Pick Your Superpower: Fuhgeddaboudit

Dec 14 2010 Published by under [Etc]

I often like to ask people (typically at parties, after I've had a few to drink) what kind of superpower they would choose to have if they could have just one. Swirling their swizzle sticks, my conversational partners will tilt their heads to the side, gazing at the ice cubes motoring around in their cocktails.

Superpower?, they'll ask.

Yeah, I know, I'll respond, I live in a fucking fantasy world. Humor me.

And then they'll say dumb shit like breaking stone with your fist or producing infinite quantities of spiced rum. I fucking hate when people don't take my fantasy questions seriously.

I, personally, imagine a life in which I am capable of instant transportation. Oh? Want to travel to Paris for the weekend? Non problem! Need to run into lab at 7am on a Saturday morning to check on your experiment? You're there- and then- oh!- you're back. No more commutes, no more traffic, no more car requirements, no more airfare... and hell, you could take a vacation where every day you went to a different part of the world, and every night you could sleep in your own bed. Sweet.

I've long been convinced that this would be the very best superpower to have.

Today, though, I was talking to a graduate student who had just finished his final exams, flustered about his performance. I always hated, as a graduate student, when people told me that my grades didn't matter, as long as I passed. Of course they mattered, sweet Jesus, how else were people going to judge the goodness within the essence within the academic?

I was such a tortured soul.

Now I'm thinking that maybe a better superpower would be the ability to receive memos from my future self regarding the shit that doesn't matter.


To: Self
From: Self
Date: 8 years later
Re: Your compulsive anxiety over graduate coursework

Your final grade doesn't fucking matter. No one will ever care whether you got an A- or a B- in Genetics as a graduate student. (Except for maybe those L'Oreal Fellowship bullshitters, and who cares about them, anyway). Stop all of the bad dreams, stop waking up the morning of exams, doubled over with nerve-induced diarrhea. Stop the madness!! It doesn't matter!!! It will never matter!!!11!!!


Now, this is probably all more important to me because of my anxiety- but I would just love love love if, in the present moment, when someone tells me to stop freaking out about something because it will not matter, that I could just listen. That I could just accept the wisdom wafting over me, that I could just inhale the good air filling my lungs, and just chill the fuck out.

So why don't you tell me what you would wish for. Grab a cocktail first, classy reader, and swirl away.

27 responses so far

  • Pharm Sci Grad says:

    🙂 I'll bite on this one. The ability to pause time was always the superpower I wanted. I always seem to have too much to do, not enough time... So I'd LOVE to pause life so: I can sleep now, or read now, or eat now, or just freaking relax for a minute, or figure out what I'm supposed to be doing in this experiment two minutes from now... But mostly for the sleep. I do love some sleep.

    Another bonus would be composing responses to asshats now that I think about it... 😉

  • DM says:

    Killing with a thought.

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  • proflikesubstance says:

    I would settle for getting my kid to listen to me, right about now...

  • I tell my students that stuff doesn't matter. They either don't believe me at all or believe me a bit too much.

    My superpower... would be always being appropriately dressed and coiffed and made up for wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, with no thought or effort on my part. It sounds stupid, but it would save me no end of angst and work.

  • Anon says:

    I'm totally with you on the teleportation thing- that has been my favorite for ages. Mmm... Japanese noodle shops for lunch... no problem, back in an instant.

    A close second for me has always been the ability to shape-shift. I have always had some latent fashionista tendencies, which don't get to manifest much in an academic career, and certainly not on a graduate student budget... but to never to have to purchase new clothes, and to always have exactly what I want that fits perfectly... it wold be most excellent. Not to mention I would never have to go to the gym, and I could become unrecognizable if I were miffed and didn't want to run into someone I knew, and I could use my extra closet space for crafts.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Dorothea, so you want to be a man?


  • chall says:

    huh, I've been a fan of teleporting myself and stuff.... (which is touching on two powers I guess? or maybe only one if you need to hold hands etc) Or, stopping time like those commercials - and PharmSciGrad mentions - just to be able to have all the time in the world, but still nothing changes for ohers.

    Then there is that "no more anxuiety about things".... tough questions 😉

  • scicurious says:

    I would love to fly, but Pausing Time is a pretty sweet one...Can I get extreme intelligence and problem solving skills?

  • Immagonnabe super boring and say that I want *your* superpowers. Yeah, the teleportation thing is something I've wanted for as long as I can remember. Actually, I got the poor man's version when I met BH. He like to drive; I don't. So I sit in the passenger seat, fall asleep, and *hey, presto!* wake up at our destination. It feels like teleportation even if you don't actually save those hours.

    And yeah, being able to internalize that whole "it doesn't matter so chill the fuck out" thing I'm not so good at either. I'm not sure if I would consider it a superpower for my part, just functioning as a semi-normal human being.

    I would also like the power to cause other people to itch uncontrollably whenever they are lying to me or otherwise fucking with me. I think they would learn pretty quickly that they have a "tell" and that would hopefully be sufficient to get them to knock it the fuck off. Though it could work easily well even if I weren't present to witness the itching - how's that for operant conditioning?

