Imposter syndrome

Submitted into Contest #114 in response to: Write about someone grappling with an insecurity.... view prompt

15 comments

Fiction Friendship

When an idea forms, good or bad, it consumes you. And you can spend your entire existence working towards it. Training, practising, preparing. You feel confident. You feel like you can be the best. The Greatest of All Time. The GOAT.

Then comes the day where you have to put it all on show and you

realise one thing: You know absolutely nothing.

All that training, all those scenarios. It means nothing when you

aren’t in front of the audience. Training with your best friend. Working with

family. Testing out your act. They all laugh and say it’s great. But hell,

they’re just saying that to be nice, aren’t they? Do they really think it?

This is how I felt right now. On the opening night of our first

comedy show. It’s not the MGM Grand and we’re not Jeff Dunham. It’s some

barely-standing-still club in the roughest part of the neighbourhood. 

But the question remained: What the hell do I know about

performing?

I didn’t really choose this. It kind of chose me. My whole life I

was told I was born for this. That I was a natural. But how can anyone really

be born for anything? Or a natural? Surely it’s all practise right? Perfecting

the craft.

Are we predestined in life? Does our life follow a course set for

us by God, or fate, or whatever? Or do we forge our own path?

I don’t know. I mean Tiger Woods wasn’t born with a golf club in

hand. He wasn’t shooting 10 under on his first go. He worked hard and he

practised, didn’t he?

Here we were. Sitting backstage. Hamish and I. The comedy duo. One

of many. Almost a cliché these days. Sitting amongst the other acts. Local

legends.

Shirley the Fire Twirler. She sat opposite us, two extinguished

fire sticks laying across her lap and a squeeze bottle of kerosene or whatever

it was they used to spray fire into the air at her feet.

In the far corner Frederic the Absorber. He was from Russia. He

didn’t speak a lick of English, but he was so big he took up two seats. He wore

white spandex and had bulging muscles that could have been mistaken for a

topographical map of a city with veins running like roads and thick, knotted

muscles for buildings. Somewhere backstage was the slingshot that fired

projectiles at him which he ‘absorbed’ on his stomach. Total freak show but one

of the more popular acts.

And, of course, there were heaps of comedy acts; Mills and Boone,

Hilary Hilarious, Silly Sam, Mickey (yes, only Mickey), Nicolas Sarcasm spread

out around the room. Some sitting, some standing. Some practising, rehearing

their jokes while others were conversing with others, exuding calm.

How could I compete with them? They’re all pros. Established

veterans with a following, a fandom. Why would anyone be interested in our

performance? This new act encroaching on to these veterans. Weeds on a

manicured lawn. They’d be thinking who the hell we thought we were, trying to

compete with the others.

From beyond the red curtain we heard laughter as Sally Smack

regaled the audience with some silly story and my nervousness increased. Was I

sweating?

Expectations have now been created. The audience loose, a few drinks

in and ready to laugh. Sally was good, not the best, but good. She was safe.

Family-friendly jokes. Dad jokes really. 

Stuff like, “It’s raining cats and dogs, make sure you don’t step

in a poodle”, or “How did Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.”

They’re funny, good for a chuckle, but the crowd sounded raucous.

To me they sounded like the 12th man at a Seahawks game. Breaking all sorts of

decibel records.

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating. It’s not that loud, is it?

Beside me, Hamish shuffled in his seat and I felt his nervousness

radiating off him like the heat from a mid-summer sun.

Before tonight I would have said I was confident in our act being

better than someone like Sally Smack but now, I don’t know.

Maybe this was all a mistake.

Why did we do this? Life was solid if unspectacular before Hamish

forced me into this act. I was content with a life of luxury. Sitting around,

doing very little. Providing some entertainment when Hamish had friends over.

No pressure. No expectations. Just a couple of jokes, a couple of silly actions

in front of some tipsy friends. No sweat.

Then one particularly boozy night in which our performance

elicited much drunken laughter, Tex suggested Hamish and I take it a bit more

seriously. Work on our act, get it down right and we could be big.

I wasn’t so sure but Hamish, who is very impressionable when he’s

got a few beers under his belt, thought it was a great idea. I didn’t say

anything. It wasn’t a bad idea; we always made the others laugh with our act.

