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I've had ADD (or ADHD? never really cared to figure out the real difference) for probably my whole life. I was diagnosed with it when I was 18 or 19 though. And if you know me at all, it probably tracks.

I was always getting into trouble as kid (and adult), but it was never consistent. I was put into the grandly named, "gifted and talented" program in first grade. It's sad, yet funny, the assignments were meant to be about using online search engines and my family didn't have internet at the time. I think we had gotten an old desktop for free from a friend though. I tried doing them using encyclopedias (which my Mom had spent a good deal of money buying), but it was nowhere near good enough. I was unable to articulate that we didn't have internet and just cried instead when confronted about not having the assignment. They removed me and another student took that spot. Melodramatically, I can still remember her leaving the class along with the four other extremely gifted individuals as I sat in my classroom seat the next week.

In another example, I went to summer school after 5th grade because I failed a standardized test, but then got all A's in 6th grade and again qualified for the "gifted and talented" classes in middle school. What a mean name for the kids that aren't in that program, as an aside. Does it imply that those that aren't are just "normal and whatever?" I somehow kept the streak alive and did well in Middle School. With the grounding force of Tae Kwon Do three or four times a week and a strong church community, I passed the entrance exam for what was, at the time, the number one public high school in the country. I don't mean to brag, but it was no easy feat. I think three-thousand of the most ambitious students in our area took the test and five-hundred got in. My grandparents even paid for an exam prep course, I have no idea where they got the money.

I didn't last. It was a Science and Tech school and I never had any interest in those subjects. Why did I apply, you might very reasonably ask? I couldn't verbalize it at the time, but wanted the validation of getting into the top school in the country, to tell myself and others that I wasn't a fuck-up or stupid. I wonder how many things in life we could avoid doing by just verbalizing our emotions and motivations clearly?

I loved History and Writing and wanted to be a Professor of these subjects, or something like that. But I put validation first. I dropped out of the school in two years where I was an absolute nuisance and pest to my teachers and probably a general drag to be around when I was depressed. It was a wonderful school almost totally devoid of the typical tropes and storylines about football teams, jocks and nerds. Everyone was a nerd, so even most of the "cool" kids were nice. It was also comparatively diverse. Our student population was over 50% Asian (including Indian Americans). However, our African-American and Hispanic student population was abysmally low. It wasn't perfect, racism and classism still played a role. But it sure wasn't Oakton High School. That was a mean school. I remember blatant racism and dynamics out of the movie "Grease." I got into a lot of arguments with the white kids I grew up with. They seemed to have become more racist than we were kids. Maybe they just got bigger and more confident in themselves. But what can you do but try to forgive the people that hurt you? Try. Not to minimize people's pain, but we're all just products of our environments up to a certain point. Can you really hate the kid that tells you to "go back to your laundromat" when he's just regurgitating what everyone around him says? Or the kids in their parent's new trucks that would shout "chink!" at me as they drove by? Those same kids would be praised by our teachers and adored by the other students. I very much felt like Snape in those moments. Northern Virginia is an odd place as well. Many people say out loud that it is so diverse and not at all racist. But that's simply not true in my lived experience. Yes, we live near a big city and thus get more diversity. But Virginia is still Virginia. The capital of the Confederacy. The birthplace of Robert E. Lee (who still has High Schools named after him), where interracial marriages were illegal until the 1960's. That's the same Virginia that loves Froyo and P.F. Changs. Racism doesn't disappear within a swirl of tart yogurt. It can't be buried underneath mochi and cuts of kiwi.

There's nothing more maddening than a crowd of white people telling you that racism isn't real and that you're imagining having slurs hurled towards you. It's an uncomfortable place, the denial of our history and the suppression of minority voices

I'm sure I was a dick to others because of who I was and how I was raised. If you're somehow reading this and I did hurt you as child, I am really sorry, for whatever it's worth, I truly wish I hadn't caused you harm.

It's getting close 10 years since I've officially had doctors tell me that in person. I can't say I know too much more about these conditions. But I don't "ride the high" of the upswing anymore when it comes, even after a pretty momentous event. I'm not willing to go up just to have to inevitably come down again.

That's all I've figured out for now.


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