Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What I learned from taking in IQ test

While I was growing up I didn’t see myself as being different from other children. I loved to play outdoors riding bikes or skateboards, I loved to swim and snorkel in the ocean, and I loved playing in the Emancipation Garden in downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas with my classmates. I loved exploring Fort Christian, the Grand Hotel, and all the side streets and alleyways of Charlotte Amalie with all their interesting shops that sold beautiful and unique items. Once I found a cache of old coins in the park with the faces of long dead Danish kings. I loved to dream about the old days of Charlotte Amalie while it was still a Danish colony, when 3 masted schooners would drop anchor in the harbor and privateers roamed her alleyways. I longed to live in history and that fueled a lot of my childhood fantasies. I was sociable yet studious. I was an ‘A’ student in school yet I loved to dance at parties and have fun. I had two sides to my personality. Actually, I had more sides, but there were some sides that I didn’t share with others.

Fort Christian, the fort that fueled a lot of my childhood fantasies. Photo by Jogi Wolf.
An Interesting Discovery
When my family moved to St. Thomas in 1973 I was 8 years old. My father became a partner in a business with two other men, both of whom I believe were severe alcoholics. One in particular was so diseased both in his mind and spirit (he was like an evil genius) that he ended up killing himself shortly after our arrival. One day, several months after his death, I discovered a box in my parents’ closet that held the most wonderful stamp collection I had ever seen. I later learned it was HIS stamp collection. Somehow, my father had inherited a box of his personal effects and because I discovered it, I became the owner of this magnificent stamp collection. Immediately, I dove into the hobby of stamp collecting, learning everything I could about the various countries of the world, their cultures, their history, their languages, their major cities, their statesmen, their major battles, their great men of science, technology, and art. I spent years adding to this wonderful stamp collection and my curiosity grew as a result. Another side of my personality was music. I loved classical music, opera, and popular music. I knew all the major composers and all their preeminent works. I taught myself to sing in various languages and octaves, including the soprano range. I learned to sing entire operas by heart, something I wouldn't have dreamed of telling anyone. Another side of my personality was collecting beautiful things, such as glass animals, and post cards of anthropomorphized animals. I also became an aficionado of foreign movies and books in all subjects; I read widely and collected a variety of books. All of these hobbies and interests became aspects of my personality that made me into a well-rounded, intelligent, and curious child. But I never told anyone about this side of my personality, my parents never spoke about it, they never encouraged it, and I was pretty much ignored.

Trying to be Normal Is a Big Mistake

I never considered myself “gifted” or special. I knew I had some pretty amazing hidden talents, such as the ability to pick up foreign languages with almost an indistinguishable accent, and to sing in multiple languages, and to read books in foreign languages. I considered this a normal part of myself and no one ever pointed out that this might qualify me as “gifted” or “special” or highly intelligent. In fact, my intelligence became almost a taboo subject in my home. It was never spoken about, acknowledged, or even recognized. It was like an unspoken pact that I was to be treated as inferior and my specialness was to be downplayed at all costs. School was no different. I was never treated any differently than other children; I was never picked out for special classes, never pushed into any particular field of study. In fact, from the age of 14 I was pretty much left to my own devices to figure out the mysteries of life on my own by my parents, my teachers, my professors, bosses, relatives, by pretty much everyone. It was as if I was put in a little boat, thrown into the ocean, and told to chart my own course through life without being told that I possessed any wonderful gifts. Or worse, that I was thrown into the ocean in the middle of a raging storm and never told I held the keys to my own survival. Other times, I felt as if I’d been marooned on an inhospitable island. That is pretty much the story of my life. I was an extremely gifted person who was trying to FIT IN with ordinary people and FAILING MISERABLY. I was not selected for scholarships, special courses, special attention, or special promotions or jobs. And so, for the first 51 years of my life I thought of myself as “average” and “normal” and sometimes even “unexceptional.” Except, of course, that I knew I wasn’t. I knew I was extremely intelligent, gifted, analytical, and able to solve complex problems and strategize but I still tried desperately to fit in. I could pick up almost any book and master the material and then compare that material to other material and formulate opinions based on my findings. I possessed, what psychologists call “inductive capacity”, the capacity to formulate new concepts when faced with new information, to extract meaning from confusion or ambiguity, and to think through complex situations and events in a clear manner. I also knew that when I tried to be “average” I failed miserably, and in the end I felt miserable.

How did I know I wasn’t normal?

