends’ older siblings, because they fascinated me, whether it was their personal development stages or the stuff they were reading in their classes. Damn overachiever, wasn’t I? 🙂

So of course, I rotted for years, amid troublemakers and various light bulbs in my classrooms — some were 100 watts, some were 60 watts and others were barely blinking Christmas lights. Oh, the agony. And I was bored, causing trouble at random but never being blamed for it because nobody could believe it. In 9th grade, I’d had it. I was in this ridiculous business class that I was acing, and all the burnouts and skanks were in there with me. They tried to cheat from me, and I turned their asses in. So I was treated to gum in the hair and continual ridicule — all for pulling a 100 percent average in that class and others.

Tenth grade was good, minus the fact that my sophomore history class was populated by burnout seniors and juniors. I never went to class. Pulled 100 percent there too. But I qualified for advanced placement, and it was great to be surrounded by similar overachievers. I went on to be the president of our National Honor Society chapter and editor of our school paper. Because I just rocked like that. 🙂

But it wasn’t about grades. Gifted children are among the biggest UNDERachievers in the nation. They’re in detention, juvy hall and working at Wendy’s. Why? Because the school systems couldn’t figure out how to handle us. They couldn’t harness the brilliance at their fingertips, and they either gave up on us or simply didn’t have the time to accommodate us.

Gifted folks are a weird bunch. We learn, perceive and act differently. Everything’s an ethical, ponderous debate for us. I know I bitch ad nauseaum here, but you know what? I’ve had a hell of a time in my life finding people who are on my level emotionally, so I took to writing when I was 14. I wrote my first book that year. And while I’d never publish it, well, I kind of giggle when I see the vocabulary and random moments of dazzling prose. That was me … then, to steal from the new J-Lo album title.

Now I’m just average. No, wait. That’s not right. I will never be average. However, I masquerade as that sometimes. I don’t pretend to be stupid, I just shut my damn trap so as to go unnoticed, on occasion. In the corporate world, mediocrity is rewarded and initiative is simply punished. I learned this when I got my first office job 10 years ago. If your time card is correct and you don’t make any long-distance personal calls, you are a model employee. If you take plans and schemes to the executive management and display your many talents, you are a squeaky wheel, and nobody likes those.

I had a lot of good instructors in my life, and a handful of bad ones. But my interviewee pointed out today that if a teacher doesn’t like a gifted student, then he or she cannot learn from that teacher. Learning is interdependent on emotional safety, and if a teacher thinks a kid is irritating, the kid shuts off the adult cognitively. Teachers and employers have continually been irritated by my lack of concept of time, organization and harmony with the system, whatever that system may be. I become distracted easily (I must have abandoned this post four times by now) by noise or flickering lights (or the fucking coldness of my office) and forget what I’m supposed to work on in favor of obsessing over some ridiculous detail that sounds like fun. Sometimes I talk 100 miles a minute, and I type 130 words a minute, even with nails. You do the math — ’cause I can’t do math to save my life. 🙂

With the heightened emotional state that I always seem to be in (I can be callous or I can be hypersensitive — take your pick. You’ll usually get both, though), my interviewee explained that depression is most common among the gifted. (Yes! That explains a lot!) She noted that gifted folk become insanely blue when they realize that they are disenfranchised with a group to which they belong — friends, family, social group, community group, workplace, etc., and she has counseled people when they reach that point. She said it’s amazing, the ethical conflicts that the gifted have with bureaucracy. They rally against unfairness and feel like they’ve lost the war when they can’t effect change.

Um, hello? Shall I send her this blog? 🙂

She said that she oftentimes hears of someone who wants to quit their high-paying jobs due to some ethical or personal dilemma with the workplace, but they obsess about the ripple effects (e.g., if I leave this organization, with the six-figure salary, am I doing a disservice to my family? What kind of human being does that make me?). She said that those who opt to make the courageous choice to not compromise themselves do manage to leave — and most go out and open their own businesses.

Um, hello? Is this thing on? ::tap, tap:: She just mapped out my LIFE!

Shan and I have always joked about one meeting we had with Kumquat, where his head was spinning after hearing our ideas for 20 solid minutes. When we left, I noted, “We’re too much for him.” Well, my interviewee today said that gifted people are too much and too difficult for others to understand who aren’t wired that way.

She also said we’re perfectionists. Amen, sister! After I publish the blog, I go back and make sure all my links work and ensure that my spelling/grammar was impeccable. I don’t accept less than perfection, and when I do, well, things go to hell. Again, not a flaw in our wiring, this humanisitc built-in desire for personal magnificence. Woo hoo! And with everything else, I obsess. I agonize. I ache. I lose sleep. I feel awful when things aren’t the way I think they should be. I’ve gotten better, over the years, about accepting that life sometimes sucks, but apparently, I’ve been incrementally deprogrammed from my natural wiring. Hmmm. Take that, Veggie Patch, Two Strikes, E.S. Titanic and a whole bunch of other employers!!!

She said the gifted are intense, mission-driven, have brilliant vocabulary (well, I had that till I did some drugs and hard drinking over the years. Now I is illiterate. lol), emotionally sensitive, and deep-reflecting about existential dilemmas. She added that gifted children are suffering, aching to figure out why they were born and what they were put on this earth to do. She said they are deep, profound, aware … and absolutely lost in a two-dimensional world when they have three dimensions at their disposal.

I’m still blown away by all of this. It was like having a mirror held up to me, and I totally pictured Shan, my high-energy, mile-a-minute, pissed off Irish princess. 🙂 We are continually dissatisfied with doing things somebody else’s way, because that is how they expect us to fill preconceived roles. We can’t think inside the box to save our lives, unless it’s a box of chicken from Popeye’s. 🙂 And even then, we’re mentally redesigning the packaging, reworking the logo and tagline, reconfiguring the setup of the restaurant and revamping the entire corporate structure. Why? Not because we’re bored, but because WE CAN’T HELP IT. We can’t imagine a world in which we DON’T continually challenge ourselves and others to become better. For us, the world would stop if we couldn’t somehow contribute to it and ultimately improve it. That’s why we can’t hold on to dead-end relationships or jobs. We have a hell of a lot to do, and some days, we get bummed and/or angry because we keep bonking our heads on the proverbial glass ceiling. And sometimes we stop to question ourselves. But no more. These gifted girls are going to be famous. And soon. Count on it!

One last note before I go do another interview (for an obituary — gaah, what a difference), this woman said that handwriting will soon go the way of sewing … straight into, well — not extinction — but perhaps into an art form. Five thousand years ago, women had to know how to sew, to make the clothes for the family. Now she can throw down her Mastercard at any retail establishment and never own a sewing machine. She said that soon, in this modernized, typing-driven world, people with beautiful handwriting will be rare and teased for being old-fashioned. I mentioned this to Shan, who totally agreed. We take notes on Palm Pilots and on laptop computers. I however still love my little notebooks, but for different reasons — I just hate when people are typing when they’re on the phone with me, and I afford them the courtesy of having a “real” conversation. But then, when I hang up, I hit the computer and pour it all into a Word (or Blog) document. Oh well. I’m just idiosyncratic that way. But it’s OK — I’m gifted, remember? lol.

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