Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ADHD Anecdote--My Solo, AGAIN

Yeah.  So, this entry  tells the sad story of a solo that I didn't get to play because I, for no apparent reason, forgot to take my violin from my classroom to the bus back in elementary school.  At the end of the post I mentioned that I hadn't "learned my lesson" about messing up solos.  Part of the reason for mentioning that was to illustrate that, for those with ADHD-I, there isn't a lesson to learn. It's a symptom. Not a cautionary tale.

I said that for another reason, too.

In 9th grade, my last year of junior high, my violin skillz had increased.   I had finally (after several years of playing) learned to read the notes.  I'd been selected for a local youth symphony, and that year had started private lessons.  Because of these advancements in my musical career, I was given a pretty auspicious responsibility:  I was concert master of the junior high orchestra.  Impressive, I know. 
Violinists Hands

As part of this coveted position, I had the responsibility of playing solos that arose every once in a while in the songs we played.  These solos usually consisted of about three to ten measures of me playing some basic melody while the rest of the orchestra "rested" (read: napped.)  

About mid-way through the year, there was this song called "Jogging."  I still remember its melody very clearly--mainly because the below experience seared it into my brain.  Not only did I have a little solo in this song, but it was a pretty tough song for our group.  Our teacher told me on the night of our concert that he was nervous about us playing it, and that he was really going to rely on me to get us through it.  I could tell it was important to him.

That night, I honestly don't know what happened.  My parent's knew about the concert, but I was supposed to find a ride for myself.  I have no idea why, and didn't understand then.  There was likely a very good reason for it.  I didn't understand it, though.  Although at the last minute I made a few desperate phone calls, I didn't find a ride.  In a panic (a frequent state of my existence then and now) I asked my dad for a ride.  He was not pleased--at that moment he was in the middle of cooking dinner.  He finished cooking and eating (probably in a well-intentioned effort to let me suffer the consequences of my actions) and then drove me to the concert.

I burst into the orchestra room (which was adjacent to the stage) at about the time our group was to perform.  To my horror, the room was empty.  My group was already on stage.  I could hear the tune of "Jogging" being played in the distance.  I had no idea what to do with myself.  I felt stunted.  I felt sick.  

I finally just sat down in a chair and waited, feeling ill to my stomach, for the performance to be over.  I had really couldn't comprehend why I was in that situation--it all felt so hazy and helpless.  To this day, I don't remember the details of what was going on that afternoon that had conspired to make me late.  I assume there were good reasons for what had happened.  But the problem was, I didn't understand them.  I didn't get it.  Couldn't get it.  


My group came back from their performance, and the director looked at me disappointedly.  I had let him down.  A classmate told me later that before the group played, my teacher had gone up to the mike and said something like "If the person who we are waiting for is here in the audience, would you please come on stage and play with us?  We need you."  I hadn't heard the call.  I hadn't been there for that signal--I'd gotten there probably just after that announcement. I had really messed up.

But the story doesn't end there.  And this, this is the most horrifying part of the inattentive subtype to me.  This is so crazy and weird and horrible, I have never been able to explain it.  

When something terrible timing-wise like this happens, it seals a marker in my brain.  A marker which says "You can never, ever, ever let this happen again."  And with that emphasis, somehow, somehow, the very thing I promise to never let happen again (even if it's crazy, like missing an entire concert I'm performing in) does.  I have no idea why this is the case, but it happens somewhat frequently to me.  Very little in this world feels more embarrassing.

It was three weeks later.  We had a concert during the school day.  We were supposed to meet at the orchestra room after lunch to prepare for a performance.  I can't remember who we were playing for--I think it was for the elementary students of all the surrounding elementary schools to demonstrate what orchestra is like (which, incidentally, when I saw it in 4th grade, was the concert inspired me to play the violin.) 

Lunch came.  Lunch went.  I went to science class like any other normal day.  Surely there was an announcement for orchestra members to come to the orchestra room on the loudspeaker.  Surely I had been reminded of this concert many, many times.  Surely other kids left the very room I was in to go to this performance.  But, by some crazy chance, I didn't hear or notice or remember any of this--I didn't pick up on any cue that the time had come.  I was likely zoned out, thinking about something interesting to me, or reading a John Grisham or Michael Crichton novel (which I devoured during my junior high years).  Maybe I was doing homework (ha!).  

Whatever the case, it didn't occur to me that I was supposed to be on the stage playing a solo until it was too late.  When just enough minutes had passed to seal my fate, it hit me in a flash:  "YOU ARE MISSING THE CONCERT!!!"  I clumsily grappled for my instrument, then ran down the hall to the orchestra room.  And imagine my deja vu as I walked into the empty orchestra room and then felt the horrible guilt ball in my stomach for a second time as I heard the sounds of "Jogging" playing off on the stage, in the distance.

I had missed the same concert, with the same song, containing the same solo, AGAIN.

Humiliated doesn't begin to describe how I felt. 

I always get to the end of these anecdotes not sure what to say.  It's kind of cathartic to talk about these horrible moments--things I've kind of blocked out.  It's interesting to see this collection grow.  To see these stories accumulate and build, and to remember details I had long since blocked out, and to realize "Yeah.  This is weird.  And not normal.  And covers the span of my existence.  So, go figure."

There is also a part of me that though that, seeing these things in black and white, feels very embarrassed even to this day.  It's probably the same part of me that gets the sickening ball of guilt when stuff like this happens to me as an adult.

It's not pretty.  It's not fun.  But it's real.  And that's all I got.


  1. wish I could see you in person, Josh..it's a little awkward for part of me to try to respond here in the black and what page...but I'm risking it since you are...and I just wanted to say I'm really glad you ARE getting these out on the page so you can see them more clearly, Josh, and my heart really goes out to that jr. high kid...it really does....

  2. Oh my, living the nightmare. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I appreciate that you have put it into words. I think you should submit an expanded article with this story to a teaching magazine. Teachers need to hear it from the source....I think they might get it!

  3. Wow. I've been reading your blog whenever I can spare a moment in my crazy schedule. I am so touched by all the things you are sharing here. This post broke my heart. I don't have ADHD-I, but I know what it is like to feel helpless without understanding why. I have memories from my own chaotic and unhappy childhood that have been seared into my mind forever, too. The beauty in all of this is, that even though those horrifying moments seem impossible to overcome ... we survive. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.

  4. This story pretty much sums up my entire life. The humiliation of looking like you are stupid or lazy or a total flake, & everyone thinking that even though those characteristics are far from your heart or your character or your intentions. & knowing that even if you explained the adhd, the damage is done & those affected likely wouldn't care anyways. Sigh. I want to print these off & mail them to every single teacher, employer, anyone I've ever had an appointment with & ever ex bf I've ever had - but I'd probably forget the task within a few moments anyways! :P