#13: she said i’d never work in advertising.

Rain poured down as I sprinted through the doors of my Advertising 101 course.

It was an odd classroom — tiny and windowless. On the first floor of my former dorm. Desks were set up in a semi-circle like we were preparing for an intervention.

Though short in stature, our professor held a mighty presence over the space. She was witty, charismatic, blunt, and occasionally flagrant. The type of person who could sell out an ice cream stand on the coldest day of winter. Her face wrinkled by experience and cigarettes with heels that clicked across the tile.

I remember the first line she ever dropped. Leaning against her desk, she said:

“Most of you probably dream of working for an advertising agency. You’ll attend all the right seminars. Apply to the big names.”

She paused to adjust her thin, wire-frame glasses.

“Most of your resumes will be tossed in the trash without a second thought. Most of you will never get the chance to work in advertising.”

“Any questions?”

Dejected faces glanced around the room.

Perhaps it’s the athlete in me. I wanted more of the challenge she’d just laid into the room.

We spent the quarter breaking down famous ads and consumer psychology. How to write like hell and sell well.

As the course came to a close, we learned of the final exam; pitching a brand campaign to the higher-ups of Virgin Hotels. Their new Chicago location opened a rooftop speakeasy and wanted to attract a younger crowd.

Teams were split into groups of five with each member taking on a different role — from strategy to design to copywriter. I’d always been a strong writer and gladly accepted the “lead” copywriting position.

We worked well as a unit. Meeting up to discuss progress and strategy and to polish the “big pitch.”

When the day arrived, we stepped into a small auditorium dressed in button-downs, slacks, dresses, and blazers.

Four executives sat alongside our professor in the front row. My troup went third, bringing some life and charisma into the room. It helped that our lead presenter moonlit at the local community theatre and excelled at crowd work.

As we wrapped up and gratefully accepted a round of applause, I felt something. I believe it’s what Anthony Bourdain felt the first time his lips touched Gazpacho. An enlightened high.

So, I promised myself to pursue a career path in…whatever this was.

But that’s not how life works.

I graduated with zero dollars in the bank and student loans. Rather than spend precious money-making months applying to agencies, I took the first job I could find by interning at a local orthopedic surgeon’s office.

I sweat my ass off riding a bike to work every day (and changed in a public restroom). I sat in the lunch room for hours writing pamphlets on the benefits of maxillofacial surgery. Occasionally, I’d stare out the window and think about that pitch.

Months later, I left to work for a tech company that I will politely call “abrasive.”

It was around this time I stopped sleeping and started writing. Nights were spent scribbling out essays and publishing them online. I got my “agency” fix slinging random words for weird clients. There was the auto shop paying me to write fake Yelp reviews. And the luxury scarf company I’m almost certain was a front for something else.

FINALLY, three years into the working world, a branding agency called my name. I moved halfway across the country to start as a copywriter on March 19th, 2020. The unofficial day Washington DC closed down.

Instead of doing big, grand pitches and tossing around creative ideas in a studio, I was sitting at a rectangular desk inches away from my girlfriend. We’d exchange routine glances of silly frustration as we talked over each other on zoom calls.

Fast-forward to October 2022, and I moved across the country again to San Diego. I’ll be starting as a Senior Copywriter in a few weeks for a local creative agency, officially fulfilling the promise I made to my younger self.

I guess my professor was wrong.

Any questions?