Yes, Mr. Dylan, the times, they are a changin’. The summer is almost over; I am days away from completing my internship, an epic road trip home, and a new semester shortly after that. And, as fate would have it, the rest of the future seems to be knocking at my door as well. A renewed relationship and a bright prospect has rekindled my love for Boston, and it’s also rekindled my passion. I’m excited to move on from here – not because I hate my job so much – but because I’m excited for the next phase of my life. I’m actually ecstatic for school to start. My classes have the potential to be really interesting, and I’m looking forward to having more time and energy to put into learning this fall.
And shortly after fall ends, I will hopefully have the job I’ve been working myself raw for over the last four years. I’m ready to go, but for the first time, I’m not terribly anxious for it to all come together. The last time I had a prospect like this – one that in the end didn’t yield and led to my semester in Rome (and my life being shaped accordingly) – I started having panic attacks I was so ready. I couldn’t handle the waiting – the uncertainty, the delicious tease, and the way an unexpected email could change everything and reduce you to a giddy little girl stumbling over her own tongue. The back and forth of the day to day, and the hurry up and wait made me miserable.
Ironically, the thing that’s keeping me calm now is fear. I’m not ready for January, because I don’t feel ready for this job. Take note, this is me, admitting infallibility (save this link for future reference.) I have this bizarre and terrible feeling that I’m so clever I managed to endure 18 years of education without learning anything, and that when I get to Boston, to my dream job, to everything I’ve ever wanted in the world, they’ll find out. They’ll realize I’m a phony – that I didn’t do all the reading I was supposed to, that I’m not “Wicked Smart” (or a real redhead) like my redheaded friend thinks I am, and that I don’t actually know anything about anything. They’ll tolerate me until the end of my internship and then they’ll let me go, disappointed, but not having lost much. I, on the other hand, will have lost everything.
My fear of imperfection has long been by best friend and worst enemy. On a good day, it will motivate me to be excited for my classes and to pay attention when I know my confidence and fair writing skills could probably let me coast. But, on a less-than-good day, it will make me feel like I don’t deserve this. How many people want a job so glamorous as this – one where you wear jeans to the office and leave Friday at 2 if you have nothing to do, and where they pay you to go plan parties and stay up all night. How many of those people are smarter than me? How many are skinnier? How many of them are better at making fast friends and making people fall in love with them?
I mentioned this to my mother earlier when we were talking, and apparently both feeling very open and candid, and she recalled a book she read (characteristically), about this very feeling. It came out in the 80s, or some other equally self-obsessed decade, and it discussed the common symptom of 20somethings feeling like phonies. Apparently many people my age felt like this, at least in the 80s, and were all irrationally convinced of their own inadequacy. She recalled feeling the same way. Do you?
Perhaps it’s the rebuttal to the infallibility of the college years – the times when you are invincible, self-obsessed, and fairly sure that you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Then, when you’re paying your own rent, buying your own broccoli, and thinking about a 401-K plan, you realize you aren’t all powerful. And, for some reason, that translates in our developing brains to complete incompetence. I don’t know everything, and therefore I must know nothing. And the people who pay me – who pay for my rent and my broccoli and my (probably-non-existent) 401-K plan, had better not find out. Maybe? But like I said, I don’t know. Anything. At all. Shhh…don’t tell.
Fortunately, and also characteristically, I was comforted by this book that may or may not really have existed (I don’t know). My mother and I aren’t always good at hearing each other, and we are often no good at helping each other, but when we connect is when I am looking to be told that what I’m feeling is normal. Sometimes all I want to know is that I’m not alone, and that I’m not just cleverly dodging the label of insanity like I fear I am dodging the label of ignorance. Times like this my mother, with her calm detachment and extensive mental library, says exactly what I need.
I mean don’t get me wrong. I’m still terrified I’ve been faking it, and even more terrified that someone who isn’t will find out. But hopefully I’m just terrified enough to care about things I’ve never cared about (school). Maybe the fear is just what I need to keep myself occupied. Maybe life is a desert, dreams are manna, and fear is the sun beating on your brow, pushing you onward. You wouldn’t get to the oasis without it.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Maryanne Williamson