Because whenever I tried to conform to the “average” or “normal” people in my life, whether in the business world, in social settings, with friends and extended family members, etc. I always ended up feeling stupid, uncomfortable, and miserable. In other words, when I tried to conform to society's definition of normal I was a complete failure. I could not conform to be anyone’s vision of normal. My friends tended to think I was a goofy or odd, that I was weirdly intellectual, or that I remembered names, dates, facts, places, events, and that I could talk about virtually any subject. At times this made me look weird. These were not qualities that women typically aspired to. If these qualities define one as goofy or odd, then yes, I was goofy and odd. The only problem was, I didn’t realize that I was “extremely gifted.” I was like a Maserati trying to fit into a world of VW Beetles and FAILING. It never occurred to my parents that I was “extremely gifted”. It never occurred to my teachers or professors that I was “extremely gifted.” It never occurred to my bosses that I was “extremely gifted”, or if they did recognize it, they certainly did not want to promote it. The fact is, no one really cared, and I was trying desperately to fit in with the “normal” children when I was not really normal. So for the first 51 years of my life I was not living up to my full potential because I was trying to dumb myself down. The result of this was that I was feeling boxed in, limited, and stifled in my life. I was trying desperately to fit into a mold in society for “acceptance” yet I was constantly being rejected and I DIDN’T KNOW WHY.

I Chance Upon an IQ Test



One Friday in September of 2016 I decided to take an IQ test. Since I had never had my intelligence measured before, I decided it was time. On an impulse, I dug in my heels, and sloughed my way through 40 grueling questions of increasing difficulty on the Wechsler Test, or the Culture Fair IQ test (based on the work of Dr. John C. Raven) that is considered the gold standard of intelligence tests. It was not easy, and by the time I was finished I was sweating, hyperventilating, and felt like I had run a marathon. I was certain I had “failed” the test. I didn’t harbor any illusions that I was a hidden genius, or that I was extremely gifted, that I possessed some extraordinary intelligence, or that I possessed innate qualities that put me in an elite group of humans. Except that I did. And when I saw my score I almost fell off my chair.
After paying for the test, I discovered my IQ was 141, a score that placed me in the extremely gifted range shared by less than 2% of the global population, or the 99.69 percentile according to the Wechsler scale, which means that I am more intelligent than 99.69% of the population. To say I was shocked is an understatement. Even two days later I am still digesting the results. It’s nothing like I expected. I was completely blown away by the results and it certainly validated a lifetime of feeling weirdly intelligent and being made to feel like an oddball as a result.

What I learned from all this

I learned that it's never too late to discover oneself. I learned that we should love ourselves for our strengths, for our differences, and for the qualities that make us unique. We should not allow others to make us feel inferior or strange or odd or goofy because we love opera or classical music, or great literature, architecture, foreign languages, or art. We should pursue our interests with passion and belief in our innate abilities regardless of an IQ score and regardless of what society thinks of us. Because even in a world where there are no IQ scores and schools of higher education, we can still have great music, art, literature, and technological and scientific discoveries. We can achieve these things simply by believing in ourselves and pursuing our vision with a passion. We don't need the validation of an "IQ Certificate" to break new ground in any field of study or to push the boundaries of art, music, or literature. What we truly need is belief in ourselves. But if you feel you need to take an IQ test to "validate" your right to pursue a certain field of study or career, by all means, do so, but what's more important is one's innate ability, talent, desire and drive. Years before I took this IQ I began to pursue a lifelong dream of writing. I worked extremely hard and made great strides. Now that I know I have an IQ that puts me in an elite category of humans, I believe I will have to work THAT MUCH HARDER in order to create something worthwhile for humanity, because now the bar has been pushed so much higher. I know I will have to crank my Maserati engine up to its highest performance level because I am no longer driving a VW Beetle, but a sleek Italian sports car that is expected to perform like a cheetah.

My discovery has made me aware that being normal and average is not necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it a great thing. But I’m okay with that. It makes sense now why for so many years my friends would look at me with crossed eyes wondering why I was so weird, so intellectual, so knowledgeable, and so "different." While I was desperately trying to fit in and be normal I was failing at being MYSELF. I was failing at fulfilling my true potential. I was failing at making use of my God-given talents. If anything, I am more committed now to being as different and unique as possible. I no longer fear being labeled “odd” or “quirky”; in fact, I find it amusing! In a way, I know that the more I pursue my artistic visions, the more I will be honoring and honing my innate talents, abilities, and intelligence. This was the unexpected gift I received when I took the IQ test. It was like a heavenly pat on the back after a lifetime of 
feeling like I never belonged.

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