On Going Fast

It’s easier going fast. Even now, as I write
this, I’m on 36 mg of Ritalin, drinking my second coffee of the day. Black with
one shot of espresso. Usually I order a cold brew, but Starbucks was all out.
When I pointed at the cashier and called him a sinner as a joke, he did not
laugh.

I love the chemical aid. The charge of energy
that keeps me alert – eyes open, mind going. Heart pumping. Dreams running. The
quickening of the keys beneath my fingertips, an ethereal rainstorm pouring
down a world of thought fueled by Speed – bolts of energy. But the question
that always haunts me is if I truly need the stimulants. If I ever did.

In America’s fast-paced, career-driven, competitive
and creative society, one must always be sharp. On point. Ready to go-go-go! Maybe it’s more up in New
England, something in the college-saturated water. But we all feel it to some degree, as humans. The pull towards ease.
Towards what’s convenient. Towards going fast. And as I grow older, nearing thirty,
I find myself loving efficiency more and more. I find myself wanting to take
the shortcut.

Drugs are good for this. My old man has ADD,
always had it along with dyslexia, which led him to drop out of high school and
join the Marines. My brother was given Ritalin probably too early on, and – due
to its less glamorous side effects – quit the drug. He became a C student, a gifted
hockey player, a lone-wolf skateboarder, and now plays video games
competitively. His eyes wide-open staring at the screen into the wee hours of
the morning. So the learning disability is in my genes, I guess, but I never
remember taking an official test at the doctor.

About a year ago, my husband took me to the Boston
Museum of Science as a celebration for completing my MFA program. We sat down
at a station with a bulky screen that lit up with a test telling you not to get
distracted by random objects that would pop up. Cats! Purple cats! Trees!
Storms! Street signs! Ghosts! Ghosts? Gorillas! I oohed and awed, my score
plummeted, the screen buzzed, and my husband walked away laughing his face off.

Online there are quizzes you can take to measure
if you have ADD. According to one site, if you score a 34 & Up, it’s likely
you have adult ADHD. I score above 40 every time. But the part that doesn’t
make sense is that if I’m on the medication, shouldn’t I be scoring better on
these tests? If I have ADD, shouldn’t I go slower on the meds? The validity of
my diagnosis has always been questionable. What came first – I wonder – the
problem or the panacea?

I began taking Adderall illegally in high school
and quickly became addicted to amphetamines. I got A’s before taking the drugs
and I got A’s after. In college, I’d take my smart pills alongside my
successful peers. Pop shortcuts on huge projects off the palm of my hand.

Then one day, during my sophomore year of college,
I quit all drugs cold turkey. Butts. Pot. Pills. Even my anxiety meds. I
started seeing tiny blue demons on the vacuum cleaner at work. I also wasn’t
able to read books very well, my English grades starting to slip. My doctor
decided to put me on Ritalin as a safe, happy-medium between my addiction and deficiencies.
And to keep the demons at bay.

Nearly ten years later, I still take the drug. And
even though I’m thankful for the help it provides – for the time it saves – I
wonder now what life would have been like if I never got on the stimulants. How
different things would be. I wonder why I was always so afraid of going slow – why
I’m still afraid.

I think it’s the hardship. The humdrum of life. The
stuff silence says. The limitations one feels when losing help. The challenges life
brings when one slows down enough to face them.

And when that naked day comes, I’ll write about it. But for now, I don’t mind going slow.