Everyone Gets Imposter Syndrome (My Failed Attempts at Reassuring a Rockstar)

Whenever I get discouraged in my writing, that snide, little voice in the back of my head tends to turn to insults which contrast me with JK Rowling.  I’ll never be like her.  I don’t possess that inherent greatness.  On a good day I possess inherent “okayness”.  She obviously has magical powers (she went to Hogwarts, duh).  I’m a mere muggle.  She’s a GODDESS.  I’m more of a lesser, trickster demi-god at best.

I usually spiral for a bit.

The only way out of this undertow of self-doubt is to remind myself that celebrities are just people.  They are people who work extremely hard (with the right amount of luck) and didn’t stop when their own snide, little voice volleyed missiles of discouragement.

But occasionally they too may feel the urge to spiral.  I witnessed it once.

I worked in a yogurt shop after college.  It was the beginning of The Great Recession and even the inhabitants of the highly affluent neighborhood surrounding the shop were a little on edge.  Including celebrities.  Or at least one of them.

When I started at the yogurt shop, my coworkers gave me a quick run-down of the famous people who occasionally stopped in.  Basketball players, news anchors, musicians.  I hadn’t heard of any of them except for one.

He was the lead singer of a rock band that topped the charts in the early 2000s.   A legit international sensation.  Our shop even played one of his music videos on the loop of top hits that we kept going during business hours. I had a massive crush on him in high school about 6 years prior.

When he finally came in during one of my shifts several months later, I realized those 6 years had not been kind.  If it weren’t for his tattoos, I wouldn’t have recognized him.  Yes, I know, I had become familiar with an airbrushed, professionally made-up version, but the man standing before me had clearly lived the rockstar lifestyle a little too hard, a little too long.  He looked bloated and beat down, shoulders slumped and clothes unkempt.

My inner fangirl didn’t know how to process him.  On the one hand, his tattoos were still mega sexy and his songs started blasting inside my head (like accidentally starting music on your iPhone without turning down the headphones first).  On the other hand, up close I could clearly see that he was easily a decade my senior and that alcohol is full of empty calories.   I wanted to kiss him and avoid him all at once.  But then he actually talked to me and confused me further.

“Do you like working here?” he asked as he threw a scoop of stale rainbow sprinkles on top of his vanilla yogurt.

I blushed immediately and intensely.  One of my former celebrity crushes was talking to me.  Human words!  Like a person!

“Uh huh,” was all I managed.

“I’ve thought about opening a restaurant before,” he said, trailing off as he stared at the toppings absently.

“Oh?” (Clearly, I’m a wordsmith).

“Yeah.  I’m in a rock band for a living…”  He looked up at me, hopeful, praying for recognition, validation.

I knew if I opened my mouth I would blurt out something along the lines of:

I know! “*****” Is still one of my favorite songs!  I had the biggest crush on you in high school!  Want to hear one of my crappy poems inspired by your music?  Will you sign my boob?’

I knew that wouldn’t be playing it cool, so instead I didn’t say anything.

“…But I guess that won’t last forever,” he said, finally reaching the cash register.

Now’s your chance!  Make high-school-Alix totally jealous!  Say something smooth.  Get an autograph.  Ask for a picture.  Demand to see all of his tattoos.  What?  PLAY IT COOL.

“No,” I said, “I guess it won’t.” 

As soon as I said it, I realized how shitty it sounded.  I just wanted to agree with him!  I didn’t think about what I’d agreed to!

I was too socially awkward to recover.  I handed him his change and ran into the back of the shop to hide before I could think of anything else to say.  I peeked between the slats of the equipment and watched him finish his yogurt in silence then slip out the door as if he’d never been there.

I told my coworker what happened as soon as he clocked in.  He laughed and told me not to worry.  The band was still actively touring in the UK.  My accidental diss wouldn’t affect him at all.  He was just suffering imposter syndrome with or without my help.

Still.  I didn’t feel great about it.  That snide, little voice had whispered to my rockstar crush consistently enough to make him confide in a yogurt shop employee.   And that college grad, minimum wage, moldy-shack-dwelling, yogurt shop employee knew that voice all too well.

In the rest of my time at the yogurt shop, I never saw him again.  My life position improved.  I became the shop manager and moved out of the moldy shack I had lived in for two years.  Then I got a job in biotech and left behind customer service.  Still that voice remains, even more so now that I’ve decided to try my hand at writing.

So, when that voice rears its head I try to remember that everyone hears that voice once in a while, even celebrities.  The people who succeed, are the ones who learn to ignore it… or at least only let it talk long enough to thoroughly embarrass a former-fangirl.   Maybe someday I’ll have fans too, but for now, I have that shitty little voice in my head, and I take comfort in the fact that it talks to rockstars too.

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