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A Tale of Two Time Zones

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 the same thing every time I was panicking to finish something that was late. In learning about ADD and my own ADD, I learned that for a person with ADD, there are only two time zones - Now and Not-Now. So when we ADDers find out that we have a report due in three months, that goes into the "Not-Now" time zone. In other words, we forget about it until three months from Now becomes "Now." Then, it is too late.

Supervisors, teachers, relatives, everyone gets exasperated with us. They call us lazy; they call us underachievers and even stupid. They look down on us as they say things like: "if you could only get it together... "

Is it possible to shift from working in the Not-Now time zone to working in the Now? If it is, how does one do that? I will share with you how I learned that lesson and perhaps you may learn from my mess-ups rather than from your own.

In the year 1963, everyone went to college, everyone whom I knew, anyway. My friends applied 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. He later realized that he had misspelled the word "scholarship" so what could he expect? We laughed about it and decades later, I still laugh when I think of it. 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 and 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 did say 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 and 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 smart 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. In the room across from me lived Mara. Mara 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.

It was my first semester as a matriculated student and one of the courses I was scheduled to take was Roman and Greek Civilzation. 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. But 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.

After nine weeks of this, the teacher announced a midterm. I had kept putting off reading the textbook. And 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 is no escape! I prayed about it, and then tried to sleep. Finally, after tossing and turning for hours, I fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning, I awakened. When 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 figured 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 and then instead of telling me that I could take the exam when I got better, he said, "I know that you know the material. You do not have to take the midterm."

When I got back to my room, I once again stared into the mirror in almost disbelief of the miracle I had just experienced. I cried with gratitude to G-d that He did this for me. He saved me from the World History Midterm. There and then, I promised G-d that I will never ever again put off studying or anything else for that matter that I had to do, 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, rather than hearing about it and automatically putting it in the Not-Now time zone. 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 immense pressure of deadlines closing in on me. From then on, 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 and the pressure that I felt when I put things off until after the last minute.

It is more than 40 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 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.

In my first year of marriage to my husband, Heshie, he was retrieving the data on our Palm Pilots. He 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.

Before this experience, everything was to be done in the Not-Now time zone. The German measles miracle threw me into the Now time zone and I have lived there happily ever busy.

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