This one’s a sort of follow up to my last comic.
Other safe content HERE.
This one’s a sort of follow up to my last comic.
Other safe content HERE.
Feathered hats are a pre-requisite for plundering. It’s just a fact.
One time after hardly sleeping for many, many days and nights (ah, the heady days of chronic insomnia plus university assignments and poor time management), I decided on a whim that The Thing (the 80s one) was absolutely, unbeatably amazing. As I was pretty much delirious from exhaustion, I figured it was completely reasonable to force the friends I just happened to be with at the time to watch it. Even though it wasn’t their sort of thing at all. Even though they told me this. Repeatedly.
I fell asleep a few minutes in, and they sat next to my unconscious body through over and hour and a half of dripping vagina monsters out of politeness.
They’re still my friends. I don’t know why.
(That story doesn’t have anything to do with anything, not even this comic. But it’s true.)
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Before we begin, let me quickly introduce my dad…
My dad wore a Greek fisherman’s hat everywhere. My dad cooked squid spinach. My dad was notorious for eating unusual things, particularly seafood. He told us which flowers in our garden were technically edible and snacked on them. He fossicked in rock pools and consumed their contents.
We thought it was excellent. As kids, we showed our appreciation through gleeful declarations of how grossed out we were accompanied by general screaming. He retired the fisherman’s hat sometime during my teenaged years, but otherwise remains as is.
This is the tale of the octopus liver. It happened when I was about eleven or twelve. It is an incident of some contention in our household. There have been denials, arguments, blatant lies.
But this is how I remember it…
It started, logically enough, with an octopus. We caught the eldritch horror in a net while camping. It oozed through the mesh, tearing it wider, and nearly escaped the eskie. It was gross, horrifying, and absolutely amazing.
I believe it ended up cooked and eaten. That is generally what one does with caught seafood, but I have no firm memory of it.
That is, except for the liver.
I remember very clearly because it went into the freezer, and I was in a habit of keeping track of questionable freezer content.
My freezer diligence began a little while earlier when dad killed our excess roosters (we were promised one rooster and four chickens, but we got five roosters), put them in the freezer, and talked often and lovingly of cock a vin (a French recipe for cooking roosters—not whatever you were thinking). I would not eat ex-pets, even if they had been shouty arseholes. An anxious child and a fussy eater (by my dad’s standards), I counted frozen roosters every time we were having chicken anything.
And so, after the octopus, whenever I rummaged in the freezer for ice-cream, I double checked the icy little parcel of liver was safely tucked away.
And I waited.
Until one day …
Which, with hindsight, is an almost plausible explanation. Almost plausible, because in reality he didn’t cook it in butter and use it as a sauce, he cooked it in the microwave.
… Without pricking it first. I added the microwave to my list of Things To Be Anxious About In The Kitchen and quietly avoided using it for a very long time.
But that’s not the end.
The moral of this story is my dad kicks your dad’s butt, always prick your cephalopod hepatopancreases before you microwave them, and definitely don’t forget to remove the ink gland.
First up, a big thank you to my dad for being endlessly interesting and an excellent sport! I’m not sure he entirely understands why I always found this episode so funny (or why his insistence that it was a hepatopancreas and not a liver was so adorabley dad-funny that I worked it in), but he still played along when I asked if he would mind if I wrote (the version I remember) down and showed it to the internet. That’s love.
I’m not sure if it’s necessary to say this, but just in case … my dad is a marine biologist and has passed exams on which rock-pool discoveries are edible and which are certifiable jerks who will stab you with venom* that paralyses your autonomic nervous system, potentially shutting down your lungs and suffocating you. So probably don’t follow his lead in picking up and eating random things unless you also have some sort of relevant knowledge/experience and know what’s what.
* That’s right, I know the difference between venom and poison. You may swoon now.
Here’s the thing. The mummy could be about to say, “No worries! Hang tight while I’ll pop to the store for you!”
He isn’t. That isn’t how this is going to play out at all. Maybe if someone else made this comic, that’s how it would go. But they didn’t, I did.
So here we are.
Do you ever peek at the last page in a book? Sometimes I do. This story ends with me winning first place in a youth art competition.
I was eleven, quite young compared to some of the other people who had entered. The person who came second was older than me. I saw her face when our names were called, and I think she was disappointed. At least, that’s how I remember it.
The art trophy was the first trophy I had ever won. Most childhood trophies are obtained through sports, and I was not part of any afterschool teams. I had tried this and that, but I was as athletic as a potato with a Netflix account and as graceful as an octopus wearing crocs. My M.O. was to go to one practice, refuse to run anywhere for any length of time, throw the ball in an appalling double-handed underarm, sulk when I was shown better ways to throw balls generally but asked not to do it at all just now because this is actually soccer and we don’t throw the ball in soccer, and then quit.
Unsurprisingly, the art trophy remained the only trophy I ever won.
This story begins with the bee.
I was six. I was sitting on the grass at recess and put my hand on a bee.
Adult-Me does not blame the bee. It was innocently cruising for pollen when an enormous pinkish monster descended from the heavens and crushed it into the lawn. Despite minimal chance of survival, it put up a defiant last stand. It was pretty much Gandalf facing down the Balrog.
