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I Feel Personally Attacked by This “Gifted Kid Burnout Bingo” Meme

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Some memes are funny and some are cruel and some are both, leaving you curled up in a fetal position and laughing while you question your existence.

Instagram user angstyfairy creates hilarious and clever memes that can be, well, a little too relatable and on the nose. If a meme can show you something about yourself, this Bingo card takes the navel-gazing cake. As soon as I saw it (crossposted to both Tumblr and Twitter, because this one spread across platforms immediately) I sent screenshots to two of my group text chats. “BINGO,” came the immediate response. “I’m the second row,” said another friend. “I’m the fourth column,” said another. And on and on.

There’s a couple of things happening. First off, many of us would like to believe that we were once “gifted” children, or perhaps we were told that we were by parents or teachers or mentors. So the meme’s headline is an instant hook. I was never in any of the special “gifted” classes for kids who did well on tests and in STEM areas, but my writing skills were praised at a young age, and as such I’ve lived in a state of both “thinking that [I’m] destined for greatness” and “existential anxiety” about the process of writing ever since.

This is the double-edged sword of being told you’re excellent at something as a kid—it can be a big morale boost, and it can also be paralyzing once you realize you still need to put in a lot of work and that further acclaim and success won’t simply descend from the sky, no matter what your 8th grade English teacher said.

But there’s more going on here than simply having been placed on a youthful pedestal in some area or another. Maybe there really are traits inherent in certain smart kids who become smart and yet often frustrated, burnt-out adults. Whether discontented about work, relationships, personal projects, the increasingly dystopic state of society or all of the above, as adults this seems to manifest for many of us in similar ways.

Weighed down by our own outsized expectations for ourselves, we find this can result in a lack of motivation, or a refusal to ask for help, or an escape from it all through substances and risk-taking behavior. We have issues with authority (since we may believe we are the authority), which extends into a skepticism about work hierarchies or the government. And the fear of not living up to the potential we thought we possessed can result in quitting when things don’t come easily, making excuses, or not trying in the first place.

That’s my best guess at parsing why some of us find this meme incredibly, instantly relatable. Perhaps this has nothing to do with peculiarly “gifted” childhoods and is more about distinct personality types; I have friends and associates who certainly wouldn’t identify with any of these squares—and they were often brilliant students and are accomplished adults. Or maybe “gifted” means something different and nebulous that’s impossible to pin down with test scores or career ladders. Whatever it is, it’s resulted in these immensely “covetable personality traits,” as angstyfairy jokes in their caption. I feel called out.

While I don’t feel that every single square here describes me, it’s so many—like, 22—that if this were an actual Bingo game I’d have “won” many times over. Which is satisfying, at least, since I love instant gratification.

Anyway, how’d you do?

(via Instagram, image: angstyfairy)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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