February 2002 – In a cramped university office
The faculty adviser was getting irritated. I’m not sure if it’s because I came to the advisement session in white Birkenstocks and a sarong as a skirt.
The summer was fast approaching. At the beginning of freshman year, my parents had let me choose my own major. Instead of taking Communication Arts like they expected — I had chosen to take up Humanities. My friend Tenten was taking it too, and she said it was pretty cool to be a curator. So I casually ticked that box when I confirmed my enrollment to university. Midway through my first semester, it dawned upon me that I had little to no knowledge about fine art and that I would most probably get fired and die frozen in the snow outside a cathedral. Like Nelo and his dog Patrasche.
“The best way to know the course you want to shift into is by imagining your future. What do you imagine your life will be like in 10 years?”
My mind drew a blank.
“Try visualizing yourself in 10 years, what do you see?”
I’m 17 years old, lady. All I can think about is my 18th birthday in 8 months. Don’t you realize how important that is? I’ll be a goddamn lady like Jolina Magdangal in that movie Kung Ayaw Mo ‘Wag Mo. The one where she was a debutante and Marvin Agustin was her escort. Maricel Soriano wasn’t very happy about that.
I bit my lower lip and tried to think really hard. “Honestly all I know is that I want to communicate. Maybe something in advertising?”
Adviser Lady wrote a few things down while I spoke. She paused before asking, “And how do you see yourself in advertising? Why that field? What inspired you?”
If I tell her it’s Joyce Jimenez in Narinig Mo Na Ba Ang L8est, she might actually send me out.
“Well, I’ve always been somewhat into writing. I like people. I really want to do something that merges both.”
Adviser Lady stood up to get a blank piece of paper from her desk. “Draw your future.”
I chewed my bottom lip some more. The clock ticked above Adviser Lady’s head.
I drew a flower.
“This is my abundant future.” I looked at her hopefully. Maybe a few more flowers would make it look like…. a bright future.
Adviser lady sighed audibly and turned the sheet over. She wasn’t pleased about that. “Not symbolically. Draw what you think your future will be like.”
Nobody in my family was in advertising, and what I knew of the industry mostly came from movies. Keanu Reeves was presenting a pretty nasty idea to clients at the beginning of Sweet November, and that was all I knew.
I drew a stick figure of a woman in front of a screen with posters. “That’s me presenting ideas to a client.”
This tentative response seemed to please Adviser Lady. “But you said you wanted to know people. Why not Psychology?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Uh, I really don’t like dissecting brains.”
Adviser Lady was growing impatient. “Psychology isn’t about dissecting brai—– argh. Okay, fine. You know what, let’s do this. If you could study both the human mind and communication together, would you do it?”
She wrote something in my file and handed it back to me. “Remember to submit the requirements. Good luck.”
I glanced at my advisement form on the way out of the Humanities department. Beside my name she wrote “Sociology”.
November 2003 – In a dimly lit computer lab
Dr. Abad was asking me a question.
I stared at my computer screen. “The median is 4”.
He patiently shook his head. “Check it again, I think you mean that’s the mode.”
Inside my head I was screaming. Why oh why did I choose a course that required 12 units of Statistics.
Dr. Abad looked at my seatmate, “Care to help her out?”
Dear God, why did I do this.
April 2005 – On the 34th floor of a gleaming new building in Ayala Avenue
Sally the interviewer was smiling a little too brightly. She looked like she might hurt her neck from all the smiling.
“So you want to be in an ad agency?”
I fingered the fake pearl necklace around my neck. I had dressed like Betty Cooper at the prom on the very first job interview of my life (black Sabrina top, pink balloon skirt, kitten heels) and the embarrassment was creeping in. Sally was in a graphic tee and jeans. Dammit, are all people this cool here.
“We have an opening for our telecommunications client and they need an Account Executive Trainee. You up for it?”
Accounts!? Am I going to….. compute for a living?
“Um, I’m really bad in math…”
Sally laughed. She had a laugh that was almost light but mostly patronizing. Like an SM Sales Lady when they don’t carry your size. “It’s mostly facing clients. You said you liked people right?”
“Um, yes, but I can write…” I fumbled for my portfolio of college essays and articles.
She laughed again, this time with even more gusto. “Sweetie, copywriting is a completely different skill set. You can transition to writing if in a year you don’t like it, okay?”
Beside my name, I saw that she had written “Accounts”.
Please don’t let me compute the median and mode.
June 2017 – In a meeting room in Bonifacio Global City
The projector is not working.
What is it with these new projectors? None of them seem all that equipped to directly hook up to a Mac. I have about 5 kinds of back-up adaptors in my bag, mostly because my boss liked to pick up mine up by mistake and take it back with him to Los Angeles.
My client sits while I adjust the presentation. As a former colleague, I know her quite well. I know that she likes to read ahead of the presentation, so I purposefully kept bullets concise. Best if she listens to me, rather than read off a slide. I also know that she likes sweets. I ceremoniously place my box of company branded cupcakes on the table. We chat about our lives a bit while the projector warms up.
Beside her, a twenty-two year old trainee nervously fingers her lace top. I have a soft spot for trainees. They’re always so eager to please, so afraid to make mistakes. Making them feel comfortable is my special skill. These new hires are always so impossibly fresh-faced, as if they had never pulled an all nighter in their life. I chuckle bitterly to myself whenever I realize this. Man, they’re going to be in for a shock at their first pitch.
I crack a joke about The Chainsmokers. We all laugh, including the trainee. The ice is broken.
The presentation lights up the screen and I squint at my notes to see if I had jotted down their performance indicators in case I’m asked. A sheet with all the numbers is hidden from view, ready to be pulled up should a deeper dive be needed.
I stood up. “Great. Let’s start with the numbers.”
The trainee wrote my name in her notebook. Beside it she put “presentation”.
If only Adviser Lady could see me now. I’m freaking Joyce Jimenez.