Imposter Syndrome, Begone

I am having severe imposter syndrome right now.

I mean, what if I’m not good enough for a PhD?

I keep feeling like I should live and breathe academia, but the truth is, I don’t. I love so many things; academia is just one aspect of my life. But what if that’s wrong? What if I should be more passionate? Should I be reading research papers every day? Should I be annotating original texts with thoughts and ideas?

(I kind of do that anyway, but still.)

I’m going into my Master’s degree not knowing what to specialise in. I think it might be medieval literature, but what if it’s not? What if it turns out to be language, or history, or an interdisciplinary mix that makes no sense to anyone but me?

I can’t even read Latin, let alone any other medieval language. I was never offered it during my undergraduate degree and I can’t help but wonder if that will hold me back. I don’t want to be held back. Damn it, I want that PhD. I want to get a 70+ for every single Master’s assessment. I want to ace my classes, be passionate about my medieval loves.

And I want to do my PhD at Oxford or Cambridge. Both have amazing PhD provision, and I know I can do it.

But I’m so worried that my undergraduate degree result will hinder that. It’s been a stressful, personally disastrous three years and I came out with a degree classification that most Master’s programmes wouldn’t even look at.

(Yes, I have a degree, and I recognise that I’m lucky. But I’m still frustrated as fuck.)

I honestly don’t know what the next year has in store for me, but I am not going to let it be horrific. I am going to succeed and be brilliant, just like I know I can be.

Because I bloody well deserve it.

dear amanda palmer.

I’ve just finished The Art of Asking, and I feel like I might cry.

I don’t ask, you see. Oh, sure, if I need change for the laundrette and I know I’ll pay them back at some point, I’ll ask a flatmate. But that’s not asking, not to me.

Asking is eleven year-old me realising that she’ll be wheelchair bound for six to eight weeks and knowing that she’ll need help to even do the basic things.

Asking is seventeen year-old me breaking down in a school counsellor’s office because she doesn’t know how to cope with life anymore.

Asking is twenty-one year-old me, the current me, realising at 3am one night that she might have been sexually abused aged fourteen and not knowing how to process, or what to do.

I could ask for help then – but I’ve only ever asked when I’m desperate. I find it so very hard to understand that asking for help isn’t being dependent. I don’t lose this independence I’ve worked so hard to gain because I always believed I had to prove myself.

(I’m physically disabled, and always, always fought for that self-sufficiency, you see. I didn’t want to depend upon anyone. I still don’t.)

And reading your words, your stories… it’s making me realise that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to be so stubborn. I am loved, I am supported, and there is no shame in asking for that £50 to cover food expenses from my parents while at university, or a hug from a friend when I feel like that seventeen year-old self again.

There is no shame. And I will remember that. 

So thank you, Amanda Palmer. Thank you. I don’t know you, have never met you, but your words have shifted something in me. Thank you.

The flower really fucking helps.

(And damn it, I’m crying.)

 

the blanket

My desk is a mess. I wish I could call it beautiful, with its chips and dents and lipsticks littered alongside those fine liner pens that are my staple. But it’s not. It’s a reflection of my mind; right now, you can guess exactly what state that’s in. I have six weeks left until my dissertation deadline, two months until my final exams, and I don’t think I’ve been outside recently for anything other than leaving for lectures.

This is not me glamourising mental illness, by the way. It’s anything but.

I have this love-hate relationship with university, with academia. It drives me onwards and yet pulls me back. I could be a wreck inside, yet still work on research and somehow get myself a 2:1 in an essay. Is it luck, is it perseverance? Probably both. I’ve sent off Masters’ applications; one rejection, one offer. Four still to make up their clever minds. (The rejection was from my #1 choice, and it still stings. But I’ll get over it.)

And all the while I’m a jittering bundle of nerves and confusion. I know I should go outside. The sun’s even shining today. But somehow it seems safer to stay inside. One glance at my bed, my friend and foe, and I feel that pull, that longing to cocoon myself. Yet, you see, I’m an adult. I can’t cocoon myself anymore. Oh, I could pull a blanket around myself for an hour or two and pretend it’s for warmth. A lie, but a reasonable one, to the outside world. To my mind. However, if I hold onto that blanket for any longer, I start forgetting what life is like without it. Not a good idea, let’s be honest. (I can be honest with you, the invisible readers.)

