Yup - you...
Let’s me and you talk for a minute, just the two of us.
You may not believe this - because perhaps you’ve felt alone and misunderstood your whole life - but there are a lot of us out here who get kids like you. There just aren’t enough of us.
And maybe when something happens somewhere that hits the news and social networks big time, you find yourself relating - to the person that did it. There could be similarities in your interests. There could be similarities in your home lives. There could be a similar desire to do what they did, for whatever reason or for no apparent reason at all. Maybe you, too, have been bullied or abused, or are a loner, or have some odd quirks that nearly everyone around you just doesn’t get and - even worse - you think they think something is “wrong” with you because of that. And - the elephant in the room - it’s often someone quite bright, as you are, too (whether you know and believe that about yourself or not. But someone does because they sent you to read this, didn’t they...)
Being quirky and “odd” is a blessing, and - before you snort your energy drink out your nose - let’s talk about why. You sure as heck may not be seeing the blessing because it’s much easier to get mixed up in the soup of adolescence, turmoil, being bullied or being the bully, feeling isolated, raging at the world, drugs, identity confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, your avatar world, mental illness, home problems, school problems, friend problems or no-friend problems, health problems, being misunderstood, ............, or whatever else it is that’s in your personal soup. Your unique combination of mess is taking over your life and you don’t know what to do and you’re angry and frustrated and you feel like you’re screaming and no one is hearing you or seeing you.
Yup. It sucks.
It a whole-lotta sucks.
And it’s hard to see beyond all that when you’re in the midst of it. But there is a “beyond all that” in life - and I’ve personally witnessed hundreds of quirky bright kids like you swim out of their soup and shine. They all had different ingredients from the recipe above, but whatever their combination, they made it. Some have started their own businesses, some have started their own bands. Some are managers at Google and Microsoft, some are managers at a local small business, and some are officers in the military. Some are in graduate school and some are teaching school. Some have invented things or created new products that I’m excited to see the world discover and react to. Some are writing code for iPhone’s Siri and others are cracking code for the FBI. Some landed themselves in jail for a time and are now shift-by-shift working their way back into stability. Some are happily married and some have little kiddos that they’re raising with a wiser outlook. Some are still stuck in their soup, but they’re reaching out for a tossed life preserver ... or at least no longer fighting its offering. And I know, I hope, I believe, they’re going to make it. Which means you can, too.
Yes, those are all real people I know. Real kids and real now-grown kids, all who are or were bright, odd, misunderstood youngsters. (Some are now bright, odd, much-less-often-misunderstood adults.)
Maybe you sometimes feel like lashing out at others. Maybe you feel like taking it out on yourself. Maybe you want others to hurt as much as you do.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that people feel a lot of anger and anguish when someone goes and does something - and maybe you’re feeling that anger and anguish all the time and want others, for whatever reason, to walk in your shoes. But before you go and ____, instead reach down and find that piece of humanity inside of you, a paused moment from when you were a pure little kid. I know you know it’s there. Take the lid off and poke around a bit until you find where you hid it. Now carefully drop that piece of you into your pocket for a sec and let’s not forget it’s there.
Before you lash out, reach out.
And if it doesn’t work the first time, try reaching out again. And again. And again, if necessary.
One thing, though: You might have to use very specific language. Sometimes even the most perceptive of us don’t pick up on others’ messages. So, if need be, be very clear about the help you need. Perhaps you haven’t done that so far because you’re scared about freaking people out and you’re worried they’re going to over-react and think you’re one of those crazed killers and lock you up, and the last thing you want is more people being weirded out by you than already are, but really truly someone or many someones will be grateful and proud that you have the courage, insight, balls, temerity, humbleness, and foresight to squeak up and reach out.
Yes. I said it. Squeak up. And keep squeaking. Get the grease.
Being quirky is a blessing because it’s often the dorks who invent cool gadgets and make amazing discoveries and solve perplexing problems and make the impossible possible and inspire others to aim high, too. It’s often the weirdo or the nerd or the one with “other issues” who creates and advocates and postulates. And you have an opportunity to be a part of all that. Our world needs you to be a part of all that. Desperately. Maybe before you’ve looked around and seen the tumult and violence and decay and anger, and maybe you’ve lived it. But now you get to look around and see the possibilities, the ways your curiosity and creativity can have a positive impact on someone, anyone, or many ones.
Sure, I have some Pollyanna in me (do kids nowadays know who that is?), but can you admit that you wish someone in your life did, too? Or that you did, too? Well, you’ve stuck with me this far. I’ll wager that means you have a piece of Pollyanna in you, as well.
Now, take a deep breath. Come on now, I mean it... take a deep breath. [thank you :)] Now take another. And another.
Here’s what’s next.
Somewhere in your life you crossed paths with someone who got you even a tiny bit. Maybe it was a teacher from ten years ago. Or a friend from your grade school playground. Maybe it’s your current flame or mom or dad or a sibling or a neighbor or that teacher who laughed at your joke in the hallway but you don’t know his name. A school counselor, a principal, an older cousin, or grandma and grandpa... Yes, you’ve thought of it. That’s the one. That’s the person to reach out to. It could be a simple text or email (“Hey, can we talk?” or “I think I might need some help”), but really a phone call or face-to-face is even better. I know that’s a lot more uncomfortable, but I think they’ll be more likely to “hear” you that way. Remember, they don’t all live in your hand-held digital world, so at least for this first most important step, you may need to “speak their language.”
And if you didn’t think of that person, then you’ll be responsibly choosing a person - maybe you know them, maybe they’re a stranger - in a helping profession. Those would be the teachers, doctors, counselors, nurses, public safety officers, hotline call-answerers, crisis shelter workers, religious leaders, etc. etc. They’ll listen, and 99 times out of 100 they’ll know how to help you find the next step.
And when they do, take it.
Followed by the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. Keep going, and at some point you’ll look back and realize a big ol’ weight lifted out of your life somewhere along the way.
And when you make it out of the soup and you’ve worked for and found your own positive way to shine, allow yourself a little celebration. Or daily little celebrations. It can be grand or humble. Even a smile at yourself in the mirror is pretty powerful.
Lastly (it’s never really lastly, but I have discovered I have a space limit here), turn around. Somewhere behind you is a young person like you now once were, someone who needs to hear that it gets better; that they have value; that you were there once, too; that you understand like few others do. Show them there’s life and hope beyond the soup. You are now uniquely suited to help and inspire them.
In the meantime, these resources might help:
SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness - they have great support groups)
Gifted Haven (an online forum for young people just like you)
Yunasa (more than just a summer camp...)
Institute for Educational Advancement
NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
CEC (Council for Exceptional Children)
‘Mellow Out’ They Say. If I Only Could. Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright by Michael Piechowski
The Smart Teens’ Guide to Living With Intensity by Lisa Rivero
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by James Webb, Edward Amend, Nadia Webb, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, and Richard Olenchak.
Read a biography of someone like you who made it. Not someone who succumbed, but someone who overcame.
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” (Carl Bard)
“It is the wounded oyster that mends its shell with pearl.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
“The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.” (Helen Keller)
“Go to where silence is and say something.” (Amy Goodman)
I imagine others out there will post their own suggestions of other resources, too.
Okay, that’s all for now. (I knew you would listen because I could see that little pure piece of you that you found and put in your pocket. Let it out now and take it on the journey with you...)
The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.