I feel as stirred and dramatic right now as I feel relieved and hopeful. I have just been confirmed as being a “Gifted Adult.” It sounds pompous, doesn’t it? Even worse is “I’m gifted.”
That’s partly why I resisted the classification at the earliest suggestion. I was okay with giving normal and regular the old college try. And I certainly wasn’t looking for complication. I’d been doing everything within my power to shed all that, with only a modicum of success. Searching for answers… since my earliest childhood memory I have been searching. Running too. This was supposed to be my time to just buckle down and live a normal life.
When I was seven and being teased at a new school in a new state, the last thing I wanted was to be in a program for special kids. They called it TAG (Talented and Gifted), even back in the 1970s. I refused it and went about my life as a normal little girl, stumbling at every turn and suffering greatly always. My awareness of Gifted thus faded out with disco, feathered hair and roller skates.
It was only last month, at the age of 44, that I was flattened by unrelenting emotional pain, worse than I’d known in my life. And I began a search that led me through unbearable darkness to illuminate my own truth.
Until this month, I was an unidentified gifted adult. It explains a lot. The more I read about the personality profile, the more of a no-brainer it all becomes. Although one might see it as some lost honor reclaimed, that being classified as a genius late in life equals newfound self-esteem, and a measured brilliance that catapults me to tower above the mediocrity of the everyday plebeian… I assure you, none of this is what I feel.
Being me has always borne a burden of shame, and I am learning why, with the help of a very specialized set of reading materials and a coach/therapist whose life’s work has been studying the gifted, particularly ones identified later in life. Gifted is Special Needs, and those go far beyond a smart kid’s education. An identification crisis, in my opinion, is developmental paralysis. My recent identification is like unlocking a door to a new paradigm, behind which awaits a life of freedom. I get to understand my wiring now, and take the dis out of disability.
I am awestruck by the power of this game-changer, the unanswered questions that are now buttoned up and tucked in for the night. Many of them will sleep for the first time. But with the liberation of a repressed identity comes a great deal of strife, as if there hadn’t been enough already! In my case, the strife had to pile into a monumental bushel for me to pressure-cook my way to the last stone unturned. There is was.
This classification, although very instructive in dissecting 44 years of a misunderstood life, is not like winning the lottery.
It isn’t a stamp of superiority that deems one instantaneously immune to the perils of ordinary life.
Nor is it a get-out-of-jail-free card. Gifted does not equal “better than.” It means “different from,” which is, and has always been, a nightmare. But at 44 I get to use this late-in-life classification (that feels like a diagnosis) and the wisdom of specialists in this personality profile to appropriately examine and troubleshoot the architecture of my life from now on.
We don’t know we are gifted, and we don’t understand the world as it’s perceived by those of normal perspective. We struggle because we cannot fit in, no matter how we try. We are irritable because we cannot comprehend the misunderstandings we have with people, the ethics of the questionable, or how no one else in the room finds this funny. We get hurt and disappointed often, because we operate from a closeted place. Our innovation is respected, and maybe even celebrated, but our emotions and perceptions are most often unwelcome or invalidated. Because of this, we feel we are only liked for our abilities, so we fear failure while raising own bar over and over. Oddly, all we want is to feel normal, to be loved for our repressed real selves. Most of us take a very long time to reclaim those hidden selves, and it causes a whole series of problems. Being gifted is not a cruiser. It’s complicated.
I will be developing the tools I need to fill in the blanks and get on with the pursuit of happiness, from a more informed place, and using my strengths. No, using my gifts. (It’s so hard to say, so embarrassing and shameful. An admirable person doesn’t boast of her virtues.) And it means I can identify and liberate my personality traits, and raise the bar higher than ever, since I wasn’t aware of my own drive toward perfection until recently. Among other exhausting traits. The good news is that with awareness, they can be channeled into something productive, rewarding, and satisfying.
My biggest goal is yet to come… to achieve mastery over my restless and relentless mind and its wanderings into places I am learning very few venture. How the Hell was I supposed to know that not all other people feel information coming in? Or that I absorb entire concepts through intuition, which is not typical? Or that my disappointments can be linked to a heightened perception not shared by those around me? How could I have known this without the great fortune of other gifted people, specialists in an underserved classification that puts antiquated psychological weights and measures to task?
No amount of yoga or meditation (or misdiagnosis by psychiatrists and pharmacologists) could resolve my deep and disruptive angst, gnawing isolation, and bitter contempt for what others could not see. No amount of cynicism could cure my quest for happiness, and the lifetime commitment I have made to it creatively, therapeutically, and financially. There have been so many wrong solutions, so much noble-yet-poor advice, judgment, and exasperation. But now, at last, I have some hope.
For the first few weeks after this later-in-life classification, I was immensely relieved, because I was set free from a long chain of questions, misgivings, and alienation, both self-imposed and socially-generated. (Mostly self-imposed since I, like most Gifted Adults, am well-liked and appreciated for my wit and sophisticated charm, altruism, and ethical sensibility.) In finding a specialist in the Gifted, and learning that my lifelong challenges and abnormalities actually are normal within the 5% of adults plagued with giftedness. And that I can learn to work with my gifts, turning them into the strengths they were intended for. There is comfort in this.
At first, the relief was overwhelming. I wept in gratitude for the help in letting go of a lifetime misconception that something is wrong and bad about me. I have been flying high on possibility-based thinking, while eradicating the old self-image of undesirable and weird. In short, I have been feeling saved at last.
