Everyone has ADD moments, trouble focusing from a lack of sleep or too many martinis, but true ADD symptoms start in the early years and continue into adulthood.
During elementary school, my thoughts spent more time on the beach building castles in the sand than in the classroom building listening skills. In my high school yearbook, a friend once wrote: “To Lauren, the space cadet,” a fitting intro for someone lost in her thoughts floating in a sunset over Bali.
People of earth often scratched their heads wondering where my brain had gone in the middle of a conversation. Though back then, my spacey tendencies were considered charming. As I grew older, charming morphed into annoying and even rude — when I interrupted friends and colleagues, missed doctor’s appointments, and arrived late to meetings.
As I type these words, the clock just ticked past 9 a.m. when I should have been in the shower ten minutes ago. But I digress because that’s what I do best.
It wouldn’t be a spoiler to tell you that attending college in Florida brought out the worst in me. Unleashed into a world without parental oversight, I worked on improving my tan instead of my grades, dropped out after a semester of partying, and returned home with a healthy glow.
Now what? I thought while emptying my stuff from the trunk. What to do? What to do?
My mother and I brainstormed on possible careers: Stewardess? Hand model? Talk show host?
“Maybe you should learn how to type,” she suggested.
“I’ve always liked to type,” I said. “Though, with two fingers.”
“Now you can learn to type with ten.”
Later that week, I enrolled in business school to study the secretarial trade, a temporary gig I had thought while I figured things out.
Thirty years later, I’m still figuring things out while working as a secretary, a title that has evolved over the years — from secretarial pool floater at an advertising agency to ad trafficking manager at a dysfunctional magazine — where I held the multifaceted position of secretary, production coordinator, and office psychiatrist.
I attribute my rise in the ranks to the focus medication Concerta and the shrink who diagnosed me with ADD, which didn’t surprise me.
“Oh, that explains it,” I told the doctor.
“What?” she prodded while taking notes.
“Why I leave my keys in the refrigerator.”
She frowned at me through thick shrink glasses, took out her red marker and left crime scene markings in her notebook.
Despite notable improvements in my life because of Concerta, it isn’t a prescription for success. Other issues, like a faulty frontal cortex, responsible for organizing and scheduling, and the inability to stay on track without the parameters of structure, aren’t magically fixed with a pill.
Though technology and the ease of using a digital calendar have helped my organizational deficit, it also compounds internal and external distractions that upend my life — the Internet and smartphone are black holes for the focally challenged.
It’s difficult enough living with a brain that craves an adrenaline rush to prevent the atrophy of boredom. The reason why I lose interest performing pigeonhole tasks inherent in a corporate culture.
After various gigs at midtown ad agencies, book publishers, and cable networks ended prematurely, I started looking for jobs in smaller chaotic offices, working for eccentric employers who were often quirkier than me.
In these offbeat places, I thrived, keeping them with me long after I had gone, forever tethered to their oddness in my history of jobs.
These emporiums of weirdness and the like-minded people they draw, these unraveling social circles and victims of my blurted out thoughts — all these anomalies that define me — are part of the debris field I leave behind in my ADD life.
Visit Lauren at ThinkSpin.com