By the time I hit third grade, people were throwing the word “gifted” at me. My teachers had figured out I would always turn in my homework on time, completed and right. My parents had sailed through enough parent-teacher conferences. My grandparents thought I was a genius because I could solve the Rubik’s Cube (also known as painstaking removal and replacement of the stickers).
So fourth grade rolls around and the educational powers that be decided to put me to the test. It was explained to me that the test would determine whether I should be placed in an accelerated program. It would determine whether I was gifted, or not. I don’t remember all the details but the test required that I create something creative. I could choose to write a story, paint a picture, etc. I settled on writing a song for the simple reason that I was sure I would be the next Tiffany.
My song, like the ones I knew by heart, was about love and loss and all the emotion that goes with it. We all had it figured out by fourth grade right? Next time you see me, ask me to sing it for you. I even wrote the accompanying piano music. But alas, my immature lyrics about matters of the heart and my right-hand, melody-only sheet music proved something: I was already boy crazy and I was not gifted.
The whole experience was a bit crushing as I had spent my life believing otherwise. I’m here to tell you that it’s a blow to a young person’s ego to classify him or her as “not gifted.” And it takes some time to recover.
Twenty-five years later, I can say with certainty that I am gifted, as is every person I’ve ever met in my life. I may not have been the prodigy the testers were looking for, but I was good at school and had already started developing my lifelong love of writing. Begs the question: should we refer to uber smart kids as gifted?
How much does environment play a role? I heard from a Fargo radio mogul today that he grew up at his radio father’s knee in the station and was on air at age 12. Twelve year old author Adora Svitak published her first book Flying Fingers at the age of seven. Her parents read her Aristotle and Pioneer Germ Fighters by Navin Sullivan when she was “young.” Three-year-old Wesley Muresan is shredding his way into the hearts of snowboarders all over the world. What’s in his backyard? The mountains of Colorado.
Positive outside influence can make an innate gift flourish. I say we’ve all got one. And we’ve all got the ability to nurture someone else’s.
What are you waiting for?