The Challenge of Talent
Back when the hardest math problem was four plus five and the hardest spelling word was “because,” everything was simple and easy. That was before I started third grade, when everything changed. I had to go to early-morning enrichment every Thursday for an hour before school with a group of around twenty-five students. This meant I had to do extra work and extra projects. I had done well in second grade, and my teacher recommended me along with other students. Somehow, this didn’t seem to make any sense to me. Why did I have to do extra work for understanding school? Shouldn’t I have less work to do?
A few months went by, and eventually I got used to the Thursday morning ritual. I didn’t like it, but I accepted the fact that unless I was sick, I was going. Unfortunately, I was never sick enough to miss, no matter how many times I tried to fake it.
One day I was driving in the car with my dad as we talked about school and enrichment. Out of nowhere, I said, “Dad, they torture the smart kids.” My dad laughed and asked what I meant.
“You mean other kids?” he said, “Are they mean to you?”
“No, Dad, the teachers. They torture all of the smart kids!” I replied.
While I now laugh at myself for saying this, it was how I really felt at the time. Just for being good at something, I was forced to put extra time and effort into it. I realize now how all that work was really for my own good and not just to torture me. Whether your talent is in school, a sport, art, dancing, acting, or singing, it requires a lot of effort to keep up your skill.
I believe that being good at something doesn’t mean you have to work any less at it. In fact, most of the time it means you have to do more work. As a confused third grader, this made no sense at all, probably because I thought I should get the easy way out of everything. Now, as a sophomore in high school with more experience, I understand why everyone needs to be challenged at what they do well. Without challenges and extra work, I wouldn’t know as much as I did in second grade, when I really did get the easy way out. I wasn’t challenged at all, because my teacher was only satisfied with the fact that I understood what I was doing and not that I could do more. The extra work would have helped me in the long run, even if it felt like torture at the time.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.