Crossing the Bridge of Fire

As I read more about ADD (a name I’m coming to really dislike, but that’s a whole nother discussion) and look at my life with a new clarity of vision, I come to better understand mistakes I’ve made and wrong paths I’ve wandered down. After years of struggling with my job as a web content developer, I went to my supervisor last week and told her this job and I are not a good fit and I’ll be actively looking for a new job. This position demands a level of focus, attention to detail, and long-term organization that I just can’t achieve. I’ve tried for a long time to “get better” at my job, feeling all the while like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, and cursing myself for not being able to get organized and focused enough to make a real difference. I’m leaving a lot out, but suffice to say, this wasn’t a snap decision nor an uninformed one.

So I’m looking for a new gig, and not necessarily one in libraries. I’m trying to smash my preconceived notions about what I can and can’t do, job-wise. It’s not easy, though, having spent decades seeing myself one way and no looking at myself in a whole new way. I need advice, feedback, input. But I don’t need it from anyone or everyone. If you don’t understand how ADD works or how I perform at my best, I don’t need to hear from you, no matter how good your intentions or how much you care about me. I’ve gotten a lot of bad advice from good people over the years, and this is not the time for that.

If you understand ADD, if you know what my particular strengths and weaknesses are, please let me know if you’re willing to help me look for a new job. And if you don’t know about this jazz but you love me and care about my future, please wish me luck as I try to sort this stuff out.

ADDENDUM: Over on Twitter, my friend Gareth suggested that it would be much easier to help me if I could say how much I need to make at minimum. He’s right, of course, but…well, I hadn’t actually figured that out yet. I’ll get to work on that.

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18 thoughts on “Crossing the Bridge of Fire

  1. I don’t know of your struggle personally, but I do wish you the best of luck. The right thing will come along :)*big hugs*

  2. I have struggled with ADD for years. Not something you get over or that ever gets better. The best scenario is do something you love. Loving and being interested gives me the focus I need to get it done. Sometimes too much focus to the exclusion of everything else. Which has its own drawbacks but better than being frustrated 24-7 and or unemployed.

    Good luck and I know you will succeed where ever you land.

  3. I empathize with you deeply. I have Social Anxiety Disorder with PTSD, and some days, it’s just debilitating. Going to work every day and having to laugh and talk and socialize with cowokers and people was awkward and I always felt very uncomfortable. I feel I have a hard time holding down people-centric jobs for this reason. Firefighting and EMT work I’m great with because there’s no pressure to aim, please, or sell-just get in, get out, no socialization really required, just the job. But otherwise, that’s why I’m a (in the day-time) stay at home parent. In the end, it was better for me. And let me say, I’m 28 and I didn’t find a career I enjoyed until 2 years ago. It’s hard. It really is. You’re in my thoughts for this reason alone.

  4. Thanks, Barry. I may ask you for some more advice, since you may well get where I’m coming from and have known me for years.

    Addy and wine, thank you for your support!

  5. At a young age I was diagnosed with ADHD. It’s not a life ending or debilitating trait if you learn how to manage it. Which isn’t easy. And is a forever uphill battle.

    I concur that doing what you love helps. An inverse symptom of ADHD rather than being scattered everywhere is HYPER focus. That has to be managed as well to balance life and the world and all, but it can really be a help when finding what you want to do. Find out what you can do to the exclusion of all else and strive to work in that world.

    Everyone is different. I cope by having three tasks in front of me at any one time and letting my brain flip from one to the other kind of as it pleases. This keep me from getting bored, and roughly evens out in terms of time lost in the transition. It’s my brain’s natural state to want to move quickly from one thing to another.

    Test out what works best for you. Mainly, it’s about thinking outside the box of what’s “the right way” to do things and finding the way that works best for YOU.

    I wish you best of luck, my friend.

  6. Thanks, Dawson! I’m working on figuring out how my brain works best. I think having a job where I move around more, interact with people more, and have fewer long-term projects that require less of a fine attention to detail will help.

  7. Don’t know how much you need to make, but I will say that when I stopped commuting to Lansing, it saved me about $200 a month. Hope that may be helpful with your calculations.

    And good luck! If I think of anything that I believe will be helpful, I will pass it on, but right now, I will just give you my support. 🙂

  8. Knowing about ADD is not the same as knowing Josh’s ADD. I would welcome a chance to sit and talk with you about options for job hunting. I was, for 3 years, the supervisor of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program at JVS, where our mission was to help people learn job hunting skills. If I can help in any way, I’d be happy to.

  9. Thanks, Kate!

    Pam, I think I’ve got the job hunting skills. It’s more thinking about what kinds of jobs I should be applying for. And you’re right, everyone is unique when it comes to things like ADD. And, well, life. 🙂

  10. I am not going to address the issue of ADD & your new job hunt because you & I have already talked about that in private – except to say: Good for you! Life is too short to work anywhere you don’t thrive.

    I would like to address the comment you made about coming to hate the term ADD. My dear friend Sara and guru of all things ADD was the first to explain to me how it truly is a misnomer. And after understanding what I was looking at as I have watched my daughter with ADD over the past several years, I realize just how right Sara is.

    People with ADD do not have a DEFICIT of attention. In fact often the struggle is with hyper focus. It is more an issue with directing that attention. It is as if (correct me if I’m wrong here, since I am making these comments as an outside observer) the ADD mind is a high performance race car. When driven by someone who does not understand the power or intention behind that power, then more than likely they will stall, jerk, and generally fail at driving it — because they are trying to drive it like a Honda Accord.

