Zoë Kessler's prized 1959 Underwood Finger-Flite Portable Typewriter

Zoë Kessler’s prized 1959 Underwood Finger-Flite Portable Typewriter

First, a bit of housekeeping: I want to clarify that the job I was fired from recently was not the job where I disclosed my ADHD.

As I continue to explore my relationship with work through the lens of ADHD, the question, “Will I ever catch up financially?” has haunted me. It’s scary being 52 years old with no portfolio. Ha! Portfolio? I don’t even have a piggy bank.

What’s a “real” job?

As I’ve been reflecting on all of this, a friend of mine posted a link to a Forbes magazine article on Facebook. I found the article, The Ten Happiest Jobs, by Steve Denning, fascinating and validating.

While we’re all different, those of us with ADHD tend to fall into some very specific occupational categories, and tend to avoid other jobs like the plague (or suffer for it if we don’t.)

For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent…

As for me, all I’ve ever wanted to do since the age of nine is write books. Unfortunately, early on I was told by my adoptive parents that I’d have to, “Get a real job.” (What? You have a problem with a job where you get to be a poor, anti-social slob, cranking out brilliant works while drinking away your meager profits? …or so the stereotype goes…)

Savings or smiles…take your pick

My parents meant well. They wanted me to be financially secure, which is understandable. I wanted to be happy. Or maybe – if I was lucky – both.

Turns out, I’m not the only one willing to give up a steady income for happiness, if I have to choose. Sure enough, there in the list of the 10 Happiest Jobs (in position number four no less) was – author!

And here I’ve been worrying that my ADHD was leading me astray, keeping me from making a sound career decision. Why couldn’t I bite the bullet and just get a “real” job, as I’d so often heard? Why was I so stubborn and unwilling to accept the status quo?

Great jobs – not just for ADHDers anymore!

Given that this list was taken from (as I understand it) the general population, my gut instinct was right all along. Writing is what makes me tick. I’d been worried that it was just the only thing I could manage, given my apparent complete inability to fit in with “normal” society, especially in a workplace.

Turns out, we writers – ADHD or not – share something else, in addition to our love of the craft. According to Denning,

For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness.

This truism might not line my pockets, but it does make me feel a little less alone.

As it happens, many of the positions listed were exactly the occupations that ADHDers gravitate to: firefighters, teachers, artists, and psychologists were among the Top 10.

We all need purpose

When Denning compares the 10 Happiest Jobs to his previous article listing the 10 Most Hated Jobs, it seems that non-ADHDers are turned off by some of the same things that drive ADHDers crazy, namely, jobs where they feel, “imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies” and where, “They see little point in what they are doing.”

So what’s the difference between the occupational choices of ADHDers and non-ADHDers?

…some of us, more than others!

First of all, maybe we don’t have as much of a choice. After all, a hallmark of ADHD is that we tend to have a much lower tolerance for boring, meaningless, thankless work.

Maybe this is a good thing. In my case, a crappy work history was one of the catalysts for my ADHD diagnosis. Post-diagnosis, I’ve learned that a good job fit is not only preferable, it might be the only job that an ADHDer can actually keep.

Ok, I’ll speak for myself: pre-diagnosis blurting, chronic lateness, disorganization, lack of social skills, yadda yadda yadda, all led to a few firings, a few walking-aways, a spotty work history. Which, with the exception of the pummeling taken by my self-esteem and my bank account, was ok. After all, all I really wanted to do was write books.

Problem was, without my ADHD diagnosis and treatment, I couldn’t get (or at least, keep) the work that would sustain the book-writing.

What, me? Happy? Yup!

I’m still piecing my work life together, still learning. On the bright side, two of the occupations I’ve loved (author and teacher) are in the Top 10. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that, paradoxically, stand-up comedian (a sometime occupation for me) did not make the list.

Maybe I’ll just have to write a funny book.

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