Meredith’s College Essay

Meredith Gibson, Contributor

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Ever felt like, despite all your efforts, you just cannot, for the life of you, focus on that one task you have to do? Or like you can’t sit still for more than five minutes without your head exploding? Yeah, me too, except worse, and all the time. The summer after sixth grade, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) after being put through two days of six hour testing. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? To have a kid with attention difficulties sit still for twelve hours to see if they actually have attention difficulties?

My diagnosis helped explain a lot about my childhood. Like why my elementary school teachers always sent me home with notes that read: “Meredith was being disruptive in class again.” But I wasn’t. At least I wasn’t trying to; I was just creating ways to make sense of the chaos that is my brain. Things to help me calm down and focus, like rocking back and forth in my chair or fiddling with anything I could find: almost gone erasers, practically new pencil grips, crumpled up pieces of unloved paper, anything. I still remember my second-grade teacher’s booming voice yelling at me from across the room to sit back down in my seat and finish my work. It was humiliating, soul crushing, and detrimental to my self-esteem. She made me feel even smaller than I already felt as a six-year-old in a world revolving around grownups. She made me feel like there was something wrong with me. She made me feel absolutely worthless.

But enough pity stories about life before being diagnosed because that’s not what I’m here to share. If you wanted to hear about the symptoms and experiences of kids with ADD, you would just look it up yourself. I want to explain not how I’ve overcome ADD because I haven’t, but how I’ve learned to live with it and find new positives about it every day.

Thankfully, medicine helped bring my crazy ADD brain from a full blown twelve out of ten to a more manageable six or seven. A decade later, and I still haven’t accepted or come to terms with these struggles. I still get frustrated when I see my friends performed better than I did despite spending half as much time, and I can’t sit still or work on the same boring task for more than like thirty minutes, but I eventually found some positives about ADD. Despite everything I have going against me, at least there are still some things no one can beat me at, some things I’m oddly good at that my friends aren’t. I can think about more than one thing at a time and let my brain go on however many tangents it wants. Or think about one thing, but in a lot of depth and detail. I also like to reorganize people’s rooms, drawers, or other spaces in my head to find a more efficient or practical arrangement. I have this crazy attention to detail; sometimes I pick up on things and don’t even know it. (I recommend never challenging me to one of those spot the difference games because I’ll notice changes the game company didn’t even know they made.)

If I could tell my younger self anything about what I’ve learned so far, I would tell her that being normal is boring, but being different is exciting and full of adventures. The fact that it’s cool to be different is a hard concept for kids to grasp; it took me until my senior year of high school to even begin to understand it. While I certainly haven’t overcome ADD in any way, I can finally say I’ve learned to embrace the challenges that come with the disorder. ADD is a part of me; it has helped shape me into the person I am today, but it does not define me.

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