I didn't have the traditional college experience. Nor was I a “non-traditional” college student. Here is the situation:
During my junior and senior years in high school when most of my friends were focusing on applying to the University of Anywhere but the Valley, I was focused on…girls and books. Just focused. I was (and continue to be) by no means a ladies man. I just really, intensely, liked girls.
“Well, that’s normal.”
Yeah, but, when you crush on someone with ADD. It’s intense. But I’ll discuss that whenever I get to talking about ADD in relationships.
Right now, I’ll leave it as…I was too busy tilting at windmills. Sooo many middle- and high school crushes. One of them became my closest friend in college. Worked out better for us that way, I think. The alternative would have meant one of us ending up in a body bag.
(Fun fact: She drove a hearse-looking car.)
Back to junior/senior years, I didn’t really hustle a lot applying to colleges. Our counselor during senior year wasn’t all there from what my friends told me, which meant she wasn’t really interested in helping out someone on the fringes of mediocrity get into a college.
WHICH WAS FINE.
Part of the convenience of staying at home:
- Free room and board
- Stayed out of trouble
- Lived nearby
- Cheap tuition
And when I realized the summer of my junior year that I had a great campus in the city and that the degree I got from there held the same weight as a degree from Texas A&M or the University of Houston, then I really wasn’t motivated to look outside the home. It’s still a great campus even with its fusion with UT-Pan American to create UTRGV. I am always going to be biased and will flip my shit in a good way if I ever run into a UT-Brownsville alum here in Houston.
My ADD during college anywhere else would have been catastrophic. As it was, I was able to stay grounded because I surrounded myself by good people. Beyond my parents and my brother, I had to make new friends at work, and I lucked out that the friends I made were all slightly quirky but very driven.
I picked mass communications as a major because I was inspired by then-provost Ruth Ann Ragland to consider joining the budding Mass Communication program on campus. And hey, when a 20+ year veteran of the Associated Press talks to you about journalism, you damn well listen. My parents also (rightly) had me consider that English majors weren’t as marketable.
Next up after signing up for classes was applying for a job at the student newspaper, where I had an in with my cousin, the Spanish reporter.
I gotta say, some of the “better” aspects of ADD are ideal for a number of careers. But if there was one career where someone with ADD would be the best in, it would be journalism.
During college, it was perfect. This is my schedule during my last semester:
My freshman year wasn’t much different, alternating between the core-reqs and going to work.
Here is my desk:
Does that look familiar to you guys? I’m sure it does. The way we saw it at The Collegian was that if you had time to organize your desk, you weren’t doing something right. Now back to it being a profession tailored for people with ADD. So many short stories, so many events, all going on at once.
I spun with the storm and I did my best to harness the direction it was going in.
This was my routine:
· Assignments meeting
· Recap of last week, good things, bad things, analysis of sales goals
· Edit, layout news from that weekend
· Our traditional “slow day”, beat writers turned in their articles
· Covered soccer/volleyball/
· Editors laid out beat sections
· Last ‘writing’ day, copy-editors started going through the beats and the first pieces ready to go
· Our heaviest day. Only articles written were the big UTB/TSC board meetings or any important news or events that took place that day.
· Copy-edited remaining articles and proofs until midnight
· Laid out pages as the articles were copy-edited and converted the advertising pages and the beat pages into pdfs for extra copy-editing
· Converted .indd to .pdfs, copy-edited those
· Sent things to the printers
· If any sports events came up, I’d take a crew, sometimes just myself and the videographer, to cover all the sports teams.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
It was routine, but even that routine could vary immensely. Every story was different, every assignment was different.
This played to my strengths because I was able to focus on short bursts of intense focus and then completely switch gears. Sometimes that was going from going from writing to fixing a photo, sometimes it was going from an interview to class. It was great, and in a way; that’s a lifestyle replicated (almost down to the money involved) in a lot of journalism circles. Fast-paced, tight deadlines, never stopping. I really wasn’t worried about the ADD because I was in my element, in my zone. Quick bursts of energy, broken by ‘rest’ which usually meant when I walked from the office to Scorpion Field or the volleyball court or from there to my classes in MRCN/S or SET-B and yes, these mean nothing to you.
But there were times when I would forget to eat, forget to keep a normal schedule.
Here is the closest analogy to ADD/ADHD. We thrive on kinetic energy. Even though I don’t have the H in that equation, my movement is all mental.
We thrive on visual stimuli. We thrive on keeping our mind active. I think I’m a better short story writer because I don’t have to stick with one or two characters for longer than maybe 10,000 words. In college my stimuli kept in the form of doing all these sorts of things. I wasn’t really active in any other club save for my frat.
(It was a history honor society frat…we didn’t do much in the way of keggers)
But we have to keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving. I think that for me, and I am sure a lot of you feel the same way, there was this irrational fear that if I stopped moving I would literally die. I could (and can, but this is the college bit) push myself to my very physical and mental limits and completely exhaust myself and that was still preferable to a cessation of motion. Sleep frightened me. Sleep still frightens me. A propensity for sleep paralysis and horrible nightmares means I don’t enjoy naps or the powerlessness of unconsciousness. I’d end most days at 6 or 7, go home, do homework if I had it, then waste time on the internet engaged in conversation with strangers.
(And a lot of those strangers are still my friends, so I don’t regret anything)
I had the choice to take it easy, it might have meant graduating magna cum laude, but I didn’t want to. I had 15 hours every semester and two full summers leading up to my last year of college in 2009.
My grades were A’s and B’s, and I only received two C’s in those first years. Frustratingly, they came from topics I should have aced. The first was in English Lit. The second was Anatomy and Physiology I lecture. I had three things going for that: 1) My dad taught the class (obviously not the one I was in) in the same department 2) the professor was a laid-back surfer dude 3) I genuinely was interested in the class.
But I was stubborn. I thought I could coast. Then I found out I couldn’t, and not long after when I moved into the nitty-gritty of my history coursework, I started seeing what ADD could do to me when I was stressed out. I didn’t recognize it as ADD, of course, and I was a year removed from learning that in order to deal with a brain that won’t focus, I had to work twice as hard on things like organization. One thing was being able to write a five-page review on Jihad v. McWorld. The other thing was writing a proper research paper on Reaganomics; the Saladin and Richard the Lionheart rivalry; or on the use of the blitzkrieg as a form of warfare throughout the 20th century. Added stressor: switching over from an MLA background to the Turabian style of citation. I don’t regret that, by the way, Turabian is a simpler, cleaner and a more efficient method of citation than MLA or APA are. However, I still had to transition. So my grades took a hit, including the third and last of the three Cs I mentioned.
And then came Spring 2009.