Gifted Kid Syndrome

Keerthi Lakshmanan, Perspectives Editor

noun

noun: burnout; noun: burn-out

  1.  physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress

 

As a junior entering second semester, I can say without a doubt that I have never experienced this amount of stress or overwork in the past. When I was young, academics felt as simple as breathing. School came easy to me: I had been testing with a college reading level since fifth grade, and my parents had taught me math ahead of the standard. 

My grades were excellent. That was the start of the problem; I wasn’t trying to earn the grades I received. Going through school with an inherent skill for reading comprehension and pure memorization, plus the ability to learn on my feet, ensured that I was taking tests without studying. I was skipping homework because I knew I didn’t need to do it. I was procrastinating on projects because I had figured out how to complete assignments with minimal effort for the same credit. 

This was how I survived. I thought I’d cracked the code. My parents insisted I was brilliant; my teachers told me I had amazing potential. 

But this year, my first semester grades were nowhere near a 4.0. After sixteen years, coasting through academics had finally come to an end. I am taking difficult courses under the assumption I can pass these tests, too, without studying, and it has been a jarring realization to understand that I cannot. I have 0% in the homework category for certain classes.  

The term “gifted kid syndrome” is essentially this. It is every child who was raised with constant praise and higher-achieving than others when they were young. It is every child who grew up, found themselves amongst other high-achieving students, and failed to adapt. It is the idea that you have never had to work for anything in the past—so at last, when you need to, you don’t know how, but you can’t get rid of the overwhelming pressure to be exceptional. That was the main problem: no matter what, I feel a need to succeed because I am deathly afraid that I am letting everyone down. I am keeping up the appearance that I can handle my workload and taking on more responsibilities without due consideration.

Today, I am struggling to discover a work ethic. If I cannot master a new subject immediately, I want to drop it. But junior year no longer has space for these excuses. As an ex- “gifted kid,” I have no concept of trying, and it’s backfiring. 

It feels like I have been riding a high-speed train all my life, one that can slip through every tunnel and cross every bridge. It feels like I have hit a point where the railroad tracks are no longer built for me—and I have been so lazy that I never learned how to construct them myself. I have ridiculously poor study habits, and I avoid homework with a passion (surely, I don’t need to do it. I know the material. Right? The 60% on my math test says otherwise). I look in the mirror and these days I only see a burnout. 

This is not to undermine those who never took naturally to the idea of school. Neither does it mean anyone owes a “gifted kid” their sympathy. If anything, it goes more to show that the academic system is full of loopholes and will never be perfect for any of us. 

To me, it seems like the best we can do for each other is respect hard effort over the letter grade. Our values need to change. Even as parents or as teachers, we must decide to promote perseverance and teach better habits to our students. We all have the same potential, and it is crucial to treat ourselves as such.