It was July. My friends and I were at the lake, sitting in the sand, near the shore. I wasn’t surprised by their looks as I finished talking. All three women stared at me. At least one in the group had her head cocked slightly. I know that baffled, twenty four degree angle, head tilt well. It was followed by puzzled wrinkles forming above her eyebrows.
There was silence as my last phrase was left hanging mid-air.
I heard crickets chirping.
(No one else did, because the crickets chirping are my mental, cartoon background noise to signal that I’ve said too much, again.)
I attempted to smooth the social situation with self deprecating humor.
“Nope? I can tell by your blank stares, and the uncomfortable silence that I am the only weird one in this group who thinks about stuff like that.” I flashed a quick smile. “Now, if we can all pretend that I never said anything, I will stand up to dip my feet in the edge of the lake, and wish that I could be swallowed whole by it to hide my embarrassment. Just be glad that you know this Jen, and that you did not know the dramatic 13 year old Jen.”
I flashed them my smile that said, “it’s okay to laugh now”, and chuckled along at my own expense. I shifted the conversation to something else, and mentally noted to not bring that topic up with them in the future.
I’ve thought about that moment last July a lot. I’ve thought about it, not because it was particularly embarrassing, or socially awkward for me.
a few so many more of those stories.
Mostly, I’ve thought about that moment on the lake with my friends, because it encapsulates how I’ve felt most of the past four years since I moved to the mountains. It is the reoccurring pattern that I’ve had play out most of my life in various social situations/ groups.
That uncomfortable feeling of hearing the crickets chirp is why I often feel lonely, even when I’m physically surrounded by people. To fill that lonely void, I spend hours connecting with internet friends, I’ve never met In Real Life, or online with people I went to high school with.
When you are an outlier on the IQ bell curve, there statistically aren’t a lot of people to identify with, and keep you company.
It can feel like it’s just you and the crickets.
Being gifted can be lonely.
Being gifted has made me feel misunderstood, isolated and out of place more times than I can possibly count. It also makes it that much sweeter and more precious when I’ve been able to identify with people who truly get me. They understand Jen. They are the people that embrace that part of me I usually keep hidden, because most people don’t get it. I’ve come to appreciate how important it is for me to nurture relationships with the rare few who fully understand me, to combat loneliness, and overwhelming feelings of isolation.
Over a year ago, I attended my 20 year high school reunion, and rank my evening spent with my former classmates, as one of the best experiences of my life to date. More than people who shared hallways or teachers,
My classmates were the first people to help me feel like I belonged.
My family moved at the end of my 6th grade year. Three weeks into 7th grade, Mrs. Miller offered me the opportunity to move from her traditional block English, Language Arts and History class, to the Honors class with Mr. Cheney. I spent half of my classes everyday, plus lunch time, with these remarkable, gifted kids, and felt acceptance.
My gifted friends shared many of my over-excitabilities and passion for learning. They didn’t laugh or make fun of my enthusiasm. They shared my intense passion, even if it was for different interests than mine, like math, music or science. No one called me a “Walking Dictionary”. They understood the words I used, and liked to read books, too.
There were enough honor’s students between two separate 7th grade block classes, that I felt, for the first time in my life, that it was okay to be smart.
I wasn’t alone.
Making gifted friends gave me confidence that spilled into every area of my life. I made a lot of friends, and found people who cared about me, and encouraged me.
I was part of a group that liked to learn, and competed for good grades and class rank. I was intellectually challenged, and I didn’t always know the answers. The core group of gifted friends I made as the dramatic 13-year-old Jen, and through out middle and high school are still my favorite people today. They continue to uplift, encourage and inspire me.
For some people, middle school and high school years are painfully uncomfortable and full of negative memories. They are years spent waiting to become who you want to be away from mislabels you’ve been given by others, and forced to absorb. They are transitional years spent trying to adapt by blending in with the crowd.
By contrast, my middle and high school years were full of positive memories of recognizing who I could become by being myself, and forming friendships with other gifted people who challenged and inspired me.
During the past three years, I had spent so much time trying to blend in with people from my small rural community, that I had ignored and forgotten part of who I was. It took a high school reunion to see myself through my friend’s eyes. It helped me recognize that I was missing the most important parts of Jen by keeping them hidden.
Many of our friendships as adults are created by one corner of our personality. Our lives touch others through a hobby or job. We form a connection based on children of similar ages. We form connections based on religious or political affiliation, geographic proximity or socioeconomic status.
We only allow one portion of ourselves to intersect and form a friendship and bond.
My 21st fear is getting too close, or sharing too much with friends, because it is so rare for me to find friends who appreciate and understand a multi-faceted Jen, and not just the portion me where our lives intersect. Most people know Jen The Triplet Mom, or Genealogy Jen, or Fix-it Jen, or Jen The Mormon, or Jen The Runner, or Jen The Boy Mom or some other version of Jen.
I shift like a Rubik’s cube to show people the side of Jen with which they are comfortable.
The shift to highlight the familiar Jen, leaves me frustrated that there are so many equally important sides of me left invisible.
Turn bottom row right twice.
Turn left side counter-clockwise three times.
I’ve socially mastered three red squares in a row, but I’m still incomplete, and missing six more.
I see a Jumbled Jen, with no apparent Solution. I’ve nearly quit in frustration. I’ve never really liked puzzles. Then, I listen to the friends who have seen every side of who I am and helped me become who I am now.
“I’ve always admired how kind you are to others, Jen.”
“You are an amazing writer, Jen. I really enjoy reading your blog.”
“I know that it’s not much, but I thought it would help. “
“You always make me laugh, and I really enjoy spending time with you, Jen.”
“Jen, thank you for being my friend.”
Sometimes, it only takes reassuring words from friends who understand who you were, to help mentally shift perspectives. These are friends who see and celebrate all sides of you and your personality.
You know that you have found a friend worth keeping when you finally feel like you
Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week – Friends are the family we choose. Call, text or write to share with a friend the influence they have had on you and what you appreciate most about them. Bonus points if you send them a care package with a few of their favorite things, or tell them in person.
This post is part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education monthly blog hop series on the social and emotional issues of being gifted.
Click the graphic below to explore more articles from some of my gifted friends.