Update! The summer, work, and school.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this blog. But it’s time to update you on the successes of my life so far!

I’m currently a fifth year senior – not because I’m slow, but because the dual degree program is 5 years minimum – and finally living on my own in an apartment not too far away from my school. Classes started two weeks ago, and so far, I’m doing pretty well in them, despite German being at an ungodly hour in the morning. I’m taking 23 credit hours (which is 3 less than I had planned, so I’m not complaining), and working part time as an Assistant Children’s Ministry Director (even though I’m a self-proclaimed agnostic atheist), and enjoying the perks of being a full-time student with a job. I’ve discovered that jobs don’t come as easily for normal fresh-college-graduates as they did for me.

This summer I worked as a full-time nanny (a job which I seem to excel at), and later as a conductor of a children’s choir! I had so much fun doing the latter, I briefly considered switching my life plans from graduate school in history to full time children’s choir conductor. I’m even pushing for them to let me teach the kids popular hymns at our Sunday morning gatherings. J

Vocally, I’m in a different place. While I’m still pursuing my major in performance at a top level conservatory of music, I have had a few set-backs, most in the last month. I decided many months ago – if not years – that I would not continue my path toward a professional music career. I have settled with earning a Bachelor’s of Music, and I am content with that decision. However, I haven’t earned the B.M. yet, and vocally, I’ve recently learned that I have the beginnings of vocal nodules. (For those who don’t know, that means there are bumps on my vocal cords which are preventing them from coming together all the way and making singing very difficult; imagine having a small blister on your foot, but in order to run away from the lion chasing you, you have to run on that foot, and the blister gets bigger and bigger, eventually, incapacitating you and you can no longer walk. The more you walk on it, the more damage you do to your foot. The same is with the voice – if you keep singing, the bump on your vocal folds [as they are called] will get bigger and bigger and –if you let it get bad enough – you will no longer be able to sing at all and therefore will require surgery. Adele has had this done to her because she uses a raspy tone which, while stylistic, is damaging to her voice.) I don’t require surgery (as Adele did), just 6 weeks of vocal rest, some speech therapy, and acid reflux medicine. But that means no singing for 6 weeks. Imagine not being able to do what you love to do for 6 weeks. I can’t listen to my music because I sing. I have to sit down in choir because if I stand with everyone else, I’ll start singing. It’s a rough life. Anyway, my voice teacher and I have been talking and with his help, I have a plan and will be programming recital repertoire for my senior recital in May.

I also auditioned for a musical and was frustrated that I did not get in, but that’s life, eh? It sucked for a while, but my track record for getting through bad days is 100% good, so I’m ok now. But everyone has sucky days. And I’m going to go talk to the director and ask for audition feedback, which seems like an appropriate way of finding out how my audition went, since I thought I did well. But there’s a good part to this, because the performance is in a month and I can’t sing for 6 weeks. So I’ll be healthier for my recital in the long run.

Finally, I’ve been living the fifth-year senior lyfe, and it’s weird, but I’m really enjoying it. While the college kids go out and get high and drunk off their asses, I get to sit in my apartment and watch the season premiere of Bones (which was amazing. If you haven’t seen it and you watch Bones, I dare you not to cry – if not for real, in your soul.) with my yogurt and a blanket and a cup of tea. And I have no shame about it. Living alone has made me realize how much of an introvert I actually am. While I do have enough energy to watch 3 children for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, I love sitting at home and doing nothing, more.

I’m having a good time. I’ve got a stable diet of rice, soy sauce, pasta, eggs, and salad, and I’m living on my own in my apartment which has air conditioning and a double bed with a comfy comforter. I’m doing well.

…Even though German class is too early in the morning for a night owl.

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New Beginnings and a New Year

It’s finally 2014!! 2013 went by so quickly! I was just getting used to writing 2013 on papers and not 2012.

I love the beginning of a new year. The new year is like a clean slate on your life. Whatever qualms you had in the previous 12 months are erased and you set goals for the next 12 months. It gives you a fresh start. It gives me a fresh start. Though I don’t really write resolutions, I try to think in a broad sense of what I want this year to be; a fresh start. Don’t let the less-than-wonderful moments of last year affect how you live your life this year, Jenna. Use these next 12 months to prove to yourself that you can do better. Because you can.

