Sometimes, the thing you’ve been waiting for your entire college career doesn’t end up being as reassuring as you expect it to be.
On August 31st, 2020, I have started the first semester of my senior year at Emerson College. As a part of my senior year, I am finally working on my creative thesis. Unlike an academic thesis, a creative thesis acts almost like a portfolio: I will be spending this semester writing the first fifty pages of a novel, using all of the skills I’ve learned and developed through my time at Emerson thus far. It’s my time to prove that what I’ve learned has actually stuck and benefits my writing. It’s a pretty daunting task, especially as someone who struggles with paying attention and focusing, but regardless I’ve been so excited all summer to begin working on my thesis.
My first class this entire semester was my thesis class. Finally! After spending the entire summer thinking and planning and anticipating, I was finally in the place I wanted to be.
Until the class actually started.
I powered up Zoom to meet with a bunch of other seniors, as well as one of my favorite professors I’ve had at Emerson, and discuss the plans for the semester. As everyone went around and talked about what they’re working on, I only had one thought:
Oh shit. I’m ridiculously underprepared.
I’d heard the term “imposter syndrome” before, but I wasn’t exactly sure about what it meant. It’d always been easy for me to tell people that I’m a writer. I have this blog that I update every couple of months, so I’ve used it as an example to show people my writing. But I go through incredibly long periods where I am either unmotivated, uninspired, or simply incredibly lazy. To imply that I spend every free moment of my time writing would be a lie. And now here I am, with barely four pages of a novel written, being told that I’ll need at least fifty by the end of the semester. I’ve never been able to focus on something so long term before — am I capable of this? Does my attention span allow for this?
I feel as though I am swimming through molasses; I’m able to move and proceed, but I’m moving through something so thick and sticky that the amount of energy I exert and the amount of work I get out of it are incredibly imbalanced. For every page that I write, I need to take extended breaks in order to keep my focus. And it’s not simply a matter of removing distractions; my own mind is a distraction. Just writing this short piece I’ve sat and stared out the window at nothing after every paragraph.
I’ve always had focusing issues that I’ve created adaptations for in order to succeed in school. However, between the ongoing pandemic and now a long-term thesis, it’s like I’m approaching an ultimate test. If I can push through and manage my time correctly throughout the semester, then I’ll know I’m in the right place. But if I can’t, what then? Suddenly, I’m a fake, an imposter, a conman; I’ve spent years telling people that I was something and when I have to prove it, you can see how thin the veil actually is.
I’ll readily admit it, I’m nervous. I don’t feel as though I belong somewhere such an intense form of focus is required. At the same time, I can’t imagine myself doing something other than writing. It’s what comes easiest to me, albeit in short bursts. It’s what brings me the most joy, even if I’m not capable of doing it frequently.
This semester is the embodiment of a final exam, and we’re about to find out if I’ve studied enough for it.