(Continued from “PART ONE”):
When I got myself together, I got up and called my father. He was able to borrow a vehicle in order to take me to my graduation. I would say that was probably the biggest time he was able to come through for me as a child and I was very grateful. That doesn’t mean I was never grateful for what my mother has done, but this just speaks to my father at the moment. Yes, she is my mother, but I am not about to pretend that she could do no wrong because of that, that it nullifies anything or that I should be afraid to speak up about this or that.
My brother had maybe four or five cars of people going to his graduation. Everyone who went to mine fit into one car. A small one.
Needless to say, when it came my turn to walk across the stage in the large auditorium, I thought about those television shows in which something like this would happen. I imagined that, just like on those shows, Mom would’ve had a change of heart and I would have seen her there. But when I looked into the audience, it was sadly not meant to be. In the entire auditorium that was filled to capacity (maybe close to 1500 seats), there was only ONE seat that stood out to me.
And that was the empty seat my mother was supposed to be sitting in.
My friends asked, “Where’s your mom?” Of course I didn’t want to tell them the truth. “Oh, she’s just walking around,” I would say, hoping that friend would get bored waiting and just leave to someone else, which they mostly did. That was one time I was thankful to not have been that popular in school.
To make matters worse, my mother wasn’t even home when I returned. No one was there. I didn’t expect the few people who came to my graduation to hang around. They had other stuff they wanted to get into. But I understood that my mother went out with some friends. So I went to McDonald’s.
I wasn’t hungry. I just went there to get out of the house. I basically sat there and wondered just how bad I was as a child and how much I did wrong that led to that point. Even sitting there as a 17-year-old, I knew and admitted to myself that I had done things wrong. I just never expected that graduation was on the table of events that a mother would choose not to go to. I’ll be honest; at the time, I said to myself, “Damn…we as blacks barely graduate high school as it is, yet here I am, I just graduated, and my mother didn’t want to be there.” I never expected her to have done me any favors, but again, I didn’t consider attending my high school graduation as a “favor.”
At that moment, Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour played on the radio. I looked up in the air at the speakers and then just looked back down. To this day, I cannot listen to that song. No, I’m not going to spontaneously combust, but because of where I was at a time I heard it, I would very much prefer not to. If I hear it on the radio, I change the channel every time. Not because it’s a bad song, but because I am taken to that moment every time.
So…how does this affect my life now and what does this have to do with “Imposter Syndrome”?
Today, I will have served in the Army for 20 years in July. I am also an aspiring professional writer. I have self-published three books and working on a fourth now that I am looking to traditionally publish. I have written several screenplays. I also write poetry; something I started at the age of 12.
The way “Imposter Syndrome” affects me now is like this. It took me forever to finish my first book. I love to write, but I have started so many books that I’ve never finished. I would always reach a point where I just tell myself “I am not supposed to have made it this far,” so I would just stop. Even when I finished my first book, it was a good while before that happened.
After that first book, I was ecstatic, but that feeling didn’t last long. I immediately began working on the second book, mainly because I told myself that I wasn’t special. A LOT of people wrote books. So what? Same thing after the second and the third. Sure I knew that most people talk about writing books but never finish them, but that wasn’t much consolation for me.
The reason I want to go through a traditional publisher for the book I am writing now is because I told myself that self-publishing wasn’t good enough (for me). With self-publishing, there is no one to tell me that my book wasn’t good. What I send is what gets printed and made into a book. I wanted a feeling that my work wasn’t getting published by default. I still feel that way each time I sit down to work on this book.
Nearly four years ago, I began my journey toward becoming a professional screenwriter. I have made some wonderful progress by now, which has led to quite a few amazing connections in the business, to include actors, actresses, executive producers, directors and fellow screenwriters.
Here is where “Imposter Syndrome” comes in this case. Whenever a celebrity would follow me on Twitter, the first thing I would think was that they hit the button by accident. There is no way a celebrity would want to follow me. Why am I special? I’m not. After all, people have been known to hit the follow button on Twitter by accident before. I mean, it’s easy to do. There’s not even any confirmation that you’ve done so. The button just turns blue and that’s it. One actress actually DID follow me by accident and then unfollowed once she realized her gruesome mistake. I’m at the point now where if a celebrity does follow me on there, I won’t even bother to thank them for it. Not because I’m not appreciative, but because yes…depending on who they are, I will likely be positive that they hit the button by accident and I’d be afraid to remind them of this upon thanking them.
If you’re wondering why celebrities are such a big deal, it’s not because I’m just a groupie. It’s because obviously as a writer, they are not only great to learn from, but they make amazing people to stay connected with. But for every celebrity who follows me, I have a “good” reason as to why I think they really are. Most of them, I’m pretty sure, hit the button by accident. The others maybe think I’m someone they worked with at one time.
Nashville (CMT) is my favorite show on television now. My biggest dream right now is to write for that show one day. However, as much as I enjoy watching the show, I mentally struggle immensely through it. I am sometimes extremely up, but many times, extremely DOWN as well. And I’m talking through a single episode.
The reason is because I think to myself, “I have no business thinking they would ever let me write for them.” The show began in 2012 and since then, I’ve interacted in some way on Twitter with just about all the cast members and some of the other staff. Nashville creator, Callie Khouri, follows me on Twitter as of about six months ago (which was the most pleasant shock I had received in a while). Again, in that case, I knew it was by accident. Hell, sometimes I check today to see if she’s realized she made a mistake.
She hasn’t. At least not yet.
Connie Britton (she plays lead character “Rayna Jaymes” on the show) is one of my favorite actresses. She actually inspired me to try my hand and writing something nearly two years ago. On her Twitter back then, she took a picture with one of her co-stars, including the hashtag that that is what the picture would look like had the two had a sitcom together (Nashville is a drama). So from that, I eventually decided to write an episode of a potential sitcom featuring these two characters.