At the time it was a flattering suggestion to think we could make it.

I admit a part of me was excited about it but I didn’t say

anything. I didn’t want to be that guy, the one who got too into

an idea to find out they weren’t that serious. They were all drunk. I figured the

idea would be forgotten by the time Hamish sobered up.

But it didn’t.

Tex planted the idea and it stuck. Almost like inception, but

instead of being asleep they were drunk. So not really like inception I suppose.

The next day, Hamish did the research while I watched him. He

wrote notes, he formed ideas and he ran them by me. The more he spoke about it,

the more passionate he got and then I was on board. It wasn’t a bad idea. We

were good. But I had no choice. No say in the matter.

Were we good enough?

I looked around the round.

There was no way in hell we were.

But how could I tell Hamish that?

He, and I, worked so hard. He didn’t like his day job and dreamed

of being something bigger. He was just another cog in the corporate wheel that

appreciated him as much as their profits dictated. A good month and they were

friendly, a handshake and ‘well done’. A bad month and he was working overtime,

pressured to get more done.

“We’re not liking these numbers, Hamish. What can we do to pick them

back up?”

Why it was Hamish’s job to get the numbers back up was beyond me,

and him. But he accepted their bipolar personalities because he was

comfortable, and a doormat. And change made him uncomfortable.

He worked there for 10 years, never had a promotion. Pay rises

that he would call ‘better than nothing’ but I would define it as a joke. But,

again, I can’t say any of this to him.

Hamish worked on emotion. He fed off positive energy. Which is why

we worked so well together. Me? I fed off his energy. If he was happy and

laughing, then so was I.

If he was sad and mopey, or had a bad day at work, then you can

bet your bottom dollar I wouldn’t be cracking jokes either. In fact, he would

ignore me.

But that’s how life is. Good and bad days.

Tex’s idea had a hold on Hamish and it was nice to see Hamish so

passionate about this project. This was for the both of us, but for different

reasons.

He needed the lift. A change in the monotony of life. I did worry

that if he bombed he would hit a deep depression and who knows when I would see

him next. One night when we were practising in front of the mirror I told him I

was proud of him for trying this. For getting out of his comfort zone. That he

needed to do it. 

For me, like I said, I was born for this. My whole existence I was

told I was made to be a performer. I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t work

an office job. I couldn’t play sports. But I could perform. Jokes, acts,

whatever. It was ingrained in me from the very beginning.

The two of us came from different mindsets, growing up differently

but both had our hopes hinged on this working.

And now here we both sat. Waiting. Nervous as hell.

We were up next and Hamish was raining sweat. He grabbed my hand

in his own, clammy one. Squeezes it to reassure the both of us. Hamish was a

lot taller than me, a lot bigger, so his hand enveloped my own. Covered it like

an oven mitt.

“I shouldn’t be surprised you’re so calm,” he said in a whisper. I

wasn’t sure if he was deliberately whispering or if his voice caught from the

nerves.

What could I say? All my emotions were internal. I didn’t show

anything outwardly, but by hell was I scared. 

I was scared that we would bomb and Hamish would sink into a boozy

depression. As much as I was proud of him for trying, this was a risk for his

mental health. Like touching a wall with a wet paint sign on it, you might come

away fine, or you might come away with wet fingers.

I was scared that if we bombed, he would wallow in his own

internal pit of despair. It’s happened before. A bad week, or when he felt like

the world was out to get him, he would disappear. Regressing to the previous

depression he worked so hard at fixing. At learning to live with and avoid the

triggers. 

But most of all, I feared what it would mean for us if we failed.

We spoke of how great we would be. The dreams of making it big. Making it in

Vegas. Worldwide tours. Being spoken about with legends. The GOATs. But never

spoke of what would happen if we sucked. 

Overthinking and delusions aside, this was a massive risk and we

both knew it.

But Tex, alcohol and a desire to be something else drove Hamish to

the point of recklessness. He both feared and welcomed it.

As for me, what the hell was I doing here? Why did I need this?

I may look calm, but I am freaking out internally.

