Letter from an Ex-Gifted Kid by Elizabeth Richards

Please stop calling me smart.
I don’t like it, and it’s not a compliment.
Every time those words leave your mouth,
I want to peel my skin off,
Open up my skull and show you
What those words have done to me.
The scars on my self-love,
The minuscule paperweight I call my self-worth,
(The boulder called self-loathing,)
(The bruises from thinking I let others down,)
The poisoned whispers when I don’t force myself to only do homework.

If I fell apart, would you finally see?
Or would you say it’s my fault
That I should know how to deal with this by now.
What if I ripped out the already fraying seams,
Let all the pain flow
Like a river from my mouth,
Yelled until my throat is raw
And my voice is hoarse.
Letting you know how I’ve been let down
By authorities,
By family,
By those who were supposed to care,
By the education system I was supposed to flourish in.

Being a gifted kid doesn’t just mean being smart.
It means being better with complex equations
And writing research papers
Than you are with people.
It means fearing tests,
Because what if you’ve been faking your intelligence,
And this is how they find out.
It means your grades are your identity,
Your whole being comprised of percentages
And assigned numbers that are otherwise meaningless.

Being a gifted kid means anxiety,
Putting so much pressure on yourself
That you break — letting it all bleed until you have nothing left.
It means staying in bed all day
Because you have no motivation
And there’s a never ending stack of homework on your desk,
Waiting for you to come finish it.
It means all-nighters and burnout,
Chugging energy drinks
And joking about sleeping when you’re dead
But that’s the only guaranteed peace you have
So maybe it’s not so much a joke.

You say it as a compliment,
But to me,
It means I still have no worth
Outside of my memory.
It’s not a compliment
I am more than my brain
I’m a person outside of my grades and education
So please,
Please stop calling me smart.