balance · boast post · grad school · new year new plan

A Canadian in America; or, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Hello hello! I’ve been a H&E follower for years, and I am very happy to announce that I’ll be alternating Tuesdays with Jana as a new regular contributor. In November, Aimée blogged about imposter syndrome after she secured a tenure track job. I suppose, on a much smaller scale, I’m now dealing with my own form of imposter syndrome, as I’ll be Hook & Eye’s first American correspondent, a Canadian blogger in America (oh yes, I can just speak for All Of The States!). I did my undergrad and MA degrees at the University of Calgary, but after having been at Fordham U in New York City for 3.5 years, I feel quite detached from the Canadian system, so bear with me as I take my time catching up.

I’m going to start by talking about SSHRC, which has also, in some ways, made me feel alienated and displaced, as immensely grateful as I am to hold a Doctoral Fellowship (which ends this year). I’m here in America, but I’m funded from there; I’m working alongside my peers, but I’m somehow different from them, with a different employment and pay deal worked out, from a distant and alien country (kidding!). Because I tend to gauge my own self-worth in relation to those around me, and have a strong community here of peers working toward similar goals, it has been difficult to deal with the fact that I hold this prestigious scholarship; meanwhile, peers whom I love as friends and respect as scholars have to take on extra jobs throughout the summer and academic year in order to support the staggering cost of living in New York City. I often find myself downplaying this scholarship (“oh, you know, it’s my Canada money LOL…”; as though Canada just divvies out cash to everyone seeking to study in the States), or even secretly wishing I didn’t hold it, so that I could be on equal financial footing with those around me. In this sense, however, I’m afraid I’ve fallen prey to my own form of shrinking, and I need to learn to accept the fact that on some level I deserve this money, while still recognizing that the system is broken, and other scholars and peers would deserve it too, if given the chance. Unfortunately there is nothing quite comparable to SSHRC in the American system, though there are other great things like NEH and Fulbright. 

While internally dealing with the guilt of holding this scholarship, institutionally speaking I have had to perform the role of someone who deserves it: I have had to waltz over to the administration building on campus (so to speak) and demand more systematic recognition for something that, in Canada, comes with a flurry of accolades and congratulations. It has been a slog indeed for me to get my administration to recognize that yes, I have money coming from elsewhere, and yes, it’s awesome and I should be rewardedand four years in, I’m finally content with the deal Fordham’s worked out for me.

Perhaps this is a lesson in the power of performance and performative utterances, in acting-is-believing; we as feminists working within a struggling institution may feel inadequate and want to apologize for our individual successes, but sometimes we have to stand up and demand recognition, which is especially the case if we realize we’re acting in the service of a larger cause. I’ve felt this on the relatively rare occasion that I’ve participated in protests: am I the type of person to shout, chant, and/or wave signs? Nooo….and perhaps few people are. But can I become that person in those situations? Yes! In recognizing and addressing larger inequalities, we can learn to expand ourselves rather than shrink, and celebrate our own triumphs while seeking to rectify the larger system, so that other triumphs can become recognized and celebrated as well. In performing such actionsin speaking our achievements out loud, perhaps even before we’ve internally accepted them, and in looking with clear eyes to the triumphs of otherswe may, perhaps, begin to internalize our identities. Think of it as academic method acting…we can, dear readers, become the roles we perform. 

Just like Daniel Day Lewis.
(recognizing the irony of including a video clip with no women…)

So, yes! In the noble tradition of boast posts and method acting, I’m here to say that I have a SSHRC! I’m smart and capable and proud to be a blogger for Hook & Eye! I think I’ll be a valuable addition to this blog! Ok…I don’t really know about all that, but imma just own this pride right now, hoping that these words can help me become what I speak. This is one of the ways I’m setting up for what may be a very difficult semester, with no teaching responsibilities, no externally imposed structure, and a lot of dissertation-work. I need to get over my imposter syndrome and act myself into becoming the student who SSHRC thinks I am .

And you, readers do you have similar anxieties and goals? What kinds of roles do you need to perform & become this semester?