It was late on a Sunday night when I pulled over to the side of the freeway, my hands shaking as I took out my phone. Had I read the notification correctly? Had I really gotten accepted into the publishing program? Fingers trembling, I opened the message and shook my head in disbelief. Anyone driving by that night would have seen a girl screaming ecstatically in her car, dancing enthusiastically to absolutely no music, and throwing her phone across the dashboard in pure excitement.
Three months earlier, I had consulted with a professor from my undergrad years who advised me to take risks in my personal statement. She told me that it was an extremely challenging field and that the chances that I would get into the program were slim to none due to the fact that I simply did not have the right academic background for it (I had obtained my bachelor’s in science). The fact that I was accepted into the program felt like sheer luck, and in the months leading up to my big move, I found myself waiting for a follow-up e-mail: So sorry, we actually made a mistake. We are unable to accept you at this time. But that message never came. And before I knew it, I was moving to Portland.
As I sat in my first executive meeting for Ooligan Press, I nervously observed everyone around me. Their heads bent toward one another, they talked about the various books that were in the works, the assignments they had completed over the break, and the teams they would be joining this quarter. I felt like an outsider looking in. I couldn’t help but sink a little lower in my seat. Did I even belong here?
In the weeks that followed, I approached my tasks with caution, irrationally afraid that someone might expose me as a fraud: You there! You have no idea how to copyedit a manuscript correctly. What are you doing here? I couldn’t help but feel as though I was playing a part, and no matter how many projects I completed successfully, I kept telling myself it was a fluke—I’d gotten lucky again. The thing about imposter syndrome is that it affects everyone—men and women of all ages—and it’s a constant battle with no one else but yourself. By definition, it is the feeling you get when you do not believe in your accomplishments or think you deserve any of the success that you’ve achieved.
As the quarter went on, it slowly dawned on me that the press worked like a tight-knit support system. The truth was that everyone entered the program with varying levels of expertise, but they all had to start somewhere. The trick was to not be afraid to try new things or ask for help. I was relieved to find that my peers were willing to support me whenever I was lost and encourage me when I felt like I wasn’t delivering my best work. No matter how hard I was on myself, my assignments and peers proved to me that I was completely capable of handling my small role in Ooligan’s success. The environment was so warm and inviting that it became impossible for me to doubt myself. We were all there for the same purpose—to do what we loved and to publish books.
Sometimes I still feel flickers of doubt, but I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be a little afraid. It means you’re passionate about your work. All anyone is asking is for you to be a great team player and to do your best. If you can do that, then you will be rewarded with celebratory hugs and some beautiful, freshly published books. Ooligan Press is run in such a way that it’s a living, breathing organism—and for a while, each of us is chosen to be a part of its history.
And I would say that makes us pretty lucky.