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10 Stories That Demonstrate Smart Kids Need Less Pressure in School (and Life)

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In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of our world, there is a deep-seated longing to cultivate gifted and ethically grounded young individuals often deemed “exceptional.” Many parents ardently believe that by employing precise parenting approaches, customizing educational initiatives, and engaging their children in diverse extracurricular activities, they can shape them into potential recipients of esteemed honors like the Pulitzer Prize or esteemed roles in professions such as medicine. However, this ambitious pursuit may, on occasion, result in unforeseen outcomes.

Rather than pressure to perform, kids need time to explore and express themselves on their own terms. Otherwise, it can start to affect their mental health. Someone in an online community forum asks previously “gifted” kids where they are now as adults; the answers are not what society would expect and serve as a cautionary tale.

1. From Medical School Dropout to Chef and Farmer

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At some point, some kids realize they are chasing someone else’s dreams and not their own. One user shares an example: “I failed out of med school because I loathed it. Most of my family was very upset and my mother swore that it shamed her at church.

I became a chef because it’s what I really wanted to do. I love it and get to eat constantly, which is a win. Also I have a small farm and 1 kid.”

2. Going Wild without Parental Supervision

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It is common for kids to go wild after they finally go out on their own, especially if they leave home for college. They turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with the pressure. One user shares, “Putting my life back together after years of mental health issues and drug abuse. But I’m happy. Have nice things, nothing too fancy, but I’m very content with where I am.”

3. College Dropout to Family Man

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Some kids will realize that they don’t have to strive for such high expectations and that it’s okay. One user shares, “I cracked under the pressure to meet expectations, dropped out of Stanford, joined the Marines on August 31, 2001.

Went to war, came back, met a girl who opened my eyes to how just how rewarding a “mediocre” life could be. Found a well-paying job at a factory that requires above average intelligence but minimal labor (instrumentation & automation) and I’ve been coasting off of that for the last 18 years while I’ve been raising my family.”

4. Succesful But Depressed

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Success related to career and money doesn’t equate to happiness or good mental health- which are arguably more important for a good quality of life. One previously gifted kid shares, “[I] dropped out of school. Then got a PhD. Currently very successful and very depressed.”

5. Chronic Substance Abuse and ADHD

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A previously gifted kid shares, “Diagnosed with ADHD last year. Spent most of my life drunk, doing drugs, in and out of jail.” Sadly, this is not uncommon for anyone who felt pressure to be someone specific that didn’t align what what they truly want.

6. Rich with a Lot of Free Time

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A man writes, “Finished up two STEM degrees, now I’m getting paid for VERY minimal work. Spend most of my time hanging out with my dogs and going to the gym.” Most would consider this a big win as long as they find fun ways to pass the time!

7. Dropped Out of School to Become a Nanny

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Yet another college dropout shares her story: “I (f35)Currently work as a nanny. I definitely don’t feel like being “gifted” helped me in anyway in life other then I’m now full of useless knowledge the kids absolutely love. I spent so much of my youth being “gifted” that by time I was able to make choices for myself i faltered and dropped out of college and partied a lot.
I do wish I could redo my school path with more direction then I was given and maybe things would of been different.” Like many young adults, this woman appears to feel lost in what she truly wants, which is okay.

8. Living in a Basement

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Living with parents long past the teenage years can feel like a failure for some people, although it’s common with the current costs of living. One user shares, “I’m a 50yo psych RN who lives in his parent’s basement. I f***ed up pretty hard but am trying to dig myself out of it.”

9. Doctorate to Middle School Teacher

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Yet another case of realizing they were pursuing the wrong career: “I dropped out of a PhD program because I hated it, was on the verge of a breakdown, and knew that the jobs in my field were few and far between. I am now a history teacher at a middle school. I love my job so much more – I get to teach and don’t have to deal with so many of the academic politics.”

10. Electrical Engineering to Video Game Manager

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A user shares, “Got a degree in electrical engineering and hated nearly every minute of it. Got my first “real” job in technical recruiting, and moved into business development a few years later. Fast forward 10 years to today, and I’m an executive in the video gaming industry and a board advisor for a couple of similar companies.

Not at all how I imagined things going. My dad is still not proud. No surprise there.

Life is good. I built a camper van and just got back from a roadtrip with my girlfriend and dog. I think college is a scam for the most part, and the US’s system of capitalism is disgusting.” A common thread throughout these stories is that college wasn’t for them, something more kids are realizing these days.

The Pressure on “Gifted” Kids

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While some kids thrive on the pressure and excel to find careers they love in traditionally “smart” careers, these stories make it clear that not all do. Many crack under pressure and then forge their own path to their own definition of success and happiness.


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