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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “fake it ’til you make it,” mostly because of some life hurdles/new job/trying to find a place in the world. Back at my old summer job in college, an older man named Mickey would often tell me “fake it ’til you make it.” The man had seen it all. He was coached by Vince Lombardi, a close personal friend and mentor to Bill Parcells, served in the Navy with John Wooden and was independently wealthy. He was a treasure trove of information and a wonderful friend that I respected and enjoyed every moment with. Sure I’d heard the same thing from others, but for some reason when Mick said it, it meant something different.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” is probably the most known, overused mantra in the postgrad lexicon and everyone seems to parrot it. Whether you’re starting a new job, looking for friends or trying to navigate the precarious waters of a new boyfriend or girlfriend, the most commonplace piece of advice is to “fake it til you make it.”
Think about how many times people ask you, “How are you?” If you were having a shit day, you’d say the same thing: “Doing well; yourself?” and continue walking. No one has time to hear about unpleasant things, and we often avoid having any talk beyond topical bullshit. Only the most privileged people among our friends and family get that, and even then, these people may get a guarded or altered version of whatever the issue is. Just give your fake answer and continue on with pretending to enjoy your time at the office until you get to go home and convince yourself you want to do chores.
Ever get a shitty present from someone, pretend to like someone’s terrible cooking or get set up on a date by a friend with someone that is “perfect” only to find out he or she sucks? Then you put on a smile, make small talk and feign interest? In a world of keeping and maintaining appearances, being pleasant (even if whatever it is sucks) is of more benefit than to express yourself. Everyone remembers Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” (or that he wrote “A Boy Named Sue”), but this kind of stuff always reminded me of his line, “Underneath my outside face, There’s a face that none can see. A little less smiley, A little less sure, But a whole lot more like me.”
Throughout the ruminations and thoughts, I’ve come to realize that everyone is faking it. As kids, we always think that adults have their lives together. As I’ve gotten older and my friends become parents, I’ve realized they are winging it just as much as the rest of us. There’s not really a class, tutorial or self-help book on getting your shit together. As sappy as it sounds, just getting through every day as best I can is my goal. Some days I accomplish this goal, other days I don’t. That’s really all anyone can ask. You are where you are, so the best advice is to keep on going.
In the postgrad world, as we all try to figure out who we are and how much of our life we will need to fake, I’ve realized we’re all just trying to make it by any means. Whether you made it or not is up to you. Once you fake it enough, maybe you won’t have to fake it anymore. Maybe you’ve transformed, or maybe that’s who you were the entire time. Sometimes just being there and being yourself is the answer. As Mick would always say, “90% of life is showing up. Give me a paycheck and I’ll be there.”.