Saturday, February 4, 2012

Downgraded and delighted about it

In my last post I made reference to the time I spent working in marketing. Following undergrad, I worked for a few different private companies selling advertising and then moved into consulting for non-profit groups after cultivating some skills with branding and pitching fundable ideas. Good clean fun.

In addition to the fat paycheck and the graft- clients were always super generous with inviting you to try their new restaurant, spa service, or offering you shopping discounts- there was a whirlwind air of importance that went with the whole industry. Wine tasting parties, club openings, charity soirees, industry galas, and high priced cocktails in hotels too fancy for any self-respecting Ohio girl to consider staying in...for four years, I cavorted about DC and Miami pedaling ads and whooping it up.

While the glitz and the glamor of all of this swank was shiny and new, at the end of the day it felt hollow. I grew up with more than a little of an idealist streak in me, and had gone to college in pursuit of a career in public service. I wanted to work for equity, to be tugging on the arch of the universe towards justice. But that's not what I did. Following college I got freaked out by the amount of student loans I had, and I slunk into a commissioned based sales job in advertising. While my friends worked their way into jobs doing things that actually made the world a better place, I helped carpet cleaning companies headed by convicts sell services to wealthy Washingtonians. Once I got thin, I moved from the horribly parasitic company I had started with and got into the print advertising business. This was where the fun and parties- and WAY better pay was. I had a total blast selling copy, creating ads, and schmoozing my way through Georgetown. I loved it- but I didn't like the person I was becoming.

In place of my goal of one day being able to influence policy, I now wanted to one day own a Lexus SUV. I wanted a big house, a big diamond ring from my fiance (some dreams come true- thanks Will!), and a big salary. What I had right away was a big ego. My job required a lot of bravado, and I brought it in spades. I was defensive whenever any of my close friends- the ones who knew what I really was passionate about- suggested that maybe I should consider moving into public service again.

This changed when I realized how much I was overcompensating for feeling insecure about my decision to not pursue my original career intentions. With the dedicated help of my fiance, I retooled and applied to graduate school. Here I am, three years post my decision to start taking GRE prep classes, sitting in a (very cold) Soviet era dorm in Moscow City. The lush lobby of the Miami Gansevoort has been replaced by a concrete entrance-way with faint overtones of cat box and cigarettes. My slinky party dresses are wrapped away in my DC closet, and my current wardrobe leans rather heavily on our friends from Target and Kirkland Signature (that's Costco for you folks not 'in the know'). My taxable income is now about what I paid in taxes while I was in advertising. My most dearly held goals today have nothing to do with what I drive, how big my house is, or how many widgets I can sell.

I was in the shower room of my dorm the other day and had a moment of undiluted gratitude for the changes that have taken place in my life since starting grad school. Surrounded by a) no shower curtains; b) mildew; c) faint wafts of cat urine (why is this even in the shower room?????), and d) light green paint a la mental institution circa 1973, I laughed out loud thinking about the differences in my surroundings. Grateful that no one else was in the room with me (did I mention there are no shower curtains? I think this needs to be reiterated a few times), I giggled like an idiot, feelings of gratitude for my life today washing over me as the hot water splashed over my shower-sandal clad self.

I know living in a Moscow dorm with 200 or so other twenty-somethings studying international affairs, economics and sociology is not everyone's definition of happiness, but for me, right now, I can't think of anywhere else I would rather be.

Fancy party- catering by Магйолия

Sumptuous dinner: spaghetti in the kitchen with new friends!

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