But lately I’m getting used to the quantum liberation after having played endlessly with new self-awareness in everyday situations. I admit, it’s pretty cool to interact with family and friends after such a great paradigm shift, and with a quickening excitement for things to come. I had lost my luster for a long, long time, and it was high time I dusted me off. But there is no direct road to unfettered living. It comes with a high price.
For one, discovering this amazing and terrifying reality about myself is perhaps the biggest nugget I have touched to date. It is huge. A completely reworked reality to learn to live and work within, it changes everything. Nothing looks the same. Hope and possibility are certainly beautiful, enthralling, and liberating. The removal of confusion and angst, euphoric.
I can sit and ponder every minute of my past with my new goggles on, and I see the pain and confusion vanish before my eyes. I say “of course!” a lot. And I mourn misunderstandings I cannot fix. I want so much to explain to people the reasons for why things happened, but fall deflated because the explanation alone would merely aggravate.
“It’s because I’m gifted” is not a reason. Unless you are gifted.
There is no way to discuss this most amazing and terrifying thing that is steering my life in a new direction. It feels counter-productive to approach my late-in-life Gifted Adult classification with the intention to liberate it, when the very nature of my profile I cannot comfortably discuss with anyone in my life. How do I allow my giftedness to come out of hiding and BE? Home for the Holidays means lunches, dinners, and coffees with old friends and family who want to know “what’s new.” What’s new is huge and brilliant on the inside, and invisible on the outside. My inner world is huge. It always has been. What I’m “up to lately” is always enormous, and looks like nothing to the guy sitting next to me. When people ask me what I’ve been doing, I immediately buzz with excitement, but then have to put a lid on it and chit-chat in the interest of normalcy.
I can’t exactly come out with: “Well, I scored off the charts in a testing process that determined I am a Gifted Adult, and therefore I am completely dissecting and rebuilding my inner architecture by designing my perfect personal algorithm with the help of a specialist whose life’s work is studying the minds and traits of the Gifted. I am very excited about this because until now, my entire life has been built on the faulty foundation of a false-self that began in early childhood and has hindered me greatly in the advancement of my potential and emotional well-being. I am finally on the path from depression to liberation and it’s the most exhilarating prospect I’ve ever known. Pass the sugar, please…“
As I prepare for a very exciting adventure in deconstruction, the loneliness is beginning to choke me. Now that I know who and what I am, I understand why I have found so many people and events insufferable. I have learned why common ways of “having fun” give me only fleeting joy, and hanging out at a bar or dishing the dirt with a chatterbox actually gives me anxiety. That feeling of being trapped and judging myself for my inability to just hang out and B.S. only compounds the contempt and isolation I feel in certain company. I will never again be able to view myself as, or attempt to be, “normal,” and the walls of isolation are closing in on me. Where are the rest of the 10%? Where are my people?
After being classified as gifted, I began to understand the needs. There have been unmet ones staring me in the face at all times, an ever-changing hierarchy that challenges Maslow’s pyramid from moment to moment, ones that have kept me paralyzed and socially unfulfilled. I have been incapable of just relaxing and “chilling.” My mind will not allow for such unadulterated enjoyment as drinking beer and watching the game with some buddies. It perceives incessantly every nuance, and diagnoses discrepancies whether I am focused or not. It wants me to fix everything and extract meaning from the mundane. In short, my definition of entertainment is unconventional at best. And it is never about just being in the moment.
Just being myself can be a lonesome experience. My humor is often met with a blank stare. Real connections with others are few and far between. My meaningful friendships are with other Gifteds who live across oceans and over mountain ranges from where I am, and sometimes Skype is just not enough to sustain me.
I can’t keep moving, combing cities and towns in search of other kindreds, because there is no utopian gifted community where I can commune in harmony with an entire society that resonates in commonality. There is no mother ship. It’s all on me. I have to find a way to make it all work, to function happily within my formerly-dysfunctional framework. I am optimistic that I can find my way, or even make my way, from this new platform. There is information out there. Not much, but it’s a start. Perhaps I can participate in adding to the pool.
Where are the other ten percent-ers? Where are my people? I am standing at the edge of a new precipice, ready to lunge forth. But I need support. We all do. Human beings are predisposed to thrive in community, and not in reclusion. I retreat because community doesn’t often nourish me. I retreat in shame as well. Guilt too. I retreat because it doesn’t feel good not to, or because when I come out, I get hurt by people who do not see and feel as I do.
In conversations I have with my kindreds sprinkled about the globe, I find myself deeply satisfied and energized. I need more of this. And I assume that if I need it, so do many other kindreds, unidentified gifted adults who need a community to emotionally flourish. A group of self-realizing others to be completely one’s self with, where the confines of normalcy cease to exist. This is what I intend. To create an online global gifted gathering place. Our own social network, where we can be our own selves in the company of others, free from shame.
Shame and loneliness are the enemies of brilliance. Giftedness is Special Needs. Unidentified adult giftedness is a living Hell. Let’s identify ourselves and have our special needs met.
My name is Lauren Berley and I am a Certified Professional Coach. I am also a working contemporary artist. Film maker. Photojournalist. Writer. Small-scale farmer/farm stand artisan. And your kindred partner on the Gifted & Creative journey.
I help Gifted and Creative people unblock pathways to creating their most meaningful lives. And my artwork expresses the sensations and yearnings from deep within my little seed of Spirit.
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