No one is going to give this the time of day. They just won’t. I’m off the street for one thing, but she was likely just joking about it anyway. I knew this in the beginning before I even wrote it, but because I love to write and I am hoping she does one day see this, I chose to go through with it.
I’ve sent this script to her in the form of a blog post (the original version IS in the proper format) MANY times. I have yet to receive any kind of response from her. She is part of the reason I’m so up and down while watching Nashville. I would see her in one scene and think to myself, “Wow…I would love so much to work with her one day. I would love to write something for her.” Then, here she comes in another, and I think, “What the hell am I thinking? She’s never going to answer me! She was just on Jimmy Fallon last night and the Ellen Show a few days ago. When am I going to learn? A person like her would NEVER want to talk to me. Once she sees that I wrote that stupid script, she is going to laugh in my face. Why did I spend so much time doing this?”
This may make some people want to laugh, but when you dream about doing big things, this is what happens. Each time I watch the show, I think back to those math bees. Yes, I wrote the script to send to Connie Britton. That was the first round, or the math bee I won at my school. But then comes the time to send it to her. She’s not answering me because she isn’t supposed to. It’s not because she’s an extremely busy actress who is likely approached with scripts all the time. Of course not. It’s because this is the next level, and as my mother made clear to me, I am not meant to ever succeed at any “next level.”
Along with that, Connie will be 50 years old in March. I will be 38 in July. HER age does not matter, but mine does. The reason why (and again, possibly how “Imposter Syndrome” kicks in) is that I often feel ashamed to say that I “dream” of meeting her some day.
See, if I were a child or much younger person saying this, it would be cute. If I were a woman, I believe a little more tolerable. But as a grown man, I beat myself up a LOT about how this may sound to her. Even my wife has told me that I’ve never said anything inappropriate, but that hasn’t helped me much. Being “starstruck” isn’t cute coming from an almost 38-year-old man. At least I don’t think so. I’d be way too shy to do anything crazy upon meeting her anyway, so that’s not the issue. There are times I’ve sent the script to Connie and then deleted it because I was so concerned that she would think unfavorably of me, or be worried that I was some kind of stalker.
This has even affected my subconscious to a degree. I had two separate dreams about her, and despite the fact that I had opportunities to speak to Connie (in one of the dreams, I was sitting right beside her), I never did. The sad thing is that I felt I may have been welcome to, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so.
And to make matters worse, my wife and watched the season premiere of Nashville on Thursday. The episode ended with the implication that Connie’s character has a stalker.
Now, judging from previews of future episodes, this will certainly come to be at some point, but the little they showed was this stalker being taken out of the building Connie’s character works in. The look of horror on her face as this guy is being shoved out of the room is something that quite frankly, has me afraid to even watch.
I am overreacting. Big time. I think. But this is how strongly I feel “Imposter Syndrome” can deeply affect how we feel and think about ourselves in certain situations.
The message I got, loud and clear, just as that next level of competition in those math bees, was that the people at that next level were simply “too good” for me. Failure was inevitable at that stage. Connie Britton not answering me? Oh well. That’s how it supposed to go.
I’ve sent to script to a few other actors on the show as well and none of them have answered me either. Then again, they aren’t supposed to.
Even though many other celebrities have followed and interacted with me on Twitter, I always wondered why Connie is such a big deal. I even went to my wife about it. In talking with the woman I’ve been married to for almost 18 years, here is, in effect, what she told me:
“You really want to reach Connie Britton because you are certain you will never reach her. You will not feel you have ‘earned’ this if the celebrity is easy to reach. Even with celebrities who are more popular than Connie who have interacted with you, you quickly tell yourself that it ‘isn’t a big deal’ or that you’re ‘not that special’ because you feel it came too easily. No matter how much you struggle…and I’ve seen you struggle a LOT at things…once you accomplish your goal, you quickly look for something else, telling yourself that you really didn’t do much. You keep wanting Connie to read that script because you’re comfortable in feeling that she never will. The longer she doesn’t, the more you will feel you have ‘earned’ it if and when she does finally interact with you in some way.”
When I asked my wife where she thinks that comes from, she simply stated that this mindset comes from my high school graduation that my mother was not there for. Basically, her not being there has put it in my head that even graduating high school was “not that big of an accomplishment,” since practically everything I did before that got about the same attitude and response. That made sense.
Which brings me back to my friend Robyn above. This is the reason her words really stuck with me. I hadn’t realized how often in my life I downplay my accomplishments or quickly look for other goals because of “Imposter Syndrome.” Celebrities don’t follow and interact with me because I am the least bit interesting. They do so because it only happened by accident. There was even one time I thought someone began following me because she was drunk. Or, yeah, I wrote three books, but it doesn’t really count until I get one professionally published.
People compliment my work all the time. But it’s really no big deal. After all, I’ve been writing for years. Of course I’ll look like I know what I’m doing and of course my writing will be better than the writing of other people. I’ve had so much more practice than they have. I better be good at it.
Some commend the fact that I barely sleep because of wanting to write so much. But really, if I want to become a professional screenwriter, this is what I SHOULD be doing. They have deadlines, right? So all I’m doing is the same thing many of them do. Nothing special.
For anyone who read both Parts One and Two of this, thank you. And thank you, Robyn, for sending me this and reminding myself of something I’ve needed to know for a long time.
Will I struggle with it? I most certainly will. But at least this time, I will know where it comes from and hopefully, that will help me to take the steps toward getting myself through it.
For now, I will send Connie Britton that script one more time just so she won’t look at it. She’s not supposed to see it anyway. And if she does, it’s surely because she clicked the link by accident.