Prompt: What did you think was the coolest job in the world when you were younger? Do you still feel that way now?
When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be a ballerina construction worker. That is not an either/or statement. No, I wanted to be both a ballerina and a construction worker, performing the two tasks simultaneously. I envisioned myself on a steel girder high above an unknown city in my pale pink tights, leotard, and tutu, on pointe in my heavy steel-toed boots. As one adult after another tried to poke holes into my dream, I would eventually add a yellow hard hat to the ensemble. Safety first.
I couldn’t tell you why I hit on this specific career path as I’d had no prior experience in either dance or construction. At eight years old, I was an unimpressive specimen, a tiny girl with straw blonde hair who had just started wearing wide, oval, and teal glasses. I had been shy up until that point, struggling to make friends or assert myself, and didn’t do anything other than read voraciously and occasionally fail at playing soccer. My parents weren’t the kind of aggressive parents associated with “Tiger Moms” or “Dance Moms” or “Soccer Parents,” and were instead content to let their children grow up bored, empty, and occasionally terrified of them. Other than the image of a tutu and steel girders, I probably didn’t even know what either ballerinas or construction workers did. It was just a random choice.
That’s probably why I chose such a unique career: I wanted to be noticed. I was the middle child, and I had recently started being friends with a group of girls who had known each other since kindergarten. They would befriend me while also boxing me out with inside stories and jokes, making me feel superfluous most of the time. But I didn’t want to lose them. I didn’t want to be the kid without any friends anymore. I didn’t want to be the kid that nobody knew existed. I didn’t want to be so listless and sad. I wanted to be something, anything, and ballerina construction worker was weird enough to get me the split second of attention I craved.
I never pursued either path. My greatest claim to dancing fame is dressing up as a Mario zombie and shuffling down the street doing Michael Jackson’s Thriller with a few hundred other zombies. As for construction, I’ve become pretty handy and was even allowed to help at a few housing projects a nonprofit I worked for did. It’s something I hope I have time to do more of (the dancing not so much – shuffling is fine by me). Neither ending up meshing well with my lack of athleticism, stage fright, and intellectualism.
But I’m not the forgettable kid anymore. My hair grew out, puffing up in volume by about three sizes, and I’ve recently shaved part of it, earning me the temporary moniker “Shaved Head” when meeting new people. I’ve been in both Peace Corps and AmeriCorps and now have a fairly extensive cadre of stories to mine when making small talk. I’m known through work as being the “Crafting Goddess,” and just last night a friend’s Facebook status was “[My Name] is my current level of rage.” So I’m known for a few things now (Most of them good/pride-worthy.).
And I think that’s all I wanted when I spent a few months going around telling everyone I was going to be a ballerina construction worker. It was nice to be known for something, even if it was just being the weird kid. Fortunately, walking around demanding attention and telling stories was good preparation for my next career goal: writer. That one stuck a bit better.