15 September 2013
Watched Syrup again tonight with my sister, who hasn’t seen it yet. I watched it sometime around July, and I had written you a letter about it, but somewhere in the middle I lost my train of thought. I took a smoke break, and when I came back to my desk, did something else entirely and forgot about it, until tonight.
“Let’s talk about your future,” was one of the things my professor told me a few weeks before graduation. She is one of my favourite teachers, and perhaps best known around the campus for being quirky, super smart, and unconventional.
There are two kinds of advertising being taught in my university: one is communication-based, and you spend time talking about messages, I guess, and symbols. The other is management-based, where you think and come up with ideas, yes, but ultimately you analyse if these ideas sell. I studied the latter as part of the requirement for my degree, although I did take up visual communications in sophomore year, which ended up being one of my favourite subjects.
Now my professor navigated the subject of advertising and management well. Very well. She’s so good, I don’t even take notes while in class. I can’t. I’m so engaged that all I can do is listen and try to absorb everything. She’s that fascinating, and the things and insights that she brings each meeting you end up taking with you all day. Everywhere. Rarely do I meet a teacher with so much…aggressiveness. It’s impressive and intimidating at the same time.
Because I hated what I was studying, because I hated everything related to business (ha, look at me now), this–advertising and marketing, and anything else that would allow me to be creative even with the remotest possibility–was my compromise. This was the meeting point where I told myself, I can be good at this, and I can actually have fun here, while fulfilling all my responsibilities. It was the ‘artistic’ antithesis to poetry, in a way. It was the closest I can get to doing something imaginative in a world filled with numbers and strategies. (Imagine how it was, back in college–it felt like I was living a double life for a time. Poetry reading today, copywriting tomorrow.)
And yes, I was good at it. The ideas come to me one after another. It was a different language than literature, but not entirely unfathomable. It’s all about connecting the dots. So when my professor approached me one time after class and said, “Let’s talk about your future,” I couldn’t help but pay attention.
While watching the movie all of that came back to me. I remember everything.
I remember working long nights coming up with a smashing ad campaign for an imagined product. I remember going around the metro surveying people about the latest ad for a soda, and talking about the negative public perception during our oral defense. I remember my assessment, how I said that it was poorly done. I remember facing the art director’s wrath, who I didn’t know was there during my presentation. I remember giving my suggestions based on meticulous research and seeing the bastards actually run with my idea. I remember that I only found out about it when I saw it on TV. I remember a guest speaker who, upon learning my name, turned to my professor and said, “She could create a brand for herself, this one.”
I remember everything, and while watching the movie, I thought, that could’ve been my life.
We never did get to meet. At first, I reasoned to myself, I was just nervous. That I couldn’t handle a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting with someone I respect. Though deep down, I know the truth.
“Find out other people’s weaknesses, then exploit it.” That is one of her gems. And that’s smart, I recognise that. If I make this my credo, I know that I will go far. However, I was also thinking: no. I looked at her face. Her eyes were clear, determined. Her voice was strong and sure. She looked very successful. She was the epitome of a power bitch, and I mean that in a good way. She was in total control of herself. She held the world. And at that moment, I realised that I didn’t want to be like her.
Some thoughts about the film:
• That all of us, as consumers, are shamelessly manipulated through slick marketing to seek out and buy the next new and improved gadget or product
• The depiction of people buying anything based on an illusion reflects the reality of a shallow consumerist society. They are not wrong, and it’s sad isn’t it. And I am a part of it.
• Scat/Michael whines about love, about loss, about Sneaky Pete (oh god, so much about Sneaky Pete), and about not being handed success. You chose this business, buddy.
• Six has never been anyone else but the image that she has created for herself. It’s all she’s ever known. She has created this, this is her version of the truth, but most of it are all lies.
• I don’t necessarily subscribe to the four stereotypes as mentioned in the video above. Too generalist, and why does it feel like it was a man who wrote that? I mean–I don’t think I’m even any of those.
I had a chance to walk away, and I did. The life I have now is not easier, by any standard. I don’t have a fat bank account, and it’s making it more difficult and longer for me to do what I want to do. But it’s okay, because I have myself. I haven’t lost who I am–well, I haven’t really found out yet who that person is, to be honest, but at least I have room to explore who that person can become, instead of boxing myself in an image of someone whom I really don’t believe in in the first place.
Now I have a job that is in a similar sphere of things–helping people through the design and writing. But it is a job that allows me to choose which people I’m going to help, and I’m glad that I have that choice, so I can take a chance and help people I believe in.
Then again, there’s a side of me that says these are only rationalisations to make myself feel better for being unsuccessful. Probably. But I’d rather take that than diluting myself or having a makeover just so I could be somebody else, with a life I only thought to be important, impressing people I don’t even like.
Ah, don’t mind me. It’s past twelve, and outside it’s raining.