The Pinball Wizard

Free verse, stream of consciousness, not sure what it means, do you?

 

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They say I live in the moment but I call it short term memory

My anger is strong but short-lived

They say I’m chill but its cause I’m used to the cold

 

Did you know,

My finger lies between the divide of coincidence and destiny?

I dance along it’s edge with my thumb and fore finger, pinching

How close is it?

 

On the tight rope of uncertainty

My heart pounds at a steady, glamorous beat to which I match my footsteps

My thoughts bounce off the walls of my head, heavy like a metal ball

They call me the Pinball Wizard

 

Where am I?

I’m looking out the window as the cars go by and people walk

Somewhere in the middle, a one way, like Metcalfe or Laurier

A perfect place to people watch through the window of this coffee shop

The barista calls my name

 

Who am I?

I’m consumed by multiplicities

and all of the directions that things can go

All these people and their feelings, stuffed in buildings, in this city

and mine mix in like radio waves

 

They say I live in the moment but I call it short term memory

My anger is strong but short-lived

They say I’m chill but it’s cause I’m used to the cold

Tomorrow I will forget

But today I will reminisce

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The Latchkey Kid

We laid side by side under the covers, close enough so that I could feel her trembling.

Sleepovers were a common attribute to our friendship, and continued even through our transition through adolescence. They usually took place at her house. This time it was at mine.

There was a year and a half gap between the two of us, and the older we got, the smaller the bed seemed to get and the bigger that gap seemed to become. Sometimes it felt like I was slowing down my pace so she could keep up. Not with walking, but with everything else.

She was scared, like she always was after scary movies. And I felt guilty. I was used the terror they induced, but was able to convince myself there wasn’t a monster under the bed, no matter how much it felt like there was.

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Her mom was ever-present. Her mom redecorated the house every few months, and she stopped to talk to people at grocery stores; she had time and spent most of it on her kids.

Her mom preserved my best friend’s innocence with a fervor, skipping over sex scenes in the movies we watched, swatting our heads when we said bad words, and bundling us up like the Michelin Man the moment the thermometer read negative.

It was an alien concept, attention. It was not something I’d commonly receive, at least to that degree. When I played with my best friend, I was also under the temporary care of a woman with lots of time. I’d drop off my stuff after school and immediately make my way over to their house. I wouldn’t ask for food, but I’d make rather obvious hints that I was hungry. But, it wasn’t just the food that I was there for, it was the conversation. Sitting on their kitchen island, grabbing handfuls of Goldfish crackers, sipping apple juice from straws, her mom would lean over on the other side and let us in on the neighbourhood gossip.

The bubble-wrapped kid and the latchkey kid. A 21st century friendship.

It sometimes felt as though my best friend’s mom knew me more than my own, but as I grew older I knew this wasn’t the case. My Mom went to work at a stressful job and came home to do her stressful paperwork. Time was a luxury my she did not have even for herself, and even if she wanted to give me more.

I looked over at my best friend who’s fear made her cry. Sometimes it felt like the responsibility of retaining her innocence was in my hands too. I would get glances from her mother that could only suggest that she was aware I knew more than I was letting on. Thinking of the look I got when I’d let it slip I didn’t believe in Old Man in Red when I was eight years old made avoid a similar conversation three years later when I stopped believing in the Old Man in the Sky.

I didn’t have hard life, not at all, but when I came home from school, I didn’t have anyone tall enough to close the blinds; I learned how to get a chair and grab the box of cereal on the top shelf; I watched the war torn news because it was my thumbs pressing the buttons on the remote.

Some part of me wondered if my best friend knew how lucky she was, but as I watched her trembling, I didn’t know if lucky was the right word.

I reached out grasped her trembling hand in my steady one, and stayed awake until she fell asleep.

RE: Am I a bad feminist?

Margaret Atwood’s Criticisms

Margaret Atwood wrote an article for The Globe and Mail titled“Am I a bad feminist?”responding to the #MeToo movement and calling for greater transparency in investigating the claims of sexual misconduct, referring to the case of Steven Galloway, a former creative writing university professor from UBC. Accused of sexual misconduct, he was subsequently fired for the accusations. It was later revealed that there was no evidence for such accusations and Atwood believed the man was treated unfairly.

She asks, “If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers?” In her article, she affirms that #MeToo is the product of a broken legal system as victims and allies of sexual abuse use the internet to take down abusive stars.

Victims have been empowered to tell their owns stories and with successful results. But Atwood remarks that the #MeToo movement brought upon an attitude of “guilty because accused” where “the usual rules of evidence are bypassed”.

Her article sparked debate and criticism on Twitter.Alicia Elliottsaid the letter “wasn’t calling for systematic change; it was upholding the status quo”. The status quo being, in this case, focusing on the perceived innocence of the accused over the needs of the victim. And she makes a good point.

In Canada, between 2009 and 2014, one in five sexual assaults reported by police led to a completed court case, about 1 in 10 of those court cases led to a criminal conviction. #MeToo wants to change the results of accusation, and to create a space for women to come forth with their stories in a world that silences and blames the victim.

#MeToo

The #MeToo movement is historical and absolutely necessary. Tarana Burke founded the movement in 2006 to spread awareness about sexual assault in underprivileged communities of colour.

The hashtag was adopted by celebrities in 2017 and took off after the accusations towards Harvey Weinstein were made public through online discourse. A multitude of stories came to light of his repetitive occurrences of sexual assault and harassment towards women, and men, within the industry. In Hollywood, it was also a well-known fact that he was a predator; it was commonly joked about at award shows and received snickers from the crowd. The accounts written about him are terrifying, disgusting, and quite frankly it’s shame it took so long for him to be “caught” so to speak.

Ultimately, Weinstein’s downfall, like the movement itself, was absolutely necessary. His life was rightfully ruined without a conviction as industry professionals and people around the world were served a wakeup call.

The waves and influence of this movement are unavoidable. It wasn’t too long afterward that Kevin Spacey’s downfall came with Anthony Rapp’s allegations of attempted rape when he was only fourteen years old. His career, his fame, his reputation – all swiped from under his feet, almost like he never even existed.

Women and victims have an enormous  amount of power right now unlike we’ve ever seen before. No one knows how long it will last so it’s been used extensively and rapidly, taking down people left and right.

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Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo Movement 

My Initial Response

It got to this point where I was reading different articles with different names with different and equally disturbing stories.

I quickly discovered my responses to these articles remained the same each time:

  1. Disappointment and disbelief
  2. Reading the account and feeling deeply disturbed
  3. Empathizing with the victim

I’ve discussed this issue with a wide range of people. Most women identified with one or a few of the women who came forward, and they gained support by posting #MeToo on Twitter or Facebook during its prime.

Some men also identified and empathized with the victims. Others were perhaps a bit more apprehensive, but overall saw the necessity in the movement.

I’ve noticed that many people, including sometimes myself, have a hard time separating the man from his work. Casey Affleck, luckily enough for him, experienced similar waves of accusations a year before the “Weinstein effect”, and just last year won an Oscar for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Since this wasn’t a pressing issue in 2016, as it is now, his career was still intact and he was even celebrated for his work.

I saw the movie, it was good. His performance was great. It’s hard to separate Affleck from what he did to several women throughout his career, whose accounts of their experience with him, are just as terrifying as the accounts made towards Weinstein. Aggressive, entitled, powerful, and abusive.

When I asked the person, who didn’t see a problem with Affleck winning an Oscar, why he supported him, he said that he simply had the best performance that year.

My response: “If he was sent to a fair trial and declared guilty of his crimes he wouldn’t have been able to act in that movie.”

“Yeah, but he wasn’t,” this person said, and then added: “I separate the man from his work – you can be an asshole but still be great at what you do.”

I was troubled by these remarks because this is exactly the kind of behaviour that allowed Weinstein to prevail for so long. Opinions like this are, as Alicia Elliott said, “upholding the status quo”. And I’m quite certain that this person never took the time read the accounts written by Affleck’s victims, because I hope that if he had it wouldn’t have been so easy to say those those exact words. After taking the time to listen to the victims, I was then able to look at Casey Affleck differently because I placed what he did over his performances.

I know why it is so hard to look at these accusations and not want to believe the victims. Some of these people being accused are people that others have looked up to. When Johnny Depp was accused of domestic abuse, I shamefully admit that I didn’t believe Amber Hard, his wife and accuser during that time. I thought, what would motivate her to accuse of him of this? Money? Attention? A few months later, a video was released displaying his aggressive behaviour; screaming and throwing dishes around Hard, along with pictures of her bruises, and later, an article that stated she donated all of the money she received from her settlement with Depp, to an organization that helps women in domestic abuse. I couldn’t not believe her allegations and I was embarrassed that I didn’t before.

The most difficult part about peeking behind the curtain is that it forces us to examine our own behaviour, and some of us see are afraid of what we will see. 

The main reason I’m discussing this, and my experience with the #MeToo movement is to demonstrate that I am simultaneously in support of the victims, that I want to believe the victims, but that I am also conflicted.

The Allegations against Aziz Ansari

I have three stages when it comes to seeing an article with allegations towards someone. Three steps, and these steps were carried through when I read a anonymous piece about a date-gone-wrong between a woman and Aziz Ansari. 

(Before continuing, I implore you to read the article in full.)

Once I was finished this article, I was incredibly uncomfortable. The sexual encounter between Ansari and the women reminded me of the aggression and entitlement I’ve encountered throughout my University career. This was the first time I had read something where I could say “Me too”.

I believe the allegations and understand why this woman felt the way that she did. But this account lies under a mysterious grey area in which the notions of sexual assault, misconduct and a bad sexual experience become hazy.

Was this woman rightfully uncomfortable? Yes.

Can Aziz Ansari read minds? No.

I don’t have any license to say whether this was sexual assault, the only people who will know exactly what occurred were the people in the room, Ansari and the woman.

If Aziz Ansari’s allegations can speak to anything, it’s that it’s a symptoms of a much larger, systemic problem. Our parents’ generation call it “boys will be boys”, some girls in my classes call it “rape culture”.

I was floored to see men online commenting that if what Ansari did was sexual assault, then every girl they’ve been with was sexually assaulted. Because along with them were responses amongst female readers who noted their similar experiences. Both are indicative of the fact that we live in a world consumed with an incredibly unhealthy sexual culture. That some men must coerce, manipulate and press to get what they want, and that women must appease.

This unhealthy sexual culture obliges women to go along with uncomfortable sexual experiences when all they want to do is stop. It’s expected of men to decipher mixed signals and body language that belong to the grey areas of consent. To blame the women and say she could’ve gone home at any time isn’t fair, and to expect Aziz Ansari to read the mind of a woman who seemingly gave him consent, also isn’t fair. It’s so much more complicated than that.

rape culture

Am I a bad feminist?

I want to avoid declarative statements, especially today. Declarative sentences are dangerous phrases that can’t be taken back. But, if I were to answer the question Margaret Atwood posed in her Op-ed, who answered yes, then I think I would also have to say yes, I am a bad feminist.

Right now, with the #MeToo movement, to be a feminist is to read an account of sexual abuse and to denounce the abuser. Women, and men, have taken this issue into their own hands due to an ineffective legal system that lets powerful people like Casey Affleck fall through the cracks. To be a feminist means to dawn a robe and type on Twitter, to denounce and defame, and in a sense, become an online vigilante. If the system doesn’t work for us, we must do it ourselves.

Right now, feminists have a bomb in their hands and a crowd full of the accused where there’s a 99% chance they’re guilty. Let’s say there’s a 100 people there. All of them are exposed to the shrapnel.

Let’s say one one person was innocent.

This isn’t based on any data, this might be an impractical analogy for what I’m trying to say which is this: While I have grown to be empowered and in support of the #MeToo movement it has also given me an increasing sense of anxiety.

I’m apprehensive right now because the movement has been adopted by rich female celebrities at the “Times Up” Golden Globes, who have used activists of colour as their new fancy accessories on red carpets, and bullied women who didn’t dress in all black.

I’m apprehensive right now because the movement has led celebrities to publicize their support, more as a public relations move than an act of integrity.

I’m apprehensive right now because I live in a new culture where being accused makes you guilty, negating all previous notions that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

People view this issue in black and white. You’re on one side or you’re on the other. Because I am empowered and I support #MeToo movement, I have one foot alongside line and because I am anxious, ask questions and have my doubts, I’m also alongside another.

Fairness hasn’t existed for victims of sexual abuse throughout history, that is why the movement started. Yet, the notion that we must believe all women that come forth, without question, is based on the logic that all women are incapable of lies and deceit. Anyone can capitalize on an issue that is trending during a specific period of time for an ulterior motive. And to treat all cases with the same weight and pressure, for example Weinstein and Ansari, is not fair. If feminism is about fairness, then what has feminism become in the post-Weinstein era?

I want to support and believe but I also want to be fair, and right now that makes me a bad feminist.

I wholeheartedly think that more focus should be placed on the people that come forward on their stories than the perceived innocence of those who are accused; placing more importance on the victims doesn’t mean we should completely ignore the latter. But I also assume that most people read the headlines in the morning and don’t take the time read the entire story. It’s difficult to peer behind the curtain and see what nightmare is on the other side, it’s difficult to see all sides of the story. But, what’s harder? I think it’s telling the story.

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#MeToo movement 

My “Lady Bird” Film Review

I’ve been fancying myself with writers and narratives that capture the facets of female complexity. Fittingly, while sitting in the quant Ottawa Bytowne Theatre awaiting the start of “Lady Bird”, I read the first pages of “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion, a prominent thinker and writer of the late twentieth century, who also happened to be a woman. A few moments later, a 1979 epigraph by Didion would fade onto the screen in black and white:

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent Christmas in Sacramento.”

lady bird 5Director Greta Gerwig and Joan Didion, I would later find out are both from Sacramento. As with Christine McPherson, but as she so often corrects people, is Lady Bird – a name “given to me by me”, she explains. And that sets the premise for the story: a girl who demands a different flavour of life from the one the one that was given to her.

Before her directorial debut with Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig had a pretty successful acting career.  She spent her times on set as an opportunity to learn, observing and asking the directors question like a makeshift film school. A coming-of-age story is what Gerwig set out to create, deviating from the male-oriented algorithm that they usually follow. And in the simplest of conclusions, it was a masterful success.

“Lady Bird” tells the title character’s coming-of-age story in Sacramento in between the years of 2002 and 2003. In the final year of her Catholic high school, Lady Bird (played by Saoirse Ronan) desperately wants to leave the suburban wasteland of Sacramento and go to New York City for college, where the culture is. As protagonists go, she’s driven by a bravado and naivety that only young protagonists can encapsulate, fittingly juxtaposing the weary, disciplinary Mother who can, at times, be perceived as the antagonist.

Gerwig successfully examines the world that Lady Bird lives in, not with a critical lens, but with an observant one. So many little specificities of the film stick out to me, from the kilted Catholic uniforms, to the strategically placed early-2000s pop tracks, to the subtle backdrop of post-9/11 tensions and war overseas.

It is through Gerwig’s observant and specific lens that we get a zeroed-in narrative, lacking any political agenda, simply telling a story of a girl wanting more in a specific place, in a specific time. And she does this while simultaneously making it touch just about anyone who sees it.

lady bird 6Out of every shining detail, the most engaging part has to the be the central focus of the film; the relationship between Lady Bird and her Mother (played by Laurie Metcalfe). Because, while I had mentioned that she can, at times, be the antagonist, she is also the other half of Lady Bird’s tumultuous love story.

While this film could’ve fallen under the wide umbrella of female coming-of-age tales that are always aligned with the girl’s love for a boy, this film deviated from this in the best way possible way. It is in their mother-daughter relationship – the screaming-in-your-face, pushing-every-button, so-different-but-the-same relationship – that is so reflective of that contemporary dynamic that I was brought back to own life just a few years ago. It is so reflective of my own life, that I think that’s why my brother, a domestic observer of my relationship with our Mother, was the one who recommended I see “Lady Bird”. And why, just a week after seeing it the first time, saw it again but this time with her at my side.

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“Lady Bird” is a breath of fresh air, and probably my favourite film of the year. Much like the confidence and authenticity found in pen of Saramento’s Joan Didion, Greta Gerwig created a vivacious girl whose story captures the some of the facets of female complexity and authenticity. It taught me that love and attention are usually one in the same, and that one’s coming of age is another person’s letting go. It is a love story to hometowns, high schools, douchebags, best friends, and Mothers alike, and I cherished every moment of it.

 

 

 

Sea Glass, a free verse poem

This poem just came to me, and its super chaotic with absolutely no structure, but I hope you can look past that and enjoy what I’ve written. Tell me what you think: 


The beach is sprinkled, tossed with shapes

Swallowed by the mouth of the ocean and licked by its waves

The shards of glass are softened, smoothed down, worn down

Now spit up and gargled, sitting

On the billion-particle lip of the Earth

 

Here one sits in the palm of my hand

Its coin sized and shapeless and olive green

Cloudy in texture, like artist erased its sharp edges

In which she pressed and frictioned every last bit

Of the glass’s sheen

 

It is a missing piece, maybe a puzzle piece,

The nose of some bottle

Broken

Perhaps if I let it sit there a little longer

Then it would no longer be

It would’ve rather been broken down in in the belly of the sea

Grated down to a pulp that nature had foreseen

 

In my palm the shard sits and I imagine

a person in a factory

Sweating

Blowing the bottles soon filled with blood red wine

And drunk by a pot bellied man who stained his lips

Pink and fat like a swine

 

Or perhaps it was a pastor at the step of a church

Filling the void with blessed words

As the people are prodded, swaddled, poked like a herd of sheep

Sipping each word like a sacred nectar

As the glass, picturing their saviour at the steep

Breaks their faces into different hues

 

Or perhaps it wasn’t anything extraordinary

Perhaps it was a glass in some nice cabinetry

 

But still in my hand it sits and I imagine other hands

From their hands sewn

In Earth’s sweltering heat, the lime, the soda, the sand

A creation she could not do on her own

Still a story, unwritten and unravelled

 

While standing at shore, water pestering my feet

I place the piece of glass down beneath

The bed of rocks, and shards, and shells

Back to land, the molten Earth, where it came to be

The Female Fraud: My Experience with Imposter Syndrome

Mainstream feminists seem to think that the be-all and end-all issue to fight is the wage gap. However, studies show that, for the most part, the wage gap exists but not for the reason that people typically think. It has less to do with women getting smaller paychecks than men in similar positions, and more to do […]

Mainstream feminists seem to think that the be-all and end-all issue to fight is the wage gap. However, studies show that, for the most part, the wage gap exists but not for the reason that people typically think. It has less to do with women getting smaller paychecks than men in similar positions, and more to do with how many women are not going towards those high paying careers.

Again, this doesn’t mean that the wage gap is a myth. In fact, the recent annual data shows that women working full time in Canada still earned 74.2 cents for every dollar that a full-time male employee made. And in some cases, highly educated women aren’t getting paid as much as men who have the same, or even less, credentials. 

The Flaw 

The main flaws in those numbers, is that researchers don’t consider different employment choices between men and women, or the number of hours they work. Almost none of them take into account the pressures women have on childbearing, and how pregnancy and motherhood can detract from a woman’s employment status.

In summary, within the Western world, the wage gap isn’t actually just as result of rampant discrimination. This belief leads to governments attempting to aid the situation with affirmative action. Thus, many men plead in defiance that they work just as hard, and women’s wages are still stagnant. This means that the issue is much more complicated than that.

I wanted to know why

Why are so many capable women avoiding those high paying jobs? There are countless reasons, and multiple online threads attempting to convince me that women simply don’t want to do those jobs, that they aren’t that good at bargaining for a better wage. While some I deemed completely laughable, others seemed quite fitting. The actual fault can be traced to the psychological effects of living in a legacy of women being excluded from professional spaces in the modern world. And the one that hit close to home for me, was the concept of Imposter Syndrome.

So, what’s Imposter Syndrome?

Individuals who have Imposter Syndrome, “experience intense feelings that their achievements are undeserved and that they’re likely to be exposed as a fraud,” as written in a report created by the International Journal of Behavioral Science. 

Mind you, this isn’t a gendered phenomenon. High achieving millennials and graduate students are plagued with this mindset no matter what gender they identify as. But it is inarguably and disproportionally afflicted by women – including myself. 

My Experience with Imposter Syndrome

I found myself looking at the accounts written by female professionals, and connecting words that perfectly explained what I have been experiencing ever since I was a young adult. Like ever since I set foot on my university campus I have felt out of place amongst the academics and keeners who did everything on time and seemingly without flaw. Or when people offer me compliments, and tell me that I seem to have everything put together, I can’t agree with them. I immediately think of my messy room back home, the dirty dishes on my desk, and the piles of readings I have yet to finish.

In classrooms, where male students offer their opinions freely and confidently, I take time to repeat my answer over and over in my head until perfection, to the point where I still kind of stutter on my words, or the class has moved on to completely different discussion point.

I think about how social media has allowed me to curate a very edited version of myself; from the articles I share on Facebook, to the highly selective photos I’ve posted on my Instagram. Sometimes I am extremely thankful that I was born in an era where people can take a picture of themselves with the right lighting, angle, and dress so that those candids of double chins, belly bumps, or big foreheads don’t have to presented to the world. But then sometimes I scroll through my feed and feel like I’m lying to everyone. If one of those candids came to light, it isn’t that it’s an ugly representation of myself, but it’s actually the true version of myself.

There are even times where my friends send me links to entry-level summer jobs they think are a perfect fit, but I feel deep down there is a better candidate for those positions. So I don’t apply. I take away any chance of myself gaining more than minimum wage.

That, combined with my knack of belittling every achievement I have had, makes it seem like I simply have some poor self-esteem, except it feels like more than that.

It feels like I’ve built a small empire – of confidence, beauty, and success – on shaky infrastructure; a castle made of sand.

Why does it matter?

Imposter Syndrome is a complicated concept and it definitely cannot independently explain why women don’t allow themselves to go towards high paying careers. However, it should be examined much more than it is, when female law students, professors and CEOS “find innumerable means of negating any external evidence that contradicts their belief that they are, in reality, unintelligent.”

I do call on it when people condescendingly claim that the wage gap is a myth, or when people try to reason through that specific issue by explaining that women are just less ambitious. Both of those reasons are just examples of people attempting to continue the narrative that women are inferior.

I know I’m not. I know women aren’t, but I think we all have that voice in the back of our heads that makes us question our worth.

Back to the Wage Gap 

While millionaire actresses and celebrities stand with signs in their hands about the wage gap, uneducated as to why it actually exists, it makes their fight seem unworthy, and often exasperating. Not only to they stand with misguided signs, but are probably standing next to images of pink vulvas with the thought that all women are connected by same genitalia, and not mention, are all probably white. These acts are excluding many people and specifically disregarding how the wage gap disproportionally affects women of colour.

It’s extremely difficult to live in a time where everyone feels like everyone else is living better. It’s also extremely difficult living in the legacy where women have been excluded from the work force and academic spaces. Hopefully, the end of that legacy is closer than we think.

It is important to note that issues such as these cannot only be explained with numbers. It the lived experience that should be taken to account as well.

And in the meantime, we should create a mantra when those dirty, little thoughts sneak into heads, repeating over and over, “I can, I can, I can.”

Sources:
Image 1: https://studybreaks.com/2016/10/20/will-gender-pay-gap-shrink-future/
Grant, Tavia. Who is minding the gap? The Globe And Mail (2017). Retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/gender-pay-gap-a-persistent-issue-in-canada/article34210790/
Clance, Pauline Rose; Imes, Suzanne. The Imposter Phenomenon In High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention. Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practise, 15:3. (1978).

 

 

Just Focus: My Recent Diagnosis with ADHD

Just over a year ago, I read an article that changed my life.

Maria Yagoda, an author from The Atlantic, wrote about the generation of young women who have been living undiagnosed with ADHD. She explained that the disorder had been stereotyped, associated with the hyperactive young boys who disrupted elementary school classes. And the “women with the disorder tend to be less hyperactive and impulsive, more disorganized, scattered, forgetful, and introverted”, and they had been left wondering what was wrong with them.

Immediately, I was enamoured. My eyes were peeled to the screen, and I kept reading. It felt as though someone had been explaining exactly what I had been dealing ever since I could remember, and especially since I started University. And now,  skipping to just over a year later, I’ve officially been diagnosed with ADHD.

The road to a diagnosis

Trust me, the process in being diagnosed was not easy. I spent the next few months letting the information sink in and wondered if I actually wanted to be tested. Why would when I had already managed to live an exceptional life without one?

But then I realized I wasn’t… not technically.

IMG_5650In Elementary school I blended in with the other kids who didn’t focus, drawing when I wasn’t supposed to, but never disrupting the class. My lack of responsibilities in my youth let me live carefree.

At home, my mother and I fell into arguments about daily tasks that she would remind me in numerous ways at the beginning of each day. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher or putting my clothes away, would slip my mind by the time I got home from school. She thought I was entitled, and that I didn’t appreciate the life she had given me. It was hard to explain that small domestic tasks were something that did not come to me naturally, that forgetting was not something I intended to do.