  • Bashir says:

    Time travel. Though really just general omnipotence, a la Dr. Manhattan, would work too.

    Remember that episode of the Simpsons where the teachers go or strike or something like that...

    Lisa: Grade me...look at me...evaluate and rank me! Oh, I'm
    good, good, good, and oh so smart! Grade me!

    were you like that?

  • Dan says:

    While many do need the "chill out" memo, others need the "get with it" memo. Someone who is already laid back and mistakenly follows takes to heart "chill out" can end up failing out of grad school - I've seen it happen. That and many programs have rules that state if your GPA falls below a certain level (e.g. B+) then you are ineligible for funding.

  • Wow, some great ideas here.

    @ PharmSciGrad- Pausing time is a seriously awesome idea. Probably at some point will supersede the need for teletransportation. I just you hypothetically could just do all of your traveling while time is paused, no? I get so stressed about deadlines, this could be a real winner.

    @Dorthea- I *love* the idea of always looking perfect. My productivity would shoot through the roof.

    @Anon- shape shifting = pretty sweet also. Esp. around Christmas time when my pants are getting a bit too snug.

    @Bashir- I probably wasn't quite like Lisa Simpson, I guess I just felt like I must be somehow, someway quantitatively compared to others- and if it wasn't through my grades, then how would it go? My later years as a grad student + drifting years as a postdoc have relieved me of the idea of quantitative comparisons to others.

    @Dan- Point taken, I certainly wouldn't recommend the chill out memos to everyone.

  • LadyLobo says:

    My superpower wish is so less fantastical and more practical, which I know isn't the point. But the ability to formulate perfectly composed sentences and well-argued statements straight away would be AMAZING.

    Just imagine how much easier science would be! Talks and papers would practically create themselves. Think of all the other fun things you could do instead of editing!! Personally, all the fun things I could do, instead of procrastinating and pretending to write. Sounds like bliss to me.

  • becca says:

    @ DM- you mean "the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away...with mind bullets!"??

    I already possess the power to piss anyone off, about anything, anytime. Now I want the inverse complementary one, where I get to make anyone feel AWESOME about anything, anytime. Including the telekinetic orgasm thing...

  • Namnezia says:

    Telekinesis, the ability to move things at a distance, or invisibility would be by far the most fun.

    Stuck in traffic? Move those cars out of the way with your mind. Angry at someone? Hit them in the head with flying spoons. See the meter maid giving you a ticket as you run to your car? Send that ticket pad off to the heavens.

    But invisibility would also be key. Want to know what's going on at your tenure review? Just sit right in. Want to sneak into any event? Just do it. Free movies! Free courtside seats at Celtics games! Want to scare the crap out of people just cuz? Do it!

  • Nathan says:

    The ability to intercept other people's future memos and replace them with my own, a la The Office.


    Seriously if it can be only one then it would be flying.

    My friend's girlfriend already has the power to *know* when someone is pregnant and she also has poopdar - the ability to foresee that a dog needs to poop 1-2 minutes before it happens.

  • I want my dick to be huge and to be a quarterback in the NFL.

  • Dr Becca says:

    Shit, CPP stole mine!

  • drugmonkey says:

    dudes. SUPER powers. Not mundane shit to make your tired pedestrian lives a little better.


    Time travel. Telekenesis. Invisibility. That's what I'm talkin about....

  • Pharm Sci Grad says:

    Yeah, me, I don't mind traveling so much, it gives me time to relax and think, although crossing oceans does get old at times, and pausing time wouldn't help much with that. Still need the damn pilot and air traffic control to get from one place to another.

    This would make deadlines a thing of the past, unless you have collaborators or something. It's definitely not perfect, and being able to visit anywhere in the world in a second on a whim would rock, but it gets back to sleep and how much I love sleeping (and obviously don't have enough time for it or anything else). 🙂

  • "dudes. SUPER powers. Not mundane shit to make your tired pedestrian lives a little better."

    Thanks, DM.

    PP, a big dick might seem like a superpower, but I assure you, it is not.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Force choke! I mean FFS, people. Has all of your wonder and glory been beaten out of you?

  • drugmonkey says:

    SuperPhysiologyMan! can un-fuck-up those insulin cells!, fix the myelin sheath!, Abeta my ass! begone ulcers and cancers!

    it would be awesome!

  • msphd says:

    LMAO. Great post. I especially love your memo to Self from Self.

    & comments are hilarious, especially Dr. Becca's.

    I love all of these. Personally I would like to have The Force, you know, both telekinesis and the kind of telepathy that lets you tell people "Chill the fuck out" and have them believe it, at least temporarily. 😉 Or, "You're doomed, get out now!"

    Also, flying like Superman would be cool; climbing like Spiderman; magical powers like Willow and butt-kicking powers like Buffy... superpowers are awesome.

  • My Star Wars geekyness would be seriously put into question if I did not answer with the Force. The ability to manipulate time would also be really cool, but I would settle for the Force.

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