A little over three decades ago now, at the age of twelve, in large part because of problems I had fitting into my school environment, I spent a couple of hours sitting a test.
The results that emerged from that testing program gave me a label – I was a ‘gifted child’.
I have talked elsewhere about the effects getting that label had on me. They were, for the most part, positive. I’d known I was different from most other kids in certain ways from at least the time I started pre-school if not before, but I didn’t have a name for what I was, or any real explanation for it, and in the absence of an identifier, I looked for reasons why I was different, and some of the conclusion I came to were problematic to say the least.
My point – simply that being identified as a ‘gifted child’ helped me understand who I was, and helped me to navigate my way through the rest of my childhood. It was only part of who I was, but it was part of who I was. And it helped to understand a lot of the rest of what was going on as well.
I turned 18. I ceased to be a child in the eyes of the law at least. Some time after that I reached a level of maturity and became an adult in fact, as well as law… although I’m not quite sure exactly when I should say that happened. Regardless, having passed my fortieth birthday more than a coupe of birthdays ago now, I’m fairly confident in saying I’m an adult. Today.
A gifted adult.
Because whatever else turning 18 did, or actually maturing did in moving me from child to adult… the gifted didn’t go away.
That didn’t vanish. I was a gifted child and in due course I became a gifted adult… as should be expected. But often it seems it isn’t.
There’s plenty of reluctance even using the term with children, but there’s even more with adults. Using the term seems… I suppose, I would say, slightly ridiculous to me, even when I’m the one using the term myself about myself. And it’s not something I’d often say to anybody around me. I’m not sure I need to. They either know me, in which case they know me for who I am and they either accept me, in which case, what does it matter what label I have. Or they don’t know me, in which case does it really matter what they think? Or they don’t accept me, in which case… who cares what they think?
But, yeah… it does matter. To me. To me. Whether it matters or not to anybody else, it matters to me.
I’m… not entirely normal. Nobody is, I suppose, but I think there are some things related to my giftedness that make me a little unusual. I’m not saying these things are caused by giftedness – I think many of them could exist in a person who wasn’t gifted. But I am saying, to at least some extent, they are caused by giftedness in me. In me.
I have a very broad general knowledge. Fact is, if I read something factual, I will probably understand it, and I will probably remember it. And I read a lot. There are only a few subjects on which I would call myself an expert – but there are many, many, many subjects where I think it’s fair to say, only an expert is likely to know more than me about them. Maybe it sounds arrogant if I say that. If so, I’m used to that, because that’s the way it is, arrogant or not. I can hold my own on a huge range of subjects.
Two drawbacks to that – the first is that if something doesn’t interest me, my level of ignorance about it, may be rather profound. Sports, for example – most sports don’t interest me. That may be a stereotype… let me just say that I know some extremely smart people who do know a lot about sports… but for me… sports. Music. I’m not interested and so I know very little. Why?
Because if I was interested I’d know a great deal more. Just pretty much automatically. If I decide I am interested in something, I will learn about it, and a necessary corollary to that is if I am not interested, I will know very little.
The second… if I’m wrong about something, I am perhaps very likely to be very wrong about it. Because it means I’ve made a mistake somewhere in my understanding and I’m not used to making mistakes in my understanding, so this possibility rarely comes to mind. Please understand I am not saying I don’t make many mistakes. I think I actually make quite a lot of them. But it’s hard for me to see them. The point is, I can come off as inflexible about a mistaken belief – and I am… but I want people to understand I’m not just being stubborn. I’m not just arguing for the sake of argument. I believe what I’m saying, and it can take a while to even orient myself around the idea that I’m wrong.
I’ll add one more drawback… in such cases, sometimes I’m so good at arguing that I think I can convince other people who are right that my (wrong) position is in fact the right one… and that makes things really confusing.
I also have difficulties with friendships. I have friends. But most of them have come through particular hobbies I have, that give me a commonality with people. I am not good at making friends with people who are different from me, and as I’m different from most people… to me, being gifted is lonely. I don’t think that’s necessarily a universal experience, but it is my experience.
I seek out other people like myself. Other gifted people, yes. But other people who share some other commonality with me as well…
This is hard to write…