Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'd love to have a career, now if only I could pick one

When you talk about ADD, the first thing I ever hear about is how it affects school, and I know it affected my school career, probably from day one.  Prior to school I didn't know I had a problem.  I wasn't hyper, and I didn't have discipline issues at home or in church, and there wasn't really that much expected of me.  So I think it caught my parents by surprise when I had trouble in school right off the bat.  And since I'd had no trouble prior to school, when I found out that I had ADD almost at the end of my scholastic career, I mistakenly thought, "Well, if I can just make it through this last semester or two it won't really matter anymore, and I've coped this far so I'm sure I can cope a bit longer."

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  My post-school career was affected by my ADD LONG before I was out of school.  You see, for some reason there's this silly practice of picking a major in college, and by picking a major you set your post-school career in motion.  It took me eight years from start to finish to make it through college, not because I couldn't do the work (though I'm sure ADD slowed me some) but because I kept switching majors.  I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with my life.  Did I want to teach biology or music?  Or would music performance be a better option, and if so voice or piano or some combination of the two?  Opera? Pop? Christain? Popera?  Or maybe I'd be a better painter?  Would I work better with oils or watercolors?  These are the questions I asked myself over and over.  I couldn't maintain an interest in one thing for a full week, much less long enough to achieve a degree.

So finally I dropped out of school.  Over the course of one year I worked 4 jobs, and then the next year I combined a fifth job with music performance on the side.  Even once I went back to school my goal was less about finding a major that suited me, than finding one that I could just get THROUGH!  It was during this time that my brothers testing for ADD led my mother to recognize that I had it, and while I didn't disagree with her assessment, I also figured I was so close to being DONE that didn't really bother to learn more or do anything about it.  After all, I figured once I was done with school it couldn't cause me any more problems.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  The longer I observe myself in daily life, and the more I learn about ADD, the more I am recognizing how it affects every aspect of my life.  Even now, almost exactly eight years after I left school, I wonder almost every day what I should REALLY be doing with my life.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  Oh, I have a job, one I've written about on this blog before, that is pretty well suited to my ADD.  I do it pretty well, or at least people keep paying me to do it, but none of my diverse interests have died down.  I still have bursts of interest in fashion design, music, various branches of science, oh, or maybe I should be a writer, but what genre to write?  SciFi?  Fantasy?  Romance?  or maybe not even fiction at all?

The longer I'm in the workplace the more I know that no matter what I do, I need diversity.  I can't do the same thing day in and day out.  I've found that I don't get that at larger companies.  The larger the company, the more specialized the position, and as a company grows and my niche becomes more well defined the more it chafes.  That happened at my last job.  I started out trying to write doc, help with QA, and support customers, but as the customer base grew so did the support related tasks, and eventually all other work was squeezed out.  So I'm switching to a smaller company again, one where I get to have a finger in every pie.

With fewer people comes more responsibility as well, and there's a part of me that wonders whether this is the real reason I'm changing.  You see, it's very stimulating to know that the buck stops with me.  And with ADD it's the stimulation that counts.  I know that in a small company I can't just pass all my problems up the chain of command.  If it's going to be done, I'm the one who will have to do it.  It's a frightening prospect to know that I can truly make a difference in the direction the company will take, but it's also empowering, and in a way that risk is also thrilling.

Another great thing about working for a small company is that we can be responsive to changes in the marketplace.  A behemoth can't be turned on a dime, which can be terribly frustrating for someone who recognizes the synergy that goes into making a successful product.  But when you can anticipate the direction a product needs to go and make those changes quickly, well, every little success can have huge effects.  I think that's part of what makes people with ADD such great inventors and entrepreneurs.  We can switch modes easily, or in computer speak (after all that's my industry) we have very low cost context switches.  

... This post hasn't really gone the direction I intended when I started, but the more I read and learn about ADD the more I see that it does come with some strengths.  After years of failures in school, to finally find that there is a place where I can use this to my advantage is a great lightening.  I've recently been reading Delivered From Distraction by Dr. Edward M. Hallowell.  He makes the point over and over that the most important part of treatment is not in minimizing the negatives, but in finding the positives.  He maintains that every person has strengths, and as I think this through I'm starting to find mine.  I haven't ARRIVED yet, but maybe I'm finally STARTING to treat my ADD.

No comments:

Post a Comment