A Distracted Yet Absorbent Sponge

Monday, September 14, 2020


I was never the best student in class or the apple of any teacher or parent's eye for my academic prowess. It was that in my childhood best friend trio; I was the one with the lowest test scorers and performance in class, endlessly entangled with them because all of our mothers were highly competitive and determined that their daughter surpass the others. I went to a school filled with migrants and minorities wherein which the white students were actually a minority themselves. This filled our classrooms in colourful ways. 

    Being in a consistently competitive atmosphere brought its challenges for me since it was difficult paying attention in class. It was an arduous educational journey through the grades of one to twelve as I attempted to focus in class and make sure I completed my homework. However, I could not achieve it most of the time. I always waited until the last moment to complete my projects, unless the subject interested me enough to be invested from the beginning. Because of this behaviour, most of my learning occurred while I was in class and I survived through the year with average, yet unacceptable grades. 


    Some of you reading this may recognize the signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and you would be correct. In girls, the signs and symptoms manifest a little differently, resulting in a late or missed diagnosis. While boys portray more signs of hyperactivity, girls may display more signs in the attention deficit category where they cannot pay a focus for long periods of time. I shall discuss this more. 

    To say that I did not have the initiative to achieve and be as successful as my friends would be incorrect because I wanted to be the child prodigy who would make her parents proud. But the unfortunate situation was that when I was not interested in a certain subject, I could not focus and my mind would drift during class. I was busy in my daydreams or spacing out to lands unknown far away from the confinement of the walls of my classroom scented with the fragrance of play-doh, acrylic paint, and sometimes dirty socks and child odours. At some points in the day, I would space out that almost thirty minutes would pass until I regained consciousness into reality. I would miss large chunks of the taught subject this way, and so I needed to work harder to keep up with the material on top of not finishing my homework. 

    I enjoyed my brief escapes from reality since my mind would drift into the world of whatever novel I would be reading. I eventually learned to adapt to my strange brain, but only because overall I was a quick learner. Also, I enjoyed math drills, cursive writing, and English. I developed a love for words from the moment I learned to read so much so, that I taught myself how to read in Urdu so I could read books were out of my lingual reach. I enjoyed reading when I was not being forced to read something, so this only pertained to books of my choice and not assigned homework readings unless it was novel. 

    I read everything. This included my mother's nursing textbooks, my father's veterinary textbooks, Islamic books, and religious books pertaining to many other major religions. When I wanted to be I was a sponge absorbing whatever lay before me. The words would form fascinating pictures and landscapes in my head depicting the words I read as they combined to transform themselves into a moving picture in my brain. Also, this was the time before the internet became as accessible or powerful and so the library was my wonderland. I learned to read quickly so I could hide whatever it was I was reading from my parents in case they disapproved of the content or that I should work on my homework instead. They considered excessive reading a burden because it did not help me improve my grades in school, so my obsession confused them immensely. Can you imagine trying to understand their daughter's love for knowledge in everything outside of school? They did not know how to instill that passion into my studies, and I did not particularly care to do it myself since I was surviving just fine. My mother would always relate to me her regret of not studying hard in school and the consequence of that because she failed to make the cutoff for medical school in her final federal level grade twelve exams by four points. 


    You may wonder how I got away with many of these things if my parents were strict and enforced their ideologies. It is because it trapped them in creating a suitable and comfortable life for their children. They did not have the excess time to spend watching over me every second of the day, unlike my friends' parents. Most of their mothers would stay at home while their fathers worked and thus had the time to watch over their daughters all the time whereas they left me to my own devices, especially in those tough situations where my parents could not afford someone to babysit us. Once I was old enough, I became the babysitter so that meant I was in charge of my own responsibilities so you can imagine how well that went. 

  All my reading and learning helped me absorb important information too, which helped me along. Also, I loved watching educational cartoons like the Magic School Bus, Art Attack, Sesame Street, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I could sit for hours in front of the television with my mouth hanging open with a trail of drool seeping down the corner of my mouth portraying a brainwashed zombie child. 

    Looking back, I am aware now that with some guidance and with the right help, I would have been more successful in using my energy to succeed in school and learn how to cope with my behaviours. My parents felt something was different about me, but they were not present enough to notice I needed help. As I have mentioned before, in our culture, unless it is a physical medical emergency, parents do not go to the doctor for help. I leave mental health issues simmering and dealt with quietly at home. Although it may seem that my condition is harmless and perhaps even "normal" for a child that age, to a certain degree that would be true. However, when there is such excess of a certain condition that it overtakes one's life in an unhealthy manner with no coping strategies, it can be detrimental for the individual. I do not blame my parents for their inability to recognize that I needed help because they did the best that they could with what they had but I am in the position where I can teach and discuss these situations with future parents so they do not fall into a similar trap with their children. 

It took me over twenty years to come in terms of what was happening, and it affected my education immensely. I could have saved many years of struggling and frustration if I knew when to ask for help. This is a lifelong journey for me and every day presents a unique form of struggle with attentivity but now I know what is happening and how to manage so I can continue to strive and attain my goals and dreams. 

Until Next Time,

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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