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ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) has gone from an irritation to my ace in the hole in my day to day life. These benefits weren’t always apparent, but figuring out what works for me took the passion that had been in my life prior to discovering I had ADD: Music.

When I was seven years old in the first grade, my mom and my teacher held a parent teacher conference. It wasn’t to talk about grades or me getting in trouble, or the usual stuff kids in my grade would typically get called out for. My teacher merely observed that while I did amazing in class, I had a hard time stopping once I got started. In short, I would become consumed with whatever I was working on.

After the second conference that year, my mom decided to get me tested for ADD. She had it as well and noticed I had picked up some of her work habits. The results came back and I did in fact have ADD, Overfocused ADD to be specific. This meant, while I had incredible focus for prolonged periods of time, breaking free from a task and moving on to something else was near impossible without forcing myself to tune out my own thoughts.

The news didn’t change me at all. The volume at which I spoke, the tempo of my own thoughts, the tonality of my very life remained consistent. I had noticed no changes in my work patterns, not yet anyways.

At the beginning of third grade my aunt bought me a guitar and my mom paid for me to take guitar lessons. Every day I would come home, finish homework, and practice guitar until my mother, out of sheer irritation, told me to eat dinner and go to sleep. In fifth grade, I got accepted into All-City Orchestra. With the class learning advanced music terms, I eventually learned about the word Rubato. In music, Rubato means to change volume and speed at the discretion of the performer for flexibility. I only remembered that word while sitting thinking one day. I thought that performers playing at their own discretion would result in a messy performance. At the time, I didn’t realize how much this related to life in general.

Middle school is where I began to take note of how differently my mind was from everyone else’s. Multiple classes with varying difficulties now entered my life, like a solo act now being expected to play a symphony. Spanish and math in particular. Responsibilities, expectations, and the constant question of what next were being thrown at me. It was like the ultimate tempo switch from slow to fast. I went to a pretty difficult middle school, but mixing my over focused and sometimes overly negative mind on top of that meant I had a unique struggle.

Through all of it though, the one thing that could always return me to what I perceived as normal was music. Listening to it and playing it could always refocus my attention and make me feel some semblance of normality. So in freshman year when I learned about producing, I knew I had finally found what I was meant to do.

© Amir Shirley. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.