Thursday, July 26, 2012

Love & Work

I'm interested in hearing about how others with AD/HD have managed their work lives and careers--there are a lot of interesting stories there. In Buzz, Katherine Ellison writes about how perfectly being a foreign correspondent suited her: the constant travel and excitement enabled her to use some of her AD/HD traits as strengths. Her high energy level, restlessness, and need for novelty were satisfied by the job, and the structure imposed by the deadlines kept her tendencies toward distraction and procrastination in check.

I wouldn't make it one day as a foreign correspondent, though I was once a reporter for a small-town newspaper. I liked that job quite a lot, but even travelling daily around the county to interview people and cover school board meetings was exhausting to me. I liked that each day was different and I liked finally sitting down with all my notes and pulling them together into a news story, but I found it hard to shift gears between the long stretches of solitude at my desk or in my car and the kind of intense talking and listening involved in reporting. My head often seemed to be somewhere else, and I had trouble staying interested in the standard kinds of journalistic questions, and would ask pastors what they thought happens when we die instead of asking them about the Christmas program, and town clerks what their childhoods were like instead of asking them for the sand and salt budget.

I adore my work as a poetry professor, and I feel so fortunate to have wound up here, especially considering the circuitous route I've taken. There has been some luck involved (I have a lot to say about luck and AD/HD--I'll save that for another post), but it has also come out of absolute commitment to a peculiar and impractical vocation, and to an area that, on the surface, seems to offer few opportunities. Neither of those commitments were made rationally or with any idea that a job would come out of them, so I guess that makes me all the luckier.

Here's an (almost) complete, chronological list of jobs I've held since I graduated from college with a creative writing focus in 1993:

Museum Guard
Newspaper Reporter
Ice Cream Scoop
Store Clerk
Human Resources Assistant
Textbook Manager
Godiva Boutique Sales Assistant
Library Circulation Assistant
Library Reserves Assistant
Arts High School Creative Writing Teacher
Arts Camp Creative Writing Teacher
Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing
Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing

The photo above is from my days as a museum guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art--I'm in the bottom row, second from the left.

Clearly my trajectory has been unconventional and uneven. Shifts such as the one from Newspaper Reporter to Ice Cream Scoop reflect events in my life, or moves--over the course of all of this I lived in eight different cities, grieved the death of a lover, got married, went to graduate school, and published a book, among many other things.

I spent a lot of time flopping around. I'm not sure how I wound up where I am, and sometimes it feels like my luck and my blessings are too fragile even to breathe on. In The Gift of Adult ADD Lara Honos-Webb says that despite what we were taught in school, we don't have to be good at everything. Having just one passion in life, and nurturing it even when it seems to offer no potential for worldly advancement, is enough in the end--though it can make for a difficult road along the way. I had no choice. Even when I was living in New York City, making minimum wage and living on sweet potatoes and coffee, I knew there was nothing besides poetry that could ever sustain me.


  1. Wonderful--I love reading these!

  2. I also love that before I could publish my comment, I was asked to prove that I was not a robot.

  3. Another wonderful post. And a fantastic list of jobs. I think we would have had fun scooping ice-cream together.

  4. I still spend a lot of time flopping around. That's the perfect descriptor, you know.