– So I told her I am gifted. It’s a good sign, I am affirming myself.
– What do you mean?
– A year ago I wouldn’t have said it.
– How come?
– It would have come across as arrogant…
Her eyebrows lift. I understand her surprise, but I still struggle with the semantics of it all.
Gifted… In French, nowadays we say “high potential” or HP for short. It is some sort of trend it seems. Suddenly everybody has HP children or suspected HP (it’s a crime, I tell you)… or “on the verge of HP”. I don’t like that expression as it makes it sound as if other children lack potential. Or in my case, other people. Another word in French is “surdoué”. English calls people with talent gifted. French calls them doués. If you’re intellectually gifted, you are a “surdoué” which because of the superlative sound of “sur” (literally: above, on top) puts you right up there with superhuman.
I knew I was different as a child, I just could not place how. One day, I saw a documentary or read something about gifted children and thought “That’s it. I am a genius.” I fantasized somebody would recognize me as one and I would be put in a special school where I’d learn a lot and have friends (little 9-year-old me was pretty lonely and depressed, remember?). It did not happen. Growing up, I spent so much energy on fitting in – as any teen would – I forgot about that childhood fantasy. As an adult, I just put it aside. When in my early 20s I was suggested taking an official IQ test, I refused: if I wasn’t above average, my 9-year-old self would have no fantasy to cling onto anymore. I know, you’d say she was not there anymore. But… wasn’t she? I could still feel her. Sometimes I could feel her pain. Why would I hurt her even more?
I finally took the step 3 years ago. Why? Because of someone else. My self-worth being what it was the only way for me to do something for me was if I was doing it for someone else. I did it for my daughter. When I was 9, by myself during recess, humming songs while walking on a line drawn in the courtyard, I made a vow: never ever would I not see this in someone else; I would never let another child go through it, I’d notice.
The idea of that child being my own… You can imagine. I was planning on helping her should she get bullied, but should it be because she was gifted, I needed to learn new tools and teach her. It took several months of reading, being almost convinced and completely doubting myself before I gathered the courage to ask for a recommendation. I waited nearly two months for the appointment and left the therapist’s office that day as a sobbing mess.
– HP, my *ss, I told my sister. I’m a moron.
– What? Why?
– Because I just bawled my eyes out for an hour. And I don’t even know why! Anyway. I’m in now, there’s no turning back. I will go through with this and too bad for 9 year-old me if I’m not gifted. She’ll get over it. I’ll get over it. It’s time I let her go.
I spoiled it, haven’t I? You already know what I heard after a few sessions of testing. I was gifted. I am. I sighed and laughed a little at the same time. And suddenly tears streamed down my face.
– How are you feeling?
– Yes. It wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t a bad kid, I was just different.
9-year-old me was reassured. 37-year-old me had no idea of the consequences of such a revelation. At first it felt good to have someone officially state my brain is wired differently, that connections are made in many directions. This explained a lot, at least all those times I had said or had thought “But I told you this 3 years ago! Why didn’t you listen to me then?” I suddenly knew why people did not always understand my chain of thoughts or even my humour. I was different.
I hardly talked about the results, I did not want people assuming I thought I was superhuman. But to some extent, I did. In a self-destructive way. I had the potential to do whatever I wanted, I had a gift, why wasn’t I using it? If not for greater good, for my own?
A ticking timebomb it was. It eventually went ‘boom’.
Another reason I rarely mention it is I don’t want people to have high expectations. It has often happened that upon saying I have a Master of Arts in Linguistics and Literature, I was asked if I had read this or that author, whatever the era, whatever the language or the country, and get a surprised look if I hadn’t as if I was supposed to have read everybody. Saying I am gifted might mean I’d be expected to know everything about anything. And I don’t. I truly don’t. I haven’t read every book in the world, I cannot discuss politics or international affairs (I have been consciously avoiding the news for months now; I can’t handle the pain), I do not know much about History, Economics, Finances… Gifted is not being omniscient (wouldn’t that be cool though). Gifted is just a name on one of the boxes. Gifted is being as different as you are.