Allison Plean: Working hard

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On "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Penelope Cruz said that dreams really do come true. For some reason, that really ticked me off.

Of course dreams come true when you're gorgeous, wear a size 2 and were born talented.

The best advice my father ever gave me was that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything. And he was right.

For six years, I put in my time pursuing a wildlife conservation career for which I never got paid. I had to do gross things like fling dead chickens over the top of tiger cages; the guts would sometimes fall out and land in my hair. I've hauled more weight in hippo and cape buffalo dung than you can possibly measure in success.

But I also got the opportunity to go into cages with giraffes, seals, elephants and tigers (who would sometimes fall asleep in my lap). My hard work granted me the ultimate reward of getting close to wild animals.

People in Steamboat know that you have to work hard for everything in life that is worth anything because we all figured out how to survive living here.

Whether it was working three jobs, getting our first apartment in Hayden or sleeping on Therm-a-rest Pads instead of a bed, we made it work. But it was hard times when my landlord (who didn't know that she was my landlord) found me one morning sleeping in the attic of her house.

I had heard that we are the first generation to not exceed the wealth of our parents. The house, the nice car and the 2.5 kids translates to things that tie you down and things you can't afford.

And that's OK.

We've found ways around it. The barter system started out as trading six packs for ski tunes and massages for handmade necklaces. Now some of us trade home ownership to acquire 14 mountain bikes or 17 kayaks.

When I look out my front windshield, I see my friends riding by on their bikes. I see dogs aimlessly wandering down the road as if cars don't exist. And I think about all those people who started out as the broke waitresses just trying to finish their crossword puzzles and make a buck.

Now some of those people own businesses such as Sunpie's, Token Threads, Steamboat Springs Mountain Theater and Epilogue Book Co. My colleagues have found a way to buy condos (even if they needed their parents' help). And there are so many locals who have figured out how to say, "I came here for a season and have now been here 32 years."

I have nothing against celebrities -- even the ones who get to marry Johnny Depp on the silver screen. I'm sure that they work very hard. But if you're going to say something on national TV as cheesy as "dreams come true," then tell us about your first minimum-wage job as a shuttle driver, a waitress or a liftie.

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