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And when I say that I don’t make great adult decisions, I mean that I don’t say no to enough things in order to protect myself from how exhausted I currently am. I started this blog entry at my writing group while I was also laughing at some serious schaudenflan when I was supposed to be presenting a positive, inclusive example for my writers. Talk about a failure to pack in my inner asshole. By the by, this is not something that you should say out loud when surrounded by Archer fans.

boxHere’s the thing: I ain’t even mad at everything that I felt an obligation to accomplish last month. I took an Intro To Klingon class. I spoke at my first professional writers’ conference. I even chatted up Saladin Ahmed and Sofia Samatar over pizza and a disappointing lack of hot sauce. I will admit the lack of hot sauce in our section of the table was [partially] a failure on my part. The whole “hot sauce in my bag swag” shtick is fine and dandy until the shit breaks and your wallet smells like spicy tomatoes for four months.

Regaling you all with tales of my geeky [mis]adventures isn’t the objective of this blog post – relating the need for better self-care and time management however is the point. I’m someone how is on the cusp of starting an actual writing/speaking career, but I found myself caught up in the need to consistently put myself out there for fear that I will be forgotten as soon as I am inducted. I spend time creating both fiction and nonfiction content, often hesitating at the moment right before submission, then convincing myself that the rejection email was inevitable because I’m not as good as I would like to think I am.

We’ve all seen this phenomenon in our respective industries: the archetype who spends more time promoting themselves than actually doing the work. I have a steady status of paranoia about becoming this archetype; if only it could be drawn back to my parents telling me that I was too special in relation to my intelligence-based ability.

I have a gift for words. It just hasn’t hit me that I have a gift for turning this gift into anything special or significant.

It didn’t matter that I started off the first Saturday of last month at DePaul’s academic pop culture conference postulating on Avery Brooks’ representation of the successful black American [cis] man in a white American [cis] man’s world with the same nuance, conflict and ambivalence that we would see in real life today.  It didn’t matter that this had been the third Celebration of Fandom academic conference to which I had been invited to speak. It didn’t matter that these speaking engagements opened the door into guest lecturing for various university-level sociology classes from geek culture to porn culture.

I was still having difficulty understanding how I wound up in a standing-room only lecture hall hypothesizing on Star Trek presenting humanity as the ultimate form of privilege within its universe.

My friends, this is Imposter Syndrome. And it is uglier than Illinois’ 2014 gubenatorial election results.


I couldn’t put a name to this feeling until the following weekend at my very first professional writing conference. There I stood in the Red Room of the Palmer House Hilton watching the Nebula nominees being called by name before they opened the ballroom for the Mass Autographing session, and ever aspect of me just stopped. Unable to move or even formulate cohesive sentences, I started to question everything that had happened up to this point: my invitation (yes, I was invited on as a speaker), my jovial and informal conversations with Big Names In The Game, even my access to witness the Nebula Nominees receive their certificates. While in mid-applause, the ultimate Imposter Syndrome question hit me like a hard right from Chuck Liddell.

How the hell did I get here?

Facing this question, I did what every overachieving activist-in-the-making does: buried myself in more work.

So I strolled into WisCon weekend determined to stay so preoccupied with my six panels and writer’s workshop that I had no time to entertain the thought. I sounded off about erasure of black femininity in mainstream culture, the existence and mistreatment of black femmes, NBs, genderqueers, the pidgeon-holing of WOC heroines and the caucasity of white folks putting their hands in my hair.

Objectively, I know the drill. Objectively I know that I have a certain amount of competence in these matters, and I have friends and colleagues who have recognized and promoted it in various academic and professional spaces. I am beyond thankful for these people and the avenues they have created for me. I do not question their judgment in asking for my services at these conferences and conventions, for that would be incredibly condescending and disrespectful of their judgments.

There is, however, that deep-seeded wish to be able to see what they see in me, even if it is for a second. Because I know that I owe them my best work and I want to continue delivering it. My friends and colleagues are owed much more than a toot of my horn, but the burden of composing that symphony falls solely on me. These are my anxieties with which to contend, no one else’s.

But there is also the need for me to be myself, and myself can be judgmental, stringent, calculating and unapologetic. And if I am being completely honest, these are the characteristics that have kept me here. These have been the characteristics that keep me working, that get me up in the morning and keep me grinding throughout an entire day. And it’s these characteristics that I can no longer ignore, not if I want to make any head way in a career I’ve wanted for over twenty years. Not if I want to do better by myself in any capacity.

I  don’t expect to stop feeling scared right away. You can’t win a battle against a lifetime of ubiquitous, multi-faceted levels of systemic oppression over the course of nine days, but you can sure as shit get to crawling towards it.


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