My bags were packed, the hotel was booked, and the childcare was in place. I had never done this before, and I was equal parts nervous and excited. Drawn by something I couldn’t quite articulate, I was attending my first writer’s conference. I’d long dreamed of being a writer, but the most I had to show for it was some bad poetry in a box in the closet. I felt silly even telling people about my little trip because it would be followed with questions I had no answers to, like what genre I wrote or what I had published.
The first morning of the conference, I arrived too early, so spent five minutes on a hand-written nametag. I soon spotted the coffee carafe and slowly filled a corrugated prop. As I scanned the information table, a title of one of the presentations caught my eye: Fighting Imposter Syndrome. I’d never heard of that before, but it seemed pretty relatable at the moment. Glancing over my shoulder to be sure no one was watching, I scribbled out my name on the sign-up sheet—the first name on the paper—as illegibly as possible.
To my surprise, the presentation was packed. And full of people who were much more accomplished writers than I. For a split-second, I wondered if I was even an imposter at the imposter session, but the speaker began. She introduced the idea of imposter syndrome, a phenomenon where people are unable to internalize their accomplishments and instead feel they will be found out as a fraud. As I listened, all of her points resonated with me. Even when meeting other writers that morning, I had dismissed myself first, before someone else had the chance. I networked with the business cards I had labored over, coupled only with the disclaimer: “it’s just a silly little blog, nothing serious.”
But as the speaker went on, my mini melt-down began. I did this in all areas of my life! The last decade of my life, though full of rich experiences, looked like a mismatched, hand-made quilt on a resume. It was cute when it was in my living room, but embarrassing to be draped in for a professional meeting.
When people ask what I do, I stutter. I don’t have a career because I am working slowly through a graduate program. I am going slowly because I want to be with my kids while they are young. The amount of hours I spend as wife and mother don’t seem conversation worthy, but neither does talking about my hobbies or hopes for the future.
No matter which hat I’m wearing at the time, I just want to pull it down over my face. Whether I’m with other couples, at a playdate, or in class, I immediately size up the room to see the ways I don’t fit: I’m the youngest here, I have less experience, I do things differently.
As my life slowly unfolds—a constant process of “becoming”—I struggle with feeling like I belong anywhere.
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