A Gifted Teen In Malaysia — What Is Normal?

photo courtesy of satria hutama, Unsplash

I am on a quest to see what rainforest-mindedness looks like around the world. So far, we’ve “visited” Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Today, we are in Malaysia.

Meet Mila*, who is Muslim and 18.

“..I was too sensitive, too easy to cry, too easy to fall sick, and an unstoppable chatterbox…I struggled a lot at 14…I couldn’t understand why do we exist, what do we want from this short span of life, why should we work hard to earn money when death is inevitable, and why are my friends putting so much effort to make good grades? It is meaningless…I felt like I was about to lose my mind…They don’t really think about life, about the world, about the society…why don’t they search for something more meaningful…? Why don’t they want to understand the learning materials more deeply? Why don’t they care when war is still happening? …I lost my hope in humanity…Don’t you have the urge to be the best version of yourself, to make changes in this world?…”

Existential questions at an early age can turn into existential depression. Concerns about justice issues beyond your self can leave you anxious, hopeless, and lonely.

“…School was really frustrating….I prefer to study on my own, with my own method. I am not academic smart but my unquenchable thirst for learning is not shallow. None of my classmates understood what I was doing, nor my teacher, and it always ended up with ‘just follow the steps that I teach you’…I was seen as arrogant when I asked ‘unanswerable’ questions…My teacher says I am too abstract, when it is so crystal clear to me…”

Love for learning does not necessarily equal love for schooling.

“…it is exhausting to have feelings. Deep feelings…I cried for an hour after finishing a documentary about a politician who was corrupt..it took me a week to recover, to have hope again, for it to be crushed all over again and again…it’s hard to feel the pain of people, literally painful…It’s tiring…It is tiring to see human beings argue for the smallest matter that can be solved with five minutes discussion…It is more tiring when people don’t understand why I am tired…”

Sensitivity. Compassion. Emotion = Exhaustion.

“…I love humanities, art, and science. I still don’t have any idea what to major in but I want to know how technology works, internet AI, security…Mostly I lean more to maths, physics, chemistry, computer science, psychology, philosophy, drawing, and languages. If I have time, I would like to attend a sewing course…”

Multipotentiality is not flakiness, indecisiveness, arrogance, or ADHD.

” I have one best friend, two close friends, and many dead friends, ranging from dead classical composers, mathematicians, philosophers, and psychologists…”

Finding other RFMs can be difficult. Like Maria Popova said, “…most of my friends are dead people.”

“…I would label myself as a lifelong learner, who wishes to reduce the ignorance in myself, aspire to be the best version of myself, so that I can help other people; to achieve a meaningful life, that is giving positive value to other people no matter how small the number …I need to enrich my knowledge. I need to understand. I need to change something. I need to. I have to.

Is this normal?”

This is normal, Mila. For you. Your rainforest mind. And all of us, with you, around the world. With our very own (very alive!) rainforest-y minds, hearts, souls, and spirits.

________________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Where are you in the world? Can you relate to what Mila is saying? If you would like to share your story in more detail on my blog, send me an email. paula@rainforestmind.com. I’m particularly looking for countries I have yet to write about. And thank you to Mila for sharing so much of yourself with us.

Spanish speakers! Lovely Miryam in Spain would like to hear from you. She is creating an opportunity for RFMs around the world who speak Spanish to support each other. You can contact her at midorenedo@hotmail.com.

(*Note: Photos on the blog are not of the actual person described and names are changed.)


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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

18 responses to “A Gifted Teen In Malaysia — What Is Normal?”

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  1. Gifted In Serbia | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] What are the differences? Some of the profiles have been from RFMs in Finland, Spain, Brazil, Malaysia, Belgium, Chile, Lebanon, Netherlands, Canada (via Cameroon), Portugal, Germany, and India. I would […]


  2. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I loved reading your thoughts “Mila”, especially on why we exist, what to do with our life, the inevitability of death. Hope you’re doing well.

    I also struggle with these questions. Whilst I am doing science at university, recently I have been struggling to have any motivation to study it because it doesn’t give life meaning, and any meaning I try to glean from it is even more animalistic and scary.

