Impostor Syndrome and Taxes

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is when you tell people you are a writer.  In many ways, you wind up needing to convince yourself as much as you do someone else that this is what you do.  Do I support myself entirely with writing?  No.  Is the stuff that I write 100% creative fiction?  No.  But I am also an author.  (Of one completed book.  Which I published myself.  When it comes to impostorship, that is some shaky ground sometimes).

I write a travel blog and I have had some recent success in travel writing, which has been outstanding.  I have been featured in a university newspaper about these efforts, which in some ways almost makes impostor syndrome worse.  How am I of all people worthy of a newspaper article?

I have been writing blogs for probably around 12 years. Maybe longer.  One of my first forays into blogging was when I won $10 for Fantasy Magazine’s “Blog for a Beer” post. That was back when the new Millennium was still in its single digits.  I had been a published writer before that (and since) with short stories.  My first being in 1996, with my university’s fiction magazine, “The Crucible.”  What an odd experience that was. Cheese and refreshments with a “publication party” of about six people.  The parties got a little bit better during the next couple years, and the next time they accepted a story, I won Best in Fiction.

I can hardly read that story now.  Boy was it rough.

Over the years, I have published short stories, newspaper articles, articles for online magazines, and one novel. Very few of those have earned me much of a paycheck. I have also written so much copy for companies over the years that I can’t even remember how much there has been. Everything from fake reviews for products on Amazon to travel guides for places I have never visited. I was also an editor for my university’s Academic Catalog for about three years.  That was actually a lot of fun, but that wasn’t writing, that was just part of the day job where I got to fiddle with words.

So, last night, I was doing taxes and I had a neat reminder of my clout as a writer.  I got to add my sales for my second job of writing content for company websites as income.  I always used to hear that if you can pay bills or a large chunk of your rent with writing, then you are a writer.

So, I guess it’s official!

Weird that it took that to knock out my impostor syndrome. Hahaha!

Inclusivity

These days it is hard to not see a conversation on Facebook or social media about inclusivity.  In some ways, I don’t even know where to begin, but here as a few of my thoughts on what has been happening in our country.

Education

Americans are experiencing the inflation of education, in which the importance of a College education has been stressed so much that it is integral to our national identity.  Yes, an education is something no one can take away from you, but as I walked around in Target yesterday with my son, I heard a woman talking to her young daughter saying something I have heard a hundred thousand times.

“If you go to school and get good grades, go to college and get an education, you’ll get a good job and you won’t need a boyfriend or a husband to get nice things.  You can have them all on your own!”

Yes, independence!  Great!  Education.  Great! But here’s the bullshit we are all fed from a young age.  “If you go to college, you can get a good job…”  I remember being told this when I was a kid.

I watched my dad come home from the coal mine, blowing black dust out of his nose, coughing his guts up every morning before he drove off to the pit in -30 F weather to work a ten hour shift.  He hated his job.  It was backbreaking work.  The money was good, but in a boom/bust lifestyle, it was difficult.

My mom got to see doors closed because the jobs she applied for were going to people with a Bachelor’s degree.  Later, in her 50s, she got a BA and by then, doors were getting closed on her because they were now looking for an MA to fill those positions.

My grandparents ran a trucking business, which they sold and retired on on their mid-50s.  They warned against running a business because it was so much work and so much of a hassle.  My great-grandpa had started the company and he had an eighth grade education.

I hear a lot of “You just can’t do that anymore.”

I have to wonder why.

Gatekeepers

I got to thinking about this as I walked around the place where I work.  My day job is at the same university where I got my BA.  I haven’t gone far, considering the job I worked as a student was just down the hall as a computer lab consultant.  I have 16 years in the same building right now.

I work with a population of older women who got jobs here when you only needed a high school degree to work as an office clerk.  Some of them have retired with 35+ years in their positions, accumulating a lot of work experience in what they do.  However, when they retire, the jobs are opened for people with BAs, MAs, and knowing a second language.  A lot of this is because as an institution of higher learning, we ought to at least look the part.

Office staff are “educated” while custodians, maintenance, and food staff are not.  The university is drinking its own Kool Aid.  The funny thing is that even though some of us “educated” employees are independent thinkers, have a wide range of talents and backgrounds, we are continually reminded of our place.

We don’t have letters after our names.  No Ph.Ds.  So when we are working or having a discussion, those who do get to be called upper administrators or faculty, they have no qualms with interrupting whatever is going on to get what they need done.  And you know what?  A lot of people are happy to allow this.

In this country, we stand in awe at those who have amassed an education.  We consider them our “experts” even though so much of what the news reports as breaking news is just gleaned from peer reviewed papers professors have to write to keep their jobs.  And a whole bunch of other professors can refute these papers and have their differing opinion published to keep their jobs.

