Acting as if...

Acting as if...
Photo by ecemwashere on Unsplash

Why am I surprised?

I mean, I'd done it before—plenty of times.

'Willed' something into my life.

Been doing it since I was a kid, actually. Even had a name for it.

"Acting as if."

Like when I became a famous photographer.

boy walking with golf club with mom carrying his bag, walking behind
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (Tony Spina Collection)

I'm 11 years old, and Tony Spina is my idol.

Spina photographs presidents, popes, everyday people, and newsworthy events all over the world for the Detroit Free Press...

And I want his job.

Don't know the first thing about photography. Don't even have a camera.

But dad does.

A brand new Canon FTb 35 mm. Same kind the Pros use.

Dad will never let me borrow it.

So I don't ask.

I swipe it and start acting as if it's mine.

Doesn't take long to figure it out.

Loaded up with film, acting as if I'm a professional photographer, that camera hangs around my neck everywhere I go.

Sunday morning, crossing a busy intersection, a car-load of church-going grandmas turn left in front of an oncoming truck.

Squeal, swerve, skid, the truck topples to its side—screeches across the concrete, shooting sparks into the air until the twisted wreckage plows into a telephone pole, churning up the soil and cutting power to the neighborhood.  

And there I am.

Acting as if I'm the only photographer on site–because I am.

Acting as if I belong there.

Acting as if I'm on assignment.

Getting up close and personal, covering every angle of the story, the drama, the carnage, "Oh, the humanity, ladies and gentlemen!"

And you know what?

My photos... splashed across the front page of the local newspaper.

"Full feature story inside: A5"

I did it. Just like that.

Just acting as if.

It works

...every time.

Every sport I ever played, every job I've ever had...

All acting.

CAT bulldozer sitting still
Photo by Jason Jarrach on Unsplash

"Run a dozer?"

"Yes, sir. Pretty good at it, too."

I'm 17 years old. Never started a bulldozer in my life. I'm lucky it has a key.

I spend a brutal Michigan winter exposed to the elements on a 25-ton hunk of iron, bouncing, rattling and click-clack-clacketing across the frozen, muddy grade.

By the end of that long, bitter winter, I'm an Operating Engineer and well on my way to a rewarding career in construction.

Eventually, I'll act as if I'm a foreman and get the promotion, act as if I'm a project manager, take the reigns, act as if I'm a marketer, and switch careers altogether.

All acting as if.

Got my first teaching job the same way.

Students in a class at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland.
Photo by Dom Fou / Unsplash

I'm not a teacher. Don't even have a degree.

But I'm a 40-year-old student acting as if I'm already a college professor.

I dress the part, engage with my professors, sit on the student council, and volunteer for steering committees, and eventually, they ask me...

"Can you take my class next Tuesday? I wouldn't be a lesson," they say.

"Just run the review."

So, of course, I do.

Until one day...a real teaching job.

"If you're serious about teaching, Sister Patricia has an opportunity for you."

"It's unpaid, of course. But it's a teaching assignment, and it'll look great on your resume."

Absolutely. I'll do it. I'm in.

The History of Philosophy 101 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And Catechism of the Catholic Church every Sunday.

In prison.

That's right.

I volunteered to go to prison long before my sentencing.

It was risky, rewarding, and fascinating, and I loved it.

And now I'm one of the 5,742 inmates at the Jackson State Penitentiary...

...and I'm surprised?

See, the scary thing isn't that it works.

Truth be told, it always works.

Every time.

The scary thing is how often I forget that it works.

And how often I forget how easy and reliable it is for shaping your life.

What you think about comes about.

And the more detailed your thoughts, and the more often you think them, the closer you get.

It's inevitable. It always works.

So now, sitting alone in this prison cell, with the angry, deviant screaming that never stops, in the biggest, toughest, hardest, most dangerous place in the world.

I wonder...

"Am I tough enough? Can I do it? Can I survive Jackson?"

Because now... I have to.