Today I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion about the Affordable Care Act put on by a local law firm. I found it fascinating, and thanks to my health economics class last semester, almost entirely intelligible.
But despite the talk of tax credits, full time equivalent calculation and grandfathered benefit plans, the one question that kept rising to the top of my mind was this:
“When will I stop feeling like a kid playing dress up?”
I know there’s a simple answer to this: Duh. When I actually get older. But I’m still struck by how out of place I secretly feel at times, even though I’m qualified to do what I’m doing. I’m not relishing aging, per se, but it would be nice to have slightly surer footing around other professionals and people my senior.
I was dressed appropriately for the event: black slightly-above-the-knee-length skirt, top with a modest neckline, cardigan, burgundy pumps, and hair pulled off my face. Minimal make-up and jewelry. I also acted appropriately for the job I had to do. I made light small-talk, silenced my phone, took lots of notes and did nothing to embarrass my paper or myself.
I should also put out there that while I am only 5’3”, I don’t look like a child. I haven’t been carded at an R-rated movie since mid-high school, and sometimes I don’t get carded at bars either.
For all intents and purposes, I fit in. I didn’t get weird looks or glances. But I still felt like a kid in my mom’s grown-up clothing (for the record, I was wearing my mom’s skirt. But I’m talking in similes here). I felt like everyone around me could immediately tell how young I was and that I was still a student.
Maybe it’s a college-kid thing. Lately I’ve been paranoid about making sure I come off as professional to dispel any stereotypes about college-aged journalists being incompetent or under-qualified. Logically, I know shouldn’t have to worry. My work speaks for itself. Illogically, I still do. Why?
I think I do my job well. This isn’t my first, second, or even third time working in a professional newsroom. I have good, solid clips to show for myself and I’ve taken on leadership roles in newsrooms as well. I’m 6/7 of the way toward completing two degrees, a master’s after that, and I’m decently versed on current events. Despite what this post might convey, I am confident in my ability to report, edit, write and handle the stresses of a newsroom.
It’s confusing because I’ve felt particularly “adult” at other points in my life — getting my first set of car keys, balancing my checkbook, moving by myself, feeling the desire to buy new bath towels. But with journalism, something I arguably devote the most time to out of anything else, sometimes I feel like a source or colleague will jump out of the woodwork and announce the rest of the room, “What’s this kid doing here? How is she qualified to do this, and for money no less?”
So my big question to you, dear readers, is this: Is it normal to feel this way, and when does it stop?
Fellow college students, does this ring a bell? How do you deal with it? Those of you farther from your college days, any advice or confidence boosters to share about how to shake off feeling like the youngest, most inexperienced person in the room?