Life is weird, and I find the experience of being an adult to be weird. My week has been filled with home make overs, and emotional melt downs (mine, my childrens, my students, so many melt downs). Big highs, weird lows. I have been trying to understand, my own understanding of the world lately.
As a child I think I was deeply naive, I truly thought that all of the adults knew what they were doing. That every adult was brave, strong, and in control of their lives. All of them. When I look back at the adults I was surrounded with, particularly when I was a young teenager, I think I was just incredibly lucky to spend my time with strong, clever, brave people, who knew themselves enough that they rarely felt challenged by other people. Or at least that was how I saw them. I had good, strong people in my life, even when my life was in utter chaos, even when I was in unpleasant situations, I always had people around who were pointing me in good directions. And even today, the same wonderful people are connected with me, support and guide me. So it has really taken a long time for me to begin to understand the truly wild variety of human nature that actually exists in the world of the grown ups.
The downside here, is when your default position is to think that all of the people around you are very clever and competent, it makes your own failings feel very awkward and uncomfortable. And here, in the land of the PhD, this has not been a great line of thinking as I have been completely overwhelmed by imposter syndrome.
See, imposter syndrome is a bitch of a thing. It creeps up and whispers ‘what are you doing here? You do not belong here, you have just moments until people realise you are very silly and stupid. You are a fake. You are a fraud’. And even though I can consciously recognise that that is not really a rational line of thinking, I think it anyway, I feel it anyway. I get tired from doing so much, feel guilty that I don’t do more, and then just generally feel like a PhD is so far out of my league. It is not easy being first-in-family, and navigating terrain that is not ‘natural’ to you. It is not comfortable to be doing all these things, whilst also trying to be a great Mum, partner, employee, and home-manager. My washing basket is still overflowing, and I have made no progress with training our new puppy. It is school holidays, I have lectures to write, assessments to mark, tutorials to teach, and I haven’t created my final confirmation draft yet. But I have started Christmas shopping. And under this list of chores and failings, I am also a human who exists outside of what I do for others.
Tomorrow I am presenting a discussion at the School of Education, ‘Dialogue and Discourse’ conference. I have never been to a conference before this, it is so new. I feel completely incapable, then I feel capable, then incapable, then I just accept that I am doing my best, and that is all I can do. And perhaps, at the core of this, that is what is so scary. I am doing my best, I am putting myself out there, in my writing, in my aspiration to complete a PhD, and there is no hiding it. Attempting a PhD requires boldness, enrolling is a statement of self belief, and I believe that all Higher Education is brave. It is not private, yet it is personal. It makes me feel truly vulnerable, having people I do not know, but do respect, getting to see part of my innermost self, out there on a paper to be critiqued. In a PhD I am entering into the discourse of academia, I am inviting people to read, and critique, and engage with what has until now been purely in my inner most thoughts.
I am writing this blog after midnight, because I can’t sleep – I am excited, and nervous about the conference. My Husband asked me why I am blogging about this, and I think I just want a record, so that when I am done I will remember the days that I doubted myself. So that when I am done, I can point my students to this when they are doubting. So that when I am done, and my children are grown up, we can remember the wild ride I took us on in the pursuit of that floppy hat.
I have created an infograph, to handout at the discussion tomorrow. I am not sure how well it will translate in a blog, but I hope it looks cute and is understandable.
Wish me luck x