The Impetus of The Rucksack Letters

TRL-Cover-060111 I spent the last several years trying to find my place in life. I began searching for it through the Church; in allegiance to God, I sought to be a servant. I searched for it in other people, entertaining them, serving them, and knowing them. And I searched for it in myself, only to find that one of the reasons I couldn’t find my place was due to what this society deems a neurological disorder. I was damaged, unfruitful, and unable to function properly in society without continuous medication and treatment.

I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder earlier this year. I took this diagnosis as an opportunity to integrate and put to use the two varied degrees I struggled to get, Psychology and Film. My recent goal has been to create a documentary about ADD in order to educate others, and more importantly, to educate myself. My hope was to create something informative, as well as interesting. Not enough art is bleeding into the human condition. My dream was to show how ADD had affected my life and how I had overcome it. My motive was to be appreciated for something I actually followed through on, not generally a strength for those of us walking around with ADD.

After three days of shooting, escorting my cameraman to interviews with professionals, and acting as one myself, I was exhausted. I had spent the last several months trying to use the creative skills often apparent in ADD to create, to educate, and to enlighten. I served as producer, director, writer, actor, and every other task required to make a film, except cameraman and sound technician. These roles were embodied by my good friend, David Ortkiese. Dave had worked with me on two documentaries I did in film school, and I saw him to be a great ally. In spite of the varied degrees of success on those projects, Dave still had enough faith in me to sacrifice a few days of his life to voyeurize mine. He went home Wednesday night after we finished a true test of attention, a four-hour video time lapse of the sun setting over Siesta Key Beach. When the sun melted into the sea, my project was wrapped. And after Dave left, I was able to watch my life and see how well I had conquered this disorder.

The good news is that I learned more about how ADD was affecting me than I had ever imagined. This was, incidentally, also the bad news. It wasn’t exactly a pretty sight. After a few hours of watching what the experts in the field think of my current state of affairs, and a six-pack of opinions from the Plank Road Brewery, I realized that the documentary had already fulfilled its purpose.

This video, the most recent of my endeavors, will not, to keep in line with so many others, be finished. As I watched what I had filmed during those three days of trying to uncover the truth about ADD, there was little truth apparent, at least little that I agreed with. I watched myself trying to explain how this “disorder” is plaguing the lives of millions of people, how it is ravaging their self-esteems, and ruining their lives.

The truth is that I don’t believe in ADD in its most popular form. It’s not that I don’t believe in it exactly, I just don’t consider it a disorder. A “disorder” is considered to be anything that would impair the way you operate in a “normal” society. I guess the question has to be, “what is normal?” For me, normal has been considered modern American Capitalist/Consumerist society

There is little compassion in normal society. There is little fairness, justice, or peace. And I soon realized that the goals I was striving for were not ones I truly wanted to attain. I don’t keep a good bankbook because I don’t care that much about money. I don’t organize because I prefer the journey to the destination. I don’t plan well for the future because I live in the present. My desires and my methods don’t blend with normal society.

This all brought me to the conclusion that the reason I haven’t been as successful in my endeavors as I had hoped to be was that my goals weren’t my own anymore, but the goals of whatever it was that I let influence me. I was blinded by what the general public and the advertisements that guide society told me to find important. And truth be told, on further inspection, most of what I’ve been striving for and occupying my mind with now seems like a complete waste of time and energy.

If I can’t function properly in this society and don’t mesh with society’s desires and systems, maybe there is another one in which I can. And for that, I must explore. Through all of this searching to understand God, others, and myself, I have realized that I may never find my place if I don’t continue to search. The answers I’ve been given so far have not brought me peace.

If you ever took a Psychology class, you may remember that Maslow‘s hierarchy of basic human needs defines physiological needs as the most basic, followed by safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and finally, the need for self actualization. If you haven’t heard of this before, don’t feel bad. I have a degree in Psychology and even I had to look it up.

Well, I’ve been living in the modern American/Judeo-Christian/Capitalist/Consumerist society for thirty years now. For the most part, my safety and health have always been provided for, thanks to wonderful parents who regard me with ample faith and limitless patience. And while I’ve often felt love, I have found no belonging, my life subject to that of a renegade and a dreamer. Without belonging, esteem has never been fully reached and self-actualization is a distant fantasy.

I will continue to write of my journeys for as long as words can describe them. I make no promises that my language will always be sweet. I can assure you that there will be times it will be as hard for you to read my tales as it will be for me to live them. If what I write offends you, know beforehand that it is not my intent. If you disagree with me, I only ask that you examine why. If I let you down, get in line with all the others I’ve disappointed. If I challenge you, I hope that you will meet it.

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at InkenSoul.com, and sometimes posts at Anything Arts, Sarasota Music Scene, and Elephant Journal, and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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