Friday, August 12, 2011


Once upon a time, I was in the “gifted program.” I always thought that was a big bunch of crap because while I know I was a bright and creative kid, I don’t think I was anything exceptional. I do think that I had the advantage early on of a stay-at-home mom who’d been an educator and who taught me how to read very early on. I also had a big sister who was three years older and “played school” with me non-stop. So…I’d say more than gifted, I was just very prepared.

This became more evident to me as I got older. In junior high, the gifted kids were all freaking brainiacs. A pair of twins, who were Japanese, had a strict father who conducted classes all summer long. (They also weren’t allowed to do anything fun, like go to dances, which I thought sucked.) They’d leave on the last day of school each year, lugging loads of books too heavy for their lanky, pre-teen arms. There were a few others who stand out in my mind…they’d been in the enrichment classes with me in elementary school and we’d all known each other since kindergarten. But junior high was a blending of a few elementary schools, and the kids from the other elementary school were very competitive and extremely academic.

And I was a dunce when it came to advanced math. Addition, yes. Subtraction, okie-dokie. Multiplication and division, gotcha. But if you start putting numbers and letters together, I figure you’re just trying to mess with me. And if someone intentionally messes with me, one of two things seems to happen: I either adopt an air of indifference and completely dismiss the person or I become extremely and obviously pissed.

When you’re a child and in school, indifference is the better choice.

For example, when I read things or saw charts that were ridiculously difficult, I’d check out. I figured those materials were not for me. If they were for me, they wouldn’t be pretentious and unnecessarily complicated. For example, in college, I never got through a leisure read of Gravity’s Rainbow because at the time, it felt impossible to read. (I may try it again one day soon, but at the time, I thought, what the hell?)

So, when I saw all that algebraic stuff on the board, I’d check out. Sure, I’d have my pencil poised above the paper, I’d be looking at the teacher, I’d nod and seemingly follow along in the textbook. But in my mind, I was thinking about Duran Duran or wondering if my skin would ever clear up. I had no idea what the teachers were saying. Their words were foreign to me.

We had “gifted English” right before “gifted math.” Math was in the same room as English. And I was one of two “gifted” people who didn’t make it into gifted Math…me and the poor, truly gifted kid with severe behavioral and social disorders.

Every day, when the bell rang, the hoodlum and I had to get up and slink out of the room because we weren’t good at math.

I remember one of the students saying something snide to my mathematically deficient counterpart’s back about being a loser one day when we were leaving the room. I shot a look over my shoulder and someone said, “Oh! I didn’t mean you!” followed by giggles of embarrassment, but I knew the truth.

The thing is, I knew who I was then and I know who I am now. Even though I err on the side of self-depreciation, I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

So, when I was asked at work today to write on a project that is way out of my league, I gave it a try. I tried not to think about the hold advanced numbers have had on me or how math courses contributed to a very average GPA my whole academic career…reflecting points much lower than I think I’d otherwise have earned.

After three hours of truly trying to explain terms that I’ve never even heard of, after four trips into my supervisor’s office, after 45 minutes on, after my shoulder became stiff and I had a lump in my throat, I threw in the towel.

Someone on the other end of my email may have snickered and said, “Loser,” under their breath, but I don’t give a damn.

I am not a quitter, but I asked for someone else to draft the information and I volunteered to edit it. I can’t write it. It’s not what I do.

What I can do is edit it into a format that will allow other people, like myself, understand the advanced concepts by curling them into shapes that they’ll recognize.

But for today, I’m shaking it off. I know what I’m good at. I know what I want to invest my time in.

I’m giving myself an A for effort.

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