You’re damn right that I’m a writer.

I spent part of this week at the Canadian press where “Cupcakes Everywhere!” was printed. Finally getting the chance to dust off my sad, underutilized passport, the trip up there required a multi-leg flight from Chicago to Minneapolis to Winnepeg.

I was goofing around during my 2-hour layover, taking pictures of the advanced reader copies against a “Banned Books” display at one of the airport shops. (A girl can dream, right?) 

Behind the glass, I saw a guy about my age, browsing through the stacks near the front of the store. After a couple awkwardly long glances on my part, it became clear that he was one of my childhood friends from the Wisconsin summer camp I spent years attending, both as a camper and then a counselor. 

That little YMCA camp, still to this day, means so much to me. I went every summer from age 8 until I left for college, but still think about it all the time. When I can’t sleep, sometimes I mentally picture myself driving up to the gate, arriving at the lodge, traversing the numerous winding sidewalks that lead you to the cabins, to the campfire pit, up to the chapel overlooking the impossibly blue Lake Beulah. I can mentally take inventory of every square foot of that campground, so much that it brings me comfort in the middle of the night even as a 40-year old mother of three.

Out from under the shadow of my regular home and routine, it felt like a chrysalis of sorts. A place where I could learn who I really was when plucked out of my typical environment. And a place where maybe I could even experiment with shedding any preconceived notions I had of myself.  

If you were considered “nerdy” or “boring” or “a poser” or “prude” or any of the other numerous disses kids lobbed at each other back then, camp was a place where you could show up with a completely clean slate. Sure, maybe your reputation preceded you a little bit, if you had been there before. But if you were the shy kid at home and decided you wanted to show up and be the first to sign up for the talent show, you could at least try it out. If you’d never had a significant other at home, that was no reason you couldn’t potentially be that summer’s most talked-about heartthrob. 

Camp allowed you to observe yourself refracted through a whole new lens.

Back to the airport, I knew I would kick myself if I missed an opportunity to greet anyone from my beloved camp. So I walked up and said, “Are you David <Last name>?” He reacted warmly: “Erin! Wow! Hi!” he said, which was actually surprising that he recognized me after 20+ years – my flight out of Chicago took off at 6AM, which showed on my face, and I was wearing a ratty sweat suit with flip flops in April due to an semi-infected toenail from a pedicure gone wrong. Arms totally overfull – holding my inside-out fleece, an unzipped backpack, a random hardcover children’s book that wasn’t even purchased at that particular bookstore … I seriously probably looked deranged to him.

But clearly not deranged enough to exchange some life updates back and forth. When he asked where I was traveling to, and I told him that I was going to a printing facility to see my children’s book about infertility roll off the press.

He said “Ohhhh, you’re a writer!” and I hesitated for a beat, like I usually do. But instead of launching into my typical demurrals – “Oh, well… you know I kind of am but I write really boring stuff for work” or “I do enjoy writing, but I don’t know that I’d call myself a writer!” 

I eventually just said, “Uhhh…yeah! I guess I am!”

Why am I so hesitant to call myself by that name? 

Why doesn’t it roll off the tongue in the same way it does when I say, “I work in content.” 

Or “I’m living in Chicago.” 

Or even “I’m a mother.” 

Why didn’t I reply, “You’re damn right I’m a writer!” (Okay, now that might have been truly deranged.)

When it comes to labels we give ourselves, like artist or writer, it’s really easy to downplay, shapeshift or skirt around the titles, as though making art is for other people and not us. “This isn’t real, it’s just for fun.” or “Oh I’m not an actual writer; I just enjoy the process.” 

But in that moment when he asked the question, there was absolutely no denying it.

If I’m not a writer, what the hell was I doing flying to Canada to watch a book be printed – a book that was inspired by my own life, that I personally wrote and creative directed, line by line, pixel by pixel. Wouldn’t that be… what’s the word I’m looking for here… A WRITER? A CREATIVE PERSON?

I wish I could be one of those people who says things like, “I was born a writer.” But for me, it took seeing a book I love, dedicated to my kids, about my most grueling experiences, with my name on the front, to be out in the world. 

I don’t have any words of wisdom on imposter symptom or overcoming it. It’s probably always something I’ll have to contend with. But rather than letting it dictate my actions, I’ve just decided I no longer care. I’m sharing my story anyway.

If that’s not called a writer, I don’t know what is.

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