Yes, unfortunately the real world or outside world can be very cruel to gifted persons, spending much effort "cutting down tall poppies" rather than providing appropriate challenge and intellectual peers. The lack of affirmation and validation can be devastating, for anyone. For gifted children who may tend to be highly perceptive and observant, the onslaught of daily slights and exclusion may subtly or not-so-subtly encourage gradually bowing out from interaction and participation, resulting in the insular experience of living in one's head... unless or until being forced or required to deal with the unpleasant, mundane, and rejection-riddled issues necessary for survival and independence in daily life (such as your friends may have experienced).

Those on the ASD spectrum (for example, those who are high-functioning and with autism) may be naturally inclined to less interaction.

While being outside, engaging in physical activity, camps, volunteering, and organizing events, etc may be useful for helping children become grounded, this may be highly individualized and different for everyone. I tend to think this meet-the-world-head-on approach is beneficial... but it may also be overwhelming for some. I do believe that parents tend to know their children best, and of course they are also attuned to their family budget and realize what may be prudent and what may be a reach, a risk, and/or a luxury.

Although one may feel they have lost years living in their head, the time may also be seen as having been well-spent under the circumstances (for example, writing) and in addition to honing skills, and potentially producing works, the time may have prepared a person to begin interacting more with others on a regular basis... as you appear to be doing.

<< I am not sure I understand "copacetic feelings" correctly here. Could you quickly explain? >> Sure. Glad you asked. smile
Looking back, you had asked how you might become more aware of your needs... I was thinking in terms of defining what "needs" meant in this context... for example (thinking of Maslow's hierarchy of needs) I was guessing that the needs you are speaking of are at the upper levels of the pyramid: needing/wanting/desiring a feeling that you are meeting your potential... that educational attainment and career are fulfilling... in other words: very satisfactory, copacetic. In decades past, I might have added: cool, groovy, winning. Personally, I think that focusing on the middle levels, the daily interactions, adding value, affirmation, validation to IRL relationships may be more rewarding (or fulfill a need) for many or most people: in other words, the middle level may be the pinnacle or peak, and a job or career may simply serve as a means to that end. I do not say this to invalidate your efforts or thwart your plans, goals, and/or dreams. I am just stating what I have observed over the years.

Again, everyone is different, and society benefits from having many different kinds of people, motivated to invest their effort in many directions.

Just my 2 cents.