When I was in elementary school, I distinctly remember the day when I was told that I had tested out of my age group in different subjects and would be placed in what was commonly referred to as TAG classes. TAG stood for "Talented and Gifted." While that is all well and good, telling a seven-year-old that they are special is a double-edged sword. The first drawback is that it gives them an inflated sense of self and a superiority complex. Seven-year-olds who think they are the coolest thing since sliced bread? Not fun. The other side, however, is that it gives people something to be proud of and cling to when things get hard. It did all these things for me.
All through elementary school, I went to special classes with a group of kids as equally "special" like me. We were usually either really good readers, really good at math or a combination of both. I was in the reading group. When I took comprehension tests they said I could read at the level of a college student which, at the time, felt pretty cool. However, now that I am in college, it feels a little less impressive. College students are by no means great at reading. We suck but you do what you got to do when your professor assigns eighty pages a night.
College is a reality check for a lot of people for many reasons. There were the people who had never really left home before and became terribly homesick until they figured out how to manage their own schedules. Others began to experience more adult activities and had to learn for the first time how to take care of themselves. For me, my reality check looked a little different. It came in the form of a C- on my first paper. I was in shock.
There must have been a mistake; the professor just probably mixed up my papers with someone else's. There was no way that I, the person who had never gotten less than an A on a writing assignment ever was now getting a C. It blew my mind. Maybe I wasn't as good of a writer as had always thought. Maybe it was just a case in highschool of the big fish little pond and I actually was not talented. My first term of college I didn't get A's I didn't even get B's, I got C's. As long as I could remember my identity had been tied up with m intelligence. I was always the smart girl in classes. The person who people wanted to work with for group projects. If I wasn't smart anymore, what was I? Who was I?
It took me a long time to realize that my feelings of anxiousness and doubt were not exclusive to me. I would talk with friends about how hard it was to study and focus on school when all I wanted to do was to have fun. I would complain that I never had to study before in high school and I didn't know why that wasn't the case now. It wasn't until one of my friends made the comment that she had read somewhere in a psych book that "children with higher IQ's must be heavily stimulated and keep growing it farther or else they are prone to falling off the curve and developing anxiety and depression." Hearing that gave me such a reaffirming feeling that I was not the only one feeling this way.
I realized that I had always done my best to fit the mold that had been given to me at seven years old. Within my TAG classes, there was the expectation that because we were all smart, there was no need for studying. We were better than that, so we never learned proper habits for learning. When teachers would tell us to write multiple drafts and we would get an A without editing once it reinforced that mindset. So I realized that I had to go back to the beginning. I had to relearn how to be a good student.
It wasn't easy. To tell the truth, it really sucked. But what I can say, with no doubt, is that it is worth it. I have become a better student and you will too, I promise. There is a quote from one of my favorite movies "The Help" that says "you is kind, you is smart, you is important." I encourage all people who are struggling with not feeling special anymore to remember that. Your circumstances do not define you; they can shape you and mold you, but you have the final say on how things end up. They might not call you talented and gifted anymore, but so what? Just be you, and remember that there is a reason why the game TAG is for children.