gifted and talented

It’s a funny phrase, isn’t it?
     Gifted
………….and
                 talented.

You encounter it first when you’re barely more than a child, distinguished from the rest. You know how to read but you don’t know your alphabet. Nobody else knows their alphabet but nobody else knows how to read, either, so they pull you aside and make you learn; alone. As the years pass you grow inwardly arrogant because so often you are set aside from your peers, high on this pedestal which pushes you further away from them every year. You get the highest grades and you love the attention; you thrive on the praise and being sat at the top table. At seven you start learning violin and at first you enjoy it but as classes progress and you never learn how to read musical notes properly you begin to hate it.
………….It is the first thing
………………………..you are not good at
……………………………………….and you despise the feelings of inadequacy.
It gets so bad that you quit and go to extra Maths lessons instead. You’re good at Maths. You can do Maths. You’re working way above the target grade for your age in Maths; secondary school level indeed.

You enter Year Seven at the top of your game and prove yourself again and again. You excel in English, in Science, in Maths. You do amazing in Geography and History, even in RE when you couldn’t care less about God. You can’t remember if you used to put your hand up back then, but you certainly don’t now. Still, you reach higher than expected in your lessons with very little effort.
………….You never revise,
……………………………you don’t need to.
Year Eight your Maths teacher promises a crisp ten pound note for anyone who produces Level 8 work in the exam and you do; an 8A no less. Second best but you try not to let any jealousy show. You take the money and smile and say thank you and when GCSEs come around the next year you continue to shine.

Back then you were still so shy. You’ll never know the reason – whether it was early manifestation of your introversion and the anxiety disorder you have now, or whether you were simply terrified of being wrong. You still are, too anxiety riddled to put your hand up. Recently you’ve started to learn but still. A right answer fills you with bubbling warmth; a wrong answer makes you fall silent, flushed and embarrassed because the gifted and talented student cannot be wrong. It’s a laughing stock when you are. If you ever get below an A then people stare at you wide-eyed.

“I can’t believe I did better than you,”
They say,
Like it is supposed to be a compliment.

I guess you are the bar that everyone else set themselves to but little do they know you can
………….barely
……………….reach
……………………..the expectation
……………………………………..yourself.

Then comes the time when you must pick what to do at college, and beyond. You’ve been an academic all your life so of course you will choose Maths, the Sciences – right? Your English teacher tells you that you’d be the perfect Literature student and you smile and nod and say ‘maybe’ but that turns out to be your saving grace. You actually enjoy books, reading and the likes. You choose Literature over Language because you’ve never wanted your writing to be marked. Writing is personal and you don’t want to warp it into something you hate if it becomes mandatory work and effort. You don’t want to ever have to look at the things you write with a sickening feeling growing in your stomach. A need for academic strength still runs hard in you though.

You choose Literature, okay,
but you also choose
Maths,
and Psychology.

People want you to choose a proper science but you pick Photography instead, because you think it might be something you enjoy.

………….Nobody says it, but you are a laughing stock.

Incapable.

GCSEs are one thing but A-Levels are another. You’re so used to simply understanding everything laid out before you that suddenly you’re thrust into this whole other world where you’re not special or important and you’re certainly not clever.
………….You fail:
………………….consistently.
Nobody ever told you how to revise. Nobody ever showed you the best ways to pick apart the exam specs. Before, a teacher spoke and you remembered; now a teacher speaks and you forget. Gifted and talented things have stopped but that doesn’t mean they have done in your mind. You hold yourself to those standards year in year out. You spend the whole of Year Twelve wanting to cry because you are failing Maths and nobody will listen when you tell them how much you struggle.

“You’re the smart kid,”
They say,
“You don’t have problems.”

Little do they know how wrong they are. In the end you pass Maths. You get a C which is so much cause for celebration compared to your usual U but still.. nothing. When you got the U you were ‘under performing’ because you didn’t ‘try’; getting the C was just expected, so when you hit it nobody says anything. Nobody acknowledges how hard you drove yourself to get that grade. They pass it off as intelligence but it wasn’t and only you can see that. You worked for it. It wasn’t handed to you, like so so much has been in the past.

You enter your final year of college having dropped Maths. You almost do four A-Levels instead of three because Maths is an academic and you got a C, right, so you can do well the next year? Your teacher pleads for you to carry it on but you say no and turn him away. It is one of the first autonomous steps you make towards a happier future. You carry on; Literature, Psychology, Photography. You enjoy all three despite the work. Trouble is, you got yourself As in the latter two last year. You’ve continued the dichotomy unknowingly and unwillingly because as much as you try to shy away from it you are smart and you can still be smart if you work hard for it.

But
Of course
Nobody sees it that way.

You
Are handed it
On a silver platter,
Of course.

People say “well done” and “I wish I could be like you” but
………….you
…………….don’t
………………..think
…………………….they
………………………..understand.

You get an unconditional offer to uni. Magic. Cause for celebration! Again, people congratulate you but you cannot shy away from the comments of “aren’t you lucky” and “I wish I were you” again. But they don’t! They cannot wish they were you and you won’t let them because you work hard and they dismiss it as easiness and the perks of being smart. They don’t know that exams still eat away at you. They don’t know that you don’t understand so so much but that you are

………….Too afraid
……………………….to
…………………………ask for
…………………………………help.
………….Too afraid
……………………….to
…………………………look
……………………………..stupid.

You’ll get laughed at, if you don’t understand. There’s so much. So much. And you are spiralling in a cloud of confusion and doubt and all you want is for summer to be here and for exams to be a distance memory and to be yourself away from all these gifted and talented preconceptions and all they amount to.

You want to be yourself,
………….not smart,
………………….not lucky,
………………………..not a post,

You
…..and I
……….free.

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