I Want the Delusional Confidence I Had at 15


There are a few things you should know about me as a 15-year-old. First, I had super-thick glasses that would only become hip in the early aughts. My braces, acne-prone skin and combination hair didn’t help. Are you shocked that I didn’t have a gang of strapping young men at my door? Yeah, I thought so. I had enough friends to know I wasn’t universally rejected, but when it came to the social ladder of high school life, I was definitely in the bottom half. My interests were strange, I was too nerdy for my own good, and I had the sensation that I was for sure missing out on something cooler. Needless to say, I felt on constant shaky ground, second-guessing almost everything except for one thing: I was a really good writer.

Recently, I had a chance to revisit my teen oeuvre. Chicago Writers Conference hosts an annual Bad Poetry Night, where performers are asked to read verse that makes us cringe. Skimming through my old journals, in search for perfectly terrible poems of my youth, I realized just how absolutely god-awful my attempts at the craft were. It was all stern, melodramatic, and plagued with as many polysyllabic adjectives I could find. And yet, back then, I felt completely destined to win at least one Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize wasn’t too out of reach. The idea that I’d be making money any other way was inconceivable.

I want that delusional confidence in my abilities back.

Where did it go? It’s like my confidence is inversely proportional to my actual skills.

Yes, I’ve heard all about Impostor Syndrome. There is also the Dunning-Kruger effect, which I apparently suffered from throughout my entire adolescence. But identifying the source has done very little to help solve it. I keep going back to what it was about writing then that made it so easy, to see if I can replicate the conditions now. The problem is I can’t. All that disposable time? Gone to the corporate gods. Doing it without a specific goal in mind? Nope. I’m ambitious and, frankly, will go insane if I continue to syphon my life away for previously-mentioned corporate gods. I need this part of my life, the writing part, to take off. Not worrying about improving? Yeah, I wish I was a finished product. But here I am, feeling more like a clueless dork with every day that passes.

I don’t know if I even have a point, or a conclusion or some parting words of wisdom. I’ve spent most of my life, as have we all, turning into the better version of myself. Contact lenses and a good skincare regime are amazing feats of science! It turns out that us nerds are now the cool kids! I’ve had hot guys knocking on my door! My brains are valued-to a point (ehem, Corporate America still has a jock mentality), but most importantly, I value them! But the part I really, really, really wished I had held on to is that one: my freakish belief in my own artistic success.