It’s a requirement the life-manual for a kid with ADHD to feel guilty or ashamed of many things they do in the past, more-so than the average non-ADHD person. I am no exception to this rule. There are many times where impulsivity gets the better of me and I speak out of turn, interrupt a conversation, or just make bad, impulsive decisions. I’ve said many times that I do not believe ADHD to be an excuse for behavior, but merely an explanation. People with ADHD should not be pitied, but given chances. Because we can. There have been many times this year where I have pitied myself, felt bad for myself, and even hated myself for my behaviors/actions. For example, sleeping in and missing class (which is something I unfortunately have done more times than I can count), or not turned in a homework assignment, or lost something of great importance to me (such as a ring, which luckily has been retrieved from the bowels of my closet). Those moments especially related to academic achievement are most guilt-laden. I blame myself – why did you press snooze 13 times this morning??? – and blame my ADHD – if I didn’t have ADHD, this wouldn’t have happened. But in truth, there is no point in placing blame. The past is the past. I don’t have a TARDIS to travel back in time to fix those things which I messed up. The only thing I can do is move forward. Start fresh. Look at those moments and resolve to try harder and do better. Because I can.

So this year, I resolve to start new. I will not let those past blunders bring me down. I will make mistakes this year, as everyone does, but I will try not to place blame, because blame does nothing. I will make mistakes and I will put them in the past. I will live in the present moment and think about the future and I won’t look back. I will live my life how I want to live it, and I will love every step of the way.

Accommodations, Negativity, and the Power of Words

This last month, I forgot my medicine when my choir went on a retreat and had to go home (this was migraine medication with huge withdrawal consequences). This was a mandatory event, and the conductors were pissed. I’ve been through the ADHD conversation with many of my professors, but this one was different. Though he claimed to understand the nature of a learning disability, our conversation ended in him implying I am less than capable and that “real life doesn’t make accommodations.” 

You know, I don’t think he actually understands. Firstly, real life does indeed make accommodations. Ask anyone who’s ever published a book. Or ask any college student who’s asked for an extension on an assignment. Secondly, just because I’m allowed accommodations, doesn’t mean I need to use them. Just ask my history professors. And my aural skills exams. Lastly, I’m pretty sure (though not positive, so don’t take my word on this) that negative reinforcement doesn’t work on any kid with ADHD. With me, if I only receive negative feedback, (even if it’s meant to be constructive) I forget about what I can do. I begin to think that I can’t do anything, so why even bother putting effort into it. Life is a daily challenge for kids/adults with ADHD, and sometimes we screw up. More often than “normal” people. And when we do, people notice. We get called out on it. It’s frustrating because we know we could’ve done better. I’m used to people calling out my mistakes, because I make tons of them. People who only ever observe me in these stressful situations begin to wonder if i can do anything at all. And you know, I could go on and on about the cycle of negativity, but if you have a child with ADHD, or if you have ADHD, you know how wearing it can be on your psyche, your emotions, and your physical self.

Here’s a modified Negative Cognitive Triad (which I have made into a quad…) which is a good visual for what I’m trying to say.Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 7.53.10 PM

Like many others, I hate the word disability (though the concept is a different story). I think the word is horribly negative since in it’s literal sense it means the lack of ability. And when people see the phrase “learning disability” they automatically attribute a negative bias to anyone with the disorder. But ADHD is not just a list of everything we can’t do like everyone else. We just have different abilities. If somebody watches you and points out every mistake you make during the day, I’m sure you would feel pretty bad about yourself. I’m sure you’d say, “but look at what I did do!” Any person would feel discouraged if every mistake they made was critiqued. ADHD people just tend to make more of them. And that there is my point. We tend to make more mistakes and they tend to be bigger, which leads to increased shame and humility as people are more likely to notice our mistakes and point them out, as they tend to have much greater consequences. Then people begin to anticipate the mistakes. And the cycle is back in play.

It’s kind of like being bullied. Actually, it’s very much like being bullied.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not looking to be treated as special. I’m definitely not looking for people to treat me as if I am fragile. What do I want? Though I know this is not always possible, I want my smaller mistakes to be ignored and looked over, because I know I make them every single time I do something wrong. I just would like for people to not point out every single thing I do wrong. But mostly, I want people to realize what effect their words have on others.

[N.B. It’s been a long week. I’m sorry this isn’t more organized. I just needed to get it down on “paper.”]

No Day But Today – Jonathan Larson

The heart may freeze or it can burn.
The pain will ease if i can learn,
There is no future.
There is no past.
Thank god this moment’s not the last.

There’s only us.
There’s only this.
Forget regret
or life is yours to miss.
No other road.
No other way.
No day but today.

