imposter syndrome (and other various things in my life right now)

[Bottom line up front – if you haven’t checked out the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, it’s amazing. Give it a listen – you won’t be sorry! Thanks Tara for the recommendation!]

We all get imposter syndrome sometimes, right? Now that I’m finally alone with myself for an extended stretch of time, those howling inner voices are really screaming – telling me my doctorate was not legitimate (my committee just passed me to get rid of me); I’m a fraud as an evaluator (I can’t do quantitative analysis worth beans); I know nothing deep about the country I’m living in; I exist on a superficial plane, all surface, no substance.

My goal for this season in my life is to get my name in print. I have a list as long as my arm of projects and ideas, all under development in different stages – a children’s fantasy, an edited volume in my doctoral field, a combination oral history/memoir, a post-apocalyptic world, several articles for journals and/or conferences coming up in the next two years.

I’m so jealous of what I see as “real writers,” anyone and everyone who is promoting their work on twitter – why can’t I be you?

Why can’t I?

It is unbelievable the amount of freedom and support I have to do this, though. My husband is working three jobs to cover our cost of living, private school for the kids, and plenty left over for travel and extras. He likes it, and he’s at the stage in his career where he’s in high demand – he has to turn down at least 4-5 projects a year because he just doesn’t have time to do it all and still be present with the family. Financially, I don’t need to work, although I’d still like to be teaching, like, one university level class.

Since moving back to Albania, I’ve embraced the stay/work-at-home mom thing in ways that have astonished both me and Gimli – especially with the cooking. In Colombia, he did basically all the cooking (to the point to where I felt like he was controlling everything I ate). Now he just cooks on weekends, and I do all the meal planning (like, a weekly menu! It’s so much fun!), and nearly all the housework. I know part of it is living in the home of an Albanian family, who are solidly traditional in terms of gender roles – and Albanian women are extremely house-proud, so this has forced me to step up my game. Even scrubbing the front steps! There is something strangely satisfying about it.

I suppose after all those years working for peace in Colombia,* it is super satisfying to do work where you see immediate, tangible results – where you can directly see the results of your labor as dirt and crud gets washed away, as a peaceful and tidy home emerges from the elbow grease.

A few months ago the kids found a video on the iPad that they had recorded in Colombia, a tour of our apartment, and I was HORRIFIED at how chaotic, messy, cluttered, and dirty it was. MORTIFIED. Just… piles of STUFF on every surface, all the pets (we had a guinea pig, two hamsters, and four birds – all in the living room), beds unmade, toys all over the floor… It reflected my inner life, to be sure.

So I’m working in being more self-disciplined now too. I stopped playing Candy Crush, stopped surfing Twitter before bed, am working on establishing a steady meditation/yoga practice in the mornings. I have a pretty good rhythm going with the housework (and, full disclosure, I have help twice a week for dusting and floors), and we’ve started the kids on a real, actual chores schedule. So, the discipline and order of their school schedule really helps give real structure to my life as well.

I’ve been listening to a podcast recommended by a dear friend, called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text; in one of the episodes Vanessa Zoltan says something about “a karmic gift you give your future self” – I can’t remember what she was referring to exactly, but it was along the lines of applying self-discipline in not-fun ways that pay off in the future. Anyway, I think about it with sleep. My sleep habits while in the US were ABYSMAL. I couldn’t stand the company of my miserable thoughts, so I would web surf til 2 or 3 a.m. (which, omg, SO DEPRESSING) and then force myself awake before 8 to get the kids breakfast. I can’t live on that. So by sequestering myself from my phone at night, and avoiding alcohol, I have actually been able to live my days with energy and alertness instead of dragging through on coffee and miserable willpower.

So, somehow I’ve managed to write myself out of the funk I was in when I sat down here at my desk this morning. Let’s keep this pivot going then – here are three things I feel good about myself for today:

~  Yesterday through two phone conversations in Albanian, and one in English, I organized a new school pick-up system for the greater good of all involved.

~  Yesterday I made banana bran muffins for snacks and meatballs for the school lunches that both turned out YUM.

~ Today I will meditate and that will make me happier.

~  I remind myself that I am a good person, worthy to be loved, capable of doing good work.

Peace out.



*If you don’t follow the news on Colombia, the peace deal that was brokered between the government and the leading guerrilla group after 60 years of conflict, well, it has not lived up to its promise for a lot of complicated reasons that mostly boil down to greed and the extreme lucrativeness of the cocaine industry, and basically nothing in recent politics points to anything hopeful. So, that sucks.  


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