Your parents must have been really proud when you came tearing into the world. Matching in like we owed you money. Screaming. They must have stared at your little soft face and rosy cheeks like the inside of a rose and had their hearts melt like wax from a candle. You were finally here, welcome, we had been waiting for you. But, most of all when we thought about you and your future, we must have prayed that you were born with a gift, a kind of calling and commitment to something.
Parents love gifted kids. They watched you throw a rock and asked themselves whether you would become an Olympic Javelin thrower, saw you run and started comparing your features to Eliud Kipchoge’s. At some point, they saw how dramatic you would get to try and abscond duties and concluded that you were meant for the stage and the TV screens. That kind of drama was very unusual. The possibilities were endless.
Then came education, then puberty and then adulthood. And now you are probably looking at your son or daughter coming to this world, tearing in matching like we owe him/her money. Screaming. If he/she is not here then he/she is on her way and you will find yourself staring at their little soft faces, rosy like the inside of a rose that your heart will melt like wax from a candle. They will finally be here. And we will pray that they will come bearing a gift. Something that they will do better than most people, a kind of calling and commitment to something.
We pray that our kids are gifted because we assume that these gifts are meant to make their lives easier. Then as they grow older, we forget that we hoped they had their own unique abilities and throw them to a mainstream system that squashes any chance of this gift succeeding like a boot does to bugs. We do not really understand what it means to be gifted when this gift becomes a dream, an obsessive obligation that has to be done at all circumstances.
A relationship with a gift is abusive, imposing and consuming. It demands to be felt, to be nurtured like you would a human being, feeding it, watering it and entertaining it. It demands that you use up every resource you can lay your hands on to empower the same gift. It is punishing to have a gift, you pay for something you are lucky to have.
More often than not, I will engage in a conversation and someone will tell me that they have never discovered their talents, which they somehow wish they do because I assume it would become the purpose of their lives. I keep wondering whether they understand what it means exactly to be gifted.
It is a lifetime sacrifice, work and even more hard work. It means that you no longer have a choice, you are like a criminal serving time. You stay up late into the night crafting ways to sanction this gift, how to take it to the next level. You turn off the lights and stare at the ceiling wondering whether you are indeed mildly stupid or excessively smart. Everyone thinks that it is supposed to make life easier but what happens feels like being in the bottom of a river trying to gasp for air, choking out helplessly.
A gift pisses on all reason and logic. Your life suddenly becomes about building networks with people who do what you do, building portfolios with money that you still do not have and if the gift is an art, then it will be very different from a business. A business has input and then has output. An art has input, then input and even more input. I know of people who took eight years to break it through to an artist field, I know of others who are eight years and still nowhere close to feeling any sort of achievement. I even know of more people with even more years and fewer accomplishments and it makes me shudder.
But you do not have to go through all this, I think a desk job with a hefty salary will get you comfortable and you will stop panicking which is a state of mind we value so much in the twenty-first century. You will get occasional outbursts of feelings that you are doing the wrong thing but it will be so easy to push back those thoughts into the oblivion where you do not have to think about them. You will probably find a nice distraction and you will be fifty or sixty years old when the distraction wears out and life catches up to demand recuperation for the gifts given to you.
But if you know better, then you really do not want that so you will lose all respect for money because you are an artist, you create, develop and implement ideas that will live long after you are dead. And when you do not like something about the world, you will obsess over it until you can show it to everyone.
The only connection between your unquestionable loyalties to what you do and your growing anxiety is that everyone else like you seem to know exactly what they are doing. You will alternate between viewing your own goals as an unstoppable force and an inescapable curse. Everyone else will not get it, they will want you to understand that all this dream shenanigan is a state of mind, you choose to dream, you choose to commit, and you choose to abandon reason and comfort. That you understand you are the master of your mind.
But they have no idea that you would be bored senseless by a desk job, that your heart would implode if you ignored your calling and you would rather die than be anything else than what your dream is about.
Maybe, it will be different if what we do now, more than hope that kids are gifted is to empower them as well. Feed them the right information at the right moments to ensure that their gifts do not end up being their own undoing.
When Socrates was sentenced to death by Athens, he addressed a multitude of people and told them that his major contribution to the people of Athens, which we later called “unpopular philosophies”, was a pressing need to do and say what was right to him by any means possible. He chose death rather than a compromised life. It got me thinking that maybe we all have something to contribute to our nation and to our world, and unless we do it now, we might never do it.
Rest in peace Stan Lee, only I know how much your work is an inspiration to me.
Feature image by Mukiri Gitiri.