    It has a very specific design that functions best in trained hands under specific circumstances. But if you had never seen what a Lamborghini can do, would it ever occur to you to drive it the way it was meant to be driven? Those of us who don’t have that kind of brain have mistakenly labeled it as a problem. It is not a problem, liability or deficiency!!!

    It is a gift that needs training and the right situation to benefit us all. We need you guys! We just don’t realize it. On behalf of all confused, misguided and ignorant non-ADD people, I want to apologize for making you (all) feel less than.

  11. Thanks, Kaya! Based on what I’ve read so far (which isn’t much, I’ll admit), I’ve been thinking a better term would be Creative-Kinesthetic Brain or something like that. But yes, it’s not a disorder, it’s just a different way the brain works.

  12. Have you noticed how many ‘motivational speakers’ are faith and greed based? Wonder what it would take to turn you into a humanist/altruistic motivational speaker? Cos weird as that sounds, you’d KILL at that, IMO.

  13. Thanks for the link, Chris! I’ve started reading his blog and I like it a lot.

  14. Hey, I am that blogger!

    If I had to give advice about job searching, I don’t know that I’d be all that good. If you’re like me you have a quirky mix of skills and deficits, and also widely varied and changing interests. In April, for example, I was on a blues singing bender, practicing and recording, and I even did some workshops in a school and at an arts center on blues and poetry. However, I haven’t picked up a guitar or done any poetry work for going on two months now. Right now I’m really into writing critical theory on gaming and am working up a paper for a conference. I know, though, that in a few months, I’ll probably be on to the next thing. We are consistently inconsistent, and the workaday world resists that.

    I’ve focused on trying to make my current job workable. Given my current family and financial picture, I’m not career mobile, unless I declare bankruptcy first.

    I have several benefits to my current job as an English professor. Academia is somewhat tolerant of cycling interests and productivity. My job survived my worst, most symptomatic self, so I at least feel secure there.

    I’ve focused on making the job work for me, as best I can. What the diagnosis and reading has helped with is knowing how to structure situations in order to take advantage of my strengths. For example, I know I work best in projects and situations where there is a lot of “face time”: committees with lots of meetings, for examples. So I choose committees and projects that have a lot of meetings, such as hiring and promotion committees (even though for many of my colleagues, that seems like self flagellation). I also do lots of meetings with my students; it helps me as much as it helps them. I do online web conferencing for the same reason.

    I try to avoid projects and meetings that involve too much self direction and lonely work. And I’ve started to seek out “body doubles”; people who will agree to sit with me and work while I work and not chat and distract.

    I do lots of other stuff too: yoga, meditation, exercise, writing, but I cycle through those as well. Oddly, I’ve noticed that if I go to yoga classes regularly I do much better than if I do yoga on my own. Even if I don’t know a single other person at the class, the fact that I’m doing something with other people of similar practice has a huge influence. Body doubles again.

    The book I recently reviewed says that ADHD-PI (formerly ADD) people think they want isolation and seek it out, but actually do worse in that situation than in a positive group environment. It’s true—I seek out things (writing, backpacking, bicycling, meditation, non-networked gaming, reading) that are isolating, but too much of that sends me adrift. If I had to guess, I believe that I am constantly seeking a psychological “resting place” but don’t find the resting too helpful when I get there.

    But I digress.

    Anywho, since I’m stuck with this job, my two strategies are to either change the work or change the conditions of the work. When I have a choice, I choose work that gives me the best odds for success. When I have to do something that gives me trouble, I try to change the conditions of the work (social, with music, lots of bright colored notes [post-its or virtual equivalent], whatever). I’ll be honest: when none of this works, I load up on coffee and chocolate until it’s done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished my semester grades this way, alone in my office, sugar and caffeine and running-in-place breaks until three in the morning. Not a sustainable strategy.

    Though it may seem unimaginable at this point, you might find ways to succeed where you are now, and you may already have the job you are looking for. One thing remained constant in my career before my diagnosis: I was always looking for other jobs. I was miserable. I have now found ways to make my job not only doable, but sometimes inspiring.

    I once watched a documentary about the production of an episode of South Park. If I were starting over, that would be my ideal work environment.

    Best of luck on your journey—proceeding with better information in hand might help.

  15. Jon, that is SO MUCH HELP! Thank you! I don’t know that I can make my current job workable–I’ve tried so many times, in so many ways. Which is why I’m looking for something else. I also do much better when my work involves interacting (or even just being around) other people, which is why I’ve done well as a reference or circulation librarian, a bookseller, a barista. So I’m looking at jobs that will allow me lots of face time and a fair amount of moving around. Also, I really need a job that doesn’t drain my batteries (which, sadly, my current job does) and leaves me with enough time and energy for fiction and poetry writing, which is my major love.

    Anyway, thank you for the long, rambling comment! Those are my favourite kind!

  16. “[A] job that doesn’t drain my batteries (which, sadly, my current job does) and leaves me with enough time and energy for fiction and poetry writing” also describes my career path. I have an MFA in poetry and started teaching to pay the bills. Eighteen years later, still teaching.

    One of the best jobs I ever had was as a secretary—enough work to keep busy, not too much to get overwhelmed, enough accountability and face time to keep it fresh. But I was a temp worker just for a summer so it didn’t have time to get political or stale.

    I also worked at a university library in reshelving. When we worked in teams, it was a wonderful job, but when the boss split us up I was terrible. I would just stand in the stacks and read books….

    Good luck in your search!

  17. I do very well at reference desk work at the library. I move around a lot, interact with a lot of different people, have very short-term problems to solve–it’s perfect for me. Working as a bookseller is similar. But I had the same problem when I worked in a public library sorting and shelving books. I kept pulling off books to read and didn’t spend enough time putting books away.

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