Thursday, April 24, 2008

ADD Success Story - Songwriter, Esq.

Chucking a career to fulfill a creative calling probably remains a fantasy for many of us. But it's not every day that you hear about a law firm partner chucking his career to pursue his passion for songwriting. That's why I was especially delighted to read about Will Hopkins, featured last week as a Lawyer of the Day on the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog (say that ten times fast!). Will is one of the twenty finalists for the American Idol songwriting contest.

But wait, there's more. Will credits his ADD for his songwriting career:

"A doctor diagnosed me as having [attention deficit disorder] and suggested
I try Ritalin. In my mind it unleashed the creative gene again, and it was like
the light was back on. And I said, Dammit, do something with it this time."
If you do the math in the story about Will, you'll see that he had a successful career as an attorney, made partner at his firm, and then was diagnosed with ADD. I think that's like a lot of us ADDers who were diagnosed as adults. We created our lives, only to discover that there's a name for why we function the way that we do. And medication can give us that ability to focus on the talents and strengths that may have been tangled up all of these years.

I can't wait until May 20th to see if the Battle of the Davids features Will's song!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No ticket to ride, and I didn't care!

Thirty-one years ago today, my family and I dressed in outfits suitable for a daytime wedding and boarded an airplane to Florida for vacation. Back then, you dressed up for air travel. Wearing a tracksuit with "Juicy" spelled out across one's bum would be unthinkable, but puffing on a cigarette in the jet's smoking section was allowed.

My family's itinerary included a number of Florida attractions, but no question, our days at Disney World captivated me the most. In 1977, Disney World pretty much comprised the Magic Kingdom and River Country. That's it. No Epcot, no Animal Kingdom, and definitely no fireworks at night. And you know what? We didn't even miss them.

Ticketing at Disney World worked much differently then than it does now. Instead of the admission ticket that gave you access to all of the Magic Kingdom's attractions, you used ticket books for the rides. Disney offered five level of tickets: A, B, C, D, and E. The letter on the ticket determined the magnitude of the ride for which you could use it. The most exciting rides, like Space Mountain, required an E ticket for admission. You could use the A tickets at one of the little movie theaters on Main Street USA or the merry-go-round.

As the afternoon crawled toward evening on our second day at the Magic Kingdom, my family had depleted our supply of tickets. My brother and I knew that our parents weren't going to buy more tickets, but we didn't want to leave the Magic Kingdom so early and miss seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade once again. Fortunately, the Magic Kingdom offered a couple of attractions that didn't require tickets. Of these, "If You Had Wings" was by far the coolest because it seemed the most like a real ride. Seated in black pod-like contraptions, you'd ride through scenery of various destinations served by Eastern Airlines. Essentially, it was one giant commercial for the airline, and not all that popular, either.

But that night, "If You Had Wings" was the most exciting find for my brother and me. It moved, so it was a ride. And it didn't require tickets, so we could ride on it. And that's exactly what we did. We'd hop into a pod, travel through the ride, and when we got to the end of it, hopped off and raced to the ride's entrance to experience it again. And again. And again, much to the amusement of our parents who witnessed our scheme and the ride operator who appreciated having some business at his attraction. I can picture that scene as if it happened yesterday, my little sneakers with their white rubber toe caps striking the ground over and over so that I could get to the ride's entrance all the quicker.

This evening, I started focusing a lot on the stuff I hadn't done. I still haven't found a new dentist, I owe emails and phone calls to several people, and yet again, I nixed my intentions of going to the gym after work. And instead of a decent dinner, I ate some of that spicy snack food that I love. As I posted once before, kicking myself for all of this isn't a great way for me to be my own best friend! So I started thinking about the stuff that I did do today. I remembered a coworker's birthday. I took a 3 mile walk at lunchtime. I delegated some stuff to my intern, who did a fantastic job with it. And even though I pretty much ate junk food for dinner, I did eat an incredibly healthy salad with chicken on it for lunch.

