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Correcting the record.
In which impostor syndrome will not win
Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely folks at the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Podcast about my origin story, getting nominated for a Pulitzer, and my cartooning practise, among other things. It was super nice!
I listened back to the interview to make sure I didn’t say anything mortifying, and it turns out I did say one (personally) awful thing I feel compelled to address.
At around the 1h10m mark of the interview, I start talking about how I’m really just a non-confrontational person at heart (despite being a litigator for 7 years), and how I’m really not that good at debating or arguing. I go as far as to say that “I’m not here to criticize people, I’m just here to help people empathize.” And, oh god. This is just not true!
So. To explain. I didn’t start drawing New Yorker cartoons with the intention of drawing political cartoons. My strength was not in pointed political commentary, but in drawing my feelings, and how things impacted me. In my lawyer days, this allowed me to describe my situation while preserving client confidentiality, and to avoid getting sued for anything. (Can’t get sued if I’m just talking about subjective experiences!)
All this had the unintended effect of making me really good at drawing political cartoons during the pandemic, and beyond. Many of my Pulitzer-nominated cartoons depict ordinary people suffering the effects of world events. Also, my sense of justice is rooted in the general desire to lessen suffering, and with all the pain and social upheaval during the pandemic, I really found my voice - I was able to use the platform of the NYer to express my outrage, and critique the obvious evil forces at play.
I know this, and I’m proud of it. BUT, because I live in a messy body with all its hang-ups and insecurities, I retain the unconscious need to self-deprecate, and minimize, and make myself as small and unthreatening as possible. Hence, the babbling about how i’m not actually good at any of this, and how “I’m not here to criticize people.” Sigh.
I don’t draw cartoons of the politicians themselves because I don’t find that very interesting, and I often focus on empathy. But my values still show up in my work. Saying “I’m not here to criticize people” implies a willingness to take a neutral, passive position in the interest of not ruffling feathers - something I do not stand for. Injustice must be called out, and I strive to do that - I just do it with an awareness of the limits of my knowledge. As a lawyer, the cardinal rule (after “Don’t sleep with your clients” and “Don’t steal from the trust account”) was “Don’t make absolute statements unless you can back them up with evidence.” There are a lot of things I won’t cartoon about because I just don’t know enough. But a lot of things are a given - like my feelings, and fundamental rights.
The worst parts of me want to believe that being a lawyer did nothing for me, and that my negative traits (like my innate fear of confrontation) will always win over any skills I may have gained from it. In truth, I’m able to be rational, critical, thorough and succinct in my life, and in my job as a cartoonist, because of my legal training.
I still struggle with impostor syndrome. It is hard to let go of the inner monologue that I’m just a hapless idiot who has stumbled across all of her success by accident. I could hear my inner monologue coming out in that portion of the interview, and I’m going to let go of it - it doesn’t serve me or the work I’m trying to do.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk, and thanks always for reading <3
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