Imposters' Club

I overfilled my coffee, and scalded my hand- again. Third week and I still wasn't used to the valve on the kettle. There were about fifteen people milling in the small room, avoiding the ring of folding chairs. My first week I spoke about my job insecurity, but since then I'd passively listened to others' tales of how they felt like impostors during meetings. Knowing I wasn't the only one didn't really do a lot for me, so I wasn't planning on coming back again.

A young intern walked in the door and that started everyone going for chairs, first the returning attendees, followed by the new and inattentive. One young woman remained standing by the refreshment table, looking out-of-place with peach-dyed hair and clothes that didn't have the "just left work" business-casual look of most everyone else. Turning, cookie in mouth, she noticed everyone sitting and quickly sat down in one of the empty chairs directly across from me.

The intern cleared his throat.

"Welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Support Group. I see we have a few new faces today, so I'd like to give you all an opportunity to introduce yourselves. We're pretty informal here- just tell us your name and what brought you here tonight."

The first couple people stood up and bored us all with stories of insecurity in meetings, missed opportunities, and being passed up for promotions. Then, just as people started murmuring and the intern cleared his throat, the woman across the room stood up abruptly.

"Hello, my name is Martina and I am an Imposter."

Everyone was silent. The intern replied, amused, "this isn't AA."

She frowned slightly. "I'm serious. I'm an imposter- have been since I was 17 years old."

Mild, nervous chuckles came from a few attendees.

"I woke up one morning and knew immediately that I was not in my own body. I was in a completely foreign house, on the floor next to a bed occupied by a stranger who turned out to be Martina's best friend."

"I went through my pockets and backpack, digging out an ID and schoolwork to find out who I was. I also dug around to find out the name of the girl in the bed- luckily she slept through my investigations."

"I found a yearbook and started committing faces and names to memory- it wouldn't do to suddenly forget all my peers' names."

"I told my friend, Carly, how I couldn't remember where I lived. She gave me a weird look, laughing, 'It's a good thing I was going to drive you home this morning!'"

"She drove me home to a small ranch-style house across town, smiling and saying 'see you tomorrow' as I reluctantly got out."

"Luckily nobody was home, so I had time to discover which room was mine, and do some quick sleuthing to find out who I lived with. My attempts at diaries were helpful, since I had a record of my attitudes about my mother, father, and brother. Things were pretty tough those first few days, but eventually I got into a routine and learned more about the life I'd been dropped into. In fact, I began to forget the fact that I wasn't Martina and just went on living."

It wasn't until I recently got a tech job and experienced a strong sense of "not belonging" that these memories resurfaced. I decided to attend this support group to see whether there were any others like me"

Martina walked over to the refreshment table, set down a pile of business cards, and left the room.

The intern sighed wearily. "Well, that was unique. We have a few more minutes if anyone would like to share their experiences with Imposter Syndrome."

Everyone was speechless, so we ended early. As we filed out, I walked over to the refreshment table and picked up a card from the stack. It was a plain white card inscribed with "Imposter's Club" and a web address in black text.

At home, I typed the address into my laptop and was disappointed to get a "No Domain" error. I flipped the card over, but there wasn't anything on the back. Disappointed, I tossed the card on the coffee table.

I didn't give it another thought until late morning the next day. While walking to my kitchen, the card caught my eye. The white of the card seemed stained.

I picked it up and examined it. There was faint handwriting, slightly off-white, on both sides of the card.

It glowed faintly in the sunlight and disappeared almost completely once I picked it up out of the sunbeam on the table.

I dug out a little UV light, and shined it on the card.

A new message glowed clearly in the beam: "Congratulations! Text: XXX-XXX-XXXX"