I can’t control my destiny.
I trust my soul.
My only hope is just to be.

There’s only now.
There’s only here.
Give into love or live in fear.
No other path.
No other way.

No day but today.

Week ONE: What worked, what didn’t.

So this first week has been a mixed bag of good and bad. On the bright side, I didn’t miss a single class and I had an excellent lesson. I also realized a dream and have invested in getting a small pet, which will happen in 2 weeks (a topic which I will discuss in further detail later, much to the chagrin of my mother, but hey, I’m an adult). On the downside, I forgot meds and had to miss a mandatory choir retreat. And I slept through my volunteer job at the Nursery, which is a shame, since I always look forward to it. Yeah, not such a good weekend for me.

But otherwise, senior year seems to be going well so far. I cleaned my room, and now I’m working on organizing it. I turned in all my required forms and paperwork for classes/having a car on campus, and I am taking an italian placement exam tomorrow. Ironically, the thing I was looking forward to the most for this year is turning out to be the thing I’m dreading most this year: Concert Choir. There’s only so much I can put up with a bunch of high-strung singers with gigantic egos. I love singing; I hate being a singer. Too many egos and cliques and way way too much energy.

So since all the bad things of the week happened this weekend, I’ve decided that it’s time to take my medicine and get working on things that absolutely need to be done. I have a list made out, but let me put it here too, just so you have some insight into how I organize myself in real life.

– Conducting homework
– ITALIAN REVIEW
– finish organizing my room
– maybe do some laundry, depending on the time I have left.

So, that’s what’s on my list for today. And a final thing that I do, which you might find helpful if you’re like and often get down on yourself when you mess up. I make a sign – maybe on a post-it-note or something – and put it in plain sight. It says, YOU CAN DO THIS. Because there is no day but today, and there is no point in dwelling on the past. What happened happened, and all I can do is move on and learn from it. Be BETTER. So I am going to strive this week to be better and pull my shit together. Because it’s too early in the year to fall apart.

Wibbly Wobbly Summer Days/To-Do-Lists!

Sometimes, when Italian school is over and you’re all caught up on sleep 2 weeks later, you come to a realization that summer is 1) coming to a close, and 2) not as great as it’s hopped up to be. Today I got four cavities filled (shut up… just shut up), a painful massage, even more painful hand therapy, and to cap it all off, I got myself abandoned at the grocery store because I’m stupid and forgot my cell in mom’s car. How was your day?

I’m sorry about the lack of posting. Which brings up the topic of this short post: the importance of keeping a to-do list. I have found that keeping a list is what keeps me in line and on time. I believe that all children need a consistent schedule in order to develop good habits and behaviors for later life, but with ADHD, this can be difficult. Though it’s harder to stick us to a schedule, it’s also much more important. As I got older, I realized that if I wanted to remember things, they needed to be either written down, or ingrained habits. Like brushing my teeth every night, or washing hands before meals. When they’re not habitual patterns, writing down what I needed to do over and over again was the best method of committing it to memory. With an executive functioning problem to go along with ADHD, To-Do lists were my coping mechanism. I made them all the time (and during the school year, I still do), so that I remember to go to appointments, remember classes, and schedule time in to practice and do homework. My to-do lists are also “time stamped” in that they have times. For example:

  1. 9.50-11.00: History
  2. 11.10-12.20 Free time: history homework
  3. 12.30-1.40 class
  4. 1.45-2.30 practice
  5. 2.35-3.10 history hwk
  6. 3.15-4.15 choir
  7. 4.30-5.30 geology homework

That’s just a quick example of a to-do list that I would make to get me through a day. I would often write it down a few times during the day just so that I can anticipate what kind of homework I need to do when. I have to say, the homework that is least likely to get done is the stuff at the bottom of the list. But the inbetween class times are prime slots for homework-doing. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point. I like lists because they keep me focused on the tasks I must complete during the day, and by what time. 

So parents, my advice to all of you starting this journey, especially to those of you who have Adult ADHD: TO-DO-LIST that sh*t. Because it’ll keep you from procrastinating in your typical fashion.

I promise I will be writing more frequently once the school year starts. Right now I’m just trying to soak up the last bit of sun, and fix all my electronics before school starts again. But it was really lovely to find out last week that I actually start a week later than I thought I did. So I get a week longer of sleeping until 2:30pm (yeah, you think I’m kidding) and a trip with the family to NYC! YAY! 

Buona notte, interwebs!