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Life at Work

When I was about four, I made my mom buy me a Superman costume for Halloween. It was the beginning of a series of let-downs.

My mom tells me she was often frustrated at my insistence on dime-store costumes - the year before, when my peers were in cute homemade ballet and scary vampire gear, I was in a vinyl plastic Bugs Bunny costume, happy as, well, a rabbit.

But Superman was, as far as my preschool teachers were concerned, pushing the envelope. Nevermind there were several other Supermans at school. This was a gender issue, and they were sticking with it.

I insisted all day that I was Superman. "Supergirl," they corrected. And at the Halloween parade, I was announced as "Supergirl," which pushed me into a blind rage.

Why? Why, for one day, couldn't I be Superman? Whoever heard of Supergirl? What the hell had she ever done?

It was the worst Halloween ever - aside from the one many years later when I sprayed my hair pink to be a punk rocker with stuff that was supposed to wash out of my hair, and instead had to endure six months of taunts from my schoolmates as "the girl with pink hair." And, actually, I kinda liked the pink hair.

We are raised in a culture that lies to us from day one. We're told again and again that we can be "anything we want to be (especially if we apply ourselves)." That's obviously a big fat lie.

I know mining is really dangerous, as evidenced by the tragedy at the Sago Mine, but I've always been kind of attracted to it. Something about the dark, and the comraderie, and so forth. So, d'ya think I could be a miner? Nope. I've got bad lungs already.

I was once really really desperate to learn goat husbandry in the Arizona desert. Didn't happen. Thanks, mom and dad. In retrospect I kind of get it, I guess. "Well, our oldest is working on her master's, and our son is an attorney, and our youngest breeds goats." Not the kind of cocktail conversation they wanted to have.

I entertained notions of entering both conventional and veterinary medicine until I started taking the science classes needed just to take the tests and realized that dropping high school chem had been a mistake.

The one thing I was always pretty good at was writing and, well, here I am. Not a field rife with opportunity.

Everyone I know, at some point, was denied the opportunity to do or be something they really wanted to do or be, whether whaling or documentary film-making. This isn't a world where you can really be whatever you want to be - even if you apply yourself.

I don't have kids, but if I ever do, I won't give a rat's ass if they want to be Superman for a day, or a month, or a year. Everybody's got to have a dream.

J. Bird is the Beachwood's pseudononymous workplace affairs reporter who no longer has a workplace to report from. Now Bird sends dispatches from the front lines of unemployed ennui. Catch up with the Life at Work series here.



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Posted on September 29, 2006


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Charter Schools Complicit With Segregation.
SPORTS - USA Gymnastics Bans Illinois Coach.

BOOKS - The Randomness Of Harvard Admissions.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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