Why, that’s my favorite part of the day! During alone time, I put myself “in the zone.” This is the time I forget about the rest of the world and just dive deep into creative writing, drawing and painting. In this state, I feel like I’m in a place where no one else can ever be in. This is my world.
This makeshift landscape is where women wear men’s clothing, men do fancy ballet, and kids have this small propeller hat that actually lifts them off the ground. Lions and giraffes have tea together, Japanese anime characters and the ones from Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network collide in one world. Based on this, could you not tell that I watched too many cartoons when I was younger? For me, this is what an artist with ADD feels like. I could vividly see, feel, and hear everything that my brain can conjure from my senses. This is why I think being diagnosed with Adult ADD is God’s “ADD-on” for me. If I were a dessert, then I think He just covered me with colorful sprinkles and a bunch of other condiments, while everyone else in the world just got the regular syrup.
I believe that having ADD is a huge factor that adds to my creativity and imagination as a creative professional. I know this because many years ago, people looked at this wee little girl staring out the window and thought she was weird. But it was in these moments that I went into my own world and developed myself as an artist. This was troublesome for my teachers when I was younger.
“I believe that having ADD is a huge factor that adds to my creativity and imagination as a creative professional.”
I remember during Social Studies class in grade school, my teacher would simply come near my table and ask me quietly where I was looking. I was constantly distracted, looking out the window again and again. I was daydreaming of how it would be like to run barefoot on the school grounds. Many times, I forgot I was even in the classroom at all! After the reminder, I would simply pretend to listen again, looking straight at the board and looking around to see if my classmates were still engaged. But not too long after, I would yet again drift away, excited to get “home” and be in my own space.
One time, I got this crazy idea to use sock puppets to demonstrate a small show to my classmates. It would be quite the achievement, especially as a Grade 2 student. However, I did it during a serious class discussion. My teacher didn’t take it so well. She called me out in the middle of class and had me announce my weirdness in front of the whole class. It was an embarrassing experience. Good thing though that I simply laughed it off and put it behind me. I just thought to myself that, “Hey! I can make my own movies right here in my seat!” In reality though, I had to acknowledge that this situation was wonderful, and worrisome at the same time. This is why in spite of my notable creativity at a young age, my mother made sure she got me tutors to help me focus and catch up with my studies.
Tutorial sessions were grueling—not just for me, but for my tutors, too. During a study session, my teacher would leave me for a few minutes. Finally, some alone time! Getting excited and feeling like a prisoner inside a ward that was guarded 24/7, I’d pull out my Archie comic from the drawer, just sneak in a little peek while my tutor was away. (My mother wondered about this as well. I started reading pocket books at an early age, too!) I was so engrossed by what Betty did to Veronica’s hair that I didn’t notice that my tutor was already standing behind me. Getting caught was the worst. And it simply bore a hole in my heart. More sessions went on and mom just kept replacing fed-up tutors. After each one, I would always think why the littlest things I did that deviated from how a tutor wanted it would get me reprimanded.
“I had to acknowledge that this situation was wonderful, and worrisome at the same time. So, in spite of my notable creativity at a young age, my mother made sure she got me tutors to help me focus and catch up with my studies.”
See, one part of being an artist is about breaking the rules—not the law, mind you! You need to think out of the box. When I was younger, I didn’t have this in mind—I just did what I wanted to do, not knowing that I was already developing this part of me. Given that I embraced this part of me early, I started not minding being different. And so when high school came, I was confident to simply be me and to show my talents in the best way I could. First year was all about introductions. One by one, each would describe themselves with one word. “Weird” was what I’ve announced and was pretty proud with that. I gave out this excited laugh right after, which caused unpleasant glances from my classmates inside the room. I could care less at that point—I knew being different was my thing.
I drew a lot of Japanese anime, since it was a pretty popular thing at that time. But I didn’t want my creativity to be limited on my sketchpad or notebook—so I got into acting, too. In the drama club, I created art through my face and body. I enjoyed it, but boy did I suck at spontaneity! Many times, it was all about fast thinking and saying sudden lines during club workshops. I just made the most out of it and I made up for it with the wild weirdness that I have. Of course, I wanted to at least get a supporting role rather than stay as one of the “townsfolk” who were always in the background. Before long, I found myself reading lines out of a Filipino script.
I didn’t know why, but speaking and reading in Filipino wasn’t exactly my strongest suit. English was my primary language, despite the fact that everyone else in the house preferred the mother tongue. No one else at home spoke English all the time—so I guess it was all those nightly TV sessions I spent with the Flintstones and the Jetsons.
