For my first two years out of college I worked at an education reform nonprofit that was focused on amplifying diverse voices in education. It was my first “real” job and I felt very much out of place. After my first day, which was also our first staff meeting, I went home and cried.
“It doesn’t seem like a good fit,” I told Eric. I was fishing for him to give me permission to quit, but both of us knew that wasn’t an option.
That summer I had taken a leap of faith and quit my retail job and spent 3 months working at an unpaid internship–which I loved–but by the end of the summer, my savings were gone and I figured I’d have to take another minimum-wage job. I never imagined I would transition right into a full-time, salaried position with insurance and a retirement plan. I wasn’t about to be picky.
During my teenage years, the battle to work through the lows of anxiety and depression had a devastating affect on my education. I went from public school to private school to eventually just being home schooled.
Getting to school was a daily struggle, I missed consecutive days, weeks even. When my mom was finally out of excuses for my absence, everyone just gave up. The school stopped calling and teachers stopped asking where I was.
So the idea that I, the girl who had to take multiple remedial math classes in college and cried all night over her embarrassingly low ACT score, would be working alongside intelligent people who all held previous jobs that I could only dream of, was terrifying.
I didn’t feel I belonged. I was the imposter in the room.
Over the next year, I would cringe when colleagues would correct my typos or my mispronounced words. I was sure I’d be discovered as a fraud–not good enough to be working there. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to identify with the bigwigs, but rather with the students we were fighting for, that I finally felt I was right where I was supposed to be.
I remember reading that “70 percent of students at State University of New York colleges need to take remedial courses” and feeling relieved. I finally felt that I wasn’t alone.
It was that moment, alongside others–like learning I have friends who also prefer pads to tampons–that I realized I’m not “the only one.” And that for the most part, I never will be. There will always be a person who will understand or can relate in someway.
Instead of burying my feelings or bad memories, hoping that they would just disappear, I started being open and honest. Being true to myself is how I found a group of women, and men, who are always there to offer support and guidance.
These are the people who genuinely listen and empathize, because we aren’t trying to compete or impress, we’re just trying to understand. We feel confident in that we can be just ourselves without the fear of judgement or shame and are reassured by the fact that we are never alone.