I scare myself out of good things. Something will start out so well, and then those voices in my head — the ones that have certainly overstayed their welcome — will begin whispering. I do this most often with relationships. To catch everyone up, I’m currently several provinces over from where most of my family lives and the majority of my old friends (with one notable exception). Now, I have made new friends here. My new friends aren’t really so new at this point I suppose. We’ve known each other for several months at this point and they’ve seen me at various stages of living including: sleep deprived, stressed, confident, and excited. Still, and I’ve written about this before, I definitely feel like I am occasionally on uneven footing out here. Fortunately, the feeling that the waves of life are crashing into me rather than letting me surf them into the future hits me much more sporadically now than it did at the beginning of my grad school adventure.
It’s not that I doubt my friends or their intentions. The people I have met here are honest, hard-working, and compassionate people who are so full of life, wit, and sarcasm. I don’t doubt them. But sometimes, I doubt me. It’s well-known in academic circles that grad students, faculty, and administration often come up against the feeling of imposter syndrome every now and again. For some, it’s a monkey on their backs that rides to every meeting and class with them, but others only feel its weight at certain moments. I am not talking about academic imposter syndrome here though. I am focusing more on imposter syndrome as it applies broadly to life.
It’s hard to live far away from your friends as their lives move on and they move up in the world. Some days it almost physically hurts to know that I can’t get into a car, drive over to visit J (previously mentioned in various posts), and watch television with her. I can’t just pop over to bake scones. I can’t just drop by to visit my Little who works on campus, because I no longer attend Carleton. I can no longer count on seeing my other Little every week at chapter, because I am mostly removed physically from my AOII network due to my location. If I was in Ottawa, I would be at events. Heck, I would want to be organizing events. I can no longer see movies, eat gelato, or going shopping with my name twin! I don’t see my dad every morning. I don’t even listen to the same regular radio station as him anymore. I don’t get to go home and chat with my mom for an hour about my day. I don’t get to cuddle with my cat anymore.
All of these things combined are difficult. What’s even more difficult though is knowing that my friends and family back home are living a day to day existence that I am no longer privy to. We catch up consistently. I text frequently with one of my Littles and I call the other one semi-regularly. I call my parents all the time; seriously, they’re the best! I FaceTime my name twin and J; I get to call my brother (non-biological, but he’s as good as a sibling) every month or two when our schedules line up. I regularly Skype with my HUMSCHUM in England, who has honestly been a lifeline for me during grad school. (And then there are some amazing sisters that I owe lengthy and detailed emails). I’m not living a life where I’m forgotten. I hear periodically from some of my favourite sisters and we catch up. It’s just difficult not to be there for the day to day things.
So, what does this have to do with imposter syndrome?
Well, when you’re farther away from people sometimes you feel like your chapter with them has closed. Now, I’m not throwing up my hands and declaring all of my friendships void. I’m definitely not, you can fight me on that front! I cherish my friendships. It’s just difficult to watch the people you were growing up with grow up without you around. You miss things — little things — that eventually factor into who they become and while it’s great to see them grow, shine, and blossom it’s also scary. It’s scary to wonder how you fit in around them now that they’re who they are now and you’re you — you’ve grown too though — that’s what usually ends up reassuring me. If they’ve grown, so have I. So, we catch up as best we can when we can and if we want our relationship to continue we will keep fighting for it.
But, that’s back home and I’m here, in Halifax now. I’ve got people around me. Friends, mentors, and friendly faces exist in my life. Still, sometimes I doubt these experiences too. I find myself slipping into the mindset that well, we really haven’t known each other that long. Are we really friends? Are we friends of convenience? My mind tends to run wild. I cherish my friendships. I protect them ferociously. I am also at times slow to trust “new friends” because of past experiences (that I’ve blogged about before so I won’t go into them here). So, instead of giving my friends here my full confidence all of the time I sometimes retreat. I spend more time on my own. I scare myself out of the good thing — the friendship thing. Luckily, I find that my friends here are a little older and wiser than me. They give me space. They wait for me to make my own decisions. I still find myself feeling skittish and out of my depth at moments, but really, who doesn’t have those moments?
So, if you’re still with me, just know that I’m good. I’m enjoying my life. I’m a little more tired than I would like and maybe a touch more homesick than expected, but I’m good. My new friends are an awesome medley of fun, acerbic wit, and intelligence. My “old friends” are comforting, inspiring, and amazing. This meditation on friendship and personal relationships has just been brewing in the back of my mind for the past few weeks and I finally felt like writing it.
Romantic relationships are not the only relationships worth your time and effort.
Remember to tell your friends that you love them. Call your parents. Email your mentors.
Remind people that they are important.