Adult-Me can respect that. Adult-Me knows bees are important. She fishes drowning bees out of swimming pools, plants bee-friendly flowers, and has lived with a hive of angry bees in her backyard for over two weeks so a proper beekeeper could take them to a new home instead of having pest-control kill them immediately.
Child-Me had a different perspective.
I screamed until another kid showed up, and then I made him save me from the bee. It had already torn its stinger out and doomed itself thanks to one of nature’s crueler design flaws, but I wanted vengeance against my nemesis. Children are tiny, self-righteous super-villains, and I made sure that bee ended up as paste.
Then I went to the teacher to show her the sting.
It was the incorrect response. I was, clearly, a hero who had narrowly escaped death, and I should definitely get to go home for the rest of the day so I could be nursed back to health while eating ice cream. The teacher was not convinced. I was allowed to go to the sick room and get a band aid, but that was it.
And that’s why, a few weeks later, I drew the bees.
I got chosen to go to a drawing session with an Actual Illustrator of Actual Picture Books. The Actual Illustrator talked to us about capturing the characteristics of a subject, and then gave us some pencils and paper and told us to try drawing something bold and fierce and monstrous.
My time had come to right a grave injustice.
The original bee drawing has, unfortunately, been lost to history. Nevertheless, I have drawn a reconstruction from memory. I think I really captured the oeuvre of my six-year-old self, which I would characterise as overly preoccupied with fitting in the right number of legs.
When I showed the Actual Illustrator my bold, fierce and monstrous bees, I watched his face very carefully. I knew there would be a moment of enlightenment in which he would see bees as I saw them. He would understand the trauma I had endured. He would celebrate my heroic fight with the bee. He would tell everyone in the room about my amazing drawing.
But that moment didn’t come.
Worse, I could read the truth on his face.
And the Actual Illustrator went off to admire some older kid’s drawing of a friendly monster. A friendly monster. A monster who was not bold or fierce, like my bees.
But all of that—the certainty, the confidence, the self-righteousness—must end at six, because I don’t remember ever feeling like that again.
There’s a thing called Impostor Syndrome.
It looks a lot like modesty, but if modesty was dosed with nuclear radiation and went rampaging through downtown Tokyo. It’s when you struggle to process your achievements, downplaying them as good luck, just regular hard work, or not important compared with your failures. It’s when, deep down, you can’t believe you deserve success or recognition or even compliments, and that other people think you do just proves there’s been some big misunderstanding. It makes you feel like an impostor, and you live in fear that Scooby-Doo is about to show up, rip your rubber mask off, and reveal the fraud underneath.
And it’s very common. Most people experience it at some point in their lives.
Realising is the first step. Apparently, it’s normal for people to hear what it is and immediately have a lightbulb moment as they recognise it in their own behaviour. But I didn’t.
When I first heard about Impostor Syndrome, I thought it was for people who were objectively amazing and just couldn’t see it. I knew I was not objectively amazing. And if I wasn’t objectively amazing, then beating myself up about it wasn’t maladaptive behaviour, it was just being realistic. Healthy, even. I thought it kept me in my box and stopped me reaching too far and making a fool of myself.
It took me a long time to realise that not only did I have it, but that I had it so badly that my denial of it was moulded from 100% pure weapons-grade Impostor Syndrome. And I still—still—can’t quite get past the notion that it’s not for me, that I don’t have the right to the term, that Impostor Syndrome is for kids who draw friendly monsters.
So I’ve started calling it a case of shit bees instead.
… not like that.
Okay that’s ridiculous too. But there’s a reason for that. Bear with me a moment.
My shitty bee illustration was the first failure I can remember, and it became the first weapon in the arsenal of evidence I used to beat my achievements to death. There have been other things since, but it started with the bees.
It was a fantastic weapon.
So I’m not putting it down, I’m just changing targets.
Because it is ridiculous.
All of it, but me in particular. That I cared so much about the bees, that something so silly could erode my soul, that not being ‘good enough’ by some nebulous and ever-changing standard even matters.
I can’t take my impostor-thoughts seriously when I think of them in terms of shit bees, and when I can’t take them seriously, they don’t unravel me so much.
I’d love to tell you that thanks to my shit bees, I never struggle with Impostor Syndrome anymore, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s helped me realise that the face under the rubber mask is a rubber mask too, but I’m still not sure I know what my real face looks like.
Maybe I don’t have one. Maybe no one has one. Maybe I’m a Mission Impossible style babushka doll of masks, a swarm of shit bees in trench coat. Turtles all the way down.
And maybe that’s not so bad.
But by the time I was eleven, I had misplaced my super-villain helmet. I didn’t know about Impostor Syndrome, let alone have the awareness to name it and fight it. I certainly didn’t know that most other people had it too, tucked neatly away behind their perfect friendly-monster drawings.
And so, a story that began with a bee ends like this.
Five years after my shit bees, I won a youth art competition and got a trophy that someone else wanted. At long last, I had drawn a friendly monster instead of shit bees. I took the trophy home and put it on a shelf in my bedroom, the way all the other kids put up their trophies for football and netball and soccer. I looked at it every day.
The last page of another person’s book can’t tell you the whole story.
Do you ever experience Impostor Syndrome? If so, how do you deal with it?
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