MAIP c/o 2011
This time in your life is so exciting - you’re 21 and fresh out of MAIP. Your mind is filled with ambition and promise, riding a high of advertising dreams.
At this point in your life, all you know is how to survive. You’ve made it through the high school halls in East Side San Jose, California and exhausted any and every advertising opportunity at San Jose State University.
You take your first job at a behemoth of an agency all thanks to the connections you’ve made the year previously through your internship. You sharpen your chops and spread your social wings. You’re partnering with senior strategists and you feel like you can actually hold your own weight. Then it happens - you’re laid off. You’re stressed. You worry that it’s happening so soon. You edit your resume and you wonder if this was indicative of your work. Your circle of friends and peers reassure you that it’s the nature of the business and you should take heed of what is often described as a “blessing in disguise.” A month passes...then two. You finally land a new gig. You’re exasperated, exhausted and thrilled all in the same breath.
You move through the next few years, some more stressful than others. You’re exhausted but it’s part of the early hustle as you’ve been told many, many times. You can’t seem to decipher if it’s burnout or just the business itself. Then it appears, your first panic attack. It happens in the midst of an internal presentation. You feel ashamed because it’s never happened before and this changes everything.
The concept of mental health has always been on your radar - self care was never too far away. But this time, it made you realize how much more important it is to take care of yourself. Physically. Emotionally. And yes, mentally. You make a list and braindump all the things you’ve heard about how to approach your mental health.
You start going to therapy and realize how important is to find ways to navigate work and life with this newfound knowledge of your mental health. It’s not easy, in fact, it’s more challenging than you realize.
You start to unpack and discover how much of your life stress has seeped into your professional life. You thought the proverbial work mask covered all the stress and sometimes pain your personal life has caused but you start to notice how those even leave imprints into your work.
As an account person, your whole job is to be “on top of” things all the time, which naturally induces anxiety (a term you’ve started using to identify the unpleasant feeling you’ve always had). You go to your circle of comfort, folks who can understand the stress that you endure in your role and at the industry itself. It helps. The tears, the ‘mmhmmm’s”, all of it. In fact, it brings you some ounce of joy to realize that so many of your peers are trying to find the perfectly imbalanced art of working and figuring out mental health.
You’re learning to “turn off” and understand that the 24/7 hustle isn’t the best badge of honor one can have. You start to open up these vulnerabilities to your direct managers, hoping it’s not a reflection of weakness or crossing boundaries. It’s all very overwhelming but you know you have to or else how can you manage it all?
You start making things again, side projects (shout out to the per my last email podcast!) that provide emotional balance to sometimes a chaotic day. On rougher days, you take a second and turn on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast because it’s Oprah - the messages are insightful and feel like a big hug. You attend events that speak to how other industry professionals cope with their mental health but still want to work in advertising. It’s comforting and, at times, even somewhat beautiful to see how the industry is progressing around self care and taking a holistic look at the lives of their employees. You appreciate the openness and the courage it takes for your peers to share what they’re dealing with and it’s a gentle reminder to be kinder to yourself. Work will be work but at least this time you’re a bit more armed with tools and ways to treat your mental health with more honesty.
You’re not really quite sure what any of this means but you’re glad to be a part of it. You don’t really have it figured out but you know you’ll be okay.
Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.