On Being “Smart Enough”

I’m a graduate student and usually that just means I’m pursuing an additional degree specialization beyond a standard B.A. But some days it means that I’m reanalyzing my view of myself and adjusting my expectations of my intelligence in accordance with my peers.

I’m in my second of four semesters pursuing a Masters of English Literature at a local state university. With three grad level courses per semester, my academic muscles get the practice they’ve been sorely lacking since I finished undergrad. I’m pursuing research opportunities, teaching supplemental composition classes, and reading an endless list of CFPs.

But more than that, I’m dismantling the idea that I am “not-(       )-enough.” A few weeks ago, I submitted an abstract to a nearby academic conference. The paper I proposed is one that I wrote three years ago and, more likely than not, need to rewrite in the time preceding the conference. I received an invitation to present at this conference yesterday morning and I was floored. It’s not that I expected to be accepted, but that I expected to not be accepted. I was viewing myself as clearly not-(articulate, intelligent, accomplished, etc.)-enough to be accepted to an academic conference. Except that I am.

I’m just beginning to come to terms with what graduate school means about my identity. I’m still navigating the reality of the fact that, not only did I get into a graduate program (technically two, if you count the acceptance to Claremont Graduate University that I turned down two years ago), but I am capable of living a life of academic rigor. And not every day is an easy day. But today, with my first invitation to present at an academic conference, I feel like I am meant for this.

Some days are better than others and I know that there will be days where I feel overwhelmed, unimportant, and unworthy. On those days where I begin to think that I am not-enough, I hope that I can also remember the ways in which I am.