Pretending: How I Cope in Costa Rica

When I was little I remember pretending to have pets all over the place. I had bunnies in the bathroom and horses in the house.

I thought I wanted a bunny and a horse more than anyone in the world. I would read books about them and pretend they were real. I daydreamed at home and in school thinking about how different life would be with them.

It was then I started to get really good at pretending.

Malcolm Gladwell said if you have 10,000 hours of practice doing something you can become a world-class expert in it. If so, I’m a world class expert at pretending.

I’ve never in my life been outside of the country, but I pretend I know where to go.

I’ve never booked my own hotel, but I pretend I know how.

I’ve never spoken a lick of Spanish, but my cousin Madi said the other day, “If you told me you were fluent in Spanish, I would believe you.”

I’ve never ridden an Uber before, but I pretend I know exactly what to do.

I’ve never bartered before, much less in Spanish, but I pretend I know the exact way to do it.

I’ve never been in the kinds of situations I’m in now, but I pretend I know exactly how to handle them.

And guess what? When I pretend I know what I’m doing and where I’m going people believe in me.

And when people believe in me I find the confidence to make things happen.

Then all of the sudden I know where to go because I’m paying attention and using a map.

I know how to book a hotel because I spend hours on Google reading reviews and figuring it out.

I know how to speak the language because I spend hours practicing and feel brave enough to try it out on the locals.

I know how to book an Uber because I stayed calm and used my head.

I know how to barter (and I’m damn good at it) because I’m unwilling to let myself or my friends get ripped off.

I know how to handle these crazy situations because, after enough pretending, I’m no longer pretending.

But sometimes I get shaken up.

This weekend at the beach in Manuel Antonio I was in my most hated piece of clothing—a swimsuit.

I struggle to find a swimsuit that fits my body in a flattering way. Either the bottoms are too big or the top is too small. Nine times out of ten I’m uncomfortable.

But not just because of the swimsuit.

Look. I know I’m not physically beautiful. I don’t have a nice butt and I sure as heck don’t have a flat tummy. My skin burns instead of tans and don’t even get me started on my hair.

I spent hours worrying I would look like a fatty compared to all the other girls in my group (who without fall are totally gorgeous).

Finally, I realized how miserable I was when I worried about my looks. So I pretended I’m as beautiful as every other girl on that beach.

And I believed it.

When confronted with a new situation here’s my advice: Pretend.

Pretend you know what you’re doing and then work like hell to figure it out. Make mistakes. Go the wrong way and get your group momentarily lost, then never make that mistake again. Watch the people who actually know what they’re doing. Read the road signs. Talk yourself out of your doubts.

If you’re a nervous person, pretend you’re always calm. If you’re a shy person, pretend you’re confident.

Pretend you have all the best qualities a person can have.

Pretending is the only way I’ve been able to cope with everything happening here in Costa Rica, but the more I pretend, the more I realize that awesome confident person I’m pretending to be is actually me.