I Want to Talk to a Person (Day 9, Year 4)

At some point this month, I was locked out of my comcast.net email. I cannot reset my password. The robot who controls the email account seems to want my husband to reset the password because it is 1954 and only men can handle “things.” However, my husband cannot reset the password because it is 2024 and suddenly nothing works and everything is broken. I was forced to pick up the phone like it is 1984. I shouted “I WANT TO TALK TO A PERSON” 100 times. For the first 99 times, I was offered a chat with a robot, a link to read a learning center article and asked questions I could not answer because they were nonsense.

Through it all, I felt like an imposter, like I couldn’t possibly be the owner of the email account that bears my name because the system did not recognize me as such. I needed someone to tell me that I was me. Luckily, the 100th time I screamed “I WANT TO TALK TO A PERSON,” I got a person named “Mr. Nick.” I have no idea why he calls himself “Mr. Nick” instead of just “Nick,” but whatever. I asked him if he believed I was me and he said, “Yes, Patricia Carrington-Adkins.” Then he fixed my email and made everything like it was 2023. 

Of course, I still have some lingering imposter syndrome, not so much about my legal identity but about my identity as a writer. I often don’t believe that I am a real writer because, well, just because. I write in Yoke every day. I write for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation nearly every day (and they pay me!). I write emails for a baby food company and super science-y stories for a major university’s college of engineering (both pay me!). I even had an essay I wrote accepted for publication by The Science Writer, the Hopkins science magazine.  And then today an editor at another publication expressed interest in a pitch I sent about a story I am deeply passionate about: environmental justice. 

But, still, I sit here, paralyzed by believing that I am not being a writer. A classmate and friend told me she feels the same way. My instructors at Hopkins, all highly published and legit writers, all have felt the same way. I don’t know where this imposter syndrome comes from—maybe it is from the constant rejection (and imagined rejection). I listed all the things that have worked out—but let me tell you, I ended the year with two big rejections from fellowships I applied to and a lot of unanswered pitches. Maybe it’s because one pitch doesn’t make your career—it takes thousands (and thousands) of pitches. And one story doesn’t make you either—it's all the stories and all the words. It’s a heavy load. 

And maybe, in the end, it’s simply that my words and my stories are so personal. Even when the story is about other people, it’s me telling it. My delivery is what I want to work and if that is rejected, well, it feels like a piece of me is rejected, too. 

In the end, I think, all of us writers just live with this chronic illness. Maybe the treatment is shouting “I want a real person to tell me I am a writer!” and then hoping an editor says “Yes, Patricia Carrington-Adkins” to our pitch.