I feel guilty for being such a fraud. Here I was receiving an award for “Best Outstanding Exemplary Employee,” or something like that, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I’ve always been a half breath away from being fired yet usually found myself falling upward. And I’ve been fired a lot.
Well, technically not fired – the official phrase is “Laid Off.” That’s a corporate term for “fired” that integrates the also-corporate-term “at will,” which means you can be let go without any particular reason while negating your rights against wrongful termination. The corpocracy is flexible that way.
In any case I had the privilege of being laid off the day after completing a 2-year, 2-million-dollar project that netted my company a wad of cash. My departure coincided with at least two more personal and financial upheavals (it was a bad week), but somehow I fell into a better job, albeit after a 3-month hiatus. The precariousness of that job became obvious when literally half the firm departed (some used the term “escaped”) within a 1-year period, including the rest of my small team. A month later, after negotiating a titular promotion, I myself escaped into an even better job. When that firm went through financial difficulties I jumped to a still better job. Okay, that job paid better, but didn’t turn out to be “better” in terms of a good fit so I took a running leap to an even greater job, with fringe benefits I enjoyed immensely.
So somehow, over the course of a few decades, I had promoted myself up a steep ladder to ever-growing income, responsibility, and achievement. And I did so while “working above my pay grade” rather than any particular adeptness or excellence. Here and there were citations of my contributions, awards for achievement, and bonuses for my helping to fill the bank accounts of employers, all while considering myself to be the biggest fake in history.
Was I good at what I did? Certainly not as good as many of my colleagues. Was I more skillful? Not so much. More profitable? Meh. More intelligent? Handsome? Managerial? Negative, nope, not at all.
No wonder I felt like I was faking my way through life.
Perhaps I was just adaptable, or took advantage of opportunities, or just kept moving forward despite the odds. Maybe I was just naturally good at faking it. Maybe it is reality that is the fraud.
I’m still living my fake life, the life that seems not quite right even when it seems perfect. Perhaps that is what reality is in the end…a long, winding, not-quite-right path from beginning to end. Maybe faking it is life.
I can live with that.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.