If you grew up in my generation you were always told that no matter what, as long as you put your mind to something and wanted it bad enough, you could do it. No career was out of your reach. Your parents, teachers, friends and school counselors all donned the same wide-eyed, fake smile and said, “Wow! I think you would make a GREAT fireman/fireworks expert. You are SO creative.” Usually they said this a little too loudly and nodded emphatically until you finally looked away.
It was this culture that lead me to truly believe I would be a world famous ballerina. I mean, I really had the leg muscles for it and it was my passion! But, like most things, it was so much harder than I thought and I fought obstacles on the way to my dream.
Ballet dancing, like quite a few careers, is cut-throat and while experience and training counts, it’s your age that really matters. Much like in modeling and acting, an aging ballerina lives in constant fear of being replaced by the 20-year-old prodigy. Of course, it was age that held me back right away, but not for the same reasons. I was four-years-old.
Of course, there was the whole business of me having absolutely NO FUCKING TALENT when it came to dance, or really, any physical use of my body. I just had no natural grace It happens that both of my parents have a condition called “klutziness”. Now, my mom will admit to being a total klutz and having no grace. My father, however, might not be so ready to admit that he is a klutz. He may not be as much of a hazard as my mom, but he’s no fucking Baryshnikov either.
So, since the 80s culture of telling kids they are perfect failed me once, I decided to consider something I was a little more familiar with as my next career ambition. By the time I was about six-years-old I was pretty sure I could teach any kid anything ever. I mean, I knew teachers, I was in school and got good grades…so, yeah, I had this…I would be a teacher. I spent the next several years teaching all of my stuffed animals and knowing that if I just tried a bit harder, I would be able to teach my preschool cousins multiplication tables.
Yeah, so this time, it was teachers themselves who ruined my dream. No, no…they weren’t telling me to give up, they still gave the fake “believe in yourself and all of your dreams will come true” bullshit speech. No one was mean, it was much worse…they started expecting things from their students. Yeah, those bastards stopped saying we were right all of the time and started pointing out when we were NOT right…maybe even saying “incorrect” or “wrong” to us. What. The. Fuck.
I don’t know what grade it all began, but there must be a teacher class in college for those who want to teach slightly higher grades. This class is probably “They’re Not Special 101”. In it, teachers learn ALL of the tricks.
You are assigned a four-page paper but can only eek out three and a half pages…here is what we all know how to do: futz with the margins, change the text to comic sans font, make the title BIGGER, use “lawyer wording” in some areas to stick in totally unnecessary words. Yep, teachers learned ALL of those tricks. They could see that your margins were 1/100 of an inch too narrow and nail your ass to the wall for it. They demanded Times New Roman be the only font you used and would not accept anything over 12 point for size. And that 36 point font title? NO WAY.
Here’s the other thing that teachers do, they make starting a paper even harder by taking away the two standard openers that all students depend upon. Using the dictionary definition and starting the first paragraph with a question. No more of that shit…those fuckers are on to us. So, once I could no longer start a paper with “Webster’s Dictionary defines…” I was out of the whole teaching game. Too fucking hard.
So, by this time, I was probably in middle school and thought that dolphins were like the bees knees despite their lack of knees. I was pretty sure that I was going to be a marine biologist and play with dolphins all fucking day like they were shiney wet puppies. I was also sure that I was going to do all of this in Alaska. Do you see where this is going? Another dream dashed.
In reality, I followed a pretty normal girl-child of the 80s/90s career dream arch. Most of us ran the gamut of “usual” career aspirations which included the three aforementioned careers and a few others like veterinarians and cosmetologists. Some girls make it though.
Some girls put their body through absolute hell with diets and training and face almost constant rejection to become ballerinas.
Some girls go to college for years and end up with student loans that exceed the amount that any teacher will make in their whole life. They also learn that in addition to being paid less than the janitor, they will be denied resources and be expected to be more of a parent to kids and teach them everything they need to know about life, not just academics.
And of course, some girls grow up to become marine biologists because they were smart enough to know that dolphins don’t live in Alaska.
So, where am I now compared to where I thought I was going to be at age four, eight or twelve? Right where I knew I would be. No matter what I played at for a career, I still played house and took care of babies. Deep down I knew that being a mother was in the cards for me. Being a stay-at-home parent and housewife might not be the ultimate dream for many, and that is okay. But it’s a choice I feel empowered by. I will usher a few members of this new generation into the world to follow their dreams and have cookies and milk waiting for them after their hard working teachers send them home.
Pretty sure my kids won’t be in ballet though. Those fuckers fall down all of the damn time.