Imposter Syndrome

I found a term for it that people used to use ‘imposter syndrome’. That’s me. I’m not smart, I’m not interesting. I’m not anything. That’s what I’ve discovered since I unplugged. The headaches were getting too bad. The machines say my brain can’t handle the machines we all use every day for everything. I just walk around now. It’s empty here. Not empty, there’s lots of shit, but try doing anything unplugged. You can’t. So it’s me and the old timers who sit on benches. If I don’t want that there’s a couple bars still around, but everyone in there is so bitter. Instead I just walk around. I’m supposed to find myself. How am I supposed to know what that means? Thirty-six years on this Earth and it’s all been augmented in some form or another. Now, I’m out here and there’s nothing. Not true, there’s plenty but if it’s not networked it’s falling apart.

Clumsy—that’s how I’d describe it. Like I’m a child again, or at least how I imagine a child to be. Trying to make sense of a world that’s moved on without me. It’s as if I’m hearing a language I should understand but the words don’t quite fit together right; they’re disjointed, out of rhythm with my own stuttering thoughts.

The city is a maze of sensations and blinking lights that I can no longer interpret. Stores with automatic doors that don’t open for me because I don’t ping on the system. Currency that’s exchanged in blips of data, leaving my pockets perpetually empty in a world that no longer trades with the tangible. I watch people navigate their lives with a seamless grace that feels alien, their augmented eyes flickering with information I can no longer access. Did I really live like that once?

There’s a library I found, musty and forgotten. Rows of books, their spines creased and colors faded—staring at them is like looking at a mural of a parade gone by. Is this what knowledge looks like when it’s not fed directly into your synapses? Quiet, patient, waiting for eyes to linger over text? There’s a fog in my head where there used to be clarity, every sentence I read trails off into the murky waters of my consciousness, dissolving before I can grasp their meaning.

In the streets, there are moments where I catch my reflection in the dark windows of shops, and I squint at the stranger there. There’s a dullness in those eyes—aren’t your eyes supposed to be the windows to the soul? But what if you’re no longer sure you have one? Those eyes—my eyes—they look like they’re searching for a signal that will never come.

At the benches, the old timers speak of a world that’s vanished, of things like ‘privacy’ and ‘manual labor’. Words that have as much texture to me as a cloud. I sit next to them, adjusting to the skepticism in their eyes, an artifact like them but not really one of them. I’m in limbo—a spectator on the outskirts of human connection.

The bars are worse. The bitterness is tangible, in the air alongside the stale smell of old beer. It’s like they can taste the failure that the world decided to become. Each person there is a monument to a different kind of disconnect, one chosen and stubbornly embraced. Unlike me—I didn’t choose this. Or did I? Sometimes the lines blur.

I thought I was supposed to ‘find myself’ in this unplugged state, a journey of self-discovery, of renewal. But it feels more like a daily grind of getting lost, the realization that the self I’m searching for might just be a ghost, a collection of data points that formed a personality I leased but never owned.

Sometimes, I stop walking. I stand in a square, in the midst of the crowd, and let the waves of conversations and the footsteps washing over me, a foreign symphony to my muted reality. A sea of faces, expressions shifting in rapid succession—none of them directed at me. I’m here but not welcome; existing, but not living.

Where do I go from here? Is there a roadmap for the analog castaway in a digital sea? Each day is a fresh twist in this labyrinth without exits, each night a long, cold stare into the static of what used to be a coherent life.

In the quiet hours before dawn, I sit at the window, and the ghostly hum of the sleeping city becomes a lullaby of sorts. It’s the closest thing to peace I’ve found—this embrace of uncertainty, this waltz with obscurity. It’s not much, but it’s something. A small, defiant flame in the twilight of my disconnected existence.