They Called Me Turtle
I was homeschooled from K–8th grade, but I went to public school for all of high school (and a short stint in elementary school, but whatever). In high school I was your quintessential nerd – I read a lot, had poor fashion sense, and was obsessed with being the perfect student. My freshman year, a few of my friends began calling me “Turtle” because I wore green a lot (alright, almost constantly) and my backpack was so overstuffed with books and binders and notebook paper that it formed a robust shell on my back.
One day in the cafeteria I was trying to desperately force my way through the bustling crowd so I wouldn’t be late for my next class. To provide some context for my very real fear of being late, just know that when I did go to a public school in fourth grade I used to cry every morning on the way to school because I thought my Dad was going to make us tardy. I had nightmares about it, people. One involved a potato.
Anyway, that day I just so happened to be wearing flip-flops. And, as I climbed up the stairs from the bottom level of the cafeteria to the middle level, my flip-flopped foot slipped out from under me and I fell on my face. This was already embarrassing enough, however it was made infinitely worse by the fact that my backpack shell was so heavy that I actually couldn’t get up. As my peers pushed past me, I lay pressed to the lunchroom floor, trying my hardest to save my self – and my dignity – from being the victim of a stampede. I eventually made it topside, but that was the last day I ever wore flip-flops in high school. Ever.
Most people know that I struggled with an anxiety disorder for the majority of my life. Thankfully, and through Christ alone, I have overcome that horrible 10-year period. The funny thing is that as I leave that part of me in the past, many of my friends and loved ones are experiencing it in the present. Through my struggles, I came across a little nugget of truth that has helped me tremendously. I guess this post is my way of passing that truth on to someone else who needs it.
The first two years of being a Resident Assistant at my university (Southern Methodist University) I held a specialized position entitled the “Academic Resident Assistant,” which is a fancy way of saying that I was the nerdy one. Essentially, I had an extra day of training on academic resources and study skills, and I had to host academic programs throughout the year. Fun stuff, right? I got an extra stipend every semester so it was totally worth it.
One year during training, we were learning about test anxiety and ways to combat it. One suggestion was to write an inspirational mantra or calming statement on a note card and keep it in your pocket on test day. The idea was to take it out right before an exam to help you mentally prepare. The Trainer said that this method worked well for several of her past students, but it changed the life of one in particular – her son. Now a lawyer, her son still keeps that note card in his pocket and reads it right before he goes into court for every trial. This is what it said:
It can’t eat me.
Go ahead and laugh. That was my first reaction. It can’t eat me? It’s such a simple phrase, almost idiotically so. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth behind its simplicity. After eliminating situations involving bears or other large carnivorous animals (in which anxiety becomes legitimate fear), no matter what you are facing, no matter how anxious you feel, no matter how much you want to throw up or run away or cry till your eyes hurt or hide in the back of your closet, whatever you are facing cannot and will not eat you. And, in a weird way, that notion is comforting.
I took that nugget to heart and I refer to it almost every day. And slowly, but surely, I’ve come to believe it. And you can, too.
“I can [endure] all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
Before we begin, for those who don’t know, the advertising world is all about pitches. Pitches are the way to win new business and new clients. Basically, it’s the official process through which an agency “pitches” ideas to a prospective client. They are usually a two-week process during which you must respond to a prospective client’s prompt (what we call a “creative brief”) and develop several campaigns, with several different pieces in each campaign. At the end of the pre-pitch weeks, the agency will present their creative ideas and business plans to the client. Then, the client will think on it a long time and then choose which agency they liked best. Usually there are three or more agencies competing for the same business, but it depends on the client and the situation. It’s generally a very exciting – and very stressful – process that feels awesome when you win and pretty sucky when you don’t.
Now that we have that out of the way… I’ve been working on a pitch at work and it has been an event to say the least. We were given two weeks to prepare our presentation, but one of those weeks happened to be during Thanksgiving and you can imagine how helpful that was.
The Things I’ve Learned From Pitches
1. A Pitch is kind of like a marathon. Except you can’t train for it. And there aren’t people on the sidelines cheering for you.
2. There’s a lot of food involved. Catered. For Free.
3. Weekends become weekdays. And you spend more time at work than at home, which makes work feel like home, which makes finally going home feel weird.
4. Elevator music never stops playing. Even at night. When all the lights are off.
5. Night janitors wear headphones when vacuuming. That’s not a joke. Just an observation.
6. No one cares about recycling. We just print things. Over and over and over again.
7. You should be allowed to wear sweats to work everyday. And bunny slippers.
8. Illustrators are strange beasts who only communicate through email and never call you back.
9. Waiting for “Pitch Day” is like waiting for Christmas, the last day of school, and getting your lab test results back at the same time.
10. If I had to work nights and weekends, I wouldn’t choose any other team to work with. It’s feels awesome to stand in front of “The Wall” and see all the crazy, amazing, funny, inspiring work that you and your coworkers created. And I’m happy to have shared in the creative process with them.
For us, D-Day is this Wednesday. That’s when the pitch team travels to the mystery location (mystery for you, not for me) and delivers “The Pitch”. Then we’ll have to wait a bit for the client to deliberate and notify the agencies involved of their decision. I’m pretty confident in our work – and all the hard work and creative thinking that went into it all. We’ve produced a crazy amount of awesomeness these past two weeks. I really want to win. But, win or lose, I’ll just be glad when I can go home and enjoy a home-cooked meal. And change the water in my fish bowl.
Me when I had to work all weekend:
Me the Monday after having to work all weekend:
I don’t think people these days realize that there’s a difference between a degree and an education. Most seek the paper and forgo the knowledge. They do just enough to get the grade, pass the course, fulfill the requirement, and they could care less about actually learning. That’s why “education” means nothing to some and everything to others. It’s no longer a prize or a privilege—it’s another box to check.
Years ago an education was something only few could obtain and now everyone feels entitled to it. Some are “forced” to pursue higher learning (as if that guarantees success) and they feel cheated when their diploma bounces at the bank.
I write this because, as I near the end of my formal education, I have started to count the things I’ll miss: being surrounded by scholars, being introduced to new thoughts I would never have encountered on my own, having the ability to take a course on film theory or logic or intellectual history… Ultimately, I’m going to miss being surrounded by ideas. It pains me that many of my peers could care less about the opportunity they have been given. They just want to get out and graduate and probably couldn’t tell you much about the courses they’ve taken or the professors they’ve had. Believe me, I want to graduate too, but that’s because I want to put my knowledge to work. I want to practice the skills that I’ve spent four years developing. I want to explore the world and add to my treasure box of concepts and theories.
To me, my degree is a passport, not a destination.