Thursday, July 7, 2016

The imposter syndrome

Just before I started my first year as a graduate, four days before to be exact, I got a call offering me a teaching assistantship (someone had withdrawn from the program). I could have free tuition, a stipend, and health insurance if I taught two classes of first-year French. I was thrilled and said yes, but I was almost completely unprepared for the experience, and on the first day, I felt like an imposter, someone pretending to be a college teacher. I felt I didn't belong there.

I've had that imposter feeling any number of times: the first time I gave a paper at an academic conference, off and on the first year I was a tenure-track professor, the first time I was the featured speaker at an AA meeting, the first time I officiated at a wedding. When we haven't done something before and people are watching, it's hard to accept our newness.

One of the best things about having my studio for three years was the ability to fully step into being an artist. I started painting about 15 years ago, once a week in a class for years. I had shows of my work in local restaurants and coffee shops. I sold some pieces. I even wrote a book on creativity.* But I always felt like an imposter. The studio shifted something for me, something in my identity as a creative, and the imposter syndrome disappeared. I have no plans to be a working painter (writing is too dear to me), but I am glad to feel like I belong in that tribe.


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