Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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I Ditched the PHD for the Argentine Tango or If I’m so Smart, Why Aren’t I an Astrophysicist?

My First Tango Lesson

I thought I should get a PhD. It made sense. There was a professor who asked to mentor me. I wanted to write a book. So, I thought, why not write a book and get a PhD at the same time? I applied. Was accepted into a program. Got funded.

Then I thought. How many years of my life will this take? What if I die just as I finish? Will I be glad that I spent the last years of my life in a PhD program?

Um. No.

So, I ditched it.

I took Argentine tango lessons instead.

I do not regret this decision.

But I know what you’re thinking. If she were really smart, if she were gifted for heaven’s sake, she’d choose the PhD. She’d be a super achiever. An academic superstar. An Einstein or an Edison. An Elon Musk or a Steve Jobs.* 

Oh wait. Did they even go to college?

But I digress.

Maybe you’ve been ruminating like this: If I’m so smart, shouldn’t I get a PhD? Don’t smart people excel at academics? If someone is supposed to be gifted, don’t they become scholars and university professors? If I don’t become an astrophysicist, does that mean that I’m a failure? That I’m not gifted? Will I disappoint my parents, my teachers, and myself if I choose tango lessons instead of a PhD? 

You do tend to ruminate. We know this.

But, here’s what I think.

Yes, some gifted folks choose academia. Some are high achievers. Some even invent things that are “insanely great.” And we love the high achievers. If you are one, we love you.

But you’re not all going to be interested in astrophysics. Or you may be fascinated by it but you also love poetry and violin and languages and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mycelium, and on and on. Not only that. Schooling might not be so appealing if you had less than fabulous experiences there as a child.

And what does it mean to be gifted anyway? There are so many different definitions. Eminence? Achievement? 10,000 hours of practice? Grit? Talent? Wiring? Motivation? Financial success?

In my world, gifted means rainforest-minded. A human who is bubbling over with intellectual capacity and passion for learning. An effervescent love of beauty. Multi-dimensional creativity. Unending interests and abilities. Intense curiosity. Depth. Finely-tuned sensitivity, intuition, and empathy. A need to make the world a better place and to dance the tango.

A rainforest mind.

So. Maybe you get a PhD. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you learn the tango. Maybe you don’t. Whatever you do with that rainforest mind of yours, what matters most?

Perhaps it’s this.

Maybe it’s all about love. How do you love? How are you Love?

What if you “…measure your life in love.

“Measure your life in love.”

(From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. Seasons of Love.)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your struggles with achievement and identifying yourself as gifted. What are the ways you measure your life?

Thank you to the colleague (getting her PhD) for her inspiration.

(*I know. They’re all white men. They’re the easiest examples to make my point. But I do apologize.)


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Afflicted With Too Much Talent

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

photo courtesy of Glen Noble, Unsplash

When you were a teen, did you hear this?

“You’re so lucky. You can do anything you want, when you grow up. You could be a doctor, lawyer, musician, engineer, professor, IT professional, journalist, artist, anthropologist–anything. Aren’t you lucky!”

You didn’t feel lucky.

You felt confused and overwhelmed. Guilty and ungrateful. Paralyzed and like a failure. Did I mention that you didn’t feel lucky?

And what happened to that kid who used to be full of excitement and enthusiasm? Reading voraciously. Sleeping with the encyclopedia. Dancing spontaneously. Curious beyond measure. What happened?

Let me guess.

Maybe it was school. Maybe it was your dysfunctional family and your chainsaw parents. You’re complicated so it was probably more than one thing. But just for today, let’s look at your unending number of interests and abilities. Your passion for learning new things. Your boredom with something once you’ve mastered it. Your multipotentiality.

You are afflicted with multipotentiality. Or, as Emilie Wapnick calls it in her TED talk, you’re a multipotentialite.

Yes, indeed. I’ve known many rainforest-minded folks with this affliction. And you won’t get any sympathy from the masses. Too much talent just doesn’t bring out the compassion. But, for you, it can stop you in your tracks. How do you choose just one thing? How do you make a career out of psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedy? Not to mention being a psychoneuromusicalanthrobiocomedic parent.

Your coping strategies? Procrastination. Depression. Anxiety. Hot Fudge Sundaes.

Not so great.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. You don’t have to stick to one job/career.
  2. Multipotentiality is not a sign of weakness or inability to focus or ADHD or slackeritis.
  3. Use your creativity to craft careers that combine many talents and interests. Good resources for guidance are here and here. (and Emilie)
  4. Look for the book Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher.
  5. Don’t feel guilty anymore for your abundance. It’s not your fault.
  6. If you’re a parent, make a list of all of the ways parenting meets your needs for variety, emotional growth, problem solving, deep loving connection and intellectual stimulation.
  7. Make a list of all of the things you’ve done so far in your jobs/careers and family life to prove to yourself that you’ve accomplished a lot even if you feel like you haven’t. Meet with a coach or career counselor who has also slept with her encyclopedia.
  8. Let yourself grieve over the choices that you don’t take because even though you can do a lot, you probably won’t get to everything in one lifetime. Believe in reincarnation.

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To my bloggEEs: Are you afflicted with too much talent? What do you do about it? Have you created several career paths along the way? Thank you as always for reading and sharing!

 


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Gifted Shmifted–The Sequel

After thirty+ years hanging around with gifted kids and adults, first as a teacher, now as a counselor and consultant, I still stutter when I try to define g-g-giftedness.There’s so much confusion, complexity and controversy over what giftedness actually is. It’s pretty overwhelming.

People often talk about it in terms of achievement, talent or “paths to greatness.”

I’m not going there.

