I had never really believed in the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” The scaredy-cat law-abider in me had always thought, “what if you get caught? It’s so much safer to only do what you’re sure of.” But little did I know, much of perceived adulthood consists of making things up as you go.
As a child, I remember my parents laying down rules like, “Don’t eat sweets before dinner,” or “Don’t sleep with your hair wet,” and I followed them, and believed in them like they were universal laws carved in stone. And as a child, I never questioned these things because I just figured, they’re adults, therefore they know best. These mantras, idioms, philosophies, rules must have come from a vast archive of knowledge and experience. But really, they probably came from “something my mom read somewhere once,” or “she had a headache after sleeping with her hair wet once.” I’m sure there’s some truth in them, but some truths, as I’ll grow to learn, are relative.
I should have seen the signs during a hilarious episode involving my ludicrous mother and a scared-shitless Four Seasons staffer. My boyfriend had come to visit me in Hong Kong all the way from America for the first time and we wanted to take him to dimsum. Specifically, we wanted to take him to the best dimsum in town which happens to be from the Chinese restaurant at the Four Seasons. As you’d expect, however, one does not simply have dimsum there unless one makes a reservation months in advance. One morning, we woke up, and my mom came prancing into my room with her chest puffed out. She said, “I got us a table at the Four Seasons for dimsum.” I gawked at her and asked how, to which she responded, “I called, pretending to push an existing reservation back an hour, and when they said they couldn’t find the reservation, I flipped out on them. So they 'made it up to me.'”
My mother’s antics aside, the main takeaway from this story is that if you believe what you’re saying and doing, or at the very least, come across like you do, then very few people will question you. It’s a dangerous game, and in my scaredy cat world, a gateway drug to a life of identity theft, but there is some value in it. I mean, look at the very foundation of college, where a bunch of teenagers are plucked from their homes to live in a four-year bubble. You could have been a pimply nerd called James in high school, but if you want, you can reinvent yourself as a cool, coding genius named Jim in college. No one will question you, and soon, neither will you.
It’s an incredibly valuable skill when it comes to fostering a sense of authority whether you’re an assistant or the president. In a prime example in the cheesy college show Greek, Casey, the president of her sorority, made a mistake by exempting her best friend from a rule she laid down for the rest of the house, creating much animosity from the rest of the sisters. At first she attempted to remedy the situation by apologizing, but the sisters only took advantage of her softened position. So finally, she let them vent and then shut them down for good, essentially exclaiming (and I paraphrase), “Yes I fucked up, and I accept the consequences, but I am still president so you still need to respect me.” At some point, you just need to stop apologizing and start standing by your decisions, both good and bad, because the truth is, if you don’t back yourself up, then how can you expect others to do the same?
When I first began realizing this, it felt like a rug was yanked out from under me. All of the adults and authoritative figures that once loomed large now seemed small and suspect. But as I stumbled over the rug and thought I would fall on the concrete, I found myself on….lets say, dirt, because the good news is, there really aren’t as many ways to fail as I thought.