Is it imposter syndrome? General stress? Quarter-life identity crisis? Or am I just losing my mind? Any of these could be the culprit, honestly. Welcome to my acadilemma.
Two specific events caused me to have this smack-in-the-face reality check. The first happened over the summer, while I was teaching two summer classes and taking two towards my master’s degree. My “healthy summer glow” never happened, as I spent the entire summer dwelling indoors, teaching or learning. I had two weeks in August when I had no work or school responsibilities whatsoever, and I had absolutely no idea what to do. I realized that I had become so consumed by my myriad of academic responsibilities, that any hobbies I had were just visions of my past. I had no idea what I liked to do for fun anymore.
The second happened just a few weeks ago. The young Youtube sensations, The Dolan Twins, released an hour-long video discussing their need to change up their Youtube lives, partly out of fear that it had hindered their development and that they were feeling slightly lost and unhappy. I felt their plight in my core. Mind you, I am not a young, lively internet sensation with an identical twin who is loved by millions, but on the opposite side of the same coin, I could empathize.
Life is too important to be taken seriously – Oscar Wilde
As a twenty-four year old developmental college English teacher right smack in the middle of her master’s degree, I should feel like I’m sitting on a throne of books and intellect, reigning over all I see (in a non-superiority complex way, of course). While I have that feeling occasionally, I also find myself often feeling trapped between the professional version of myself and the version of myself that wants to listen to really loud music, eat nothing but Chinese food, and travel the world with a banjo case for people to throw money into. Essentially, I feel torn between the side of me that has grown up and the side that wants to be youthful and slightly reckless.
Because of this, I often find myself unsure of where I fit into social groups. Right here, I could be surrounded by intelligent academics who I could learn so much from. But over there, I might be surrounded by people closer to my age who might make me feel so alive and enlightened in a totally different way. I’m only one person, but I want to be both.
Just the other night, I received a message from a dear friend – also a grad student – at one in the morning asking me if I ever get imposter syndrome. The answer is yes, 100%. In this case, though, I don’t know if what I am experiencing is, in fact, imposter syndrome. It feels more like I am living two very different lives and I am trying to do so at the same time with no success.
So, where do my lives intersect? How can my inner mindful academic and my inner youth come out and coexist peacefully without running me ragged and leaving me mentally and emotionally drained? Are they able to coexist successfully? Surely I’m not the first person to feel this way. Surely I’m not the first to finish reading an article and pass it on to someone else with the sentiment, “Yo, this study was dope.”
Well, I might be the first to use that exact sentiment. If I am, I’ll consider it my claim to fame.
Am I trying to validate my own relevancy as a human being in a specific social group? Is that relevancy even necessary? Are there other professional fields where this personal divide is so apparent? Or am I actually just losing my mind?
It’s unclear to me what my desired outcome is from my writing this. Maybe I am after guidance. Maybe I want to be directed towards similar musings of successful people who once were in this position or one similar. Maybe I just want to invite the Dolan twins to my fantasy celebrity dinner party or at least ask one to be my date for my work holiday party in December (Ethan, hmu). Maybe I am after affirmation that my desire to be an academic professional does not have to be mutually exclusive from my desire to be my young, rambunctious self. Maybe I just want to know that my acadilemma is totally normal.
My desire to work hard towards creating a better world will not change. My desire to teach future generations in some way will not change. My desire to learn will not change. But right now, my desire to be young and youthful also will not change. Is that okay? Is being the young, lively, cool academic possible? I would hope that it is, because that would be dope.
Stay fresh, but also stay focused.