Finding Home - and 400 of my best friends too!
Last week, I wrote all about the importance of finding support, and specifically support groups for adults with ADHD. As I was writing that post, I naturally began thinking of all the other ways I find support... and the places I think of as "home". It occurred to me that for many of us, attending our first ADDA conference is when we first experience that sensation of being "home".
I can't tell you the countless number of people - including past ADDA president David Giwerc among others - who've told me that attending an ADDA conference is the first time they felt comfortable and accepted in their entire adult lives. If you've never attended an ADDA Conference, it's not an easily describable experience... but I'm going to try and paint a "picture" for you:
Imagine 500 adults - at least 2/3 and probably more - with ADHD in the same room. Heck, just imagining them in the same hotel at the same time boggles the mind! There's a light breakfast available before the first keynote address begins at 8:30, but somehow, the breakfast room is relatively empty until 8:29... and the ballroom where the keynote is to be resembles a ghost town! Of course, that's ok, because our speaker - who also has ADD - hasn't gotten out of bed yet and a quick phone call to his room gets him moving!
Now I have the dubious pleasure of making announcements (and stalling) until the speaker arrives. Of course, the stalling part isn't that difficult because I've left my notes with the announcements in the conference office - or even worse, on the bed in my hotel room! Since it's still early, the meds haven't quite kicked in yet, so trying to remember all the information is not really an option, but somehow... using humor and knowing that I have a forgiving audience... I muddle through without having to lead the crowd in rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (which, by the way, I was willing to do if it came to that)!
And what's going on with our speaker? Well he's finally arrived - hair a little damp and breathing a little hard - but he's onstage and ready to go. And go he does, eliciting both laughter and tears from the captivated audience. And when he's done (right on time I might add), there's thunderous applause and a standing ovation not only for him, but also for us and all ADD adults and the accomplishments we've made both in spite of and because of our ADHD. We were never really worried for a minute... years of conference planning for this group has taught us to add a little extra to the time schedule and plan for the typical "mishaps" that frequently befall ADHD adults, but that we consider perfectly normal!
Of course, I've completely skipped over the registration process... and the attendees who THOUGHT they'd registered online, but well... maybe not. Or those who've lost their conference program books, return tickets, and / or hotel keys before they've walked away from the registration counter. Or those who forgot to even make the hotel reservations; they were so pleased to have actually remembered to register for the conference!!
I have to tell you that one of the things I love to do is event planning, so I always manage to land on the conference planning team of any group or organization that I become affiliated with. One of the things that we have to do is have a "pre-con" or pre-conference meeting with the hotel staff, usually a day or two before the conference actually begins. I've been part of dozens of these meetings with countless groups, but I have to say that NONE is as fun as the ADDA conference pre-con. Watching the faces of everyone from the hotel general manager to the head of housekeeping as we tell them they should plan for lots of lost room keys, lost tempers, lost articles... and lost people!
Now let's fast-forward to the famous - or infamous - ADDA Talent Show, an annual conference event! There are singers, there are dancers, there are singers AND dancers... there are even really GOOD singers and dancers! There are storytellers and limericks, poets, comedians and actors with skits... we've even had a fire dancer (not real fire of course - the fire marshal objected!). There really are no words to describe the annual ADDA Talent Show - it's an experience that has to be seen!
And now let's fast-forward to conference end... the hugs, the tears, the lifelong friendships made. The awe at realizing you've just spent 3 fabulous days with people who actually "get" you... who didn't look suspiciously because you interrupted a conversation, or talk to you in that slow, "s/he must be crazy" voice as they asked you if you realized you had on one blue shoe and one black - or no shoes at all! The utter sense of belonging after spending time with people who actually MEAN it when they say "I know what you mean," or "that happened to you too?!?!" And the feeling of absolute acceptance and belonging after realizing you've just spent the most exciting, relaxing, exhilarating, calming, enlightening and validating time of your life with sisters and brothers "of the heart".
Now I've gotten myself all excited, just remembering my ADDA conference experiences! I'm sure part of the issue is that it's almost May - the "traditional" time for our annual conference... and after missing a year, my mind, soul and spirit are ready to make those connections again. And yes - the ADDA conference is BACK! Moved to July so we can welcome families (who the heck can find a babysitter for their ADHD kids for 3 or 4 days?!?), educators and students... but still promising the same sense of family and opportunities for feeling "connected" as always.
I hope you all plan to join us July 10-13 in Minneapolis... I can't wait to meet up with all of my long lost siblings again!!