Imposter Syndrome

Photo: Welp. It happened yesterday at school! Just the way he wanted it to! This is the second time I’ve sent my child to school and he came back physically different. I know that it shouldn’t be strange… it’s just a tooth. But there is something jarring about looking at your child in the morning before putting him on the bus, then watching him get off the bus just a little bit changed. That’s par for the course in this motherhood thing, no?


I finished a chapter of Silverwood today and I thought it would never end. It’s not even a good chapter. It’s a chapter that’s going to need a hell of a lot of editing… which makes me yawn and scratch just thinking about it. I told myself, as I slogged through it, that I was laying down the clay to be formed in editing. Just put down the mound of clay and it’ll be find. Lord, it was still hard, but I did it.

Motivating myself to get through a crappy chapter and looking forward (in a way) to the editing phase is a bit of growth for me. I’ve never looked forward to editing before. I’ve been studying the craft a lot lately, and finally “editing is writing” has real meaning for me. Editing isn’t the annoying thing you do after the “fun” part of writing. Editing is, actually, starting to become the fun part.

I had to send in the first 20 pages of Silverwood for my Jack Jones application. I printed them out and poured over them. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with the first chapter of my book in a long while. Where I used to worry and become increasingly self-conscious while reading my work, I instead found the process thrilling and fun to do. I found the breadcrumbs I was trying to leave and turned them into meaningful sentences and ideas. I enjoyed going through first for the “big” things and then really getting down in the dirt of sentences. I considered the word “trespass” and how many times I needed to use it (it’s an important term in the book). I found myself smiling from time to time. There is joy in the editing. There is joy in the work. This writing thing really does take time, focus and discipline, but each level-up does feel well-earned and utterly satisfying.

I’m working on quite a bit right now. Believe it or not, I’m giving a sermon at church in May. It’s… daunting. It scares the hell out of me. I got roped into it for the benefit of my dear friend and her phenomenal non-prof, First Teacher.  I need to be personable, pious and persuasive while encouraging my congregation to give a donation to this organization that I love. I haven’t written a single word of a draft yet, which doesn’t make me anxious yet, but will soon. I’m reading and gathering materials, going over the readings and the lessons appointed for that Sunday and grasping for just the right tone, just the right story to tell. It doesn’t help that my mom and step-father are flying up from Maryland to see me speak, despite my discouragement. It really doesn’t help that we have an awesome parishioner who regularly gives sermons who I consider to be an absolute genius of a thinker and writer. He gave a sermon this past Sunday that was just brilliant. Between him and my newly departed former (also genius) rector, I’m really having trouble finding the strength to stand in the same pulpit and speak with my full voice.

If that wasn’t enough to keep me up at night, I’m also spending my time developing curriculum. Believe it or not, I’m putting my teacher-hat back on. I’m teaching a writing class for women through our town’s community education program. 8 weeks on discipline, organization, confidence, the basics of the craft… one night a week. I’ve never taught adults before. The thought of it is thrilling and petrifying. Like any teacher worth her salt, I’ve been doing a lot of reading–gathering old materials that I love and exploring new materials I suspect will be helpful. I’ve gone back to my old techniques, thinking about “warm-up” activities, organizing class structure, considering follow-up support and encouragement. There is part of me that really can’t wait. There is another part of me that wonders what the hell I was thinking.

After all that insanity, I’m signed up to teach three weeks of summer camp this year. The boys get to run around and have a daycamp experience while I get back to teaching kids. Not history. Storytelling. Which, as a history teacher, I was doing anyway. Again, doing a lot of reading, doing a lot of thinking. So excited (especially for the boys, who get to enjoy this premium camp while I’m teaching), yet so concerned.

I’ve always had admiration for people who have taken on “second careers.” Plenty of people start out on one path and then end up pivoting. I think my admiration comes from the misguided idea that people aren’t terribly flexible. At some point, people set in a way. I’ve watched many people in my life do just that: they get in a career, or they latch onto an idea of what the world is and isn’t, and they never change. They never grow. So, growing up, whenever I encountered people who made the choice to stop and dramatically change course, I viewed them with awe. Under certain circumstances, that sort of flexibility amounts to extraordinary bravery in my point of view.

When I was teaching, I often asked other colleagues what their “second life” would be. I wanted to head back into academics. Get the doctorate, start a program studying integration and re-segregation, do some studies, write some books… nothing turned out quite like I imagined. I’m not sure if these tenuous classes or even this writing thing in general is going to really turn into a “second life” for me. I really want it to be, though. These little gigs may well be the foundation for something new. I could be one of those flexible people I so admired when I was younger.

With the leap in my chest from the excitement of it all, the needle of self-doubt pokes every chance it gets. Who am I to teach about writing? I’m not that good at it! I still have a lot to learn myself! And teaching adults? Adults out here in the suburbs? It’s a whole need sort of world. Am I up for it?

We’ve all gotta start somewhere. I started somewhere once before and I learned along the way. When I’m teaching, I’m learning. As long as I’m learning, I’m not an imposter. I’m a student; practicing, just as I’m asking my students to do.

We made it to Wednesday, Dear Reader. Are you ready to finish out the week with strength and purpose? Let’s make it to Friday together.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.



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