A Multi-Talent Missing in Action

Missing in Action (MIA) = Blending In or Dropping Out of Conventional Society

I have known since I was young that I was smart, but it did not seem like a big deal. I did not fit in very well, so the obvious choice seemed to try to blend in. That did not work very well, as the real me kept seeping out. Feedback was a double-edged sword—either exclamations of “Oh, how smart you are,” or offhand remarks of “Why are you such a smart aleck?’

Trying to be average and yet very frustrated with everything being not good enough, therefore MIA. I was brought up to do my best and yet I did not want to stand out—quite a balancing act. I found out that when I saw solutions, or made recommendations, I was ignored or discounted, so I clammed up. I disrespected my multi-talents and went underground.

The Journey Begins

As an Army brat, I changed locations and schools about every 18 months. The support I received in the education system was either crisis management or stopgap measures. I had the opportunity at the final high school I attended to take college-level classes. I entered college headed to medical school. I took the advanced and technical courses, which were beyond the minimum requirements for pre-med.

I finally chose a major in sociology. I minored in nonverbal communication. I also was very close to completing a second major in microbiology. I looked at my credits and decided to graduate a semester early without finishing the microbiology degree.

Off I went into the world of work. I took the MCATs twice, just missing the cut-off score. In hindsight, I learned science degrees were the unspoken requirement for entry into medical school, and sociology was not yet acceptable. Thus, I went MIA.

Continuing the Wandering

Next step was graduate school. I was accepted for an MSW program and a rehabilitation counseling program. A federal grant and stipend were available for the counseling program, so off I went. I have a personal connection to this line of study, as I have a brother with cerebral palsy and advocated for him throughout the years. Often it proved interesting to interact with the professors who did not have any real-world experiences. Therefore, in order to graduate, I minimized what I knew.

After graduation I went to work within the private rehabilitation sector. Here, I flourished. During this time, I married and had children. I continued with two non-traditional degrees long before it was trendy.

Choices must often be made when family is a priority; thus, I minimized my career progression. In the world of work, I was once again MIA. This is not regret, just an acute awareness of the choices and their effect on careers, especially for women.

I utilized my diverse training and experience in several work settings. I continued a pattern of attempting to develop solutions and programs to benefit my various employers and clients. I persisted, pushing to facilitate change for betterment. Hitting a brick wall, I chose to move on.

My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and I am pursuing new endeavors. The challenge of balancing responsibilities and passions creates many decision points. I look to my values for those choices. However, many times “should” enters the decision-making process, leaving a void in the experience. This translates to being MIA.

On Track

I am still learning. My focus now is acknowledging my abilities, as well as understanding who I am and what contributed to the development of who I am becoming.

I set out to overcome the elements of not fitting in, the intensities, the sensitivities, and mine and others’ expectations. Then I developed how to learn beyond what comes easily, while also mastering my various talents and creating balance within my life.

Now, I know that I want to express my talents and to make contributions in the world. Additionally, I connect with others like me, as well as people I interact with daily, and with the dots that create the patterns for solutions within the world.

My passion now is sharing my processes with others who have similarly high abilities but constantly second-guess themselves. My wish is to bridge the gap between MIA and authentic expression of who we are.


Edith Johnston is a realist with curiosity and imagination to explore the world within and without. She is also an educator for embracing life fully. She is a licensed counselor and coach who assists others on their journey of figuring out the “how to” in life. She lives in Western Colorado, where she explores her passion for natural wonders. Through her vision, she embraces her talents and helps others embrace their own. You can connect Edith at howtoinlife.com

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About the Author | Edith Johnston

Edith Johnston is a realist with curiosity and imagination to explore the world within and without. Edith is an educator for embracing life fully. She is a licensed counselor and coach to assist others on their journey of figuring out the how to in life. She lives in Western Colorado with a passion for natural wonders. Through her vision she embraces her talents and helps others embrace their multi-talents to figure out the how to for their life, passions, and dreams. Edith can be connected with at howtoinlife.com

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