A friend of mine, who taught the Gifted and Talented program at my previous school, suggested that I "like" this one Facebook page all about giftedness. It got me thinking. (Then again, what doesn't?)
I tested into the gifted program when I was in third grade. I got to find out lots about myself, including how right- or left-brained I am (more centralized than anything else but I lean right); what type of learner I am (linguistic); how I would score on the SATs if I took them in seventh grade (above average for a high school student, five years early); and I found an identity.
I was a very tormented kid. I was fat, I wore glasses, I was smart, and I loved to make the teachers happy with me - none of which added up to social acceptance. I never understood why people picked on me when I tried so hard to make them like me. I never understood why people didn't get the connections I made between outwardly un-connected things. I was proud (dammit) of the fact that I could spell virtually any word you threw at me and had to be given 7th grade words in 3rd grade just to get enough for a spelling list each week. I also didn't get it when people told me to stop being so down on myself - because the only time I got people to say nice things about me was when I said bad things about myself.
There's a small part of me that wants to slap young me upside the head, but really, all I want to do is give me a hug. I think the only reason I don't remember instances very well now is because I trained myself to overlook the hard things; the embarrassing things; the sad things. The gut-wrenching things like the time someone told me I looked like I ate shit because my mom took tetracycline antibiotics while she was pregnant and I ended up with spotty teeth. Or the time that boy told me he had a girlfriend but I found out later that he lied so he wouldn't have to tell me he didn't want to go out with me. Or the times that I believed my best friend when she said she didn't say those things, and I found out later that she did.
All those things added up to a lot of confusion. I didn't know what I was supposed to do or be, since it seemed that everything I did ended up being wrong. I always felt out-of-sync, like I didn't fit in, and like I thought too much about everything. So when I was told that I fit in somewhere, I grabbed on to that label and wrapped myself in it. Therefore, and ever since, I was Gifted.
Gifted has it's own strata, of course. Being a teacher, I recognize the different levels and types of giftedness. I recognized it a long time ago too, but then it was only one more bat to hit myself with - I wasn't musically gifted, so I must be worthless. I wasn't athletically gifted, so I must be worthless. I wasn't socially gifted, etc. But dammit, I could spell! I could write! And pretty much anything academic came to me quickly and easily!
Until it started to...well...not. I hit some of the harder sciences and maths in high school and suddenly, my Gifted world started to crumble. Wait, I don't get this the first time the teacher tells me about it? Shit, there must be something wrong with me. You mean I have to actually study? I must not be smart anymore. I identified so hard with Gifted that when things weren't easy anymore, I had no clue what to do, and I went through another stage of loss. I had already lost my self-worth, my body image, my social standing (which I never had to begin with)...and now, the only thing that I felt identified ME - my Giftedness - was in question?
I read a few articles tonight about existential depression and gifted depression - about how gifted students are often prone to depression because the way they look at the world is different from everyone else; they feel things in such a deep and intense way; and they have such a hard time finding a place to belong. I WAS that kid. Still am.
But I'm lucky - I've found my place. I found my belief system. I've found where I belong and I've found acceptance. I don't have to identify myself by the group I hang with, and I don't have to prove to everyone that I am worth spending time with. I'm damned good at what I do for a living - I may not be the best, but I'm willing to give myself time to get there. I'm a good mom - because when it gets hard, I've learned from my past mistakes that I need to study up on how to get better. I don't feel the need to search for the meaning of life in gods or religion - I believe I've found it in the things I do for others, and in teaching my children how to live their lives in the best and most giving way possible.
I have not had an easy life. I could qualify that by saying that others have it much harder than I do, but honestly, I spend a lot of time apologizing for being the way I am, and there are times when I get really fucking sick of that. I do what I can to help others, but dammit, *I* lived this life, and it has not been an easy one.
But now? Now I'm gifted. Lower-case g. I don't have to identify myself with Gifted anymore. Yeah, I have some pretty good deep insight and I'm a good problem-solver, plus I'm analytical and can read motivation, plus predict behavior. These all make me good at my job. These are Gifted traits. But I'm not just Gifted anymore.
I'm gifted because all of those events, all of those experiences, all of those heartbreaking moments that happened to me - every single one of them did not break me. They left indelible marks, yes. Scars, even. But I have proven, even in just the last two years, that I can break the cycle of depression, hurt, anger and dysfunction, and come out on the other side. Come out stronger.
I'm gifted because I have so many things to be thankful for - and I am capable of acknowledging that. I'm gifted because I have been through so much in my 30-plus years that I can now appreciate every single tiny thing that has been gifted to me. My husband, my son, my daughter, my home, my job, my life, my love...
I'm not just smart. I'm not just Gifted. I'm gifted - and I hope that by acknowledging that, I can give back to someone else. Maybe someone just like me, who didn't believe that one day I could be as happy and fulfilled as I am now.
That's who I am now. Me. But a much better me than I ever was before.