I remember hearing that somewhat off-putting phrase when I was a kid, on summer evenings while riding bikes with the neighbor kids. “Mom says it’s time to come in for dinner!” “As if!” As in, You telling me will not make me go in. As in, No way, I’m having too much fun. And, I’m not going to be the first to go in. Then later, overhearing a clique in junior high/middle school: “Jason wants to go with you to the Sadie Hawkins Dance!” “As if!” As in, I can’t be bothered with him. As in, But secretly I have a crush on him and will probably ask him. And, I feel popular because everyone heard you say that to me.
But lately for me that phrase has come to mean something less cavalier, especially with the word “act” in front of it. Act as if. It’s the “fake it till you make it” approach, usually in reference to achieving goals. In other words, if you want to become successful, act as if you already are and do the things you would do if you had already achieved your goal. Pretend that you feel confident even when you don’t, and eventually you will have confidence. Post regularly even when you have just a few readers, and your readership will grow. Shave and wear makeup even when you don’t have anyone to impress, and soon you just might.
And as we come to the end of a rather important school year, Nigel’s penultimate high school year, I find myself feverishly acting as if. As in, I want to believe he will achieve his goals of going to film school and working for Disney, but I have to act as if he won’t. As in, it will probably take a little longer than we’d like for him to come close to achieving his goals, and I have to temporarily act as if he won’t by applying for services for him. Because there are waiting lists for programs. And lengthy evaluation processes. And lately my weeks have been full of various appointments, meetings, and phone calls, setting up case interviews with different agencies for any adult services he’s eligible for. I’m reading A Full Life with Autism by Chantal Sicile-Kira and Jeremy Sicile-Kira, and I cannot emphasize enough how timely this information is for us, and how valuable. I know I’m doing the right thing in being proactive, yet I somehow feel guilty that I’m not acting as if he’ll succeed.
But here’s the thing: in acting as if he might not achieve his goals, I am actually putting the supports in place so that he has a better chance of achieving them. So that when he does, he’ll have a better chance of sustaining the life he envisions for himself, fulfilling and affirming. And then I think, As if. As if he won’t figure out a way to manifest his goals. He’s done this, and this, and this!, and even this. He’s had that Disney letter in a frame above his desk for two years now. He’s writing scripts and acting as if. And someday he’ll be right where he wants to be.