Things have changed. This is no surprise, that is what things tend to do. Since we last spoke, I moved into an honours philosophy degree, became the President of the Psychology Students Association, did a *lot* of psychology research, became the Technical Editor of The Carillon and managed to not totally melt down during a move to online classes (and even do pretty okay, grade-wise!).
Today I had a meeting with my thesis project supervisor and one of the things we had a discussion about was this kind of disingenuous feeling I’ve been trying to sort through lately. There is a lot of guilt in some of what I have been doing and processing it has been confusing.
In social psychology with regard to the idea of how groups of people work, there is a concept of ‘idiosyncrasy credits’, and this mechanism outlines the things I have been contemplating. When you are a member of a group, certain individuals are allowed to be not entirely conforming to that group’s standards through these ‘credits’. Since the individual has demonstrated that they can conform to the group if they so choose, they are allowed to work outside the norm because the individual is seen as part of the group, having already met the requirements. Novel or potentially view-threatening ideas or actions can be preformed because the person doing that has already passed a sort of ‘vetting’ process.
Every day I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with realizing that people like me (disabled, mentally ill, Indigenous, Deeply Weird) are not who really show up in the makeup of a psychology program. The awareness I had about going in to this University process of having to do the work just as well as everyone else but with an added bunch of obstacle course-like equipment strewn around in front of me was one thing. The high level, kind of bizarre performative work I am doing is another. I feel as if the only reason I can now start to do the kinds of work I would like to do is because I have shown the group that I can do the Thing. I can get the grades. I can do the research. I can excel. And now that I have met those qualifications, I am granted my idiosyncrasy credits to do with as I so choose.
The things I am choosing to do with that leeway include endeavours such as talking about my experiences with the systems involved with disability and mental illness and why those experiences in those systems are not acceptable. So this is where the conflicting feelings come in: I had these experiences and this information and the same capacities to speak about it before I did the work that was impressive. Before I ever made Dean’s list, or started working in labs. Why are these issues (that I have been talking about for years) only now being listened to with a thoughtful ear (or at all) after I have managed to prove I do a mean impression of a “normal” person? How is that somehow more legitimate than my actual experience?
The idea of having to endure graduate school to grant me the authority to be taken seriously about these things is frustrating. The artifice involved is exhausting, and obviously this is a very common experience for many people who are ‘othered’ in society. Lots of perfect examples in the concepts and processes of code switching. But I feel deeply guilty. Like working to earn my credits to “be allowed” to deviate to get the job I want to do *done* is somehow selling out or forsaking some important part of myself or my experience.