We ADDers tend to beat ourselves up for the things that we haven't done, as opposed to what we've achieved. There's a bunch of dishes in my sink, but I finished my taxes on time. I didn't work out, but I got to see Elliott Yamin return to "American Idol" for a performance. I didn't hop on the elliptical, but I took in the lovely spring weather at lunchtime with The White Stripes serenading me through my earphones. Not bad, eh?

There's a lot of memories that I recall from that Florida vacation all of those years ago. But no question, the most vivid memory remains our night of repeated rides on "If You Had Wings". Think about it: of the entire Florida vacation I took as a kid, one of the things I remember the most was the ride that was free. And I have no idea how many times I went on a coveted E Ticket ride. The only thing that mattered was that we had a blast on "If You Had Wings".

Thirty-one years from now, I'll be 70. I'm guessing that I'm not going to care then about the kind of car I drove or whether I made the bed every day or my quest for the perfect mascara that will transform my lashes into a feathery, flirty fan. Nope, I'm pretty sure I'm going to reflect fondly on all of the fun and silly moments that I had. And just like "If You Had Wings," those moments are priceless, in more ways than one.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Name it so you can claim it.

I've read recently on a couple of blogs that the term "ADDer" has been deemed offensive by some folks. I've seen it referred to as a "cultlike" term (like perhaps, Scientologist? Heaven's Gate? Jim Jones?). I also saw it pronounced as un-PC, in the "I'm not just my ADD" manner.

Wow. I had no idea that a term that others have considered a term that I've often used to be so derogatory.

As you might expect, I also have an opinion on the subject: if you're looking for a cause to fight for, this isn't a worthy one. Feeding the homeless and saving the environment? Worthy. Offended by the "ADDer" label? Not worthy. In fact, I think that worrying about "ADDer" is what Cheryl Richardson called a first-world problem, meaning it's something that garners concern when we have all of the trappings of a comfortable life as opposed to people in third-world nations.

I don't mean to turn this into a "eat your peas because children are starving in Africa" lecture. Quite the opposite, actually. Count me as someone who proudly wears the ADDer monniker.

Is there more to me than my ADD? Of course! I'm a spicy snack food afficionado, a loyal and patient friend, and an American Idol addict. And those labels just scratch the surface. Unless you're Madonna, Cher, or Prince, one word will never describe the entirety of you.

But after being on this planet for 37 years, discovering that I am an ADDer was the best thing that could ever happen to me that didn't involve George Clooney. For the first time ever, I could focus, listen, and pay attention. I've heard many stories from my inattentive ADD childhood of absorbing myself in books instead of playing with the other kids. I learned to overcompensate in school and worked my tail off to get really good grades, only to crash and burn on any exam that included reading comprehension, including the SATs. I suffered through hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading every week in graduate school, but couldn't remember a word of what I'd read, which in part compelled me to leave my program. At work, I would still be in the office at 9:00PM working on a simple assignment by desk lamp because our office powered down the overhead lights at 8:00PM because nobody was expected to be in the building. And along the way I lost all too many things: money, friendships, sleep, keys, and the list goes on.

I come from a family of tidy morning people who are always 10 minutes early and can focus like a microscope. Interestingly, many of my friends also fit that description. As a result, I've felt out in left field for most of my life. One of the reasons that I write this blog is to have some sort of connection with other ADDers out there. After all, we're the only ones who know what it's like to be inside of our own heads. For me, having the label of ADDer provides me a connection to others to which nobody in my offline life can relate. And that's a label that I'm glad to have.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Take that, Tom Cruise!

At lunchtime today, a lady stopped me on the street to hand me a flyer.
"Would you like a personality test?"
Sheesh. I knew what this was all about. She's a frickin' Scientologist. So I cheerily replied:
"I don't think my psychiatrist would think that's a good idea."
In response, she snarked, "I bet he wouldn't!" (Oh snap! The flock must give all of the good lines to Tom.)
As an aside, her sexism appalled me. It's 2008; I'm a woman and the crazy Thetan's a woman. Why on earth would she assume that my psychiatrist is a man? In all fairness, my psychiatrist *is* a man. But still, that's a pretty big assumption! ;-)