This is oddly relatable, and kind of reminded me of how I’d been frustrated and tired with some of Sweetpea’s writing, exasperatedly resigning myself to there being fluff and filler lines that were okay, but nothing I was particularly proud of- only to be startled by Mike picking out one of the fluffy filler lines as one he really liked in his lovely review of the game. That took me aback.
I have a really bad case of imposter syndrome. I grew up as one of those obnoxious little gifted kids- (the usual prattling about skipping grades- they pushed for me to go from junior kindergarten to third or fourth grade, and in middle school, wanted to enrol me in university courses: my biological parents refused, and unfortunately the whole brilliant little crumb of a child in the language department meant I never got help for my math related learning disability, because everyone assumed I was simply not trying hard enough/being lazy, I ended up brute forcing my way all the way to eleventh grade in hysterics about something that quite literally wasn’t a lack of effort- ‘twice exceptional’ is a bastard of a label) and because of that, never felt like any praise I got was genuine.
I have boxes and boxes of certificates for highest achieving student in the language arts, won scholarships and awards in relation to it, have a silly little trophy even- and this was across multiple school districts, though my skeptical little mind always figured favouritism could still sneak in if I stayed in a school district too long. I always felt like teachers and even professors often pushed the ‘you should look into publishing, seriously’ angle in hopes of getting a cool story to share with their peers or a dedication or something- not because they saw anything of genuine note.
Sure, I reasoned- they might think I was good, but what did they know? They were used to my peers, and their quality of work. I craved recognition by an authority I could respect. I expected to fall off hard in university- everyone knows that there’s kids who got labelled gifted for reading who weren’t actually all that- they just learned to read early. But university didn’t challenge me either- and I was similarly disillusioned by brilliant professors who made me feel like I’d come to life in debate back and forth in class- but when grading time came, I looked around and I felt like: well, it’s because they’ve been marking God awful undergraduate essays for years. I can pen a halfway decent essay, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at writing.
I got a 98 in a course- but what did that matter, when back in highschool I’d felt more or less like it was just as much a breeze? I can still remember the spiteful ‘98? Where’s the other 2%? What did you fuck up? Where did you get lazy? You think you’re so unique, what for? What have you done? You’ve contributed nothing to society. The only thing you’re supposed to be good at is school, and you fuck even that up! You can’t do a single thing right! Why are you asking for praise for something you should already be doing? Do you think you’re fucking special? That you’re doing anything extraordinary? Any dog can perform tricks when taught. Don’t get full of yourself,’ and so on, when I’d happily showed my biological parents a 98 overall course mark in Language Arts in highschool. So it felt just as empty, just another expected check mark and dead eyed gaze as I filed away another certificate and beaming teacher’s note praising me.
I’d hoped university would fix the feeling. Peer workshops didn’t either, nor did dedicated craft groups. Weirdly, it wasn’t until I hopped onto the forums here, and got a whole bunch of reviews- from really smart people who had no reason to be kind to me, who had amazing taste and extensive backlogs of reviews: who had known enough to know what they liked and discern what was actually good- that I felt reassured that hey, maybe I’m okay at this writing thing after all. It was really cathartic, and I’m still in awe of some of the company we keep on the forums. Super cool place full of super cool people.