I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers. Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, Froggie chose the topic, and she said: “Those who get it will understand.” Here’s my take:
I hate to say it, but I have to: I? Don’t get it.
I truly have no idea what Froggie’s topic means, or is supposed to mean, or what it’s supposed to trigger in my head. Actually, my first thought was, “Isn’t that from a beer commercial?” I even Googled it. I got nothing.
What’s funny is how, when Froggie sent the topic to us, my co-bloggers Moma Rock and Merryland Girl were all, “Great topic!” and “Thought provoking!” And I was all, “The hell?!”
This isn’t the first time I haven’t understood something, of course (and it by no means will be the last). But for a long time, I struggled to admit when I didn’t get it. During a murky conversation or amidst an inside joke for which I hovered around the outside, I’d simply play along, nodding my head, smiling, laughing, whatever seemed appropriate but all the while thinking, “I’ve no idea what the hell anyone is talking about,” and silently praying they’d change the subject.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, of course. No one likes to feel like an outsider, like they don’t understand. And fewer people like to admit it. So I suppose it’s a sign of growth that I can say, “I have no clue whatsoever what that means,” and not really feel bad about it. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it takes self-confidence to admit cluelessness, to call attention to one’s self to point out that this thing everyone else gets, you . . . don’t.
Instead, I’ve spent a good many years cultivated a sort of a “fake it to you make it” mentality. I must say, I’ve gotten quite good. I can bluff with the best of them (or so I’d like to think).
The discomfort of not knowing something was exacerbated when I practiced law. Someone would throw out a case name – a sort of oft-used lawyerly shorthand – and I’d tense, thinking, “Crap, which one was that?” (I’m terrible with names). I’d silently remind myself of the advice of my Torts instructor, Professor Saul Levmore, who told us in our first year of law school to speak as if we knew what we were talking about even when we had no clue what we were talking about. He embraced a “never let them see you sweat” approach, one that apparently had served him well. Later, I’d see his advice in action. Between my 2nd and 3rd years of law school (known as one’s 2L and 3L years), I “summered” at a large Chicago law firm in a sort of fancy intern program. One of the litigation partners invited a pack of us to watch him do an oral argument in front of the Illinois Appellate Court, and I tagged along. A former U.S. Attorney, this partner was good. He owned that room. He was unflappable, even when one of the judges asked him if he’d heard of a certain case and he admitted he had not. He didn’t even skip a beat when the judge responded and said, “Well, counselor, you cite it in your brief.” The partner paused, and then he burst out laughing – what else could he do? And then he continued his argument with the same force and strength and confidence he’d displayed before his gaffe. The partner wouldn’t let his brief lapse in memory minimize his thunder. That memory stayed with me, partly because of the humor, but mostly because I envied his refusal to be rattled. I longed for that poise and confidence – particularly a few years later when I stood in that same spot to argue a different case in front of that same court. Inside, I was trembling, but I did my best to own that room, much like the partner I remembered. (I know I came nowhere close, but my non-attorney husband said I sounded really good, and I didn’t faint, so I’ll take it.)
Even years into practicing, I couldn’t shake that feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing, but that I had to act as if I did. Regardless of what I felt inside, I had to project confidence and self-assuredness on the outside. Over time, I met others who confided how they felt the same, even practiced attorneys who had many more years under their belts. I realized why they called it the “practice” of law. I realized you had to fake it until you could make it. Eventually, competence – and confidence – would grow. But I knew it was a long road, so I mastered painting on the face of fake poise and carrying on.
I’m realizing that same “practice” applies in every day life, and often we are placed in positions where we just have to wing it, to act as if we know what we are doing even though we really don’t. But I’m also realizing it’s sometimes ok to say, simply, “You know what? I don’t know,” and to go from there.
And so as to Froggie’s topic, I guess I’m not one of those who understand, because I don’t get it. I have no idea what Froggie is talking about. I didn’t share Moma Rock and Merryland Girl’s enthusiasm for the subject, because it felt as if Froggie asked me to write in Latin. And I couldn’t even find a way to get Google to help me. But it’s ok. I faked it.
And here we are . . . [Insert awkward silence here.]