A decade of discovery (and Imposter Syndrome)
At the end of 2009, I was a 22 year-old who had just lost her mom unexpectedly, a teenage mom, was in a toxic relationship with someone she’d been with since high school, and had no clue what she wanted out of life or who she was.
I defined myself by my responsibilities to others. I was a daughter who needed to respect and take care of her father during his debilitating grief. I was a sister of an eight year-old girl who’d also just found herself motherless and scared. I was a mother to a five year-old son who was just like her, but yet whose health just kept deteriorating. I was a best friend whose number one person was going through extremely trying times of her own. I was a wife to a man who needed constant support because of his mental health issues.
As guilty as I feel, and as unhealthy as it is, I enjoyed being needed. I liked that I was the glue holding it all together.
But it was a lot of weight, and in the hustle and bustle of daily life, I somehow forgot that my twenties were supposed to be about finding myself.
I had this mental image of who I was supposed to be and how things were supposed to go, but life just wouldn’t cooperate.
All the untried pins I posted to my Pinterest board, all of the planners I bought that went the entire year without being used, the ingredients for recipes I never used - it was all a side effect of me trying to be someone I wasn’t. Someone who clearly had it all together. Someone who people look at and think, “I don’t know how she does it.”
As I sit here typing on the last day of 2019, I am still a daughter, sister, mother, and best friend. But my dad, he learned how to function through the grief. My sister, she’s 18 now and preparing to go to college. That five year-old is fifteen. He got healthier and he got a baby sister.
It’s not that they don’t need me as much. I still rarely sit down until bedtime after I get off work and between wrestling practices, plays, and visiting friends I am on the road with them more often than not.
But somewhere in the past decade, as I approach thirty, I realized that living for them wasn’t helping them. That it was only hurting myself.
So in 2015, I had weight loss surgery and changed my physical appearance and health dramatically.
I also started writing that year. Just small things here and there. Things that came to mind and wouldn’t leave.
I started a story about a girl that falls for a British rock star.
In writing, I met a ton of people who also loved writing. I made friends.
I was learning how to be authentically myself, outside of my responsibilities to others. I was… happy. Genuinely. For the first time in a long time.
But then the Imposter Syndrome started.
Technically it started the day I opened up the Google doc to write my first piece.
I was a dumpster fire. An emotional mess. I couldn’t even run my own life. I didn’t even know myself.
Who the hell was going to care to hear what I had to say? I didn’t have any life-changing knowledge to pass down. I couldn’t weave words like Neil Gaiman or create characters like Cassandra Clare.
But I kept writing anyway.
And then my best friend cared. She read my story and wanted to read more.
So I wrote more.
I wrote an entire novel.
“This could be something,” she said.
“She’s lying because she loves you,” Imposter Syndrome replied.
For the first time in my life, I decided not to listen to it and sent it out anyway.
And got rejection after rejection.
“See?” my Imposter Syndrome spoke up again, “No one cares. No one wants to read your glorified fan fiction.”
But on the instance from my writing friends I’d made and the women supporting me in my YA-RWA chapter, I kept sending out queries even when the rejections were piling up.
But in November 2018 something really weird happened.
I was on my way to work one day and just happened to check my email at a redlight.
There was an email from one of the publishers I submitted to.
THEY WANTED TO PUBLISH MY BOOK.
I thought I’d died.
I told my writing friends and they almost died.
I told my best friend who squealed and shrieked and told me how much she loved me.
But then the Imposter Syndrome started yelling just as loud.
“You’re going to put this out in the world and people will hate it.”
“Who do you think you are?”
I shut it down as much as I could and signed the contract.
There was over a year from the time I got the contract to the release day.
“You don’t even know where to begin,” Imposter Syndrome laughed.
So… I joined the Roaring Twenties Debut group.
“Look at all of these amazing people I get to talk to directly and lean on for support!” my heart yelled with glee.
“Look how they all have their shit together,” Imposter Syndrome snided. “This one has perfect make-up. That one just got back from a vacation to Greece. This one has experience in the marketing department of a major publisher. That one is best friends with a lot of best-selling authors. This one got a six-figure deal. That one went to Disney with their advance.”
“Were all going to be published authors next year. It unites us.”
“Look at you. You made your kids spaghettios for supper last night because it was cheaper than buying ground beef for spaghetti. You barely make your rent payment every month. You’ve never been outside of the Southeast. You talk like a backwoods redneck. You don’t belong here.”
But it was wrong. I did belong. And they made sure that I knew it. No one looked at me and said, “You aren’t wearing pink. You can’t sit with us.”
No one cared what my home life looked like or how many followers I had on Twitter. They cared that I’d written a book and it was being published.
They cared that I was just as scared, and nervous, and excited as they all were.
They cared that we were going through the exact same things, even if it was at different “List Tiers”.
Imposter Syndrome got a huge kick in the ass when in May, I flew out to New York to BookCon.
I met my writer friends in person.
I attended a Roaring Twenties Debut Group dinner.
I GAVE AWAY SWAG FOR MY BOOK. My real actual book that was coming out next year.
Then in July, I flew back to New York and shook the hand of Jennifer E. Smith, whose work helped inspire my YA Contemporary Romance style.
I STOOD IN FRONT OF PUBLISHERS AND AGENTS AND TALKED ABOUT MY BOOKS AND THEY LIKED IT.
In November, my co-writer and I came out with a book in a box set that hit #1 on its category on Amazon.
In December I was asked to present a class on small press marketing and invited to do one on crafting believable YA characters.
Beyond caring what I wrote in my books, people wanted to know HOW I wrote them and sold them.
But EVEN AFTER ALL THAT, Imposter Syndrome still yells loudly every day.
With 29 days until the release of my debut, Adeline’s Aria, it still tells me that no one is going to care. That I am wasting my time. That I should just hang it up.
And you know, I am still a dumpster fire. I am still an emotional mess who doesn’t know how to wear makeup correctly. I still speak with a southern drawl. I still sometimes feed my kids spaghettios for supper.
But despite what Imposter Syndrome says, that doesn’t change my accomplishments or make me less worthy of them.
It doesn’t negate all of the growth and discovery I’ve done this decade.
Imposter Syndrome will always be there. Tagging along like Eeyore’s cloud.
But what I’m finding out is that, if the people that I admire have it too, doesn’t that bring me closer to them?
If VE Schwab and John Greene have Imposter Syndrome, it’s a pretty okay group to be in, isn’t it?