What it feels like

I wrote a speech for school a couple months ago. It was a labor of love, and I was pretty proud of it. I even won an award from the university for it, which was one of those big deals no one else knew about. We were allowed to use notes, but we were supposed to present it in such a way that it didn’t look like we were reading off our cards, so I typed my entire speech out, loaded it into a free teleprompter program on the internet, and let my computer scroll the whole thing while I pretended like I had it memorized. Winner. 

There are a lot of topics I feel passionately about, but, for this one, I went with the underdiagnosis of ADHD in girls. Understandably, this was something that was in the forefront of my brain and heart, and therefore pretty important. I opened with a personal story:

“Let me tell you what happens when I try to do the dishes in my house. I start washing and rinsing and loading the dishwasher, and then I notice some scuffs in my sink. I pile all the unwashed dishes on the counter and go into the cabinet underneath to get my cleaning supplies, polish the sink, and put the cleaners away – only to discover it’s really quite messy under there. So I pull everything out into the floor, start dusting and scrubbing and preparing to put everything back, and I notice that there’s some paint chipping on the outside of the cabinet. That’s ok, though, because I know I have spare paint in the garage. Do you see where I’m going with this? At the end of day, I’m left with wet paint, a floor full of junk, and one really, really shiny sink. But no spoons. Because I never did do the dishes.”

I have lived for 35 years in a constant state of reinvention. What does that mean? It means that I am never actually USING a system. I am always PLANNING my next system. I have a whole drawer of quarter-full, fancy planners. My kitchen has been rearranged at least half a dozen times in the 4 years that we’ve lived in this house, and my closet even more times than that. I have calendars and notepads, dry erase boards and apps – pretty much anything that I think could finally be The Thing. I obsess about the plan, but I cannot follow through on the action. I create weekly schedules and monthly schedules and daily schedules, usually on pretty paper, to be displayed proudly to proclaim to all those who see that I actually follow these things. (I don’t.)

This is not new behavior, but before I knew to look for it, I didn’t realize it was there. In school, I was always changing my organization methods – often to the detriment of actually learning the material. Instead of doing an assignment I was supposed to do, I would spend a whole evening recopying my notes from loose leaf paper into a spiral notebook. If the pen I was using died halfway through, I just gave up and did nothing. Every school break meant all new binders and all new notebooks, and laminated lists of exactly how and when I would do things. All of these elaborate organizational methods were really instrumental in all the D’s and F’s I got in middle school. In 10th grade, I changed schools and got a clean slate (again). This time, I learned an ancient art that would carry me all the way through the rest of my high school career: cramming. I didn’t actually retain much, but I graduated Saludatorian. So…..success!

The thing is, through all this, I just thought I was lazy. And a little stupid. Like I was doing it to myself because I wasn’t trying hard enough. The phrase my mom heard at every parent teacher conference for 14 years was, “She’s a bright kid. She just needs to apply herself more. ” Well, that, and, “We had to move her to a desk by herself in the front of the room because she won’t stop talking.”On the elementary school bus, the kids had a song about me (isn’t that nice of them??), it went like this:

(Sung to the tune of the Toys-r-Us theme song)

“I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Lauren Bradner kid. My mama taught me how to talk and this is what I did…..jabber, jabber, jabber, blah, blah, blah.”

That actually doesn’t have anything to do with what I was talking about. I forgot where I was going with this. 

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