Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
What is it like to be a child genius? I would guess it could easily be lonely. Whenever you’re different from the norm in any noticeable way–size, intelligence, physical appearance, ethnicity, gender, economic status, etc.—you’re likely to suffer a degree of isolation.
Recently, my husband and I rented a DVD of the Swiss film TITUS from Netflix. The main character is a boy whose extraordinary abilities inspire his parents to drive him joylessly toward a future as a concert pianist. I was reminded of a line delivered by the runaway heiress in the old film IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT: “I can’t be spoiled, because I’ve never gotten my own way. I’ve always been told what to do.” His parents direct Titus’s every move. The students mock him, and his teachers hate him for purposely making them look foolish. His only true friend is his grandfather who accepts and loves Titus just as he is.
I wish I could interview Teo Gheorghia, the 12-year-old pianist prodigy who played Titus. Of course, I wouldn’t understand his language (German), but I would want to know how much he identified with his character. Has he ever longed to take a vacation from being extraordinary to enjoy being a kid? Similarly, the intellectually challenged character Forrest Gump in the film of the same name was anxious that his son should be “smart.” Previously I’ve written about the many “horizontal identities” cited in the book FAR FROM THE TREE—identities that can cut people off even from family. Being unusual isn’t bad in itself, but being treated as weird is.
As a woman who has battled sex discrimination in my past, I’m especially sensitive to the suffering of anyone who is bullied or ostracized simply for personal traits. For Titus, his answer lies in splitting himself into two lives—one in which he’s a regular boy and one in which he uses his abilities to help himself and his family. For the rest of us, we may want to pause when we catch ourselves judging someone for characteristics we find foreign. We may want to remember that we are, none of us, precisely alike, but we have our humanity in common. We can accept what is.