For the Formerly Gifted

You know what? Sometimes life is just hard. You can be thankful for being alive and still feel weighed heavily to the earth.

If I can be honest with you, there has always been a piece of me that feels separate from both myself and others. It’s not a lonely piece per say but a piece that feels disconnected and maybe nihilistic. It’s been with me for a long long time.

There was a short period in college where it disappeared and I felt guilty. What would tie me to the earth and keep me from floating away? People couldn’t be this carelessly happy all the time.

Maybe it’s an artifact that all former gifted children are born with. When I was younger I wondered if I were dumber, would it be easy to be happy all the time?

This little piece makes its way forward on long walks home, in an immature crowd, when staring into the city lights from a roof, in dark empty parking lots after businesses have shut down and everyone’s gone home. It surfaced tonight as I leaned on the railing of my apartment roof— after a discovery that I had roof access all along.

One of my parents told me awhile ago “well I hope I find what you’re looking for” but truthfully I don’t think I’ll ever find “it”. Whatever it is. A pirate destined to chase gold to the ends of the earth.

Maybe the answer lies in someone else. Or maybe there’s no answer to be had.

Sometimes it feels like there is only struggle. When will I find my place? Will I ever? Does that one tiny missing piece of satisfaction actually keep me chugging along?

I did some research and this isn’t uncommon for gifted children and adults. It’s called “existential depression” and arises spontaneously or often after events that force us to confront the transience of life. In a foreign country, in a pandemic, every time I’m used as a human recorder instead of a teacher, after discovering my carefully laid plans have imploded and I may be unemployed and in another country this fall,… well a crisis was frankly overdue.

In such depression, gifted children typically try to find some sense of meaning, some anchor point which they can grasp to pull themselves out of the mire of “unfairness.” Often, though, the more they try to pull themselves out, the more they become acutely aware that their life is finite and brief, that they are alone and are only one very small organism in a quite large world, and that there is a frightening freedom regarding how one chooses to live one’s life. It is at this point that they question life’s meaning and ask, “Is this all there is to life? Is there not ultimate meaning? Does life only have meaning if I give it meaning? I am a small, insignificant organism who is alone in an absurd, arbitrary and capricious world where my life can have little impact, and then I die. Is this all there is?”

Family reading this may ask, well how can we fix you?

The reality is that it’s not something fixable as it’s tied into the nature of higher intellectual ability. You can hug me, tell me I’m not alone in these thoughts, give me biographies of people who lived outside the box.

Well maybe the only sure way would be to knock me in the head and drop my IQ into a range that doesn’t experience existential crises. But please don’t.

I do a lot of thinking and apparently that doesn’t come without consequences. Why am I only finding this out now?

At least I’m a bit glad to know I’m not alone in this feeling. Hey, the article was right! Knowing someone else out there feels similarly is reassuring. Knowledge is power!

Now someone give me a hug.

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