Writer, performer and radio program host Sandra Tsing Loh recalls being a student at CalTech was a mixed experience:
“I think I was regarded as a very odd person, indeed. I didn’t fit there, and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was bad in science. It was kind of a mess.”
[Q: That whole idea of fitting in, and not fitting in, seeing oneself as an outsider, is a common theme with talented people. Do you continue to feel that?]
“Yes, and I think there are a lot of reasons.
“Growing up, in junior high school especially, when I went to Malibu Parks Junior High, where we literally had movie stars going to our school, I mean you were definitely of the ‘nerdy kid’ group, as opposed to the popular kids… taking cello lessons, and in the Latin Club, and such a geek compared to everyone else.
“And junior high is a particularly horrible time. But I remember around that time I and my friends, who were totally the nerds, had real fun starting our own little clubs and stuff like that.”
Sandra Tsing Loh – from our interview.
Poster above is for Loh’s play “Mother on Fire” – the caption reads “Do these flames make my butt look big?” – photo from her site: www.sandratsingloh.com
In her book The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PhD writes about the experience:
“To feel like an outsider, to constantly pressure yourself to hold back your gifts in order to fit in or avoid disapproval, to erroneously believe that you are overly sensitive, compulsively perfectionistic, and blindly driven, to live without knowing the basic truths about the core of your being – too often this is the life of every day geniuses who have been kept in the dark about who they are and misinformed about their differences.
“No one told them they cannot escape the fact that they will always be quantitatively, qualitatively, and motivationally different from most other people.
“Nor do they know that these very same things that are the basis of criticism are fundamental building blocks of excellence and advanced development.”
Also see articles by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen:
Arousing the Sleeping Giant: Giftedness in Adult Psychotherapy
Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time
Giftedness in the Workplace: Can the Bright Mind Thrive in Organizations?