My Journey to Okay
“It’s a disease.” “It’s your choice.” “You’re different.” “You’re weird.” “You always lose things.” “Why can’t you remember that? I told you twelve times.” “Why is that so hard for you? It’s so simple, though.” “You’re not like everyone else.”
To say I have heard it all may be an understatement. Growing up “different” at age 9 or even 13 can seem impossible to understand. Then you hit 22. Then 27. Then 35. Somewhere along the line, life starts zooming by. It may be because I spent ages 19-25 looking for my misplaced cell phone and didn’t find it until 26? You know where it was for all those missing years? In my hand, as I was talking to my friend about how I can’t find my phone while using the light on it to find my missing keys that were in the spot where I left my wallet last but isn’t there anymore.
I remember, as a kid, having to go to the school office every day to take my meds, or crazy pills as some would call it. From Ritalin, Dexedrine, to Adderall, I am pretty sure I tried every type they came out with. From “talking” to docs, to doing neurological feedback sessions, I am pretty sure I was about to fly over the cuckoo’s nest!
While my parents did all they could, I became the master at the “I took my meds” line—but they were really hidden somewhere else for me to spit out later (sorry Mom, if you ever read this). When I took the meds… well, THAT’S when I felt different!
As a kid I was always fortunate enough to travel and have great world experiences, probably more than most, and I made friends almost everywhere we went. My brain never knew what “shy” meant. I played lots of sports like soccer and never seemed to run out of gas; until I did. I could fall asleep in a blink—literally. Then it would be a 26-minute power nap and back at it. As a baby, my parents told me if we went out to a restaurant, and I was hyper or fidgety, they would just turn the carrier toward neon lights and I would just stop and stare. Who knew I understood a Captain Morgan sign at such a young age!
It wasn’t until high school that I started to fully understand my own struggles with ADHD. One example would be when I would have to sit through a forty-minute biology class learning about endoplasmic reticulum. Why was it so hard—because literally, when would I ever need this in life? To this day, I have only used it once, at a pub, to hit on a girl who was a biology major, when I asked her what was cooler, “that or Golgi bodies?” And it didn’t work. The point is, I could register my struggle to tasks that seemed to have little or no value to me in the immediate moment, or if I saw no future with the task.
I got in trouble in algebra once. The teacher had a discussion with my parents because he assumed I had been cheating, since I would turn in full homework assignments without “showing my work.” My parents, of course, discussed this with me. Time and time again, I could show them how to get the answers correct without showing all the work. Me: “Mom, why would I write all these five steps out, when this is the answer? That doesn’t make sense and wastes a lot of time?” While I can’t remember her exact response, I can assure you it was a “corporate answer” with a smile that says she totally understands.
Throughout my first years at work, I began to realize that different meant what I wanted it to mean. I could memorize things faster, remember more details about a customer conversation from weeks ago, remember a face from a random place where we had crossed paths before. All my old association tricks to remember landline phone numbers from twenty years ago started to pay off in sales.
In one of my early retail jobs, couples would discuss a large purchase with me, but then wanted to go off on their own to discuss (and presumably figure out a way out). My brain could process things so fast. I would partially read their lips, figure out what their objections might be, use deductive reasoning to assume an outcome, and present an answer to overcome an objection they’d thought long and hard about and hadn’t even shared yet. Then they would stand there stunned because that was their main concern—as they signed the paperwork.
I STILL couldn’t remember where I set down the truck keys, though.
I am in now my fifth year of running my travel agency called Travel Vibe. I have a business partner, five agents, and a growing customer base. We will do closer to $150K more in revenue this year than 2018. I decided that with all those experiences as a kid—the support I had from those around me, and those that just left me out to dry—I wanted to make a difference. So that others can always be happy. My business partner is my check and balance—I am the Bull; he is the Bear. I make four checklists to make sure I don’t forget details. I find routines based on efficiency. I put on my headphones so my brain can attach to the music and still stick to the task at hand. I convince myself that no matter how small, THAT is the task that will lead to my success.
I tell myself, You’re different. You will always lose things. And it is okay.
With more than fifteen years in the hospitality field, Jordan Brown has flourished at a travel agency for the last seven years. He also played semi-pro football (kicker/punter/free safety) and college soccer, and now coaches at the Burlington United Select program.