I have a running list of conversations that I have a lot that I suspect other people don't.

There's "I think you're probably well into the gifted/genius range, and yes I do think I'm qualified to make that judgement call."

There's  "I can't tell you how many languages I 'speak' until you tell me what level of proficiency I need in order to qualify for 'speaking'." And the related one where I tell someone I don't speak their language in their language, which doesn't work.

There's the one where I demonstrate some sort of competence in math/science/medicine in public and then have to explain that, according to my diploma, I'm a sociologist.

That's often followed by, "Then what are you doing here?" Which happens because nobody thinks their own job is glamorous, and they are for some reason under the impression that I ought to be elsewhere doing something 'better'.

A couple of weeks ago I had the one where I explain that conversations go by much faster if you just assume I know how to do everything and let me correct you/ask questions when that's wrong, rather than the other way around. I don't know everything -- not even close -- but I know where to look everything up, and I have enough index pointers in place for the subset of everything that most people are likely to ask me about that, from their point of view, I might as well be some sort of quasi-omniscient universal reference librarian.

I'm also pathologically observant and can bluff like a motherfucker, although that's not so much a conversation as just a tactic I implement when I get tired of answering questions.

A particularly frustrating one is trying to tell someone that I can't do something. I gather a lot of people say can't when they mean won't or don't want to instead. I say can't when I can't. If I've never tried or don't know how I'll just say that instead. Basically no one has ever listened when I explained I don't have the capacity for something, which is flattering, I guess? but ultimately just gives me a reputation for being hard-headed. If the explanation doesn't work then all I can do is stonewall. Which I have also gotten very good at.

There's the one wherein someone tells me "you're not fulfilling your potential", which I really loathe. If I have even half as much potential as the combined universe insists I do, then it would be physically impossible for me to fulfill all of it in one lifetime. The peculiar mix of 'don't let on how high their skill level actually is' and 'challenge them by telling them they can do better' that gifted kids get constantly leaves you feeling that nothing is ever adequate. No one ever teaches you how to judge whether something is good enough. It took me decades to realize that I had the option of responding to 'you can do better' with 'yes, probably, but life is short and your project is not as interesting as you think it is, so I'm finished with it now.'

One I've never figured out how to counter is the combination of xenophobia and awe that a lot of people regard you with when they figure out how much stuff you have crammed into your head, and how easy it is for you to jam more in with it. I'm not magic. I'm not an Indigo Child, I'm not spiritually advanced, I'm not enlightened, I'm not full of mystical wisdom. I learn things rapidly, I'm capable of recognizing patterns quickly, and I'm motivated to analyze things all the time, because otherwise I don't have any idea what's going on.

I get information from watching and listening, same as anyone else. My throughput is just a lot higher than average, apparently. I have trouble not paying attention to this shit, which is not always an advantage. It makes me constitutionally unsuited for a lot of the jobs people think I ought to be doing. They involve far too much personal contact with people who are going to be wrong a lot and who are not going to listen to me when I tell them so. Just because I can figure out what's up and have learned the hard way that I often cannot stop the impending train wreck doesn't mean I'm good at being all Zen about it and letting the carnage happen around me. I would be bad to the point of being fired or possibly arrested at any job that involved diplomats or national security assets. I have already proven that I am rubbish at sales floor positions, and those only involve having to be polite to entitled idiots.


  1. Blogspot cannot decide whether I am allowed to comment or not... so perhaps my previous one went through, and perhaps it didn't. And perhaps this one will, and perhaps it won't.

    Anyway, yes. :-)

  2. i had the conversation about potential so often as a kid that ever since I was a teenager I've been having it with *myself*. It's much harder to tell the other person to fuck off when the other person is your own internalized mindset. Unfortunately, the coping mechanism I managed to find for myself is to reluctantly accept mediocrity (whether actual or perceived) about 80 percent of the time and get very angry and upset at myself for doing so the other 20. I suspect this is not the healthiest set of mental gymnastics I could be practicing...

  3. Did you read Chuck Wendig's take on the bloody "you have so much potential" chestnut? I found it fairly relatable. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/02/the-toxicity-of-talent-or-did-you-roll-a-natural-20-at-birth/

    1. Ehhh, didn't really connect with it. He seems to be ranting about the fact that, if you have one truly stellar "talent" that stands out above what the rest of the humans around you can do -- or the rest of what you can do -- people will shove you into it as hard as they possibly can. Harder, if it's their own pet field.

      I've been told I have talent in a very large number of things. And I do, in the reasonably objective sense that when I go about trying to learn them, I attain a state of competence, as judged by the same people who would judge professional work, much faster than average. I got pushed in all sorts of different directions. It didn't feel like a sense of destiny so much as an object lesson in how adults are selfish and can have a bizarrely narrow focus when it comes to living vicariously through children. It wasn't "you HAVE to do this thing you're good at"; it was "you can do ANYTHING, and we are trying so hard to make sure all your options are open that we will give you no guidance whatsofuckingever on what you might be best at, or what might suit your personality".

      I do agree with him that talent is unimportant unless you are motivated to put in the hours of practice to use it effectively. I have aptitude in a number of things I don't like and haven't bothered with, either on their own or stemming from an aptitude in a related field. The way I perform on twitch tests when I volunteer to be a control in Harvard psych experiments, for example, suggests that if I wanted to I could do a bang-up job at FPSes and platformers, but I don't care for that genre of games (or that genre of frustration), so I'm rubbish at them.


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