Today we went around the class and presented the rough drafts of our second paper–a review of a book of life writing. The goal was for it to work as a sort of workshop, to discuss our goals for the paper and to get valuable feedback. I was struggling with what to focus on in my paper on Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life. There were so many different avenues I could have taken, but I couldn’t touch on them all since it wasn’t supposed to be a 20-page paper and only needed to be 1500-2000 words. I read a small section of my rough draft and got a lot of great feedback that really helped me choose a thesis statement to zero in on.
During the workshop I found myself reflecting a lot on the differences between the feedback I received and the feedback my peers received (there are only four other students in the class besides me). Even their rough drafts were more thought out and organized than the mess I had. I don’t know that I can really explain it, but I really started to feel like I was behind where they are academically.
Academically, they are all on the same level. They recently received undergraduate degrees are in their second semester of their graduate programs (2 MA/2 MFA). I am not accepted into a program. I am in my second semester of taking graduate-level courses, but it’s only my second course. I received my undergraduate 13 years ago, and so am presumably over a decade older than them, and I really don’t remember a lot of the critical language and theories that are still so fresh in their minds. I stumble over my words and often lose my train of thought in the middle of a sentence as I struggle to find the right “language” to use.
I’m not too proud to admit here that sometimes their discussions go right over my head.
So I spend some of that time wondering about imposter syndrome, and how I feel more and more like an imposter as time goes on. It’s easy to find reasons why I don’t fit in, why I don’t belong, why I stand out.
And now that I’ve been rejected from the program, there’s one more thing that they have over me.
If I’m not pursuing a degree, what am I really doing in this class?
Next semester I want to take a workshop class. Whether I’m in a program or not might not matter as much, because it’s more writing that I’m comfortable with (fiction) rather than conference papers and critical reviews. I’m sure I’ll still have the same reasons to feel like an imposter, but at least I’ll feel like I’m getting something out of the class–feedback and critiques on the writing I want to do.
It’s not that I don’t feel my academic papers are any good–they get me good grades. I’m not looking to submit them to scholarly journals for publication. I’m writing them for the class, for the grade, and will never look at them again (except maybe if I need writing samples for my next grad school application). Some of my classmates are writing papers that they would like to eventually publish. They have even researched journals where their paper would fit. They know immediately what the professor means when she says the book review should be “like a Times book review”. I’ve never read the New York Times. Ever.
Maybe I should be? In all the spare time I have?
I have no conclusion, FYI. I’m just tired and ready for bed, but I still have to read a chapter or two of Refuge so I can stay on track to finish it by the next class meeting.
Side Note: I was looking at the definition of imposter syndrome on Wikipedia that I linked above (because I’ve never really read a definition, just had it explained to me by friends) and can you believe I actually feel like I’m an imposter in imposter syndrome? Specifically the fact that it is common among “high-achievers” and I don’t really feel that I have achieved so much to be defined as “high achieving”. I’m more like “moderate achieving”. But that could have to do with who I associate with. I seem to be friends with a lot of “high achievers”. In comparison, I am average at best.