For my maiden post at the Byzantine Times, it has taken me quite a while to figure out what it should be. I was so close- as close as Kanye is to Kanye- to start my search for the extinct dodo for sacrificial purposes, at least to get inspiration. I have been debating on what the most appropriate theme for my piece would be, especially on a platform like this one. Will people finally go “aha! We found him!” like they do in those mysteries-solving documentaries? Will I finally have set myself up for intense scrutiny and failure? The answer could be yes. If that is the case, then so be it. I shall however not go down without major combat and significant rebuttal against all of your judgmental eyeballs. If the pen is mightier than the sword, this shall be the war I might have showed up with a pencil. Therefore, Ladies and gents, hold on to your sanitizers and bite harder into your masks. Welcome to the works of Richard Okenye, first of his name.
That’s too dramatic, but let’s begin.
The first time I went live on the radio I was a mess and so was my first time going on TV. Wait, wasn’t it the same during my first published piece, and the first time I was an MC, and the first time I was…and the first time…and the first time I did the other thing? This is not a post involving pride in the activities that I do. As a matter of fact, this is the complete opposite. I just really need to put it out there for everyone; I am a fraud.
Or that is what I think most of the time.
Before any of my stories ever make it to publication, I think a lot about how badly written it is. I spend hours intimately running my bony fingers across the keyboard and when I am about to release it, I push my chair back and shout, “Ooh, how the world churns out basic writers!” I really cannot even emphasize the number of times I have wanted to quit this. What about the number of times I have wanted to quit that other thing? And the other one?
It’s Impostor Syndrome. That is what the mighty have decided to call this feeling. Feeling like you are not good enough at what you do. That you’re a fraud. You’re the biggest fraud that’s ever existed. You write stuff only a mother could stand. Haha. Those are voices in my head. Always shouting at my ears even when I should be recording that podcast.
“Ooh, you didn’t hear Joe Rogan’s podcast was acquired exclusively for Spotify at $100M? Is that why you’re still recording yours from a small room?”
Every writer will tell you that their very first moments in writing were spent in checking statistics and notifications. Statistics don’t lie and notifications are a good ego boost. In those days, I would release a post and spend my whole day popping into my socials to check the comments and likes and shares. Why have they not liked that post? I thought it was good enough, how is there still no comment an hour later? Eventually, the feeling of being an impostor drags me by my ankles and pulls me far from my keyboard. Away from the mic. It pulls down my pants to show my nakedness on the full glare of cameras. I become extremely aware of what I am typing, saying on the radio, speaking on TV. Will they like this sentence? Is that how the name of the rapper Nas is pronounced? Did I see my director shake his head? Have I lowered the standards the same way people who eat fries in public commute have?
I have existed in spaces I felt I did not deserve to be at. Honestly, almost everyone has. I have pitched a startup in a platform with people I have felt knew more about what I was talking about than I did. I have interviewed men and women whose gaze I felt tore right through my veil of impostor confidence. One time, I sat at a panel discussing the future of technological revolution in Africa with a multi-millionaire, all the while wondering if they knew I was just a kid
in a suit from Kenya who was thinking about roast maize at some points in the conversation. I have shown people my writing and my eyes stuck to their face to read any cues of boredom. But there is one thing I have not done. I have not quit. Well, unless you think I should just pull the plug and pursue other essential undertakings. Okay, I still won’t quit. Haha. I will wake up, unfold this laptop, and type the first thing that comes to my head. I will start with one word, any word. Teeth. I will take a glance at my Impostor syndrome sitting at the corner of my room and I will write about teeth. I will write about teeth because I don’t care whether or not I am qualified enough to talk about that. I will stand up, go sip my morning porridge and think whether I should have been a dentist and work with teeth than sit here thinking about them. I’ll get back to my desk and write a whole sentence revealing my past struggle with teeth removal and their painful growth. “People will think you are a joke,” I’ll think to myself before deleting the whole sentence. Circumcision. Maybe I could write about that instead, and mix the clenching of teeth and their gnashing during circumcision.
Regardless of what I feel, I will write and put the work out to everyone. I will still show up at your gigs and MC them even when the crowd is tough and won’t laugh at most of my jokes. I am still going to suit up and pitch that startup, or sit that exam I feel I am not as good as everyone else. I will still turn on the mic and give you my thoughts on radio and believe in my knowledge as I speak into cameras in an empty television studio. I am not saying I am mediocre in any way. Actually, I am pretty confident about the tasks I pursue. Well, except writing about teeth. Do you want to know whether you are a good musician? Put that song out and let us give you opinions. Go start that podcast and fail and then learn. Walk yourself into that internship and suppress your feelings of fraudulence then seek more knowledge from those you think are doing something better than you. Own that space and do whatever you feel if you tried out, would turn great. The most successful people would tell you they struggled with impostor syndrome at some point in their profession. Well, except those who write about teeth. They seem to have figured something out.