Not only did I pass my classes, I pulled off an entirely respectable performance; 3 A's, an A+, and a B. That was carrying 13 graduate credits (4 classes and an independent study) at a place where a full load is 3 classes (9 credits).
What. The. Hell.
Yes, I'm sure some of this is impostor syndrome speaking, but... but... I feel like I did that with luck, not skill or planning. Luck, and panic and last-minute scrambling and trying not to cry so I could see the papers I was writing at 3 in the morning. My apartment looks like a bomb filled with academic papers exploded in it, which is pretty close to the truth; the materials cited for all 4 of my term papers are sprawled everywhere -- desks, tables, kitchen counter, floor, stacked on stools, across the sofa... I'm eating breakfast atop a drift of papers that's 2 inches thick in some places.
I can perform at this level (so far), but I'm not turning out anywhere near the quality of work I could. I see it when I look at my writing; there are logical flaws I can fix now, holes in my research I know how to patch, places where my arguments are weak, though these are often obscured behind a plaster of fluent writing (the ability to bullshit is both a blessing and a curse). Therefore: ADHD coping strategies! And medication, now; I started with Strattera yesterday and am trying to get used to my brain having a different sort of inertia than I'm used to, though it's also early and the effects haven't kicked in fully yet.
One of the things that's shifted this year is the way I see myself. I'm an engineer. I grew into becoming one, and now I am one, and ought to be confident in that; I don't know everything, but can always learn what I need to know. And I'll always be an engineer; I have that now. But right now, I am not doing engineering as a career. (Well, not much; there's often a little something on the side, but it's not my full-time focus like it used to be.)
Instead, I'm a researcher and a writer. It's kind of odd to realize that. I'm actually a writer; this is now what I do professionally -- if you think about what academics get evaluated on, it's mostly stuff that's formatted in text. I'm a writer that has domain-specific knowledge (in engineering and engineering education) that I need to have and hone and keep updated in order to write well -- but at the end of the day, I am a writer now, and that's pretty cool. (Katrina -- it took me a decade to get here, but I'm here!)
So I need to stop worrying about things like "but... but I don't understand signal processing yet!" and actually focus on training in this craft, the craft of writing, the craft of being a scholar. This doesn't mean I'm going to lose touch with making and doing (that would be... hard) but it does mean I will also be thinking of them as a means to better writing as well as a satisfying end in and of themselves.
And then maybe, this summer and this fall and into the next year, I can start producing writing that I'm proud of.