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College – A Cautionary Tale

June 3, 2011

Image provided by SmokedSalmon click for credit link.For me, there was never a question of not going to college right out of high school.

I found the thought of going to college  exciting.  I visited a bunch of colleges, even driving from New England to Chicago with a friend to visit Northwestern during my junior year.  I planned to apply to 5 schools, but only got one application complete and submitted on time.  But I wasn’t worried, the application I finished was for the school I really wanted to go to and it simply never occurred to me that I might not get in.

Fortunately, I was the golden girl and the world contorted to conform to my vision of what it should be and I got in.

From the moment my acceptance letter arrived,   I couldn’t wait to move into my dorm, make new friends, take interesting classes, rush a sorority and venture out to blaze my own path.  I was the Salutatorian at my high school graduation and voted most likely to succeed by my classmates, the idea that I might struggle in college simply never crossed my mind.

Freshman year was fairly typical.  I lived in a dorm, joined a sorority, got A’s and B’s, and gained a little more than the dreaded “freshman 15”.  I spent too much money, opened too many credit cards, bought too many clothes, ate too many late night snacks from the snack bar, but didn’t stray too far from the average college experience.

Sophomore year was a different story.  I moved off campus to live in an apartment with a sorority sister who was a senior.  Removed from the camaraderie of dorm life and the somewhat consistent schedule it provided, I faltered.   I spent more time at the student union than I did being a student.  I bristled at having to take classes that were uninteresting and fought against professors who didn’t teach how I wanted to learn.  I was no longer a small fish in a big pond, I was a small fish in the ocean and I was drowning.

My grades fell, my weight rose, and by the middle of the year my days as a vehement non-smoker were over.  I finished the second semester with one incomplete, one dropped class, and two of the lowest grades of my life.  I had gained a total of 50 pounds, was smoking a pack a day, was on academic probation, and had accumulated about $4,000 in credit card debt.

I was a long way from “Most Likely to Succeed”.

I would like to say that I turned things around, got my act together, stopped screwing up, and went on to graduate like I was supposed to.

I would like to say that, but I can’t.

By the middle of my junior year, I made the decision to leave college after finishing the semester with only 2 classes.  While the decision was the right one, it was the first in a long line of disappointments as the life I was supposed to be living and my actual life permanently diverged and I transformed from golden girl to black sheep.

It would take me 10 more years to finish college and 6 years after that to learn I have AD/HD.

Along the way, I would become a walking AD/HD statistic.

Unplanned pregnancy
√  Speeding tickets and car accidents
Impulsive behavior
√  Non-existent self esteem

I don’t mean to imply that my adult life has been a disaster.  But there were parts of it that were harder than they needed to be and chunks of it that were simply impossible.

When I talk to people about AD/HD and about coaching, I often point to college, to this story, as the point at which my AD/HD began to matter.  It mattered because it no longer allowed me to play three varsity sports, be part of the high school play, work part-time, and maintain a 4.0.  Instead of making me a super star, it made me a screw-up.    It was the point where the life I was “supposed” to have rapidly became unattainable as the me I was “supposed” to be no longer resembled the me I was becoming.

I wouldn’t change much about my life – it made me who I am and I love who I am.  But my story has a good middle so far, and there is no promise of a happy ending or even a solid middle to the story of every teenager and college student with AD/HD.  I am just one of the lucky ones.

I became an AD/HD coach to take luck out of the equation.

Let me help you learn from my mistakes.  Let me help you avoid the pot holes and enjoy the picturesque vistas.

Life is hard enough, let me help so that it isn’t any harder than it has to be!

For more information about my work with college students, go to my website.

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