Dear Gifted Teen

Dear Gifted Teen,

High School… Wow, if there is one thing I am not qualified to preach about it is your high school career- better known as the toughest four years of your life.

Don’t tell your parents, but I pretty much did all of the things they secretly fear you are going to do at any given moment on any given day. I dropped out, I smoked this or that, I wasted time, and I most definitely did not apply myself.

It all feels like such a waste of time, a waste of energy, a waste of emotion, doesn’t it?  So you don’t do anything.  But then, the less you do- the more you feel like you’re wasting away and wasting yourself.

You have to spend your entire day trying to accept everyone for who they are because that is what we parents tell you that we do every single day for every single person. The shitty thing is that you constantly find yourself having to accept something in another person that you know others would not accept in you.   That’s a truth for us, too. And I’m sure you know the state of the world. So, how are we doing?

The rules, the restraints, the demands, the catch-22s, and the disappointments… what everyone is asking from you just doesn’t seem real. And isn’t that what you want? Real?

Okay, so I didn’t do too hot in high school, but I do have a good memory; in fact, I remember every little thing I see, do, and read (except Algebra!) and I can tell you that there was one thing I was searching for more than anything else when I was a teenager. I wanted to find the real.

So what’s the real?

The real is that the smartest among you may have been failed by everyone and if you dare try to blame your failure on those things which caused your failure, you will be told to grow up, take responsibility, and learn from your mistakes.

But isn’t that all you’ve been doing up until now?

When school was boring you to absolute and utter anxiety-ridden brain death, did you not learn from that and quickly turn your mind to other things just to make it through the day? When you couldn’t stop talking because some passion inside of you was ignited by something the teacher said but then you got in trouble for being off track, when in reality you wanted to shout that you were more on track than anyone in the room, didn’t you learn to put out that fire and let it go before it burns out of control?  Don’t you have a million examples like this which explain just how well you learn and grow?

Yah, you know the real. You are the real.

But see, here’s the thing, maybe you are not completely to blame for feeling lost right now. Maybe things could have gone more your way when you were younger. Maybe you don’t feel very smart, like your potential was not maximized, that you don’t have what it takes to be one of the kids who just gets it from day one. Maybe none of that is your fault. So here is where my memory helps us both out a bit.

Want to get the real?   It doesn’t matter who’s to blame.

It might be your fault and it might not. Who cares? What does matter is that it is your choice. It’s your choice what you do from this day forward.  And boy, when we search for the real it gets very real very quickly- as I’m sure you are finding out.

Here’s what I know about real.

Real is that lots of people, lots of really amazing and gifted people like yourself have been handed a really crappy hand. They look at their cards trying to turn twos into aces, but they believe it’s never going to happen.  They know it can’t happen on a very logical and realistic level.  So is the trouble that they were dealt a bad hand or is it that they haven’t figured out the real?  The real is that our life is not a card game.

It doesn’t matter what cards you are dealt, it matters what you do with the real.

I’ve seen more wasted gifts than I care to stomach. I’ve seen artists waste away with needles in their arms. I’ve seen beautiful music fall off the edge of a smoker’s lips. I have held friends as they cry out against abuse that my body will never experience. I’ve watched young mothers blame their child for taking away their youth and watched as their children continue a cycle of fear and wasting away. I’ve watched the gifted death of writers, mathematicians, engineers, future leaders, musicians, philosophers, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. I’ve seen so many people waste away and take with them the most incredible and irreplaceable gifts.

All of these kids were the real. All of them were the gifted. Some of them had learning or emotional challenges, but all of them had a choice.

They were gifted. They were like you and me. They and everyone else blamed them for every bad thing that ever happened to them and they never were able to move forward from that blame.

So now what?

I’m not going to say things like you think you’ve got it all figured out and you think you know it all but don’t. No, there’s no need to tell you that because the truth is that none of us have it all figured out. None of us know the answers. All of us just keep moving forward and we all just want to find the real inside of us which makes us who we are.

You can see school as a waste of time and there is nothing I or anyone can say to change your mind.  I’m sure your parents won’t like it, but I’m not even going to try.  I won’t even say high school was the easiest four years of my life and I wish I could go back and do it over again.

None of that would be true, none of that would be the real.

What I am going to tell you is that dropping out and fighting and clawing my way up and out of the shit I got myself into was way more real than I thought it would be.  There were reasons I struggled in school, but the choices were all mine.  I wasted time when I should have and could have shared my gifts, my real, with the world.

What’s your real?

I know, I don’t know you, but if you’re reading this I know that you have something to share with this world.

What makes you the maddest, the happiest, the silliest…? Those things which everyone tells you to stop, those things that don’t fit in right now, they may well be the brightest and most important part of what you’ll be able to give this world.

Think back to times you were excited to learn.  I know those moments exist.  I know they do.  Close your eyes and remember that happy you felt.  Maybe it was on a trip to a new place?  Maybe it was a great book?  Maybe it was your 4th grade science teacher?

You may never be happy with school and homework, but find that old happy.  That, believe it or not, is your real.

You don’t need to run from school to be yourself; I mean, haven’t you always been you? What difference will it make to be somewhere else? It certainly won’t be more real. You already are real.

I don’t want to see even one more gifted teenager waste away. I don’t want to see that in school or out of school.  So I’m not saying stay where you are and deal with it.  I’m saying you are where you are, now make your real.  Don’t waste your gifts and don’t be scared of them.

Only you know what will work for you.  Maybe it is school, maybe it’s a hybrid of school or homeschool, maybe it’s just buckle down and finish so you can go on to bigger and better.  Maybe it’s something completely new.

If you haven’t figured it out, I don’t want you to “get real” like the old cliché. The fact is you already are real. But it is time to know real.

And knowing the real, Gifted Teen, is the coolest gift you can give yourself.


A Gifted High School Drop Out Who Figured it Out a Bit Too Slowly

One thought on “Dear Gifted Teen

  1. High school is just shit you have to get through in order to get to the rest of your life. Whether you stick it out in school or get a GED, get your diploma however you can. None of the most Interesting adults I know enjoyed high school very much. Your best years are ahead of you. Adults are so quick to dismiss a kid they don’t understand or who doesn’t do what adults expect. Adults underestimate teenagers all the time. It’s not you, it’s them.


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