Better Than This

Caity Cronkhite
Feb 14, 2015 · 23 min read

August, 1996: Home

I grew up in Kingman, a poor, rural town in west-central Indiana. We had a population of 505, one ice cream stand, no stoplights, and a higher-than-average number of residents that lived well below the poverty line. Only 9.8% of the town held bachelors degrees.* Home was an 80-acre farm two miles out of town, where my nearest neighbor lived a quarter mile away.


August, 1997: “Gifted”

I was six when I first heard the word “gifted.” I sat in my first-grade classroom while my teacher, Mrs. H., rattled off a list of names. “Will these students please meet Mrs. N. at the back of the classroom for some special activities?” Mrs. H. said authoritatively, with no explanation.


Fall, 2000: Shame

“Caity can answer that question,” Mrs. Q. said loudly in front of my fourth-grade class. “Can’t you, Caity?


Spring, 2003: Can’t

I sat with my assigned group around a table in my sixth-grade science class, and my classmates and I chattered about the group assignment we were supposed to finish by the end of the period. Eli was a chubby boy in camouflage pants and work boots who lived in a trailer in the next town. His dad often came to our farm to help my father maintain our property, and I knew Eli came from a hardworking, poor family. He barely glanced at the worksheet before he pushed it away. With a listless wave of his hand, he refused to participate in the group assignment.


Summer, 2003: Camp

I was 12 when I was first accepted to a summer camp for gifted children at Purdue University. My teachers at school looked at me, puzzled, when I told them I was going to science camp instead of joining the summer basketball league. My friends told me I was stupid for wanting to go, that being a “smart kid” was unimportant at best, preteen social suicide at worst.


Fall, 2003: Trapped

At the end of my two weeks at camp, I cried. Sobbed. I hugged my friends goodbye and sniffled all the way home.


Spring, 2004: Bus 9

Ryan was a tall, lanky farm boy who sat next to me on Bus 9 every day on our trek over gravel roads through what we only ever called “the sticks.” He lived with his illiterate grandparents down in the river bottoms. He was two years older than I was, but everyone knew why he was in eighth grade with us and not in high school yet. We cringed for him every time he was asked to read in front of the class, because we knew he wouldn’t be able to discern the easy words, and we knew the teacher would yell at him for not understanding. We knew that everyone in our school system had given up on Ryan a long time ago.


Fall, 2006: The Academy

“The application came out today!” I proclaimed to my parents at the kitchen table one night during the fall of my sophomore year in high school. I was still attending Covington High School, but I had developed a plan. I was going to apply to the Indiana Academy, an elite private high school for high school juniors and seniors at one of the colleges across the state. The Academy would be free, if only I could get accepted.


Spring, 2007: “I’m going”

I sat across from my mother at the same kitchen table where we had had our explosive fight about my education just months before.


Fall, 2008: Rejection

I pored over college applications the fall of my senior year. I wrote and rewrote essay after essay, paying the exorbitant college application fees with money I earned at my after-school job as a bank teller. A slew of private and public Indiana universities. Northwestern. The University of Chicago. Harvard. Carnegie Mellon. I mailed more applications than I could count, and I waited.


Spring, 2008: Acceptance

Spring came, and with the shift in seasons came a fortunate shift in my luck. I opened the mailbox one afternoon to find a huge envelope from the last college that hadn’t rejected me: Carnegie Mellon University.


2008–2012: College

But I hadn’t been able to leave my past Indiana behind when I began school at Carnegie Mellon. During my first semester, I struggled immensely with my coursework, and I finally realized the full extent to which my background in a rural public school had handicapped me for a competitive higher education.


Now: “It’s a mess in Indiana”

I succeeded. From my humble beginnings in a rural public school in Indiana’s farm country, I managed to get into a university. More miraculously, I managed to graduate. And I managed to get a job that has afforded me a happy and comfortable life.


Gifted

A Random Ass Collection Of Gifted Anecdotes

Caity Cronkhite

Written by

Writer, feminist, environmentalist, cat parent, boss bitch, and farm-to-metropolis transplant from the Midwest to the West Coast.

Gifted

Gifted

A Random Ass Collection Of Gifted~ish Anecdotes Curated Through The Medium, Exploring The Stigmatic Subject Of Intellectual Giftedness— Because No One In Their Right Damn Mind Would Even Think About Using The “Gifted” Tag… But we gave up. Ain’t no one paying $5/ a Month for this

Caity Cronkhite

Written by

Writer, feminist, environmentalist, cat parent, boss bitch, and farm-to-metropolis transplant from the Midwest to the West Coast.

Gifted

Gifted

A Random Ass Collection Of Gifted~ish Anecdotes Curated Through The Medium, Exploring The Stigmatic Subject Of Intellectual Giftedness— Because No One In Their Right Damn Mind Would Even Think About Using The “Gifted” Tag… But we gave up. Ain’t no one paying $5/ a Month for this

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