A Passion for Water, Through Attention Deficit Disorder

It is not enough to stay afloat and to rest. A job loss, an adult ADHD diagnosis, a failed relationship: There is one life to live, so fly.
ADHD & the City | posted by Jane D.
Jane D.

Congratulations are in order today, despite the icy, Polar bear-like weather, despite the potholes on the asphalt, and despite the unemployment numbers that keep rising.

I got a job today. No, not in the corporate world; there are no paychecks or obvious benefits here (but more on that later). I got a gig teaching swimming—a sport that has morphed from personal passion into livelihood—at a charter school for underprivileged youth.

The pay is $12 an hour, but after chatting with the aquatics head and telling him about all the writing I've done, from pieces on Michael Phelps to covering the Olympics, he changed his mind. Okay, he said, $16 an hour plus a tiny, little space to park my swim suit, goggles, and maybe a travel-sized shampoo. Perfect, thank you. I flashed a famous smile. It was genuine.

I'm not sure if I'm in the right mindset, but I am happy and proud. The new pool is a 20-yarder, the water the color of topaz, all the shinier because it is on the dingy sixth floor of what was once an orphanage at the turn of the century. It is night and day compared to the Olympic-sized pool that I teach at on the alternate days, and the students here are underprivileged youth, mostly Hispanic and black, but I am happy. Finally, freedom, a chance to teach what I know to those who don't know as much.

My fellow Ivy League friends were silent when I told them about the gig, my voice all bubbly. "Oh, well, it's an interim," one said. "It brings some chump change," another said, flatly. There was a time when their responses would have triggered uncertainty and maybe a change of mind, when I would be reminded suddenly that adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) don’t fit in with the crowd—but no longer.

I've spent 33 years of my life trying to fit into a size 8 world when I am a size 10. It is painful, and I have the calluses to show for it. The moment of realization came a few weeks ago, when a student of mine handed me an envelope and reminded me to not forget to open it. It was a note of thanks and a gift certificate for a new bathing suit. It is a rare bonus that money can't buy.

In the past, I've earned a lot more for churning out words for corporations. I could make a lot more writing copy for banks, but this was priceless. At the pool, no one yells at me, "try harder, you're stupid" or "what do you know?" And when I'm not in my natural environment, I am like a fish out of water.

Tonight is a new night, and after a month of roller-coastering emotions, of tears, frustration, of broken promises, and self-doubt, I am finally unapologetic. There are no rules in life. There is one life to live, so fly with your passions. Today there were no apologies, simply a pat on the back, along with a reward of red wine. Well done.

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