Society is set up in favor of people with brains that more closely approximate the “average” brain, at the expense of those of us with brains that are fucking weird; that’s basically the idea of neurodiversity. A thing I think is potentially important is that “brain that’s fucking weird” doesn’t just include people whose brains are broken or different-but-still-good; it also includes “brains that work better in some important way.”

For instance, think about kids who have, for whatever reason, more academic aptitude than other kids.* The “gifted kids” (ugh, I hate that word) and particularly the kids who always wound up at the top of gifted class.**

There’s a stereotype of the smart kid not having a lot of friends, and in my case and the case of a lot of people I know, that’s true. If you’re good at academics, it’s probably at least in part because you love academics (or at least part of it). You also, once you get at a certain level, have absolutely no one to share your love of academics with. When I was in third grade, I was reading Plato’s the Republic; my peers were playing Pokemon. I’m not saying that I was better (both occupations are entirely useless except for entertainment purposes), but it makes it terribly difficult to make friends if you want to talk philosopher-kings and they want to talk Pikachu. At the same time, while all my peers were out socializing I was… alone. Reading Plato. Because Plato was more interesting than whatever the people in my class were getting up to.

This means I was alone a lot, obviously. Because I was alone I never really learned a lot of really basic social skills you’re supposed to learn when you’re young. (I theorize that this is behind not just former gifted kids with poor social skills but also the geek social fallacies, most of which are about Not Excluding People Like We Were Excluded.) I felt like I was the only person in the world who loved the things I loved, which is a terribly lonely thing to feel. And, well, when kids see someone who’s weird, who doesn’t have a lot of friends, and who has rather poor social skills, they tend to bully them.

Adults don’t help either. There’s a natural tendency when someone is good at academics to praise them for being good at academics, which means that a lot of gifted kids (including me) wound up defining ourselves as The Smart One. This interacts really badly with social exclusion, because it’s really easy to conclude that the reason everyone keeps excluding you is because you’re better than them. That way lies arrogance and a rather unpleasant personality.

At the same time, if you define yourself as Smart, there is going to come a time when you’re Not Smart. When you meet people who are smarter than you, or you  have to suddenly start working at a class. This can induce low self-esteem, depression, and general emotional crisis, because if you’re The Smart One what happens if you aren’t smart anymore? (Bad things. Especially if you’d already decided that you’re better than people because you’re smarter than them and suddenly they’re smarter than you.)

Classes, up to a certain point, are really easy for people with a lot of academic aptitude. You learned it the first time the teacher went through it, but she has to spend the whole hour reviewing it because no one else is as quick as you– for that matter, you might have learned it last year when you taught it to yourself. This means that a lot of people get bored and disengage from classes, which can (oddly) lead to very poor grades and the classic “but you test so well!” syndrome.

If classes are easy, it’s really easy to coast through on native ability, which means you don’t learn how to study or work hard. When suddenly you have to work in class, you haven’t developed the study habits that you need. You’re used to getting to play around on Tumblr or work on your own projects, and now suddenly you have to reread the textbook and make flashcards? And, of course, you suddenly feel stupid because Smart People don’t need to study.

Anyone else have thoughts/experiences about being one of the quote-unquote gifted kids?

Possibly related: The problems with being smart, which offers a different perspective on some of the stuff I’m talking about here.

*Obvious Disclaimer: it is way better to have a ton of academic aptitude and a society that isn’t really set up to deal with people with a lot of academic aptitude than it is to have no academic aptitude and a society that isn’t really set up to deal with people with not very much academic aptitude. In the latter, you get a sucky situation and society makes it worse; in the former, you get something awesome, and there might be shit related to it, but at least you still get academic aptitude. However, we can talk about problems that are not The Worst Problem (TM). It is allowed.
**Other Obvious Disclaimer: this is a generalization that won’t apply to everyone– in fact, most of it doesn’t apply to me. And it’s based on my observation of myself and other former gifted kids, so it is not scientific in any way.