    I feel like there is a voice in my head that reminds me that one day we will all be gone. That a graveyard is a land of broken dreams, forgotten people, thousands of lives… I want to live a life that makes me happy, and do something I enjoy, but in my mind, the question of death, souls, and afterlife, constantly reels me in and begs me to find meaning. You can only ignore it so long, but you can’t keep thinking about it. I study science because I think it’s worth exhausting the scientific possibility of a soul or conciousness. I just hope there is something after death, to see relatives again, to know that life was just the opening act…

    How does anyone else live a life they find meaningful, is this meaning defined by your societies values (aka learnt) or is it your own? How do you comfort yourself from death?

    Personally I think appreciating beauty gives life some meaning (not enough though). I.e. the way raindrops pattern a window, seeing a fox walk through the street dappled in light from orange lampshades, the silence of night, cooking and taste – sage and butter, listening to music with the windows open on a summer morning, talking with others about deep questions, the waves crashing and swirling in shades of blue and brown and white, etc. There is so much beauty to be found.

    It would be nice to be someone who could just watch TV, and live my life and forget about these questions but that is impossible. Why do some people question things. Why can’t we all live in ignorance. How do you do it?


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions, Anonymous. You are not alone. If you keep reading this blog, you will see that those with rainforest minds can not help but wonder and ask lots of deep questions. You might look for the work of Anita Moorjani. She writes about her near death experience. Keep seeing the beauty!


  3. Gifted Adults Around The World — What Do They Have In Common? Meet Alice In Brazil | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Malaysia, India, Chile, Canada (via Cameroon) (If you are from a country not yet represented and would like […]


  4. Sara Avatar
    Sara

    Paula, this project is so important! Thank you for these global human perspectives.

    To the young woman who wrote this amazing post: I do not know how it will be for you in Malaysia, but I found many likeminded people who embraced my complicated mind and being when I got to college age. I am now in my 50s, and for the first time I have a companion of the mind to truly “geek out” with—my son! We debate and dig deep and discuss and deliberate, all of which brings us such joy. I have recently decided to be my own best friend and treat myself with all the kindness, generosity and compassion that I would offer any loved one.

    I would say that understanding the profundity your individuality is an important step towards self acceptance. As your life unfolds and you make peace with yourself, you will find those who share your worldview and passion for knowledge. But there is in essence, I feel, an aloneness to giftedness that brings its own beauty to life experience. In that aloneness, you can explore the universe of your mind in a deep way. Best wishes to you, wonderful strong brilliant young woman.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Your son is lucky to have you, Sara! Thank you for sharing.


  5. Someti Avatar
    Someti

    I love this series of articles! The words of RFMs from different countries and cultures makes me (us?) feel closer to one another in some way. We may be far from each other, but we find some common traits, feelings and experiences (with nuances, of course, depending on the background culture) that makes us connect in some way (it is a bit hard to explain with plain words) and feel some support.
    And it is nice to know that there are other people around the globe that experience similar feelings, have comparable problems and face an alike everyday reality.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Someti. It’s what I was hoping for!


  6. River Aaland Avatar
    River Aaland

    I love these words and thoughts, Mila! I hope you see our comments here and realize there are people who really do understand how you feel. I relate to your experiences from when I was younger too!

    You sound like an amazing, brilliant, and sensitive young woman. I admire your empathy and passion for justice. Discovering that there is a way to describe how you experience the world (this blog!) can be a big help in navigating it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      And thanks to all of you “amazing, brilliant, and sensitive” souls here, including you, River…


  7. Karli Avatar
    Karli

    I can wholeheartedly relate to *Mila.* I am in my late twenties and I have a difficult time connecting with people my age – always liked the company of older people for some reason – more maturity! Being gifted definitely does come with a price, and it can be emotionally exausting and isolating at times, but there are defintiely interested people out there that would be glad to be friends with us – it simply takes time and patience to cultivate lasting and viscereal friendships with those that understand and appreciate our gifts. I can most definitely relate to the critisism on school/university – it does not equate with our penchant love for perpetual learning and inqusitiveness – that drive can be found outside of university. I am still in university, due to my existential depression and other personal health reasons – university is defintiely not geared towards creativity, curiosity at times, and for gifted thinkers – it is definitely mechanized to some degree! Yes, I definitely have ‘dead friends’ that I can count on all my fingers, and maybe only two or three real friends can be counted on my fingers, but I do not mind at all. Great interview, Paula!


