"Good thing you're pretty, because your writing is terrible," said my high school teacher. My 16-year-old sensitive soul and spirit was crushed. In the eight years after being diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, I had many "knock down" moments, but I always got up to fight another round. Even after lots of awkward social situations, and people thinking, "Did she really just say that?" I trotted along like a happy puppy. But this time, this moment, these words-they broke me. Tired of fighting a battle I may never win, I gave up on me.

Often the "Typical" Career Path Does Not Work

In my early 20s, after a few failed attempts at college, I decided school wasn't for me. I couldn't justify putting myself through the torture of being misunderstood for an elective educational experience. I love learning new things, and anything I want to learn I teach myself. I am ADHD after all, and quite curious.

With school apparently out of the picture, I focused on my job. I stated my career as an administrative assistant and worked my way up the corporate security realm. The real world was nothing like school. People liked me and appreciated that I didn't think like everyone else. I won a few awards for coming up with new processes that worked, and I was asked to teach them to colleagues. The processes became best practices and were shared company-wide.

I was admired for being different. This was before being different was considered cool, and all those car commercials that celebrate people for thinking differently. I was the go-to person for fixing problems and creating solutions. Coworkers asked me to edit their writing. As adyslexic, I found that amusing and satisfying.

Outside of high school, my social life was better, too. People thought my unfiltered words were funny! My friends affectionately called them The Charm of Marcelle. They knew that my blunt opinions were never malicious. Like most ADHD'rs, my heart is full of love and compassion. However, I had to learn when it was OK to be myself and when it wasn't. Not everyone is ready for me, and that's OK.

It wasn't until my first son was born that I tried college again. I felt compelled to set a good example and finish whatever I started. Even though I had many setbacks in school, I wanted to be a parent that "walked the walk." After a short seven years later, an additional son, two terms as PTO president, and a full-time job, I graduated cum laude. All the horrible experiences in school, once so vivid every day of my life, faded.

One of the best feelings ever for me was walking across the stage on graduation day. I felt victorious. In my head, I heard We Are the Champions by Queen playing, and saw myself jogging in slow motion across the stage as a montage of my life played on a big screen in the background. In my mind, everyone applauded and cried with joy.

Things I Wish I Had Been Told Early On

It's a feeling I want every ADHD person to experience-but much sooner than I did. Looking back at my life as a child and teen with ADHD, I wish someone had told me:

  • Don't wait for life to believe in you, believe in yourself first. I know you all feel that you are more than what everyone expects you to be.
  • School is not like the real world. You still have to adjust to different kinds of personalities, but we ADHDers are gifted when it comes to adapting to new challenges.
  • One-size-fits-all schooling is hard, and there is a lot of focus on the negative aspects of our condition. But just remember there are a lot of positives that come along with our beautiful ADHD brains.
  • The world needs to change for us, but we need to meet the world halfway.

Finally, remember that smooth seas never made for a skillful mariner. So don't give up on you.

This article was written by Marcelle K. Flynn and first appeared in Additude Magagzine (additudemag.com)

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