First of all, hello to everyone on this forum! I found this place on an internet search a few months ago and I'm glad it exists.

I am probably extremely gifted. I have this specific problem, and I'm increasingly realizing that it all ties back fundamentally to my giftedness and some attributes of my personality. I'm in my early-mid 20s, and I increasingly feel lost and like a failure.

I've tried talking to counselors/therapists about this, and they really don't understand what I mean, and I feel it's impossible to bridge the gap. Because I actually have a lot of achievements to speak of, but it makes me feel more conflicted than satisfied. I am given to understand that many average people feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from their areas of strength and their achievements, but I feel more of a sense of isolation and confusion.

For some background: When I was a child, I was clearly quite intelligent. My first school placed me in an advanced group where they taught reading and math two grade levels above, and I was still very bored and found it very easy. I would time attack the math, solving in 15-30 minutes (for 70-minute tests), doing most of the math in my head, and competing with a few others to try to submit my paper first. I would try to invent math problems, and I figured out mental math to the point where I was faster than all the kids who took abacus classes (as I later got to know) using my own intuitive methods. I would also ask good questions -- for example, at age 8 I asked an engineer (a family friend) whether the size of the infinity on a number line between 0 and 1/2 should be half that of that between 0 and 1. He replied that it wasn't, and that the sizes of the infinities was the same (I got to know why in college: they are both countably infinite.) It's like I was very aware, and had this wondrous world inside my head to which I would escape whenever I had the chance.

I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (which is around 750 pages) when I was 7, and I could probably read at 600-800 wpm. I know it's not a terribly difficult book to read, but in general I feel like most books did not faze me past a point unless they had scientific explanations or something which were difficult. I wrote a hundred page story (incomplete though, and it was nothing special in terms of content or plot) when I was 8.

After that, I was not accelerated throughout the rest of school. I still tried to keep up with my initial precocity, but without any guidance or teaching, there was only so much I could do. In high school, I did try out the math olympiad and got to the national level (and did get supplementary math education), but I wasn't really interested and didn't work for it after that. It also made me deeply uncomfortable that other kids seemed to be much slower to understand "obvious" concepts. I rationalized that everyone could actually learn much faster than what was taught in class if they opened their eyes and "saw" the concepts as just putting into words obvious observations, such as the parabolic path of a ball in air -- everyone plays sports, so they know it intuitively, right? It's just a matter of translation...

Another thing: Since 5th grade, I explicitly had this awareness that school and college was a series of hoops. My parents told me that, yes, school was a series of hoops, but the world is like that, and you have to pass through those in order to get into a good college where you can shine. And now, it seems like it's hoops all the way down, and that the world is made for disciplined people who grind and get very good at particular subjects so that they're useful to society, not weirdos like me.

I went to a top math college, but didn't actually like abstract math -- I still graduated, though. It was also during this time that I finally accepted the validity of IQ, because I saw all the studies (CHC theory etc.) and realized that at a statistical level, it was undeniable. But it was a very painful realization. I also got really interested in music, and started playing an instrument, which I got into to the point where I wanted to make it a career -- but at this point it was all self-taught, and by the time I got a teacher, I was two decades behind everyone else who was taking this seriously -- so no matter how good I got, I would still be average because of how late I started in all likelihood.

So now I'm in this position. When someone compliments me on picking up a skill fast, I don't feel anything, maybe some guilt or regret for not actually amounting to anything. Some anger at the world and a sense of isolation and almost discrimination which I can't really convey to people -- I mean, after all, life does suck for everyone, so it's not like I'm being disproportionately discriminated against. I got interested in stuff too late, and didn't have proper teaching, and although I did do very well from what I could (largely) teach myself, I can only help but feel that my life could have been completely different with good coaching and if I trained at something properly since childhood. The closest I got to that was math, and I still feel a bit guilty about quitting it, but how could I sustain it without real interest?

Sorry for the long post. I really hope to get some responses -- no one I know is in a similar situation to mine, and talking to mental health professionals makes me realize that I'm in a very small minority which they (most) can not serve. I actually think that given everything I'm worried about, I'm holding up surprisingly well. And that I do have legitimate grievances, even though no one seems to understand it because on the surface, I am pretty successful (anyone good at math can make a high six-figure salary nowadays if they sell their soul :/). But it gets very difficult to make sense of everything when literally the only person who can help you or give you advice is yourself.