A.D.D.ers spend years in a dream world. Spinning ever more elaborate fantasies (financial conquests, sexual conquests, social conquests) life seems like a far-off horizon, something that stretches out before you in an infinite regress but which you are never able to reach. Today you have failed but you live to fight another day, holding on to the possibility that a future “success” will salve the wounds of past failures. And yet each day brings more failures: a forgotten task, a misspoken word, a missed opportunity.
The non-A.D.D. world marches forward and leaves you further and further behind. Every day you re-imagine the trajectories of your life (what if I married that person instead of the one I am married to now? what if I take that job instead of the one I have now? what if I suddenly win the state lottery?) Your life remains mired in “becoming” but never quite “being.” You never quite arrive at a whole, consistent “you.”
And then one day you find you are fifty years old. Your children are older and, somehow, more dependent on you than when they were small. The financial burdens have grown as you are faced with college tuition and, gasp, the unthinkable, YOUR possible retirement. But at age fifty you now see things you did not see before. You now see the trajectories that are closed off. Though fantasies remain, the biggest fantasy of all, the possibility of following a different life trajectory, is basically over. Yes, you can get divorced and marry that attractive young woman who works in your office but, let’s be realistic. Can you really do that? And even if you could (and DID!) what does that really mean? You will not be a thirty year old with a young woman…you will be an old man with a thirty year old. You cannot relive being thirty and having a different wife. You cannot relive those moments. They are gone. They cannot be recaptured. They cannot be replayed. Unlike in childhood, in real life there is no “do over.” There is only “do once.” Maybe, if you are lucky, “do twice” but at some point you are faced with “never be able to do again.” And while “never be able to do again” may seem like the death of an A.D.D.er, it is, at the same time, liberating because you can now ignore the lure of the path you might have taken. Your focus becomes sharper. You are still A.D.D. but the fantasies lessen as reality and, yes, mortality, becomes a very real thought. Your Cassandra-like qualities sharpen and life becomes a very serious pursuit.
I had thought that becoming fifty years old would be the most depressing event of my life. As an A.D.D.er, it is, interestingly, one of the happier moments of my life. Part of that happiness is a result of a shortened time horizon. I am not looking at a career that stretches for the next forty years of my life. Instead, I am looking at a much more manageable ten or fifteen years. This is a time horizon that I can see, that I can plan for, that I can trace its likely trajectory. It is not an abyss of empty time but a usable and manageable block of time. It is a slice of calmness and sanity which too often eludes the A.D.D.er. If I could freeze time I would not want to be thirty years old again or eighteen years old. I much prefer the calmness and intellectual acuity that comes with being an older A.D.D.er.