Fourth year came and I still never got that supporting role that I wanted. I felt desperate. I wanted to land a role that would define me in front of my whole batch. And just my luck, our club moderator got hold of a script—and it was in English! Oh, the joy that filled me! Finally, lines that I could memorize and deliver with utmost ease. I didn’t mind wearing a sock between my legs and cutting my hair short to fit the role. I played a man. But a leading man at that! And I could’ve never been more proud and happy with myself.
“Each would describe themselves with one word. “Weird” was what I’ve announced and was pretty proud with that… I could care less at that point—I knew being different was my thing.”
Finally, we come to college. Mother and I were worried. When it comes to me getting into a decent school, I’ve had a history of trouble with entrance exams, and the series of interviews that usually came along with it. I was no brainiac; my grades were hanging, and the award shelf reserved for me had been collecting cobwebs. But, I guess just leaving it to God had gotten me into something more specific, considering my talent and personality. While I failed the other two courses I had applied for, I was blessed to pass into one course with flying colors—Fine Arts, major in Advertising at the University of Sto. Tomas, a school well-known in the country for its fine arts program!
For the first time, being in a university, I felt like art was taken seriously. I felt so legit wearing our professional-looking white uniform—even with the paint stains and ballpen marks. It went against the notion that a fine arts student looked like a dirty hippie. Instead, I felt like a badass lone wolf who was looking for the meaning of being an individual. We were all still young and dramatic. Could you imagine all of us being like that in one place? People would
actually stand alone inside a perimeter, making sure they didn’t get too close to someone. No more getting worried about recitations, and tests, and Home Economic projects where you have to crochet a whole blanket. It was all about freedom of expression and how your right brain works. All of these I appreciated as it lessened the anxiety I felt from high school.
But there was still this one little problem. The submission of artworks always had to be on time. Always. And, sadly enough, I was consistently tardy. At least now I knew I was not alone. At least half of our class would pass their works late. Ah, the chronic tardiness of an artist. But, then again, it might just be my ADD.
“One’s passion can’t be held back. This is who I am. I’m an artist. Art is my ace. It’s that one thing I’d die for.”
For instance, we’d be given a week to come up with a painting. Submissions were on Monday and our professor expected everyone to submit on time. Being pretty excited, I knew I had to start on it soon and wanted to get home to start on some ideas. Upon arrival, I’d grab my favorite magazine and browse for ideas. Soon after, about a stack of the same series would be on the table. Who knew reading the articles would be pretty fun? Tuesday came. I had five more days before the deadline. So far, the magazine browsing didn’t trigger my imagination, so I guess playing a video game would help. After all, the colors and character design was also a good source. Wednesday came. I’d be like, “Oh yeah, I was supposed to get some ideas.” I’d go back and play more video games and set a goal to save up for the Demon Sword so I could feel at peace with myself. The weekends came. I was in a state of panic. Being alone with my thoughts and my work wasn’t all that cracked up to be. I was also battling procrastination, laziness, and constant distractions. Time was my enemy. I had to activate hyperfocus mode and start getting the job done. I didn’t know about hyperfocus at that time, but I was doing it. What power do deadlines have that one can harness such powers you didn’t even know you had?
Monday came. Armed with my canvas, I approached my classroom. The professor was checking each of my classmate’s canvases. I sat at the end of the room, took out my brushes and paints, and continued painting. For me, it always had to be until the very last minute. Funny thing was, whenever the decision to finish was there, I always finished with a bang. My works would always be top of the class, placed on the board and announced by the professor as the best example one can do. I wish to say I wasn’t bragging, but I can’t help but say the truth! Even if I worked like this, I always worked with a lot of passion. Looking back, I felt a little bad for my classmates who may have felt that they were out of their league with me. I would even underperform just to fit in. But one’s passion can’t be held back. This is who I am. I’m an artist. Art is my ace. It’s that one thing I’d die for.
That is my life as an artist with ADD. I would never trade it for the whole world. I am now a full time web designer in a U.K. based firm, a photography and design leader of a small international freelance team, and the president of a non-government organization that feeds the homeless in Uganda. Well, maybe that latter thing is still just an idea of mine. But you know me—always imagining myself in a different world! I am admitting that I’m someone “ab-normal”—that is, above normal. I’m an artist, and I have ADD. SBA
SAINAH BENZ ALONZO is a web designer and a freelance photographer. She has always been a dreamy, distracted girl. What she lacks in math skills, she makes up for in artistic talent. Armed with her playlist of over 150,000 songs and a glass of chocolate milk, she shares with you a situational, and somewhat predictable, AD/HD life story—her own.