Yesterday, I read a story at Write Club at SPACE in Evanston. I was competing for FLY vs SAIL. While I didn’t turn out a winner, I think this essay is one.
At Pitchfork music festival, I am jammed into Union Park next to 10,002 hipsters. I’m lost in this sea of ironic haircuts and tattoos and every single one of my friends has vanished. Thank you to ATT and their shitty service, and all of those 10,002 hipsters attempting to use their iPhones at the same time, modern communication has subsided. I’m drunk, and not in the good kind of way, but in a “I’ve been sweating and dancing to MIA” kind of way. And then the rain starts coming down.
But then suddenly there are loads of white doves flying and slowly floating above Union Park. The audience ooos and ahhs and gazes upward. The crowd starts screaming, waving their hands above their heads. No, this is no religious or cult experience, and maybe they’re just balloons shaped like white doves, but all is now right in the world. Because chanteur Mr. R. Kelly has just launched into the all time best tune in the world, “I Believe I Can Fly.”
And we do. I give up on trying to find my friends, use my phone, or stay dry and just take it all in. Maybe some because of assistance from special substances or maybe it’s just pure nostalgia that comes with seeing a controversial Chicago icon perform a jam from our childhood, but at that moment, all of the 10,002 hipsters believe we can fly.
Many of us have dreams of flying. According to the highly prestigious and erudite researchers at dreamflyer.net, 80 percent of the population dreams of flying. These dreams correlate with creativity and imaginative personality. Poets, musicians, writers, painters and the like tend to have a higher percentage of flying dreams than their average, non creative counterparts. Christopher Nolan, creator of this little film titled Inception, author Stephen King, Albert Einstein, and Chicagoans the Wachowski brothers, creators of The Matrix, are all known to have lucid dreams of flying.
See, I have pure confidence I can sail. Sure, I don’t have much experience, but if you gave me a lesson or two on a sailboat, filled me in on what the words ‘astern’ and ‘bollard’ meant, handed me one of those ridiculous sailor hats, I would practically be a sailor. I don’t have to tell myself to believe in sailing. The most difficult part of sailing is finding a friend who can afford to dock said sailboat in Belmont Harbor. This would be a true miracle.
You know who believed they could fly? The Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, and my personal favorites, Maverick and Iceman. Can you name me a famous sailor? I can, and his name is Popeye.
In 8th grade, we were forced to pen our own autobiographies, because teenagers in Catlin, Illinois, a town of 2,000 people in the middle of the state, had so much to say about our lives thus far. “My favorite hobbies include walking to the IGA and gazing at corn.”
Our 13 year old selves were coerced to write about the future careers which we dreamed and planned. And this, by the way, is totally why millennials are unhappy and unsatisfied. Like anyone at 13 or even 31 knows what they want to do with the rest of their lives. And while we were told we could do and be anything we wanted to be, a quarter of my contemporaries in the county would not go on to finish high school, as Vermilion County holds the title for highest drop out rates following Cook. Many of my dreaming 8th grade classmates would be pregnant by the time they were 18, as you guessed it, the county holds high teen pregnancy rates too. But nonetheless, here we were, determining what we thought would be our future life careers.
My choosings were as follows: author—which I’d like to say I am; lawyer—my dad and grandfather were lawyers, so it was kind of the family business; and finally, an airplane pilot.
Never in my life do I recall wanting to be an airplane pilot except for that moment in my thirteen year old head. When I made that list, I believed that I could fly. Pilots were cool. I wanted to be like Amelia Earhart. Pilots can travel faster than the speed of sound. A pilot transports the leader of the free world in a little thing called Air Force One, you may have heard of it. And supposedly, you can totally take a nap and have a drink on the job!
Airplane pilot wasn’t the only dream I had in the ‘90s that involved flying. Mostly, I wanted to follow in the likes of homegirls Rosie Perez and Jennifer Lopez and become a Fly Girl. For those of you not familiar or who were born in the ‘90s, the Fly Girls were the resident dance troupe on the hit 90’s Wayans Brothers’ sketch show, In Living Color. They’d wear these cool outfits that involved midriffs, velvet, neon leotards, and feathers. And those moves they had! I was in awe. The Fly Girls were the definition of ‘90s fly. One always got to dance next to the DJ, which was probably the beginning of my personal DJ fetish. The closest I ever got to being a Fly Girl was being a member of my high school dance team, the Danville High Pompettes.
So while I never became an airplane pilot, flew Air Force One, did not get the chance to dance with J.Lo and the Fly Girls, I’d like to think I’ve grown up to become a pretty fly person. I became a writer. I moved out of Catlin, Illinois, graduated top of my high school class and have never been pregnant. And this summer, I got to see R. Kelly live.