The other day, S and were talking about a situation I’m involved in, and without thinking, I used some absurdly long, fairly obscure word to describe my behavior. She looked at me blankly for a second and then we both burst out laughing. Having a large vocabulary does not mean you always need to use it. Because, frankly, you sound like a toss-pot if you do.
But this links slightly to a strange feeling I’m having about my professional life right now.
There was a time when I felt like I was on top–I was around people who got me, I knew what I was talking about, and folks could come to me with questions that I felt I could answer in some kind of accurate fashion. We were on a par.
But now, I feel like a minnow surrounded by whales. And not just regular whales either. Prehistoric sized whales. With horns and wings and halos.
The horned whales of success
And this isn’t only at University. I mean, at University you’re bound to feel like that because you’re learning, right? So you’re not necessarily supposed to know everything. But I admit, I feel rather at a loss there too. “You haven’t heard of author X?” “How can you not have read author Y?” Or sitting there while the group around you laughs at some literary or philosophical reference you have no clue about. It’s daunting, and I admit, it feels somewhat defeating.
How will I ever be as smart as these people? How will I ever figure out how to move forward in the profession like the people around me have?
And I’m also surrounded by a rich, varied and lovely collection of writers and publishers. And the same thing happens: references to people or books I’m fully unaware of as the room titters away. Folks talking about issues author X faced and how they would deal with them. People who walk around the room blowing air kisses at one another’s cheeks and nattering about the old days as I stand against a wall because I know…no one. Do I introduce myself a bit? Sure. But even then I can see the person’s eyes looking past me as awkward pauses clearly indicate someone else would be pretend smooching his face and asking about his domestic details.
Am I really that uneducated? That unworldly? How do I possibly catch up when I don’t even know where to start? How do you enter a community of people in a professional environment when you’re just the unknown outsider? Will I ever become the respected go-to, or will I forever be the mediocre lackluster wall-leaner? At what point do you become less ‘upwardly bound professional’ and more ‘irritating boot-licker’? Why do I feel the need to be as good, to do as much, to be a horned and haloed whale too? Why do I feel inferior because I’m not?
At the moment, I feel like a pretender. I’ve built a facade with peeling paint and semi-transparent walls. Any minute, someone is going to figure out I’m just that dirty little city rat with delusions of being the noble stallion. I’m far, far outside my comfort zone, and wondering just how far I can go before realizing there’s no ground under me after all, and those watching were always shaking their heads, knowing I was never going to make it because I didn’t have any foundation under my dirty bare feet.
Song: Last to Know by Pink
Book: Difference and Repetition by Deleuze