Confessions of a Former Gifted Kid

Phoenix Lee
5 min readDec 14, 2019
This is not me, but this is a rough estimate of my emotional state in grade school.

Growing up, I was what one might call a “gifted kid.” I learned to read at age 3 by repeating my older brother. I was skimming my parents’ old Encyclopedia Britannica at four years old. I got straight A’s in third grade and B-averages nearly every other year between fourth grade and my senior year of high school. I played the flute in the school band in middle school and did drama and painting in high school. I got scholarships to three of the colleges I applied to at 18. It was then when things started to turn…

When I went to college for the first time, something unexpected happened; I burned out. I enrolled at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County in 2005 with the goal of eventually double majoring in animation and theatre. But…that didn’t happen. Going away to school was admittedly something I wasn’t ready for. Granted, my experience wasn’t a total loss; I did have my first steady job there (as a cashier in the dining hall), I was able to make friends pretty easily, and getting involved with the campus’s LGBT club provided me with my first crowd of openly gay, lesbian, bi, and trans friends (and yes, I was your typical queer kid who started off as an overly invested “ally” years before coming out myself). My positive experiences aside, my grades tanked, and I ended up going home and taking community college classes the next year.

So what happened? I was definitely a smart kid whose head was almost always in a book, so how could my grades have gotten so low? Looking back to that time in my life fourteen years later (having worked more jobs, completed a B.A. in English, and lived on my own as an adult), I think I have a bit more insight.

I completed this one myself…

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking back to my younger self; that awkward, seemingly gay kid who was considered “weird” by her peers for being introverted and loving to read the dictionary. At home, I was the second of what was eventually five kids, and being noticed wasn’t always easy (not because of any lack of care on the part of my parents; it’s just that between working full-time, daily life pressures, and raising a brood of five, they had their work more than cut out for them). So growing…

Phoenix Lee

Black vegan anarchafeminist crippled queer (they/he/she). Giver of hot takes and spiller of tea.