My Birthday Wish
This year, instead of wishing away my ADHD and the unstable, ever-changing life it brings, I am taking a deep breath and blowing out my candles with the dream that society can start to accept us folks with ADHD the zany, wonderful way we already are.
Growing up, birthday celebrations were whimsical, magical times. I remember one year my parents hired a professional clown, and another when they catered my party with Happy Meals from McDonald’s. Those were the days of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and goody bags.
But as I got older, the bright shine of birthdays faded with each passing year. My parents divorced. My sister and I moved, and after that I can’t remember a birthday party that wasn’t just a fantasy. In middle and high school, I often daydreamed about a pink birthday cake with a stiletto heel on top, a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts, and a bouquet of roses (my favorite flower).
As an adult, I took charge, and started planning the parties I always wanted someone to throw me (or at least tried to!) with mixed success. For my 29th birthday, my friends who knew I was already fretting about the big 3-0 surprised me with wishes of “Happy 30th” and a matching cake as a joke. Then there was my 33rd where I invited mostly my male friends, many of whom I had dated in the past. There were lots of awkward stares from the ones who figured out our shared histories. Then there were a string of happy celebrations with my now ex-husband when we were in love. He’d make the bicoastal trip and send flowers along with a thoughtful card. As much as I stressed about turning 30, 40 flew by without much fretting and anxiety. I was too busy dealing with my life in crisis – wrapping up my divorce and conducting a job hunt.
And now in what feels like the blink of an eye, another birthday is around the corner.
Call it age or call it wisdom, but I’ve made strides coping with ADHD as an adult, and stopped wondering when I will find stability. A few weeks ago an aunt told me she really wanted me to settle down, find a good man and just stick with any job. “As you get older you won’t be able to move around so much,” she said. I felt a rush of white-hot anger boil up. It was impossible to explain to her that I’d more than love to find a good man and have been searching for a Norman Rockwell-esque life that has always stayed just outside my grasp. “Don’t tell me I don’t want it enough,” I thought. In conversations with other adults with ADHD, many say they wish their professional and personal lives were more certain and stable – especially into their 40s.
I turn another year older at a time when things in my life couldn’t be more topsy-turvy. I am single, a writer. I rent a room in someone’s home. I am here alone, an entire coast away from my closest family. My dreams of having my own family have diminished. Yes, there are always miracle stories of women having children in their late 40s, but let’s get real. I’m starting to accept that the train may have left the station. At the very least, I am behind in this game of life, designed for me by society’s expectations.
For as many times I have felt my ADHD hold me back, there are aspects of it that I love – a penchant for openness and forgiveness, the ability to adapt to change quickly, to start over again with grace, and the brilliant bursts of ideas that trigger “wows” in the non-ADHD world. There is something childlike that remains too, which is why I continue to love birthday celebrations.
So, as I turned 41, I held a small dinner gathering of friends to share a good steak with. I ordered the pink cake topped with roses I always wanted, and there will be bubbly and chocolates too. “I must be the only person over 35 who likes celebrating their birthday,” I said to a friend. She agreed.
When I blow out my candles this year I will make a wish. In the past, I wished to be normal, that I never had ADHD. But this year I’ll use my wish for hope, that society can see the beauty of those of us who wired differently. Life would be awfully boring if everyone were a neurotypical doctor, lawyer, or engineer, wouldn’t it? Indeed. Happy birthday to me!