5: Fake It Till You Make It

5: Fake It Till You Make It

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Fake It Till You Make It

Always act like you’re wearing an invisible crown.

~Author Unknown

I watched my mom stride with purpose into a large group of men standing around a pile of concrete mixture that was going to be used to build a new water tower for the orphanage my mother helped run in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. Her shoulders were back and she used every inch of her five feet ten inches as she talked. I was tired; we had already made stops at the leprosy settlement and the blind centre. But tired or not, my siblings and I piled out to play with the children in the orphanage. We loved them and they loved us. It was 1967 and the Biafran War was raging, so the orphanage was filling up and definitely needed a new water tower. I recognized the determination on my mother’s face; she was about to give someone a lecture, so I paused to watch.

“There is too much sand in this mixture,” she said with absolute authority and confidence as she picked up a handful of the concrete and let it slide through her fingers. I stopped and stared. What did my mother know about concrete or construction? Medicine, mothering, managing—definitely. But concrete? The men all nodded and promised to add the correct ingredients, and my mother strode away.

As we walked down the hall of the orphanage, the children jumped into our arms for kisses and hugs. “You are a force of nature,” I said to my mother, but she was too busy instructing the women who ran the orphanage to respond.

I was nearly a teenager, and it had made me a slight bit sassy. After her work was done and we sat in the car going home, I said, “Mother, I didn’t know that you knew anything about concrete.”

“I don’t!” she said. “I just know that putting too much sand in the mixture is how they cheat you.” I laughed and laughed. My mother was indeed a force of nature. She grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in a house with no heat and no plumbing, and she was the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She had dreams and hopes way beyond her family’s means. But she said she would go into medicine, marry a doctor and go to Africa; and there she was striding fearlessly into a group of men, supervising the building of something she knew nothing about.

When I was frightened my first day in class at Duke University, I channeled my mother. When I was uncertain about how to be a mother after my children were born, my mother was there to show me the way. When my children had a high fever, I called my mother. But most of all, when the uncertainties of life hit and I did not know exactly how to proceed, I thought of the saying, “Fake it till you make it.” And I realized… that was the lesson my mother taught me that day in Nigeria in 1967.

She was faking it! She had no idea how concrete should feel, but she faked it and made a much-needed new water tower for an orphanage. Thank you, Mom, for showing me that life is a series of twist and turns where we often have no idea how to proceed. When those times come we need to raise our shoulders, stand tall and stride in with confidence. Thank you for your courage and determination, but most of all your grit.

~Alisa Edwards Smith

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners