Since February 2012, I’ve been posting off and on about how I felt about being labeled “gifted” as a child. Those posts are:
Junior High was 7th and 8th grade where I grew up. The gifted program offered was the MGM program. This was the same program I had been in when I was in 2nd grade in a different school district. I opted out because I would miss out on other electives and there were so many from which to choose! From what I understood, the kids in the MGM class basically played Dungeons and Dragons all day. They played other games that were considered educational, but at the time it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do during my elective period.
I ended up taking a lot of Home Ec type classes, plus ceramics, Mixed Media, oh, and Typing was a required “elective.” What I really wanted to do was to take Drama. Mom said, “no.” She wanted me to focus only on electives that might actually help me earn a living and learn life skills. For some reason, she didn’t think acting would be a solid steady career where a person could support oneself reliably. I didn’t care. I begged her every quarter when it came time choose new classes. I’m still not sure why ceramics was okay, but drama wasn’t okay. I was allowed to take Dance because it was good exercise. I do know that one of the factors involved was that we (my mom and I, dad was opposed) belonged to a religion that basically frowned on higher education beyond high school. Trade school or vocational schools were okay because they didn’t take as long as a four year college.
The primary reason for this was because the only real goal one should have is to spend as much time as possible in the ministry. We were to follow the example of the apostles and first century Christians and put the preaching of the good news ahead of all other material things. What it all boiled down to is, what is more important? GOD? Or ANY thing else? When one is raised to believe in God and that the Bible is God’s word, the epic battle of God vs. Anything or Anyone, can only have one outcome.
They never actually came out said, “Don’t go to college.” They would always say it was a conscience matter and no one in the congregation should look down on someone if they chose to go to college. Still, the implication was there that if you went to college, you were spiritually weak.
By high school, there weren’t any programs for gifted students in 9th through 12 grades. They had honors classes, but that was about it. They didn’t have a drama class anymore thanks to the ongoing effects of California Proposition 13. If I complained about it to my dad, he would remind that thanks to Prop. 13, we got to keep our house. Ah, but I digress…
Because I wasn’t planning on going to college (I craved adult approval, and most of the adults in my life were in my congregation. These adults would be concerned with my spirituality if I made the decision to go to college), I didn’t bother working too hard to get good grades. I didn’t completely goof off though. Remember, I craved adult approval, and teachers were adults too. If I enjoyed a particular subject, I would manage to earn an “A.” If I didn’t enjoy the subject, I would get a “B” or a “C.” School wasn’t particularly difficult except when it came to math. The year I was to graduate was the last year they allowed students to only take two semester of math to graduate. I didn’t see the need to challenge myself.
I still hung out with some of the kids from the HAPP program and would feel a little envious watching them work toward scholarships and plan for college. I would remind myself that I was doing the right thing in God’s eyes. Sometimes I would wonder if my “giftedness” had been wasted on me since I wasn’t going to college. I wasn’t going to get a degree. Again, I would remind myself that I could use my “giftedness” in other ways. I could use it in the ministry work to help others.
At this point I feel the need to confess that I have been struggling with the writing of this. My twenty-one-year-old daughter happened to be in the room, and I asked her, half-joking, half whining, “Will you please write this for me?”
“What? Your article?” She asked.
“Yes. Will you please write my article that is supposed to be about my past?”
“How long is it supposed to be?”
“Not very long, I’m just having a hard time right now.”
“I think you’re probably over-thinking this.”
“Yes! You’re right! Of course I’m overthinking it! That is what I do! I overthink things!”
Which way do I go with this? I wanted to add that I did finally manage to coerce my mom into letting me try out for high school plays (we didn’t have a drama department, but we did have a drama club) and that by my junior year, I was cast as “Louise” (the French maid) in “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile.” (Yes, the book and the film are “Death on the Nile,” but for some reason the play is titled as above). I struggled with seriously wanting to be an actor, but I believed I had no other options than to pursue only my spiritual goals.
I have more to say about this, but I’m realizing one of the reasons I’m having a difficult time is that I’m having to choose what to put in this post and what to save for another post so that this doesn’t become unreadably long. I’ll stop here and continue this at another time.