Have you ever stood in line at an Arby’s and thought, “I feel like the dumbest person in here”?
And while you are enjoying those curly fries and medium roast beef sandwich, you sigh internally about the fry cook behind the counter likely looking at you and thinking you’re an idiot.
I mean, they slice that roast beef every morning. It’s so thin. They take a meat slurry, compress it, and turn it into 1mm thin slices of food that you can only describe as what paper looks like after getting stuck to a tire for 100 miles. Is that something you can do? You big phony. How do you even dress yourself?
Now while everyone has those grand Holden Caulfield fantasies of intense self-hatred and thinking everyone else is fake, there is always that little…teensy…itsy-bitsy voice that says to you,
“hey you’re actually pretty good.”
Easy to ignore that though. Honestly its kind of passive aggressive.
So, this happens all the time to people in Arby’s. But I’m not here to talk about the dread that we will never amount of anything at all that all of us experience while inside of one of those restaurants. God help you if you’re inside of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Did you know they require 10 years experience for a starting position there now? There is a paper out there about how the KFC breading has some crazy quantum linking between fat chains making it that much more delicious. And you need to know that mechanism and wave function in order to dip the chicken correctly.
There are things much less serious I can talk about instead here, because I don’t want to be a very serious.
Something less likely (but still pretty likely, unless you are President Trump who is definitely not self-conscience about anything ever) for us to experience is that feeling inadequacy we might feel around peers. A kind of feeling that you may not actually meant to be there. As if you took your place from someone else, someone more deserving. Being an impostor in your own daily meanderings.
This is usually referred to as impostor syndrome. I’m not a psychologist so don’t quote me on that of course, nor do I really want to refer to the DSM for anything of the sort. I’m going to speak of my experience with this, being that guy that works in an academic environment with really no qualifications in a normal sense. Nor have I woken up in anyone’s garbage, found some discriminating objects and blackmailed my way into the job. I’m wanting to try that for my next career step though.
I work in a University as a lab technician/manager/specialist for an isotope geochemistry facility. A man of two and a half hats. I also manage a few other pieces of equipment, which are a cause of frustration at times due to having too many things to do.
Okay, so you have job security, what the hell are you complaining about you phony?
Hold on Holden, things are getting better! Geochemistry is one of those advanced subjects you don’t choose to go in to as an undergraduate, that is even if anything even offers that as a degree. I think one of our grad students, who is from mainland China did, but it a largely unheard of in most western schools.
Now what are my qualifications? I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, with a 2.1 GPA, and that’s it. Granted, now I have experience, but on a purely scholastic level no one should trust me on anything. I am basically a lab whisperer, I am just really good at figuring out what is wrong with things and fixing them. I am good at what I do. I make things, and make them work for the lab. I guess I’m alright at other things too, but mostly I have been making my living as the tech guy the last few years.
Now, I should take some pride in that. I basically helped build this lab into what it is today through the last eight years. We are a unique facility within the state of Utah, and we get clientele and students from all over the world. And I don’t know how possible a lot of this would have been without me. I definitely think differently than students, and really want this lab to succeed as a business.
Which it isn’t. It’s a school facility that is literally not allowed to make a profit. Isn’t that nuts? That’s a country giving its citizens free health care. Just complete nonsense that has never and will never work in the real world, only in movies like Deadpool 2 and The Notebook.
But, part of working in a school means, unfortunately for me since I can’t talk as I am a large sentient mass of meat, people are going to ask you questions. The first of which is, which I absolutely hate:
“So are you a post-doc?”
I answer no.
“I’m staff. I’m the lab specialist.”
It is always, “Oh.” Never anything nice. Ever. Or I get something like:
“You should get a graduate degree.”
Oh gee thanks. And you think that is a nice thing to say, but the way it is usually said is kinda demeaning. Like, “You’re too smart to be doing this,”
It’s flustering. Flamboozeling. Flubbertingly. Fuckering. Inclitterating.
(I just wanted to put clit somewhere. Because I can never find it on my own.)
And maybe I am in some respects. But don’t say that to me. Don’t say that to anyone that is doing their job. That question has all the elegance and tact of a penguin yelling at a DMV worker with its own shit in its mouth. Which is to say very little.
I am the sort of person that takes things hard too. When I hear this, I am left feeling down for the rest of day, if not the week. Then when people ask me questions that actually matter, I mess them up, or sound like an idiot circling around the point.
But that happens on its own too. I have my specialties. Stuff I like. But I am in charge of other things I don’t like. And when people ask me questions about those, I always feel so bad because I can’t give them a good answer. It’s almost a heartbreaking for me.
I know that’s a weird thought, but I feel like these people are trusting me for knowledge that they may not get elsewhere, and I fail them. I should be the expert! But I just know the bare minimum of the theory in most of these cases. And it’s mostly because I am a very self-conscience person, and have a deep need for affirmation. As do most people though.
Anyways, it’s definitely a feeling that I don’t belong, that I don’t really know anything. And that feeling spreads. And in a place like this, where you are judged by the initials after your name, it can stick. And fester.
Like your gut after an Arby’s sandwich.
You feel like an impostor of your own creation. And maybe others think that, but its most likely just a trap you place on yourself. And indeed, a self-fulfilling prophecy in some ways. It is a terrible pit to get into, and its hard to climb out of. You end up making people think that of you.
But there is always a reason for you being there. There is a reason for me being there. I, as many of you maybe have, just need to calm down and think of how you are important. Because, likely, you are. And you need to just remember that about yourself.
So, my example is not the best to always go by. Or really ever. But it is better than that of thinking a person in an Arby’s is not looking down on you. Because they are.
Seriously though, if you read Catcher in the Rye and didn’t want to kill John Lennon afterwords, did you really read it?
Then you are an impostor.