I'm outlining this blog as we drive back from holiday vacation. I spend a lot of time wondering how other people's thoughts work. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that someone could transport into my mind for a day. On the other hand, this is probably one of the most frightening ideas I've considered. I'm a writer; yet so often, I find it difficult to voice my thoughts. I struggle to find the words to represent everything that is happening in my mind from day to day. I'm sitting in the car. I'm mentally scribing this blog. When I think, I think in words. I also think in pictures. I also think in numbers. I do some of my best thinking in the car. I think the dynamic surroundings are a pleasant, and necessary, distraction.
As a child, I fell into the habit of counting -- counting the thumps of the tires as they roll over the cracks in the road, counting the mile markers as they pass by, counting the streetlights, counting out the beats to the music on the radio, counting the cars that pass by in the other direction. This information is meaningless. I throw it into the trash bin. I don't need to remember it.
I fell into a habit of reading, too -- reading the street signs, reading the license plates, reading the bumper stickers, and the billboards. The words on the electronic signs echo in my head for several minutes after we pass. Slow - Road Work Ahead. I'm not sure why I keep repeating this to myself. It's just one of the many thoughts that occupy my mind. Just like the counting, this information isn't of any value. I throw it into the trash bin.
Observant. I guess you could call me observant. I've counted and read almost everything we passed. I notice that the headlights aren't all exactly the same color. I notice the slight variance from model to model of the same car. I notice the cracks in the road, the street light flickering in the distance, the blinking lights atop the cell tower, the plane in the sky, the rigid skyline of New York City, the hills in the road, the boat in the distance, the gentle rumble of the engine, the turning of the wheels. I notice it all. I can't help but notice it.
I think in words, pictures, and numbers. I can see the words appearing on my screen as I type out this blog. I haven't yet reached my computer, but I can see it written on my screen. I mentally edit my writing. I delete, edit, insert, copy, and paste.
Still, this isn't quite enough. So, I ponder the next five years, the next ten years, what about the next fifty years? I consider the reports I must write tomorrow. I mentally rehearse my lesson plans for this week.
Sound overwhelming? It's not --at least, not to me anymore. Some might argue that I must suffer from ADD or ADHD. I don't -- at least, I don't think I do. I'm an incredibly productive person. I can stay on task for hours -- even days. My mind wanders while I work. Yet, my wandering mind doesn't seem to impede on my productivity. I consider this professional level multi tasking. I operate at a speed that overwhelms people. It's taken me years to learn patience around my peers. It's still something I struggle with.
I learned patience because I had to. I learned to manage my thoughts because I had to. I've now re-programmed myself. I've designed a mental trash bin. I like to call it my mental black hole. I throw all of the meaningless information into it. At the same time, these thoughts are what kept me occupied in school. They're what kept me from climbing the walls from boredom or crying out in frustration.
The "tick" doesn't really line up with the movement of the second hand. I contemplate the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. I know this accounts for this discrepancy. I count the doors that open and close down the hall. I count the taps of the pencil as my neighbor flicks it back and forth. I hold my breath and count until my neighbor stops scratching out her answer. The scraping scribbles of pencil on paper followed by a squeaky erasers, I can't stand it. I breathe in and out. I count the rhythm of the chalk. It sounds different, you know -- the sound of chalk hitting the chalkboard compared to the sound of the chalk scraping along the board to form a line. The beat isn't constant. It's frustrating.
I read the signs and posters around the classroom. I've read them so many times. They don't change. They're the same. All year. They're the same. The bulletin board changes sometimes. That's new, I guess. I peer out the window. I strain my eyes to read the street signs and the numbers on the parking spots. I read, and re-read, the paper in front of me. I start to read it letter by letter. There's not much else to do. I play with the words. Rhymes and morphemes and such. Of course, I didn't know they were called morphemes until much later in life. I nudge my independent reading book to the edge of my bag. I prop it open. I strain to read the pages. I'm not supposed to be reading. I should be listening to the teacher. I am. I hear her. I hear her voice droning on and on. It doesn't change. She should take some public speaking lessons. It's putting me to sleep.
In school, I notice the smells too. I try to categorize them. Body odor. Perfume. Body Sprays. Hair Sprays. Shampoo. Sweaty feet, as my classmates slip their feet in and out of their shoes. Pencil lead. Eraser dust. Chalk. Expo fumes. Dusty books. Elmers glue. The distant smell of greasy food floating down the hall from the cafeteria. Please, just open the window.
I think in words, pictures, numbers, and smells. It's still not enough. I mentally solve all of the homework problems. I'll record them later, when the teacher isn't looking. I plan out my schedule day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I know exactly what I'll do on the bus. I know exactly what I'll do when I get home. I start to predict conversations -- the conversation I'll have with my mom during after-school snack, dinner conversation, conversations with my brother. I play out the conversation in my head. I visualize my flute; I mentally rehearse my music. I can see my fingers gliding from key to key. I can feel each breath and hear each note. I try to recall each tree, flower, and bush in my backyard. I paint a mental picture. Of course, I plan. I plan for today, tomorrow, and next week. And, of course, I go back to counting seconds.
The difference is...In school, I didn't know how to turn it off. My thoughts --- words, pictures, numbers, and smells -- it all came home with me. The teacher's lessons, the clicking, the tapping, the counting -- it all came home with me. It was like a constant unwarranted replay. I couldn't make it stop. I occupied myself with more and more hobbies. I couldn't seem to turn it off. Each year, however, I turned a little bit more off. I learned to sort and manage my thoughts. I created my mental trash bin -- my black hole, and I learned patience. I learned acceptance and I learned patience.
So, go ahead, label me. Label me; it doesn't matter. I'm still me. I'm un-medicated. I'm free of labels. I'm just me. I'm a perfectly functioning and successful adult. Parents want their kids to be like me. That's a scary thought. Yet, I suppose, I do too. No labels -- no medications -- no accommodations, I survived. I learned to accept myself for who I am. I accept children for who they are. I learned to cope and to manage my thoughts. I learned that life doesn't come with an instruction manual. It doesn't come with accommodations. It comes with challenges and learning experiences to help you conquer those challenges. It takes time, time that is bluntly interrupted by accommodations, medications, and oppressive labels.
Gifted. Twice Exceptional. ADD. ADHD. Anxiety. OCD. Hypersensitivity. Sensory Processing Disorder.
Go Ahead, Label Me.
I didn't. I won't. I don't fit into a box. I don't fit into a label. I'm just me.
Un-medicated. Un-labeled. Me.