Paralysed

Many of you who know me will know I have imposter syndrome that fluctuates from day to day (sometimes from hour to hour?). Sometimes I’m okay with it and I can deal with it, and sometimes it pushes against my brain and I feel almost paralysed by it. I know I’m an okay (even a good) writer and editor because people I trust and respect and hold in high esteem tell me so, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly believe it. It is something I’m really, truly working on, though.

Because of the way my brain works, every so often I sit down and try really hard to figure out why I feel like such an imposter. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, maybe because it’s just a “writer thing”. Maybe it’s because I belong to a marginalised community (in an Australian context). Maybe it’s because I feel like I have something to prove to my parents – that I have to be better (whatever that means) at this whole writing business because it wasn’t the path I was supposed to take.

I went home yesterday, mainly tempted by the promise of free food (chicken rice!!!!) and mooncakes, but also the fact that I had to do some life admin that involved getting my father’s signature. Dad freaked out when I told him I was going to drive to Newcastle for National Young Writers Festival so immediately took my car to a mechanic friend’s of his. I stayed back with mum, trying on clothes of hers that don’t fit her any more, and for general chats. We talked about work, she asked if I had a boyfriend (ugh), she showed me funny things on her phone that her best friend had sent her from Singapore. We talked about Crazy Rich Asians, and she asked me if I saw that Benjamin Law was “on that homeless show on SBS”. It was nice, but even so, I still felt like the conversation was a little fraught – probably because I’m still testing out the strength of my relationship with my mother.

There were a few times where I thought about telling her I’d been shortlisted for the QLAs, and maybe explaining what that means. I’d even been thinking in the past couple of days if I’d invite her to come with me if I won (long shot, but humour me). But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At the time, I convinced myself out of it by telling myself I’d tell her if I won, but again, because that’s such a long shot, I’m pretty sure I was just trying to give myself excuses to get out of expelling the words from my mouth.

There’s a part of me that wants to share my successes with my parents, but another part of me is scared that if I do, I might only get a lukewarm response, if I get a response at all. I mean, I don’t need a party thrown in my honour or anything, but I feel like they’d be more excited over a boyfriend than any kind of literary achievement. And then there is the guilt of feeling like I’m keeping something important from them, even though the whole point of moving out of home was so I could live my own life. I felt paralysed, but only on the inside. My mouth kept moving, but my brain and my heart would stop every time I thought about telling them about it.

Anyway. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say with this post. I think I’m trying (albeit poorly) to figure my shit out. Maybe my imposter syndrome is borne of the fact that no matter how good I think my writing is, my parents will probably only ever see it as something frivolous, a hobby, something to do while I’m young, before I decide to settle down and start a family. I don’t know how to divorce myself from that, from years of filial piety and wanting my parents to say they’re proud of me because of something I’ve achieved, even though that’s never happened before, and I don’t expect it to happen any time in the near future.

Maybe the only thing I can do is to keep writing. Even if I think it’s bad and no one will ever read it or like it. Maybe all I need to do is to keep writing.

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