Instead, I’m talking about it in terms of traits.

I dreamed up this analogy that describes a certain type of giftedness. The Rainforest Mind.IMG_0519

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I’ll explain briefly. (Don’t want to bore the rest of you.) The rainforest mind type is intense, highly sensitive, extremely complex, smart, colorful, deep, lush, empathetic, analytical, creative, intuitive and misunderstood. In the rain forest, there’s so much vibrant life, so much impassioned activity. It can be overwhelming. Does this sound like you?

I thought so.

Granted, not all gifted folks are like this. Some aren’t as sensitive or empathetic. Some aren’t so creative or intuitive. Some don’t have multiple interests and abilities. But I’m not going to worry about them.

I’m just here for you.

Let me give you some examples from my counseling practice. (names changed, privacy respected)

Max, 16, couldn’t handle public school. Didn’t perform well in class due to time pressures, sensitivity, depth and anxiety about quality. Few friends. Massive concern for the well-being of other humans and for all animals and plants. Taught himself coding, guitar, bike building, music theory, blacksmithing, auto mechanics, piano, drawing, electronics, physics–basically anything he was interested in, which was a lot. A. Lot.

Susan, 53, deep appreciation for beauty. Incredibly perceptive about people and their needs. Ability to understand and synthesize complex concepts from anthropology, mythology, art, philosophy, feminism and much more. Great enthusiasm for life. Serious loneliness because her intellectual musings were not understood by peers. Felt urgency to take action to save the planet. In dialogue with redwood trees.

Roberto, 44, struggled in school to memorize multiplication facts, in and out of college for years without graduating. Extreme self-doubt. Emotional. Self-employed self-taught IT guru, soft-open-heart. Told he had too much zeal. Despairing about wasteful use of natural resources.

Maggie, 14, loved debating and chemistry. Wrote lengthy stories about mythological creatures when she was eight. Reading like a maniac at age 4. Thrilled by philosophy but told by teachers “no one likes a know-it-all.” Preferred mathematics to the mall. Lonely. Severely curious. Felt a spiritual connection to the ocean.

Carmen, 24, talked and thought at warp speed. Searched for a mentor but consistently disappointed. Had extremely high standards she never met, although others were in awe. Rejected repeatedly by friends who couldn’t keep up. Misunderstood by parents who wanted her to stay on one career path forever.

These are examples of humans I’ve known with rainforest minds. Humans who are gifted.

If you are one, remember:

Whatever you call it, don’t let the chainsaws cut you down.

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This post is part of the Hoagiesgifted.org blog hop. Click on the image to read other posts on this topic.

This post is part of the Hoagiesgifted.org blog hop. Click on the link below to read other posts on this topic–

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_how.htm


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Gifted Shmifted

Time to address the elephant. The one in the room. You know what I’m talkin’ about.

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I’m starting to hyperventilate. I really don’t want to do this.

But it was going to come up sooner or later.

OK. Sigh. Just do it.

You may identify with the label geek, nerd, bookworm, or brainiac.

If you’re following this blog, you probably know now that you’re a person with a rainforest mind. You’re excessively: sensitive, curious, creative, complex, emotional, smart and analytical.

Perhaps, you’ve noticed that I’ll occasionally use the word gifted in place of rainforest mind. This might be where you frown or pause or look at me quizzically.

You may not relate to being gifted. For many reasons:

1. You haven’t created the iPhone or sent your own private rocket ship to dock with the international space station. You haven’t played your violin at Carnegie Hall.

2. You know many people who are smarter than you.

3. You didn’t get straight A’s in school. In fact, you failed a few classes in high school because you didn’t do the homework or you couldn’t hand in work that wasn’t up to your standards.

4. You have ten books on your nightstand that you’ll never finish. In fact, there are a lot of things you’ll never finish.

5. You feel that it’s not fair to label someone gifted. No one really knows what it means. You’re offended by the label because it implies that some people are not gifted. You often fight for justice and equality for all. Calling anyone gifted feels unjust.

6. When schools identify children as gifted, you wonder if they’re just picking the high achievers or the children who fit the stereotype of the smart kid. It seems elitist to you. You believe that all children have gifts. How do the kids feel who aren’t selected?

Does any of the above ring true?

Is there an answer?

We’ll see.

You may have heard the argument that all people have gifts but not all are gifted if, by gifted, we mean advanced developmentally. We all can agree that Michael Jordan is a gifted athlete. He has abilities the rest of us don’t have. That doesn’t make us bad or inferior humans. It just makes us less competent at basketball. No big deal. We admire Michael for his giftedness.

But if we apply that argument to intelligence, we start to sweat. And we can’t measure intelligence by number of successful free throws. We get all mucked up in the details. What about talent? What about achievement? What about multiple intelligences? What about IQ tests? How do we make sure all kids get an appropriate education? What happens to gifted kids when they become adults?

Maybe there are more questions than answers.

But, perhaps, we can agree on one thing. What if humans are like ecosystems. What if some are like meadows, some deserts, some tundra, some rain forest. All are unique, beautiful and necessary. All contribute to the well-being of the planet. The rain forest just contains more species than any other. It’s more intense, sensitive and abundant. Not better. Just more.

And what are we doing to our rain forests? And our rainforest minds?

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We’re clear cutting them because we don’t recognize their value. We want to turn them into something that they aren’t and use them for our purposes.

What’s the alternative?

Let’s  appreciate  them and allow them to flourish. In all of their intensity, sensitivity and abundance.

Maybe even in all of their giftedness.

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photo of elephant from flickr.com: brittanyhock; creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelivelygirl/5261389796/; photo of rain forest from Gary Higbee, hubby.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”). To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm

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