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I know RFMs who have taken many years to get through a university degree, Karli, for many reasons. And, those “dead people” who continue to inspire us! Thank you for writing. Good to have you here. 🙂


      1. Karli Avatar
        Karli

        Just reading your message now, Paula. And wow, I did not know that. I can imagine it would be difficult for some people and gifted people to complete a university degree – definitely not easy at times especially with emotional issues and existentialism at times. I will be 30 when I graduate, but honestly, I think school at a later age is much better, mature-wise! But that is just my opinion. I also felt I was too young to start university, which is why it resulted in taking so many years off and struggling to do well. But now that I older, I feel more prepared. Yes, those “dead people” can be quite a joy in our lives, ha ha. Glad to be back on here. Cheers! 🙂


  8. cmd1122 Avatar
    cmd1122

    ‘Mila’, you sound like such a thoughtful and amazing person! I’ve lived through many of the realities and frustrations that you described. You varied interests reminded me of the near-impossible decision of choosing a major. Luckily, there are more and more interdisciplinary study programs (hope that is the case in Malaysia) and you will find creative ways of merging various interests and skill-sets (or making time for varied interests that don’t merge until you can try to make them merge, or focusing on some for a period and then shifting to focus on others). Your range of interests and skill-sets is a huge advantage.

    [I know, I know…there are only 24 hours in a day. I still struggle with this daily and I am 29. I joke about wanting to clone myself so I could do more and try different career paths, though the ethical implications of cloning are very tricky and I wouldn’t actually want to clone myself. 29 might seem young to some, but life still seems so short; I’ve been hyper aware of this since I was a little girl. At the same time, I am re-learning how much you can pack into 24 hours in ways that are meaningful, tangible and sustainable and it can be gratifying to see progress. Colour-coded to-do lists and reminders on my phone save me.]

    You will find friends, professors, employers, etc. who value many of your interests. Plus with your interest in languages, you’ll have friends who speak different languages, who are from different cultures and/or religions who you come to know in different ways and on different levels. In my experience, this is not easy; they will not all value all of who you are, so you’ll have a range of people who understand you on different levels and with whom you can discuss different things and frame them in different ways depending on linguistic/cultural/religious frameworks…BUT you WILL find people and they will energize you and vice-versa. It is not easy, but is it very fun at the same time.

    There are indeed people who have the urge to be the best version of themself and change the world for the better, help others. They are out there, all around the world. There are many jobs that involve this, plus people working on improving the systems and services themselves (the details and the ‘big picture’) so that they serve people in meaningful ways. There is always more work to do and we can always strive for better and you will find like-minded people. The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot of people discussing how to build the world back better than it was before the pandemic.

    You are very right that it is exhausting to have feelings. Make sure to always build in the time for activities that calm you and allow you to let out the flood of emotions, and also for transforming the emotions into something while you can enjoy being focused on creating beauty, in the moment (like your drawing and soon-to-learn sewing!). I recommend time outdoors among trees or by the ocean, journaling, listening to and/or making music, yoga and breathing techniques. Also, don’t underestimate quality sleep and food.

    Enjoy the adventure of these next years of your journey, beautiful soul.
    Sending you big hugs from one side of the Pacific to the other.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m guessing that Mila and others will benefit from reading your experiences and insights, cmd1122. Good to hear from you!


  9. ellabirt Avatar
    ellabirt

    A kindred spirit! You are not alone.


  10. rsc33 Avatar
    rsc33

    As a 50 year old woman, and raising a highly gifted 13 year old daughter, I can relate to so much of what ‘Mila’ has written. Stay true to yourself my friend – you are not broken, just different from many. Your tribe is out there. It takes us longer to find them, but that makes those friends all the more special once we do find them. Also, I find it helpful to use the word ‘typical’ instead of ‘normal’ – we may not be normal, but we are typical of many gifted people/ many of us with rainforest minds.


    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you for sharing, rsc33. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother who understands her so well.

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