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ADHD Destiny Vs. Self-Determination

Can adults with ADHD improve their destiny through self-determination, or is our ADHD fate in charge?

The 36th birthday came and went and without much drama. I suffered through it with a few friends of the same vintage, all of us using the occasion as an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry. Another year older. Yeah.

In truth, I had three birthday parties, blew out three sets of candles on three separate cakes, and thought more than once how incredible and unlikely it is that I’ve been in Hong Kong for so long.

My thoughts turned to my ADHD, the treating of which has taken a back seat to adjusting to a massive move and being bi-continental. Have I gotten better? Have I gotten less anxious at myself and with myself? Have I improved and gotten more organized, more disciplined? How have my professional and personal lives improved? And more importantly, how has my perspective on life changed?

Birthdays milestones are a bit like that annual physical exam where you begrudgingly stand on the scale or see if you’ve shrunk a few millimeters. So after the birthday candles were blown out on cake number three, I headed to a coffee shop. I took out a notepad and did my own self-assessment.

Professional life: 6 out of 10. My new career carries with it a new ticket to possibilities and also the continued regret of having invested so many years in a career that is fading in the rear-view mirror.

Personal life: Nearly impossible to rate. I can celebrate a year of living with the grandmother and congratulate myself on providing companionship to another generation.

Friends ask me if I like living with her, and I tell a half truth. I enjoy it (on some days), but on many days my new life is a shadow of the last chapter in the Big Apple. The penthouse, the boyfriend and the globe-trotting job, and all of this ended up like a flash in the pan – now you see it, now you don’t. I often wish that the party could have lasted, if not forever, at least longer.

I haven’t dated since last spring, when a middle-aged journalist asked me to dinner. No boyfriend since the long-distance romance between myself and the Indian fizzled. I imagine the life I could have lived if only my mind was wired differently.

The aunt and I recently debated whether a person is born with their fate sealed, or if life outcomes depend on the choices you make.

“I think each person is born with a personality that determines what happens to you in life,” the aunt said.

I wish that I could believe that a person — with the right amount of conviction and will power — could change their personality and their fate. But I am old enough to know otherwise.

This year, when I blew out those candles, I wished not for the ability to change myself but rather for the good luck to find more people me. People who are learning, each day, what sweet things they can make from all these lemons. I need recipes.