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I came into this world with an insatiable curiosity. My brain was a Porsche, always accelerating toward knowledge. As time went on, we learned the official term for this trait: giftedness. When I shared that I was gifted, people would say, "High IQ!" "Life is made!" "Sounds like a dream life!" "You have it easy!" However, the reality was a bit different; it was as easy as you’d think. It turned out that navigating life with this "gift" had its own twists and turns. It was much like driving a Porsche, but without brakes

Imagine me having an important end-of-year culmination project on sustainability and political action, things that mean the world to me, but not even knowing where to start. Imagine me losing my ninth water bottle in a month. Imagine me struggling to write down a simple pancake recipe even though I’ve used it a million times, or people laughing at me on the playground because I couldn’t kick a ball, and leaving me out of the match. What really weighed me down, though, was not being able to execute even the simple functions required to pursue all the passions I had. I never imagined that my giftedness would come with all these challenges.

As I navigated through these experiences, we eventually found some names for what I was going through: SPD (sensory processing disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and dysgraphia (a neurological condition that makes it hard to write). It felt so overwhelming to have these labels hanging over me. But you know that saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” That pretty much sums up my approach (except that I wanted to make a yummy lemon cheesecake instead). So, how did I get to this mind-set? Let me take you back to the beginning.

My parents enrolled me in a Waldorf school with an idealistic alternative philosophy which included not putting too much academic pressure on kids early on. At first, it worked out for me there. But, as the years passed, it became more and more evident that knowledge was like food for my brain, and I was “starving” for it there. And then, during COVID, I was truly famished. I would often get bored and distracted during online classes, where I was hardly getting any of that knowledge I craved. My parents witnessed these challenges firsthand, so we decided to get to the bottom of them. That was when I was diagnosed with ADHD, dysgraphia, and SPD. All those years, I thought something was wrong with me, but now, thanks to the diagnosis, I knew what it was and, most importantly, how to thrive in spite of it. I wasn’t going to run away from these labels. I knew I had to take a stand.

I had a choice: either give up my passions due to these challenges or overcome these struggles and become the boy I was destined to become. I chose the latter. My parents were crucial in helping me counter the issues. Structure had always been a dear friend of mine that made things easier and motivated me, so they created charts that used scores and systems to get me to focus and prioritize better. I also got started with occupational therapy, which was one of the building blocks for improving my motor skills and laid the foundation for my improvement. I spent endless sessions with the occupational therapists (OT’s), from learning basics, like just catching a ball or tying shoelaces, to learning how to plan and stay focused on complex multi-stage tasks. It also took loads of writing practice and special exercises to turn my illegible scribble into the neat handwriting it is now, which even got me second place in a handwriting contest! Another game-changer was changing schools. Joining JBCN was like a five-star buffet for my brain. Exams, competitive academics, and a steady stream of challenging and graded assignments has kept the motivation going. I even got help from the school’s enrichment department, which has helped me organize my space and time. As a result of all this, I have had many breakthroughs.

I can now say that I have the tools to keep moving toward my full potential. I’ve become an skilled singer and musician, known for my versatile voice and ability to sing any kind of song. I’ve come from someone who could not even catch a ball to a good cricketer, known for deadly pace bowling. When I was young, people would dump me at the goal post while they would play football, which has resulted in me now becoming an amazing goalkeeper. After working on my writing skills, my imagination finally found its way to the page, which has resulted in me becoming an amazing writer and, of course, succeeding in academics. And just recently, the school encouraged me to apply for Mensa, an international organization that connects people with high IQ’s, and Ta-Da! I got in. Having found my tribe, a community full of people like me, has really helped me embrace my giftedness.

I’ve come a long way. If you had seen my struggles back then, you would have had no idea I would become who I am now.

I’ve never been afraid of labels. All I have cared about is countering these challenges and equipping myself with this positive attitude. Though my challenges may continue to make things hard from time to time, this approach will be my compass, helping me navigate through the dark with my Porsche brain. Throughout, I have always remembered that I’m bigger than my challenges.

Don’t shy away from labels. Face them, accept them, but remember that they don’t define you. I hope I have inspired you by sharing the story of how I turned pain into power.

Written by: Aum Sonnenblick
JBCN International School, Oshiwara