gifted in the wacky wild west
like when I let the good ones into my life.
and love is changing the fabric of how my time on earth unfolds.
Growing up I was told I was a small form of genius, or some variation thereof. Someone marked a few tests of mine when I was 9, and declared me to be "gifted." A kid approaching the double-digits, I was just starting to realize the world was a place that I had to find myself in. I remember being pulled out of class one day, along with a few other peers, and voicelessly walking in a line down the bright hallway of my elementary school, passed the gymnasium, the dragon mural wall, the main entrance, the principal's office, en route to the kindergarten room - colourful and distracting but empty after the little kids had left school for the day. I remember the distinct smells of every section of that journey. Our little crew was told to re-write a big daunting "test" we thought we had got done and over with eons before this pass-out-of-class. As I opened the first page of the re-test, I was sure I was there because I had failed the first one... self-confidence was developed much later in my wee gifted mind. What was wrong with me? I worried. "Gifted" was what was wrong with me. Or what was different about me, I suppose, in the way they categorize people these days. It was the outcome of that second-time-round-test. That test where I had scribbled down responses somehow in-between the only thing I actually recall about it: being bigger than the teeny kindergartner chairs, knees not fitting under the table. I remember the distractions of wondering what Jeffery and Elliot were thinking while I was aware of their slumped backs and blank stares without even looking right at them, of Glen picking his nose, the smell of pee and plasticine and pencil crayon shavings and plastic cubbies that hold the lunch box smell long after lunches are eaten. I wondered about my former grade 1 teacher, now teaching in the classroom next door... she was diagnosed with cancer, and I thought about how she was doing. I remember being impressed by Kate, and wondering how the hell she could have also failed the test the first time round, for surely that's why we were there? But she's so smart! My confidence in her was greater than in my own. I don't remember a single thing I answered on the test. Maybe the adult-"they" who measured my giftedness that day did so by how well I could cope despite a really distracting room. After that, they stamped it official: "gifted." From the beginning I wondered what that meant or felt like to those who were anything but "gifted." What would the world look like if we were all recognized as such? What makes my gifts so much more "enhanced" than others? I now know I was a smart 9-year-old. But like I said, I developed confidence in my thoughts later. I developed my confidence long after I left the gifted program behind.
So. I then spent 8 years of public school feeling like an idiot amoungst the math-ies, while being told I was superior to those whose fates only faired unimpressingly average and non-gifted by the important test marker with the magic pen of destiny. This "giftedness" label was not a really gift. Or... perhaps I'm ungrateful and quite possibly dramatic in my criticism. But hear me out... Okay, I got to do a few special projects. Which were honestly stellar. Like, I got to hang out one-on-one with a teacher in grade six and "publish" my first book. Looking back, it had a relatively feminist heroin. I got to write and produce my own school-wide play. I don't remember much about it, except for a lot of feelings. And they were mostly good, and challenging. I conducted workshops on Emotional Intelligence when I was 11. Despite my horrendous spelling, I can acknowledge that gifted or not, I had free education and that was a gift. I am white and middle-class Christianized privileged, and top that off with university educated (which the gifted program could probably be thanked for, simply due to the shear fact that I chose to start going to class again after almost skipping most of grade 9 and 10 because I hated feeling like an idiot in the gifted program, and much preferred the lessons of the life outside the classroom. If it wasn't for how much I loathed the gifted program, I wouldn't have spent so much time outside on the streets and in the malls of Brampton, which is ultimately what drove me back to class out of the realization that university was my ticket out of suburbia). So thanks, gifted program. Whine whine whine. Spoiled brat doesn't like her gift... but okay, let me wrestle with giftedness... Things were awesome. But they were never... where I felt I belonged, a part from "the others." By being gifted, I was literally taught that "others" weren't as special as we were. I never was satisfied with being taught that others weren't gifted. And I was never satisfied being taught that emotions, perception, social awareness, were lesser than the gifts that came in the form of algebraic words that I don't even remember because I simply don't care and my brain doesn't hold those concepts. The main point of this ramble is that I was always critical of the program, even from an itty bitty age... and this word "gifted" arose for me again recently, and hovered at the forefront of my psyche almost entirely throughout my recent and fresh Burning Man experience. There are several reasons for this...
The second of Burning Man’s 10 principles is “Gifting.” I have digested this in multiple ways – in the form of a Frito-Lay taco, in the form of a full-body sunscreen rub-down from neighbours while sitting on a consenting stuffed horse, in the form of many downbeats that I simply reveled in, in the form of a circle of strangers joining together to learn about gender and negotiation, in the form of a friendly cuddle in a hammock with shade beneath a determined sun... I had been given gifts all week of the Burn. Many that brought me pleasure, and many that aided in my physical, emotional, and mental survival and thrivival...
But I have also digested this word in a different way, for myself... in a way that heals the lack of self-confidence of that perceptive 9-year-old version of myself. In a way that affirms her gifts. In a way that confirms that she was right: We are all gifted. We all have gifts to give. We all have a genius inside of us that simply only needs the foundation of freedom that says “do and be whatever the shizzle you please, so long as some sort of respect and safety is involved.” And we help each other in this. Giftedness is not for the privileged only, but it does depend on how you define the gift for yourself, and we define gift in each other. The creativity, innovation, kindness, boldness, fun, and healing-weirdness will come. And it does, when we turn to each other and say "you are a gift." We become the gifts that we are, when someone acknowledges us and names us so.
The giftedness I was often taught growing up had parameters, limits, rules, and fear attached to it. There were pros, but there were limits - like the many times I was called "stupid" by teachers whose small minds and jealousy for my gifts didn't like it when I was outside the box they reinforced as superior.
The giftedness I was taught at Burning Man - flaws and criticisms and all - brings out the wacky wild in us. This giftedness has no bounds, accept for the fantastical world that unfolds before us, bright eyed. Especially when "Giftedness" comes in the context of Burning Man's number one rule: "Radical Inclusion." We are all gifted. You are a gift. What gifts do you bring (insert a little self-confidence in your answer)?
Here are some gifts you all were/brought to me at #BurningMan2017 #EYHO2017: gifts... the way gifts come in many forms, like when you spritzed me with lavender when you sensed my senses craved the calm. or when you served me kombucha on a giant red dragon body thirsty for electrolytes soaring through the heat of the desert city on fire, like you knew all I needed was some healthy bacteria and a chance to dance to an electric violin that carried me to higher heights. electric electrolytes, you prescribed it fucking right. like a kiss on the lips and balm around my neck like the gift of sharing secrets with a stranger like a bracelet that matches my earrings that you gave me, you gave me wings because friendship gives us flight and I'm a heron like the scraps of fabric found to make my feathers like our friendship ceremony, calm in the palms of each other's faces declaring stability in the chaos, hearts beating like our booties on the stage of slut garden, we declare our love through radical ritual the risk of letting go of the need to plan I am my dreams come true the risk of actually falling and being in love with the unknown, unknowing my core knowns, rewriting what was written, by risking being a writer by being a wordsmith. like when the fighter jet returned with a shock wave of memory tearing through my skin and you grabbed hold to ground me with your body, I needed that. like when I let the good ones into my life.
and love is changing the fabric of how my time on earth unfolds.