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My Major Dilemma

For college students with ADHD, picking a major is fraught with the same difficulties they experienced when learning to read, write, multiply, and divide.

Woman with ADHD in a college library
Woman with ADHD in a college library

If you read ADDitude regularly, you may be thinking, “I wonder how that flaky Christine did during her freshman year in college.” Fear not, grasshoppers.

I’m happy to report that I survived the year with my GPA more or less intact, along with my self-esteem and the desire to live another day. I’m now officially a sophomore. This means that during the coming academic year I will be required to declare a major — a process that scares the bejeebers out of me.

Here’s a test: Raise your hand if you’ve always known what you wanted to do with your life. Okay, you — the guy in the back, frantically waving your arm in the air — you’re dismissed. You’re obviously reading this magazine by accident.

Now, the rest of you: Raise your hand if you don’t even have the faintest idea of what “doing something with your life” entails. My fellow young adults with ADHD, you are not alone. We, the cognitively divergent, are unlikely to know at the tender age of 18, 19, or even 20 what we want to be when we grow up. Actually, it’s never occurred to most of us that we have to grow up.

Over the years, I’ve considered many occupations. At age seven, I wanted to be an actress… at 11, a producer… at 13, a director… 15, casting director… 16, visual effects artist… 17, movie critic… 18, stand-up comic (later rejected due to a paralyzing fear of public speaking).

I would die happy if I could find a major, and a related career, that would enable me to watch movies all day for the rest of my life. Hmmm…. Does anyone know how one gets to be a reviewer for the Motion Picture Association? Excuse me. I need to take this call… .

“Hello? You say you’re calling about my Motion Picture Association question? O.K. That’s it? Any idiot may apply? Are you sure? O.K. Thanks so much for calling.”

I wish it were that easy. The truth is that, for college students with attention-deficit disorder, picking a major is fraught with the same difficulties we experienced when learning to read, write, multiply, and divide. Our minds won’t sit still long enough to focus on anything practical. Question: “How many people with ADHD does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Want to go for a bike ride?”

At the moment, I aspire simply to lie by the pool and sip something cool while pondering the meaning of life. Maybe I should major in philosophy. Or maybe theology or political science. Then it occurs to me that people who share their views on philosophy, religion, or politics almost never want to hear the views of anyone else. And, if you look in the Yellow Pages, you won’t find many listings for philosophers, theologians, or politicians.

I’m not a bad writer, so why not an English major? One problem I foresee is reading something utterly incomprehensible and having to pretend I understand it. (Then again, that might be excellent preparation for adult life, from what I gather.)

Psychology is out, too, since both of my parents are shrinks. (Yeah, I know — that explains why I’m so messed up.) Still, I don’t want my parents to put me through college just so I can do nothing with my life.

And so, as usual, I withdraw into my comfort zone — Procrastination Land — and wait for the gift of inspiration or, less desirably, desperation.

I know from experience that ignoring problems won’t make them go away. Problems inevitably have kittens, and then the kittens have kittens, and so on. If I am to avoid all those cats, I’ll have to choose a major. Maybe it will take awhile, but it will happen, and my destiny will be sealed.

What do I want to do with my life? I don’t know. Not today anyway. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day for the heavy stuff.

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