Volume 9, Issue 12
The Student enters the University. It is their first time. They feel awed by both it and themselves, and hope to do bright and beautiful things.
But those things are not going to pay for themselves, the Student realises, some time after the first time they enter the University. They require some sort of job. A job that is neither bright nor beautiful, but might be interesting, and useful as a springboard on the Student’s way to the heights.
The Student looks in the mirror. They must apply for Internships now, to audition for the jobs that are neither bright nor beautiful that they will use to get to the jobs that are. The person they see in the mirror does not seem like they will get them though — too unprofessional, too independent, too much of a piner for the bright and beautiful. The Student’s eyes drop to the floor.
On the floor, at their feet, they see the mask. Physically, it is their face in every detail. But there is something else about it, something in the eyes, or maybe the corners of the mouth. This is a face of a professional, but also a team player, someone who does not pine for the bright and beautiful. The face of a winner.
The Student picks up the mask. It is much heavier than it looks. They hesitantly, gingerly, reticently place it over their face. They do not like it. But they write a resume, then a few cover letters, then a dozen applications. Then their hands move to the sides of their face, they feel a seam where the mask fits, and they take it off.
The applications go well. The Employers are satisfied that the Student is professional, and a team player, and does not pine for the bright/beautiful to such an extent as would jeopardise professionalism or team player-hood, or that could not be channelled into an appropriate corporate-social-responsibility-program.
The Student leaves the mask off for the first interview. The Employers do not seem to recognise the Student, and wonder how this entirely unsuitable person managed to walk in off the street. Both leave confused. The Student puts the mask on for the next interview. It is only an hour, after all. It’s on for a few cocktail evenings too. Only a few hours here and there.
The Student puts the mask on, and enters the Firm, not for the first time but for the first time as an Intern. It feels heavier than ever. They have never worn it for so long before: at work, at lunch, at Firm drinks. Every night though, the student remembers to take it off, feeling the seam where it fits and placing it back on the floor.
There are other Interns, and the Student sometimes wonders whether they are wearing masks too. They must be — some are finding the masks too heavy to wear, casting them off. The Employers no longer recognise them after that, the Student notices, recalling unpleasant memories. The Student suspects that some of the other Interns do not need to wear masks at all, and wonders whether that should be envied. The Student keeps the mask on. After all, there are great and wonderful things to be done after this internship secures a job that will be a springboard to bright and beautiful things. Besides, it’s beginning to feel lighter.
The Student gets a job in the Firm. Years go by, and the mask feels lighter, is worn for longer. They make friends at the Firm, friends whom the Student met while wearing the mask, and who are accustomed to it. They meet their partner at the Firm too. And those friends and that partner view this masked student not just as a great professional but also as a great person to get along with etc etc. Sometimes the Student is tempted to disclose that their friends/partner have befriended/fallen in love with a mask, but never finds the words. It becomes harder and harder to find times where the mask is unnecessary. Sometimes it stays on at night.
20 years later the Student looks in the mirror. They’re home from the Firm. Deep inside, perhaps, maybe, something feels wrong. Something is ever so slightly off-centre. Their hands move to the side of their face, almost absentmindedly. There is no seam anymore. Nor do they really recall what their hands were searching for. If they did, there is no longer a mask to feel anyway, or, maybe, there is a mask but it can no longer be taken off. The Student, now the Employer, recalls something about bright and beautiful things, with a smirk, and a laughs.
They turn the light off.
Henry HL is a third-year JD student
The rest of this week's *bumper* issue:
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