I rarely speak about my giftedness.
Mostly because very early on, I learned that being smart makes you widely unliked. But also because talking about how smart you are is considered unbecoming. It either shows a lack modesty or a desire to brag. Actually, they are both sides of the same coin. So both.
I always knew I was smart. Smarter than everybody I knew.
What I didn’t know, was how smart I really was.
For several reasons.
One, at the time I was going through elementary, middle and high school in that little Colombian town of mine, measuring IQs wasn’t a thing. I am sure the thought never occurred to any of my teachers.
Two, I was never a problem student. With no friends for sure but not problematic per se. Gifted children -or geniuses as they were known back then- are “problem” children. They get in trouble. They fight their classmates and their teachers. They have an “attitude”. Plus I had perfect grades. Another common thing for gifted children in regular programs is they have bad grades due to the fact that they are bored and couldn’t care less. I had none of those traits. So even if IQ tests had been a thing, I doubt any of my teachers would have thought it necessary for me. I was the perfect little student: Straight As and not much of a trouble maker. For the most part. Except when I had a great dislike for a teacher. Then nothing they could do would bend my will to theirs. But that’s a story for another post.
And three, my view of the world when it came to intelligence was terribly skewed.
You see, thing is, I went to one of the best schools in town. Granted it was a catholic school so emphasis was on forming good wives and mothers, but despite that, the education they imparted was excellent. And since most of the girls came from well to do families, their parents were educated, with even the mothers holding university degrees and having good jobs. So for the most part, the gap between my intelligence level and theirs wasn’t astronomical. Big for sure but not astronomical. Especially as time went by because after all, year after year the less academically inclined were weeded out. It may sound horrible but that’s how most education systems work, at least back when we didn’t have instant promotion. Back then, if you flunked, you’d lose your spot for the following year.
Then there was university. The Medicine faculty at my Alma Mater is top five in the country. When I applied to it, they received 2,000 other applications from all over the country. There was 2,000 of us competing for 25 spots. 25 spots.
As you can see, I moved among the best of the best. Not just in my work environment. Since all my close friends came from either high school or med school, even the people I hung out with after hours were smarter than the average.
Then there was graduate school. As I was telling my pen pal from the UK yesterday, one doesn’t get to that level without possessing a good deal of intelligence. Particularly in fields like mine, which was molecular biology and immunogenetics.
Everybody around me was smart. Smarter than smart. I lived and breathed among people that had survived the academic weeding all the way to the PhD level. The 99 percentile.
So yeah, I always knew I was highly intelligent. What I never knew, was how huge the gap was when compared to that world outside academia.
Nothing I had experienced could have prepared me for what I was to encounter once academia was not part of my life. Or that I was not part of the academic world.
If I thought I was a lone wolf before, I now feel completely alien.
As you can see, that is why I don’t talk about my giftedness much.
I simply cannot.
I feel that no matter how I put it, I’ll always sound like the snobbiest of all the know-it-all snobs. I bet that by the time you are done reading this, you too will be thinking I’m a snob.
I don’t know how to explain that I am not a snob but rather that I have great difficulty relating to people.
As a result, I feel -I am- lonely.
I tire of conversations because too often I have to slow down, step back a few thought processes and explain how I arrived at the statement I just made because people can simply not make the connections. Through no fault of them or of mine, they are made to feel stupid.
That makes me a not likable person at best and persona non grata at worst.
So I retreat. Nobody likes to feel unliked or unwanted.
And here’s the kick. Because I am smart, I understand all of this. I understand why I am not liked. I understand it is a normal reaction. I understand it is inevitable. So I don’t hold it against people. I understand this is how it has to be.
Because I am an outlier and that also makes and outcast.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how lonely I may feel, I am still bored and unchallenged by that which makes most people tick. At the end of the day, even if I managed to not make everybody uncomfortable, if I managed to not insult everybody, I’d still would not be able to feel part of their world. I still wouldn’t be able to talk about the things I’d like to talk because I can’t bring the discussions to the level I’d like them to be.
As I always said to my therapist, gifted my ass. Being highly intelligent is most definitely a curse not a gift.