My whole life I’ve been told to pay attention. I was told that I would never do well in school because I couldn’t stay focused. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I had ADD.
When I was four, I learned how to tie my shoe laces. About a week afterwards, I completely forgot how. I sat on the stairs of my childhood home, completely baffled with myself.
At the time, I never understood why I couldn’t remember; my parents just thought I was being a typical four-year-old who constantly forgot things.
Once I started school, things got worse. I would come home from school and my mom would ask me how my day went and I would just reply with a simple, “Good.” The honest truth was that there were parts of my day I couldn’t even remember.
My mom pleaded with my teacher to let me pass if I got my reading and math skills up.
Every night after school, I had to sit at the table with my mom and go through everything I learned at school that day.
This would take hours. We would sit at the kitchen table from when I got home to when I went to bed. The rules consisted of no playing with friends, watching TV, or playing sports until my reading and math levels went up.
I was so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t remember simple things. This routine continued on for about four years. My parents tried everything: from having me stay after school with teachers, to my grandma (who is a retired teacher) tutoring me, to even enrolling me in an after-school learning program. Even with all their efforts, none of it worked.
Come to find out I had something called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This basically means that I struggle with focusing on one thing.
Think of it like focusing on five things at once, all day every day. Then when your brain says I’ve had enough, it “shuts down.”
From the outside, it appears like you are daydreaming, but on the inside, you are actually fighting to get out of this state of aimlessly staring at something irrelevant for a countless amount of time.
They made me feel stupid, as if I wasn’t as smart as everyone else. From that point forward, I vowed to myself that I was going to do whatever it took to get out of these classes.
By the time I reached middle school, my reading and math levels were up to a sixth grade level. I believe this did not happen because I was in special education classes; this happened because of my determination to make myself better.
I worked hard every single day. When I got home, I sat in my room and re-taught myself everything we went over in class. Once I was caught up in school, my parents finally allowed me to pick a sport I wanted to play. I chose volleyball and absolutely loved it.
In high school, I even took a couple honors courses. I never told my teachers about my disability; I always wanted to be treated like a normal student. I hate special treatment.
When my mom told my teachers about it at the end of the year, they were always dumbstruck because it never seemed like I had any issues with paying attention. Most of my friends didn’t even notice until I told them about it.
I kept it as my little secret because I never wanted anyone to treat me like I was stupid or slow because of it.
Not only did it help me excel in school, but it also helped me become a great volleyball player. Turns out, having ADD is great for volleyball, I can focus on five things at once and not be overwhelmed and still get the job done.
I blame ADD for making me a self-determined person. I would not be a D1 volleyball player at Georgia State University without it. It has shown me so much about my personal strength and how I can do anything I put my mind to.
God gave me ADD for a reason; He gave me this challenge because I was strong enough to overcome it. I no longer see my ADD as a disability. Instead, I see it as a gift.
There’s always that one kid you know. The one every mind jumps to when anyone mentions anything strange or out of the ordinary that happened that day.
For the purpose of this story, I’ll call him Jack. Jack was small, moody, and hyperactive. He was also smart as a whip, but his grades didn’t always reflect that. This was because of his Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew about it. He talked about it all the time! “No, it’s not ADD; it’s ADHD!” The “H” was critical.
Jack was not about to have anyone thinking he only had Attention Deficit Disorder. Everyone had to know he was hyperactive, as well. He was proud of it. I’d like to say I tried to be patient with him. Although he scared me sometimes, I did try to sympathize and carry on conversation, but even my minimal efforts were futile the days he failed to take his medication.
One day, however, Jack and I were not having a good day. I was attempting to stop him from harassing random passers-by, but he wouldn’t budge. According to him, the great honor of walking past the mighty Jack was something they (and I) should be grateful for. I may have been in an aggravated mood that day, but I’m almost positive he was being especially hyper, too. Finally, I grabbed him by the shoulders, swung him around to face me nose to nose, and said, “Jack! Calm down!”
He stared at me for a couple seconds and opened his mouth to respond, but I cut him off. “I mean, jeez! What would you do if everyone else acted like you?!” I expected him to concoct a grand scheme about how great it would be in a world full of Jack clones and how he would build up an army to colonize Mars, but he surprised me.
Without missing a beat, he replied, “Well, then I’d have to act differently.”
This was the last thing in the world I expected him to say. I was stunned speechless. I stared at him for a while before simply walking away, dazed and in awe. I turned back, and he had already resumed terrorizing the strangers. Later that day, I sat thinking about what he said and realized how wise he truly was, despite his outward behavior. At such a young age, Jack already understood and accepted a great truth that many adults have difficulty grasping. He knew what it meant to be an individual and valued his ability to be unique.
In times of self-doubt when I wish I had the same clothes as my friends or other trivial accessories, I remember how happy Jack was being unlike the rest of society around him, and I try to live up to his standard. I once briefly mentioned the impact he had on me that day, years later, and he replied, “…I said that?” The moment was hardly remembered and long forgotten in that one kid’s peculiar mind.
Zoe is also part of a phenomenal organization all AIESEC. In conjunction with our partnership with their organization, please see their blog here: