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A Tale of Two Time Zones – An ADHD Story

A Life Lessons Story

by Chana Klein

Do you ever wonder what happened to the work you were supposed to do by yesterday?
After all, you found out about it about three whole months ago.
You certainly had enough time. Why didn’t you do it?
I wondered that every time I was panicking to finish something that was late.

In learning about ADD and my own ADD, I learned that we ADDers live and work in just two time zones. That is The “Now” and the “Not-Now” Time Zone.

So for us, a report due in three months would go into the “Not-Now” time zone.
In other words, we forget about the report until the night before the three-month period is over.
Then, suddenly, the panic of the “Now” time zone becomes our reality and it’s too late.

Supervisors, teachers, relatives, everyone is exasperated with us. They call us lazy; they call us underachievers and they even call us stupid.
They look down on us as they say things like: “If you could only get it together…“ or
“You have such potential . . .”
or some other comment that means we are not cutting it.

Is it possible for us to shift to working in the Now Time Zone?
How does one do that?

My Story

It was the year 1963.
Everyone went to college, everyone whom I knew, anyway. My friends applied all and got accepted to colleges all over the country.
I remember Robert talking incessantly about being accepted into Bridgeport University – like it was the highest honor possible and he got it!

My best friend Veeta was going to New Paltz. I remember how my best male friend, Joe, told me that he figured out why no one responded to his request for a scholarship. It was because he had misspelled the word “scholarship.” So what could he expect? We laughed about it and decades later, I still laugh when I remember. But Joe got into a good school anyway.

Amidst all the talk about college applications and visits to examine college life that my friends took, I naturally got into the rhythm of it. So, I too, at least, “applied” to a college – to Brooklyn College.
I knew that my 65% high school average was not up to snuff to get me into any college.
But with everyone else applying, how could I not?

Months later, the letter from Brooklyn College arrived in my mail box. It said that I was rejected.
I actually cried when I read the letter. It was as if the admissions office was rubbing-in the fact that I am not like everyone else, that I just don’t measure up and that they don’t want me either.
But the letter also said that I could take courses as a non-matriculated student and if I get a B index in those courses, I will be eligible to matriculate into day school.
So I tried.
I took two courses each of two semesters.
I did it!
I got into Brooklyn College as a matriculated student.

But in the 1960’s, people did not know or care about ADD or dyslexia.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t know about it either.
I thought I was just not as able as my peers. And it was really scary because as a student in this college, I would have to be responsible for whatever the most skilled students were responsible for.
So, I did not look ahead.
I just did what I could, which wasn’t really very good.

At the time I was renting a room in Mrs. Blum’s attic where she rented out two other rooms besides mine.
Mara lived in the room across from mine. She was a year ahead of me in Brooklyn College.
We got along really well, spending endless hours sitting on the floor in the hallway between our rooms gabbing, laughing, and figuring out life.

It was my first semester as a matriculated student and one of the courses I was scheduled to take was Roman and Greek Civilizations.
Mara had just taken it last semester and what a coincidence that she had the same teacher who I was about to have.
When Mara gave me all of her class notes. I was clueless about how valuable something like that is. But I did not turn them down.

In class, I sat right in front of the room and listened carefully. I had Mara’s notes in front of me and it was as if Mr. Roberts, the professor, was reading Mara’s notes. He said everything verbatim, according to the notes in my lap. I had difficulty tying together all of the events in the history of Greece and Rome.
But when he mentioned something and asked about it, it was right there in the notes.
He would ask a question and up went my hand.
I knew every answer – or at least I could read Mara’s notes and from that know the answer.
In reality, I had no idea what he or I was talking about.
These were bits of information that I could not tie together to make a picture so that I may understand the content of the course.
There was a textbook for the course but I put off reading it.
That was in the Not-Now time zone.
After all, Mara’s notes were getting me through. And I had them Now!

After nine weeks of this, the teacher announced a midterm. I had kept putting off reading the textbook.
Now it was the day before the exam.
Now there was no way I could pass the exam.
I was doomed.
I felt so befuddled.
What should I do?
There’s no escape!
I prayed about it, and then tried to sleep.
Finally, after tossing and turning for hours, I fell into a deep sleep.

Waking up the next morning, I went to the bathroom,
I glanced in the mirror. Wow! I had to look again.
My face was all red and bumpy.
So were my chest, my arms, and my whole body.
I felt awful.
I even looked awful.
I took my temperature – 102 degrees.
I realized that I once again had German measles, I knew what it was because I had just had it a few months previously.
It is known that one develops immunity to it after having it once. You can’t get German measles again.
But here I am again with German measles and what a sore sight I am.

I went to the classroom to look for Mr. Roberts.
I hoped he would give me extra time to study because I couldn’t be expected to take an exam in this condition. I felt so lucky.

I saw Mr. Roberts as soon as I entered the building.
He seemed to be in a hurry, as if he was on his way to someplace else.
He looked at me, obviously realizing that I could not take any test in this condition.

He paused a few moments.
Then, instead of telling me that I could take the exam when I got better, as I was hoping for, he said, “I know that you know the material. You do not have to take the midterm.”

Wow! When I got back to my attic room, I once again stared into the mirror in almost disbelief of the miracle I had just experienced.
I cried with gratitude to God that He did this for me.
He saved me from the World History Midterm.

Then and there, I promised God that rather than hearing about a task and automatically putting it in the Not-Now time zone, from this day on, I will never, ever again put off studying, or anything else for that matter, no matter how much I hate doing it.

I began to do everything I had to do as soon as I found out about it. I began doing things in the “Now” time zone.
To my surprise it was easier to feel the little bit of self imposed pressure to complete something right away rather than the melt down of immense pressure of deadlines closing in on me.

After that day, whenever I heard that something had to be done, I did it as soon as I heard about it. It was so much easier to work on something when it was not overdue or even due soon. I began to get everything done early and avoided the anxiety, the pressure, and the melt down that I felt when I put things off until after the last minute.

It is more than 45 years later and I can honestly say that I have kept that promise. I got through college. It was very difficult for me.
When I became a teacher, I even had supervisors telling me to do certain tasks but often with a caveat to not do it immediately.
Everyone got to know that I do everything immediately.

Years ago when I lost the data on my Palm Pilot, the person who was retrieving the data said, “Your date book is here, your contact info is here, Oh my G-d! Your to-do list is gone! It’s blank.” He panicked. Your whole to-do list is lost!” I explained to him that I do not have a to-do list because I do everything as soon as I hear about it.

The German measles miracle threw me into the “Now” time zone and I have lived there happily ever busy ever since.

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