Doubt and Imposter Syndrome
remorse / ɹɪˈmɔː(ɹ)s / (n) 1: a feeling of regret 2: so very much of my childhood memories
I always find myself astounded when a friend, a colleague, a family member, or anyone, can recall their childhood with clarity. Whether a simple story from their younger years or an epic tale of long-past adventure, that clarity boggles me. A grandfather remembering with fondness their first time building Legos; my partner recalling their Christmas presents from decades past.
My youth, by contrast, is a blur; haze covered by fog. I scarcely remember anything except patterns and rooms before I reached college age. Strange how such "formative years" are lost to me but would dictate the core of my personality. Despite missing memories, I remember some pieces keenly; sharply focused and preserved as though carved into my skull for my neurons to gaze at while they fire away.
Those memories are of my mistakes.
There are the times the words fell out of my mouth faster than I could stop them. The times when teenage hormones pulled one over on me. The bad judgment calls the rational part of my mind failed to catch as muscles triggered in defiance of reason. Each one is a light bulb in my head connected to all-too-many other such memories tugging incessantly at my focus. When they flash, I twitch in a physical manifestation of regret because of all the pain, perceived and not, I caused others in my life.
My mind runs circles in my head, pacing out a long marathon between times I crossed boundaries I shouldn't and took shortcuts where none were needed. In these times, I wonder how I'm still here and if I deserve to be. If all I can remember of my past is negative, what positives would ever cancel that out? Is it even possible to reconcile the past and present? In this light, perhaps those two moments in time when I very nearly fell into the darkness but for a narrow victory of self-preservation were justified punishment for a life of ignorant behavior. Perhaps they stopped short of such justified punishment; the world failing to claim its bounty.
My mother tells me it's a miracle I'm still here; that some grace or strength of character prevents me from falling fully off the path and never coming back. My friends might say my sense of self-worth is greater than I realize and only in times of dire need does it rise. I personally believe neither of these and attribute my survival to quirks of fate, with an alternate end waiting just a breath away.
"That sucks, but why does it matter for this story?" Valid question. Even having been saved from myself by family, friends, and medications (and permanently saved by the love of my life), the lingering regrets of those years remain in my mind. My father has the same quirk of memory as me, but miraculously manages to naturally translate it into self-improvement instead of self-hate; a skill which took me longer than a decade to develop with any sort of competency. How can I now have someone who sees "good" in me when there's so much evidence to the contrary?
This permanent imposter syndrome is what matters. Why aren't there more heroes who truly believe they are helpless by rote? Why can't individuals affect the world by a series of choices in a situation they haplessly fall into? Our culture perceives heroism as taking action to right a wrong, save a life, fight for justice, or "(insert clarion call for cause X here)." The hero of the story pursues change; hunts down evil. Some do so grim-faced and serious; others with a smile and a battle cry.
I can never be a hero, not that way. My heroism is incremental; tiny; small gains against the demons plaguing my mind and driving me away from happiness. In this story, Shikya's internal monologue is my internal monologue: constantly snide and always contrarian, but seriously questioning. Why can't the hero be plagued with doubts that their side is the right one or if their actions are proper or hurtful? My heroism lies awake at night, turning its hairs gray with doubt.
Thus, this story is written by me for me. It is a catharsis and affirmation that heroes could be like me; maybe lack of self-worth and -confidence are not insurmountable barriers; perhaps the corner of the hero's mind can be filled with screaming fear and self-hatred. I share my catharsis in the hope others might feel the same way and find gratification in not being alone.
- SK Kage
To my partner,
And for whom I’d live it all again.