Where I Belong: Finding My Place in a Non-ADD World

By A.A.S.

The best thing that’s happened to me in a very long time happened two weeks ago. I was fired from my job. This was a job where I sat at my computer in my dark office every day, dreaming about quitting, but never had the guts to do it. It wasn’t until I found the advertisement for my position on craigslist that I realized my boss was trying to replace me. I printed out the ad, brought it to her, and told her that if she was going to fire me to do it now so I can collect unemployment. So she did. And that day, I walked out of my office feeling weightless.

I was diagnosed with ADD a year ago, just around the time that I was hired for this job as Marketing Coordinator. After seeing my psychiatrist, I begged for the drugs to kick in and rid me of this “disease”. At only 25 years old, I had already endured numerous jobs from secretary to waitress to struggling freelance copywriter. I had started countless projects, like writing and illustrating a children’s book and various short stories but never finished them. I wanted a career, a focus. And I wanted to impress the people at my new job, for once.

My job as a Marketing Coordinator was a daily struggle to hide my difficulties. Detail, multi-tasking and toleration of tedium were required skills. I remember the day that my cover as a flawless employee was blown. About two months into the job, my boss called me from her business trip, reprimanding me for handing in an important document with errors. The document was a detailed form of which I had entered the wrong information. After hanging up the phone, I walked out of the office to an alley and cried. I knew I’d be fired.

Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t fired. I actually managed to stay in the job for a year, enduring three different bosses. Trying to be the reliable, hard-working, competent businesswoman, my goal was to prove somehow that I was smart. And sometimes I succeeded. I designed their first promotional brochure. I revamped the company’s entire website. I even rewrote their strategic marketing plan on my own. But I what held me back at my job were the detail slip-ups. I was required to fulfill many administrative tasks and, no matter how hard I tried, documents were often handed in with errors and important papers were sometimes even lost.

Meanwhile, I was involved in an ADD women’s group. As I shared my trials with them, I realized something important. I didn’t even want to be in marketing. I hated sitting at a desk all day, performing research and organizing files. What I really wanted to do was so different from what my family wanted me to be. But I set my dream aside for a long time because it wasn’t practical. This dream was to paint. So I signed up for a painting class that year and finally found my creativity escalating, along with my self-confidence.

But my job came to a halt when my former boss left and they hired a new one. This manager was a difficult one who valued only an eye for detail and organization and scoffed at my creativity. I knew that this wasn’t going to work for me. That’s why, after I was let go, I decided to do what I’m good at and what I enjoy. I’ve started to teach knitting classes, I’m painting and I’m going to volunteer as a gardener.

It took a lot of time for me to accept myself after spending so many years wanting to be like everyone else. That thought crossed my mind just the other day during my interview for the position of gardening volunteer. As I walked around the gardens with the Volunteer Coordinator, he said something that struck me.

“What’s remarkable is that we’re able to grow a lot of different kinds of plants and trees from around the world. There are a huge variety of species that can live here,” he said, “But also if you come to think of it, there are many plants that won’t grow here. Try to plant a cherry tree or certain kinds of apple trees in these gardens and they’ll just die. But grow them on the east coast and they’ll thrive.”

Then he pointed to a gorgeous tree who’s leaves glistened a with silvery sheen.

“You see this?” he said as he closely tilted one of its leaves toward me, “Each leaf has tiny hairs that reflect the sun. This keeps the sun’s rays from drying out the leaves. A tree like this does well in moist, cool, foggy environments like San Francisco. In most other places, this tree would dry out and die.”

And I thought, that’s just like people. Especially us ADD people. Each of us was born with specific traits and talents. Stick us in the wrong environment where those very aspects of our individuality are hindered, and we will shrivel up. But put us in a place where our abilities are nurtured and encouraged, a place where we were made to belong, and we will thrive with grace and beauty.

I don’t regret leaving my job as a Marketing Coordinator. It was never right for me from the start. Neither were my jobs as a secretary or a store manager or a waitress. I’ve made an honest pact with myself to be what I am and pursue what’s right for me, despite other people’s demands. And for the first time I feel right about it. Perhaps that means that I’m just beginning to grow.