The Special Edition
This week, Piya asks: Is being exceptional a blessing or a curse?
This episode as originally published on June 13, 2019.
When we call someone "exceptional", it's often for something enviable, like being top of your class, or most successful in your field of work. But being exceptional also makes you different, which can lead to isolation and a whole lot of expectation. This week, Piya asks: Is being exceptional a blessing or a curse?
Here are the stories for this week's episode...
Markie Pasternack has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), meaning she has a nearly perfect memory for things that have happened to her and things she happens to have heard about. She tells Piya how her exceptional memory has bolstered her relationships, but also made it impossible to forget the more difficult experiences she's lived through.
At six feet three inches tall, Janna Klostermann has towered above most people in her life. She used to use her height as a way to connect with others, whether on the basketball court or on the dance floor. But being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome – a genetic disorder posing risks to her health – has made Janna reevaluate the pride she once took in her remarkable height.
Growing up, David McGlynn was a very strong swimmer, working his way up to train with future Olympians. But his talent eventually topped out, ending his career. As an adult, David encountered that drive to be exceptional from another vantage point: his son's. He tells Piya about the challenge of grappling with his child's basketball prowess – and its ultimate plateau.
While he was in school, Braxton Wignall showed signs of strong intelligence but also had strong behavioural challenges. When he was tested for being 'gifted', he didn't make the cut. We hear from Braxton and students he works with today about the controversial practice of labelling students as 'gifted' and who defines what being exceptional looks like.