High school was a solid four years of disengagement. At school, I would need more than both hands to count the times I was told by teachers that I would truly succeed, that I would excel, if I just focused.  I sat at the back of class, doodling in the margins of my notebook or staring out a window twirling my hair, only looking up when my name was called or times when there was a discussion that sparked my interest. I left everything to the last minute but somehow managed to pull off straight A’s.

In University, I brought the same work ethic, but not the A’s.

I quickly realized I couldn’t write ten page papers worth thirty percent of my mark in one night – especially when I hadn’t done any of the mandatory, and tedious, readings.

The extremely structured schedule I cursed in high school was something I dreamed of having once again. Nothing was grounding me, and in the time that seemed free to use at my will was disposed of by wasting it.

My habit of hair twirling used to be cute, it was something I’d do when I was lost in thought and on the brink of sleep. Now, it transformed into something that I did compulsively, and obsessively. Something that people would stare at when we were conversing,  or even told to stop doing at dinner tables, but a few short moments later my hands would crawl up and start twisting and pulling at that one unfortunate strand of hair.

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The most frequent occurrence was when my mind drifted in the midst of conversations with professionals and friends. Staring them dead in the eye, nodding, irrelevant thoughts came to to the surface and suddenly the other person sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents. Then, they’d stop and I’d smile and nod as though I heard everything they were saying.

As a result of my inattentiveness, I was given the title of a bad listener, of not caring, of being irresponsible. My grades dropped to C’s and I gave off the impression of being apathetic, neglecting to remember coffee dates or birthdays, or important pieces of information. My undiagnosed ADHD symptoms were clouds, like overcast in my adolescence, and brewed into a storm in my early adulthood.

So no, to answer my earlier question, my life and my habits were not exceptional. For the life I wanted to live, and for everything I wanted to achieve in life, I needed the diagnosis.

The cost of a diagnosis

In the cold, desolate months of the Ottawa winter, my third year of University came to a predictable halt. Seasonal depression hit me like a brick amongst the impending stream of research essays, double digit negative weather, and the uploading of grades that really did not seem to match my level of my intelligence.

I found myself stuck, just like the last two years of school, wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

I watched my friends and peers, with equal drive and ambition, start assignments, go to work on time, and balance their busy social life with punctuality and a “just do it” mentality.

Why couldn’t I just do it?

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I laid in my bed, staring across the room at an unopened text book and a Word document with one finished sentence out of a ten-page paper that was due the following day.  Next to it, was even more work, dirty dishes, and a pile of laundry that grew and grew with each following week.

It’s hard to explain how it feels living in a vicious cycle of inattentiveness. While there were other factors in my life that caused depression, there had always been a connection to its consistent arrival in the winter of each year, and my inability to achieve the success I wanted in all areas of my life.

It’s even harder to explain what I was experiencing  to a medical professional, in the latest hours a clinic that was opened on a Saturday night.

That one, I think I might have ADHD.

And two, I’m depressed.

To which, the white haired man in a matching lab coat scoffed and said the two could never correlated. He scrawled a referral to a psychologist anyway, but it was only for depression.

I left that clinic feeling invalidated and angry, it almost stopped me from taking the next steps I needed. I was incredibly desperate for an answer, and some help, but all he gave me was condescension.  

However, I went from referral to referral, using also my University’s tactless resources, and found myself in a place that seemed promising

The cost of ADHD is a shit ton of patience, people not believing you, six hours of strenuous psychological testing, a cheque with a price that I curse.

On May 4th 2017, I was handed some papers with my diagnosis. So, I guess it was worth it.

How can a piece of paper change one’s life?

A piece of paper didn’t change my life, at least it hasn’t yet.

It’s been over a week since my last appointment, and there are still countless steps that I need to take to get back on track.

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While I live in a world that has a ticking clock for everything, I’m a twenty year old woman and I have to remind myself that I have time to figure everything out. It’s a world that define’s ones worth by their productivity, I hope to be patient as I work through habits built over a lifetime, and to know that, for know, its okay to just be okay. 

I also have to remind myself that the diagnosis isn’t an excuse, and it doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of me, small but impactful on myself and other people in my life.

But I’ll just end for now by saying this: If you feel as though there is a barricade blocking you from the life you want to live, look into it no matter what it maybe. And for others, listen to them, and don’t invalidate the barricade’s existence.

~P.S. If you, or someone you know, has experienced similar things, here’s a link with more information ~