I have to throw the blanket off. I know I do. Stretch muscles, both mental and physical.

But it’s so fucking hard.

absence & change.

So i’ve been away for a while. a holiday, perhaps. new things, old things, heartbreaking things.

But as I sit here, on the woven coloured rug that I’m inexplicably fond of and grow more so every day – I realise that change is good. It’s good. Great, even. Sure, things will hurt, and I’ll cry and tear the figurative hangings off the figurative four-poster, but I’m human. Hurt and pain are inevitable things in life. And I don’t say that as though I’m resigned to it. There’s a big difference between resignation and acceptance; in my case, it is most definitely the latter.

I have a job now. It’s nothing fancy, it’s nothing career-propelling, but it’s a job nonetheless. Something to fill those aimless hours that I used to spend wandering the ever-strange recesses of my thoughts. And I enjoy it, I really do. It’s nice to be surrounded by lovely people, engage with friendly customers who don’t mind if my left hand shakes when I carry things for them or if I take a little longer to do things because I’m still learning on the job. (Of course, it helps that I get paid and I can finally stop fretting about paying university living fees. But that doesn’t really need to be mentioned.) My colleagues are a godsend, and not one of them seems to think any less of me for being a little less physically able than they are.

That, and I’m about to head into my last year of my undergraduate degree. Is it frightening? Yes. Is it exhilarating? Of course. Do I think I’ll fail it? Possibly.

Will I fail it?

Not a bloody chance.

funny.

You think things will work out. You think things will be forever.

I think I was just proven otherwise.

It’s times like these that I’d love to be sitting in a café in Paris, smoking a cigarette and saying to myself, well done kid. Well done on growing up. You know, like some older gentleman will inevitably say in some New Wave French film while eyeing the young woman up and down. And reconciling the cynicism of that gentleman with the naiveté of the woman… these are two parts of me I’m finding tricky to mesh.

My life isn’t a fairytale, caught on old cameras and lived in a paradise. It’s really not. And it probably never will be. But you know what? That’s fine. It’s really quite fine. Because the rawness of humanity, the grittiness of misfortune and searing sensations of passion and joy – you won’t find these in fairytales. You won’t. Fairytales are idealised. My life isn’t. It’s young, it’s full of mistakes and awkward silences and embarrassments that I’d rather forget. But it’s mine.

And nothing lasts forever. I’ve learnt that now. I’ll get moments, I’ll get fleeting fancies, seconds of possibilities and wonderings and the ever present what if? 

But that’s okay. It’s really okay. I’m twenty years old. I’m about to throw myself headfirst into my last year of university. I have a vague sort of plan as to what might happen afterwards. Key word being vague. Who ever lives their life out exactly as they plan it, after all?

I’ll tell you who.

Absolutely no one.

Musing | The Cake Shed

Here’s the thing: I love cafés. I particularly love cafés that are cosy, a little bit higgledy-piggledy, and have a fantastic range of teas. The Cake Shed has all three. 1538380_730433760404392_1114389899_n I don’t remember when I stumbled across the little gem in the middle of the bit of Regency-era town known as The Pantiles, but I’ve known of it – and visited – for over a year. Honest to god, their teas – loose – are divine. I’m particularly fond of their garden tea; it’s so fruity and just ugh so damn good.  (I haven’t even talked about the food yet. Red velvet cake is top notch. Definitely recommend. In fact, any of their cakes are fabulous.) BlRGRJFIgAA1edd But the thing is, it feels homey. I can sit in there with a book and be at peace for hours. My hometown is no London, true; it’s hardly diverse and it’s pretty damn posh (Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, anyone?) – but The Cake Shed is a little slice of comfort for me. With gorgeous crockery and cutlery that looks like it’s come straight out of Alice In Wonderland… well, I’m in heaven. If ever you’re in Tunbridge Wells, pay The Cake Shed a visit – and don’t forget to bring a book.


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