By Holly Herring

I have this habit of scaring the living daylights out of myself.

There’s this responsible, conservative way of going about things that is almost certain to go okay—then there’s what I do. I live my life like one of those high risk, high reward stocks sometimes.

I am a very passionate worker. I am committed to the cause of resolving homelessness, best it can be resolved, and I get really offended when people do it wrong. It’s like watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen and I’m Gordon Ramsay—but it’s not food, it’s people and it’s not a kitchen, it’s a homeless services provider’s office. 

So, I was at work one day and a situation occurred that needed to be handled skillfully. I briefed the office, made my expectations clear about how this was to be handled, and what actually went down was something from a Tom & Jerry cartoon. It was an absolute disaster. Nothing I set up went down the right way. The participant was exited from the program. I was beyond sad, I was mad. This never should have happened. 

So, I was seething by the time I got home and, somehow, what I decided to do was to contact the most elevated person I could think of in my profession.

I went directly to my idol, to the company that knows EVERYTHING. It’s not even a company in the same country as I am. But, I reached out saying something like, “Hey, I’m ready to come work with you.” The next day I wished I could take it back; I wasn’t ready for something that huge! Was I? Too late though, because my career hero – career-o – had sent a message back and I had an interview.

I almost fell out of my chair.

In his message he listed what our discussion would be about and I was fine until he said to pick a topic in homelessness I felt I was an “expert” at to discuss with him. If he had said “specialist” or “really good but not perfect” I would have been okay, I think. But he used the word “expert” and I was suddenly in crisis. 

I hold this man in really high regard. This guy is an expert, not me. What was I going to do? I commented on social media that I had an imposter syndrome flare up and someone I really look up to told me that was an “easy-out answer” and that he knew I was not an imposter. He said it was a demon I wrongly carry around and use as an easy explanation and I give it unnecessary power.

That was a difficult thing for me to hear. But, he was right.

My self awareness requires more from me when I hear things like that about myself. I decided I was freaking myself out over this interview and I would just type out things I knew about a few topics that might be asked in my interview. They came pouring out of me onto the typed page. This exercise reminded me that I really do know this stuff backwards and forwards. 

An hour before the interview, which was to be a video interview because my career-o is not in the United States, I panicked again. I did manage to remind myself I am not an imposter, however, I was feeling like I would forget absolutely everything I know. What’s my name? What color is my hair? What size shoe do I wear? I had no idea! 

I wrote important things in crayon on printer paper hurriedly and taped them up within reading distance with the speed of a gazelle. I was prepared to……

CHEAT ON MY INTERVIEW

Now, a book was lent to me when I was a teenager and it came from one of the most important people to ever influence my life. In fact, it came from the person who introduced me to Buddhism. The book is dog-eared and has stains on its paperback. The book was sitting on the end table next to me and I accidentally knocked it on the floor. It landed spine up, book open like a pup-tent. I picked it up and the quote that jumped off the page read:

“How can you get very far, If you don’t know who you are?” – Tao of Pooh

I had a moment to let that sink in before my computer screen flickered and there I was, surrounded by chicken scratch written in crayon, and the man of the hour was on the screen of my laptop and we began to talk. It was easy. The answers came flowing out of me just as if I knew them.

And I do know them.

The resolution of homelessness and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all people is my passion, it’s my focus, it’s what I do.

I live and breathe this stuff. I never once looked up at my cheat sheets. They were completely illegible anyway. I was insane when I wrote them. 

When the interview was over and my computer screen went dark I was alone with myself. I was not an imposter. I hadn’t forgotten anything at all, even when in the presence of my idol. I was calm, cool, collected, and I was 100% pure me. 

I’m not thrilled about being called an “expert,” I believe that title should be reserved for those who are experiencing homelessness and navigating the system of resources. I prefer the title “specialist” or “seasoned professional.”

But one thing is for sure, I’m no imposter. 

 

 

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Photo: Pixabay

 

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Holly Herring
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