Really what it boils down to is a lot of people who never had to graduate high school.  They make a comfortable living dispensing degrees and holding or shutting the gates on others as they see fit.  And who tells us an advanced degree is the best way to be successful in this country?

The higher education system.

Drinking the kool-aid

Think about that.  Remember when Phillip Morris used to tell us how healthy cigarettes were?  Or what about the companies that made margarine as a healthier alternate to butter?  This country is now polarized.

We see a lot of “woke” or educated people whose perception of common sense is vastly different than the salt of the earth people who still live here.  We are led to believe that Trump won the election because of Russian collusion, or maybe even racism.  I see more of an indoctrination of the “educated” who also tend to have more liberal leanings.  Because as a person who has been through the system, I can assure you that being told about my privilege, my whiteness, and my affluence is ruining the lives of the same people of color or those poor uneducated bastards who would love to be in college right now but can’t, just reminds me that people who bought into the lie of “get an education and you will get a good job” look down their noses at plumbers and electricians and people who own their own sanitation businesses.

While an “educated” man such as myself is paid less than a new hire with zero experience just coming into this institution. Much less than someone who sells beer to restaurants for a living. Because being saddled with $100k in student loan debt makes sense when you are getting a degree to teach English for $15 an hour.

I’m smarter than you so I know better

These are the “smart”people who plaster Facebook with diatribes of how the Right are Nazis.  Where did they learn that?  Because the people who didn’t go to college, usually don’t flex their intellectually superior nuts like that.

I walk on these grounds without concern, because I went through the system and I no longer hold it in the same awe as someone who didn’t.  Certainly not like that lady in Target.  I make a living from being here.  But I also know I am not a part of it other than a cog in the machine.  It exists because it reminds everyone how important it is.  How successful those at the top are.  How the idea of not having it limits capable people who are brilliant, but don’t have the degree to validate this.

But how important is it, really?

Does the professor calling a towtruck from the side of the road consider this whenever he gets a flat he has no idea how to fix on his own?

I can see why Mike Rowe made a whole living off telling people the importance of trade professions. Or maybe that’s how my lens is tinged because I’ve worked here for so long and see just how ridiculous it all is.

I have known people who make six figures who have considered themselves underachievers, because unlike me, they didn’t get their BA.  People, I went to college to make that kind of money and I probably never will.  Definitely not in my major’s field. Back in the day, I was told to better myself, just like that little girl, and that meant going in a different direction than what my parents did. That meant college.  What would my life have been like had I gone to a trade school, rather than driving a desk around people who are infinitely wiser just because they sat through six more years of school?

I’d probably be on vacation right now.  Running my own company.  Cashing checks.  That’s what people do who have worked a job for 20 years solid usually.  They aren’t just sitting down the hall from where they worked as a student.

If you are making a good living, regardless of where or if you went to college, you won.

Deadlines and what it means to be Freelance

The other day, I visited my friendly local Starbucks.  Only because I was running late for work and didn’t have the half hour to drive to Dutch Bros.  There, I talked with Suzie the barista and caught up, since she hadn’t seen me in awhile.  She mentioned to one of the other baristas, a skinny college guy, that I was a writer and had my own travel blog.

I could tell from his reaction that he was an aspiring writer himself.  I offhandedly mentioned that I had five articles to write about boats, compasses, rigging, and PFDs.  Due on June 1st.  That’s today.

He said “I don’t write anything with deadlines.  I like to keep everything I do more freelance.”

Freelance.

You keep using this word, but I don’ think you know what this word means.

With his mindset, if that was how I wrote, the only thing true about “freelance” would be that I was writing everything for free.  Yes, I have written a book and many short stories that may as well have been for the love of writing.  But as a writer, as some point you might want to get paid doing what you love.  If you truly love it, then writing about clamps and pocketknives and boat rigging and asbestos testing won’t diminish your love of the craft.

It will get you out of a freaking office where everyone thinks you suck and one day you will die having nothing to show for it other than hemorrhoids and carpal tunnel syndrome.  At least as a writer, you get those, AND a sense of fulfillment.  You have created something.  That is rare in this world.

So, I just nodded and smiled because the kid is 20, maybe 21 and knows everything.  Just as I did at that age.  And it has taken me that much longer to understand that sometimes you don’t want to write the stuff that isn’t fun.  But when the checks come and you get to fly to London and dink around for nearly two weeks, it was worth all the stupid copy you had to write for companies.  It is an investment in getting to experience more of the world for the stories that matter.  Inspiring pieces that are beyond the scope of your imagination, which I gotta tell you, without inspiration from the outside, is pretty limited.

Anyway, enough procrastinating.  I have copy to write and maybe some stories.  Because that is what a freelancer really does.

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