What if we stink? Or if we fail? Or we get booed and laughed off

the stage for being so terrible. What the hell did Tex know about comedy? He

was an accountant. It's a scientific fact that accountants are the most

boringest people on the planet.

I had a comfortable life before we decided to do this. In fact,

right now I would have been at home, on my butt, chilling and watching tv. If

not for this ludicrous venture.

How am I not shaking right now?

If I could run, I would. I’d be out of here and the only thing

left behind would be a white, me-shaped cloud like you see in those old Looney

Tunes cartoons.

Part of me hoped Hamish would pull the pin. Tell me we’re leaving,

that he couldn’t do it. 

All these self-doubts. This imposter syndrome. We worked on our

act. We tested it on others. Not just Tex, but family. Even posted some stuff

on YouTube. There were a few likes, no dislikes. Very little comments but all

positive. I would hope for more but that’s asking for too much. Though the

delusional part of me was hoping we would wake up as internet sensations. Skip

all the hard work and go straight to the top.

But how often does that happen?

From beyond that dark red curtain was the sound of applause and

Hamish gasped. 

We were up next.

He was pale and looked sickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he

vomited in the middle of the floor.

All our hard work was about to come to fruition. 

“That was great, wasn’t it? Please give a big round of applause

for Sally Smash”, came the announcers' booming voice over the PA system.

Hamish stood up, smoothing down his pants, brushing a hand through

his hair, messing it up. A nervous habit. 

And now, we have a debut act. Please give a warm round of applause

to our local talent, Hamish and Chipper.

Light, uncertain applause was muted by the curtain, and I could

imagine the audience wondering who the heck we were.

Hamish let out a deep sigh, “Oh boy,” he said and turned to me.

“Ready?”

God no.

I remained silent. As I always did.

Hamish bent down and picked me up. Pushing his hand through the

slit in the back of my suit jacket into the hole in my back where the handle

and buttons were located. He pressed the buttons, moving my eyes and my mouth,

as well as turning the handle to make my head swing left and right. Making sure

everything worked.

Not that they wouldn’t. He’d tested them many times in the lead up

to tonight.

Then he picked me up, tucking my limp arms into my lap and cradled

me in the crook of his arm, my legs swayed limply, like leaves in a gentle breeze.

“Alright Chipper. It’s showtime.”


October 02, 2021 05:23

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15 comments

Kate Winchester
22:00 Oct 10, 2021

Nice twist!

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Danny G
01:18 Oct 11, 2021

Thank you! And thank you for reading!

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Kate Winchester
02:48 Oct 11, 2021

Welcome ☺️

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Lins E
13:30 Oct 10, 2021

Haha! Loved the twist at the end. Nice work!

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Danny G
20:08 Oct 10, 2021

Thank you and thank you for reading! Glad you liked it! :-)

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Michael Regan
19:42 Oct 09, 2021

I liked the story line, however I found it a little hard to read due to the way you put in the line breaks.

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Danny G
20:37 Oct 09, 2021

Hmm I wonder what happened there, I’m sure it was fine when I submitted. I’ll fix it up. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and thanks for reading.

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Danny G
20:43 Oct 09, 2021

And I can't change it now because it's been submitted. D'oh

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Beth Jackson
17:49 Oct 09, 2021

I really enjoyed this story Danny! Thank you for sharing! :-)

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Danny G
20:36 Oct 09, 2021

Thank you Beth. I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

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Annalisa D.
18:37 Oct 02, 2021

That was a great story! Definitely relatable. I'd have those same thoughts. The ending was a pleasant surprise and nice little twist. It was a fun read. I liked the little bits of humor and the names.

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Danny G
20:18 Oct 02, 2021

Thank you. Glad you liked it and I am happy to hear it felt relatable.

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Keya Jadav
05:47 Oct 02, 2021

This is incredible Danny, following the lead, I love this story too! I must say, the way you started your story, truly amazing, totally sucked me in at a single glance. Nice work!

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Danny G
06:40 Oct 02, 2021

Thanks Keya. Im glad you liked it and happy I was able to throw a bit of a curve ball there. I appreciate you taking the time to read :-)

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Faith Ogedegbe
06:42 Oct 14, 2021

It's a story I can never stop reading.

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