I’ve taken a commission to write a series of blog posts for a mental-health organisation and I’m telling my daughter about it as we make tomato sauce for pasta.
“What do they want you to write about?”
“Issues at the intersection of work and mental health”
“You struggle to find enough ideas to write your own blog,” she says, idly stirring and staring into the bottom of the thickening gloop.
“That’s true,” I say, wondering what I’ve got myself into.
A conversation with my children over dinner proves lucrative as they suggest a piece on “hustle culture” which I say used to be called work/life balance.
“No, it’s different,” my son says. “With hustle culture, everyone pretends they love working, and that they don’t want balance.
I begin to wonder if, in my fifties, I’m too out of touch to tell young people how to care for their mental health at work.
“What about “hyper-comparison” and “career impatience?” my son’s girlfriend suggests.
“Good ideas,” I say, noting them down so that I can Google them later.
I decide to write the first piece on “Imposter Syndrome”, which is actually called “Imposter Phenomenon”, a fact I only discover after beginning my research by reading a searingly good piece on the subject written by someone else.
I sit down and write a first draft which I send to the company and ask for feedback.
“I want to make sure I get this one right because it will set the tone for the other pieces,” I write in my email.
A day passes and I don’t hear anything, so I go into my sent files and make sure I didn’t just imagine sending it.
I send a follow-up mail which I craft to sound as casual as I can, which takes me four or five attempts before I’m happy with it.
I think about a time some years ago with my own therapist when I told him I often felt like an imposter because I could do a lot of things but none of them expertly.
He said, “If you feel like an imposter you’re probably not in the best place to be self-aware.”
Mostly I’m much better than I used to be.
A ginger cake I made earlier is a disappointment.
I used the wrong sugar, it’s much denser than I’d anticipated, and all the ginger pieces have congregated on the bottom, ridiculing me.
I stuff it into a tin and decide to deal with it later.
After clearing the plates my daughter comes into the kitchen and notices the baking paper sticking out from the lid of the tin.
“What’s in there?”
“Oh, it’s a ginger cake, but it didn’t work out.”
“I love ginger cake, what’s wrong with it?”
“It’s dense and disappointing.”
“I’ll still eat it,” my daughter says and shouts through to see who else wants a piece.
I cut slices from the greyish brick-like block that at least smells better than it looks.
“What’s it like?” I call from the kitchen while I’m wiping down the worktop.
“It’s actually not bad,” says my daughter, and then, “It’s how I imagine a ginger cake would taste if you were in prison.”