A Buffet Girl

I’ve come to accept my ADHD traits with some grace. But how do I keep my family—and professors— happy while trying to sample a little of everything life has to offer?
ADHD & the City | posted by Jane D.
Career Advice for ADHD Adults

I am on unofficial probation — with school and homework and the husband (see So Long New Year’s Resolutions. It’s what happens when you pile too much on your plate (even if it’s not purposeful), when you’re stretched so thin that you’re going to crack, when you’ve lost sight perhaps of who you are — or maybe just haven’t accepted it. Let’s start with my PhD dreams, which have been steadily fading over the past year. I am learning quickly that academia isn’t a good fit for an ADHD adult. There are just some professions we should stay away from to stay sane. Getting a PhD is a mental marathon – a minimum of four years focused on a single research interest. Why would I choose to put myself through that?

The problem is that the work never ends. There is detailed research, the reading and writing of mega-long papers with lengthy words that make very little sense to me (Oh I miss my People magazine). Unlike my peers, who have settled on one topic and one area of research from the start, I’ve been drawn to many different interests—gender, social media, psychology and even food. I am a jack of all trades—or of none.

A perceptive professor, perhaps a fellow ADHDer, warned me that my plate was looking way too full. “You have too many things in the fire. You need to stay focused,” he said. It’s a mantra I need. Everyone else can go from A to B, but for me, it’s like torture.

Instead of fitting my round, ADHD-peg into a PhD program’s square hole, I’ve refused to give up my interests, or sideline my curiosity. Instead, I pursued the things that bring me happiness even in if it’s only in the moment (I’m still working on delayed gratification and reward!).

The sister, who knows me well, laughed when I told her about my run-in with the concerned professor. I explained that this chapter of my life was coming to a close with some painful lessons learned. “You’re a buffet girl. You’re not about the main dish,” she said.

My favorite aunt confirmed it, “You can’t stay in one place for more than 2 or 3 years,” she said. “Well that’s ok, that’s who you are.” My question remained, “How do I manage not to piss people off in the process?”

“Next time pick a profession that matches you,” the sister suggested. “I think you should just freelance,” the aunt said matter-of-factly.

Maybe it’s my age, or having survived a bout of cancer, but lately I’ve come to accept my ADHD qualities with some grace, without apology.

It’s all food for thought as I consider what will certainly be another brief chapter of my life. Knowing I’ll keep moving on to a new challenge, I feel oddly at peace. Life is short, I might as well do the things that make me happy and accept that this buffet girl will always be looking for her next best thing.

 
 
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