“Wow,” Dad said, “your brain works so FAST.”
I was maybe nine or ten, I don’t remember. It is my first memory of being different.
I was homeschooled until I was 14. My mom said “It’s because they would pump you full of Ritalin.” I didn’t know what that was. She said I had so much energy the teachers wouldn’t know what to do with me.
When I took AP calc as a freshman, my fathers words became a part of me. I was confident in my ability to learn faster than everyone. I would teach the juniors and seniors during study hall. My brain worked FAST, just like my dad had always said. It didn’t concern me that I struggled in writing, my brain revving so quickly I was always two thoughts ahead of my pen.
When I was in grad school my sister, 6 years my younger, called me crying. “I’ve just been diagnosed with ADD!” Huh, I thought, that’s weird. Dad had always called her the smartest, the most talented. I’d never resented it, I could see a lot of me in her, the brain always on overdrive, able to learn in minutes what took others hours, able to write down in hours what took others minutes.
I asked her what they considered her “symptoms” to be. As she went down the list, I had a little shock. Of course I knew what ADD was at that point, I’m a millennial. All my friends “had it.” But it had never occurred to me that that which I had always considered my biggest strength others considered a weakness.
I’ve done a little research since, and I have zero doubt that had I gone to public school, I might have spent my whole life fighting against a “disease.” Instead, my father took one look at me and, whether intentionally or not, turned my difference into a strength which has given me every advantage in life.
I write this as I sit here, overcaffeinated and struggling to put two words together. Yes there are moments when it’s less than optimal to have trouble focusing. But “having ADD” got me into one of the best schools in the country, a masters degree, and my dream job at age 27. So while others may lament their difference, I will continue to own mine.