Why I left marketing

When I tell people I left marketing to become a teacher, the most frequent response I get is “why”?

Okay, that’s wishful thinking. I usually get a “Good for you,” or “That will be so rewarding.” At first, I just assumed all of these people thought I couldn’t make a living because I was so bad at marketing. Then I realized that this was just their way of politely saying they didn’t really care.

I get it. I probably wouldn’t care either. But since you actually clicked the link and got to this site, I’m hoping you do (or maybe you’re just here for the trainwreck you think I’ll turn everything into?), so I’ll tell you why.

I left marketing cuz I was a shitty marketer. K, maybe not shitty, but I wasn’t anything more than “Good” or “Average,” regardless of what my paychecks said. Maybe I was decent, but deep down, my heart just wasn’t in it. I was only there for the writing.

I loved publishing, planning magazines and newspapers, and even small-time newsletters, which is what I did before the market dried up in 2009 or 2010 and someone decided I’d be perfect for marketing, which was how I miserably made my career for a decade before becoming a writer. Once most magazines went under, I was left with marketing. More specifically, I was left with “content marketing,” which wasn’t for me.

In marketing, I reallly only liked the meaty assignments, the ones that weren’t really marketing at all but were intended to help a customer or client learn and go deeper with a product or subject. These became marketing campaigns only when a company was desperate. “Where can we move the needle?” I was sure this was what they asked as they dusted off their virtual Rolodex and landed on my number. Except those assignments rarely came through. No great marketer ever hung their hats on making more from the same customers they already had. That wasn’t hot or sexy.

Real marketers — people who were good at their jobs (and there are some amazing marketers out there) — wanted me to do stuff that would directly result in customer growth and revenue. A tone of it. That didn’t really jibe with my interests. So between hating marketing (which may have also been precipitated by me working for a boss who was a lyin’-ass, micromanaging a-hole, and then jointing a super-small startup agency that never really went anywhere in its one-year existence before going under) and not finding anything emotionally satisfying in my work, I left.

Honestly there are people who love writing content and are probably great at it or at least patient enough to check their give a damn at the door, but I wasn’t one of them. I was too emotionally involved to write one more blog post where I pretended to be an old white guy or another infographic that showed the immeasurable value of a cheaply made widget that no one really needed anyway. I left.

I still do a little marketing as a side hustle (which is why I use terms like “side hustle,” no doubt), but unless I really know (and adore) the client, most projects I’m willing to take on need to be focused on educating a customer or prospect. I don’t write SEO copy — I hate it and I charge too much for most businesses to even consider asking. I jumped at a GDPR info piece a few years ago, however, because it gave me a chance to learn something I was unfamiliar with. That’s how I see marketing now: what do I get out of it beyond a check (which is always appreciated but not always enough to stay motivated)? If the payoff is good, I’m in.

Incidentally, I start year two of my teaching career next week. Year one was a shit show. Who knows what this one will be. Sometimes the classroom makes me long for marketing, where I knew what I was doing. But not really.

Alexa, is Dennis Franz still alive?

I asked Alexa tonight if Dennis Franz is still alive. She didn’t say “yes,” or rattle off some birth stats that she “found on the web.” Her response was more direct: “Dennis Franz is still alive.” No justification, no reason, just a confirmation that I was on the right track.

Yes, Alexa has a stock answer for the question, “Is Dennis Franz still alive,” which makes me wonder how many other people are asking the same thing. Does she have one for Telly Savalas, Bob Dole, Tammy Faye Baker? Or is it just Dennis Franz?

Day 57 (I think) — Tuesday

I keep seeing my 8th grade self in the 127 students I taught this year. I’m the one over there that’s not rocking the boat. Without the nerve or need to ask for clarification, who simply knows what I have to do. I’m the suck up, unintentionally, of course, the kind who knows that that I need to get this stuff right the first time or face whatever mockery or belittlement would be dished out otherwise. Oh, or the disappointment my failure would bring too someone somewhere. I’m the one who doesn’t like the attention — definitely not negative attention and surely not positive attention that I lobby for myself. Honestly, I’m only worthwhile by being perfect.

This tendency to overdo, overperfect, and undercelebrate me never actually leaves, and anytime I see it in a student, I want to stop them, tell them to fail, tell them to try something that’s hard. Not math-problem hard. Those weren’t actually hard. I mean put-yourself-out-there-and-risk-fucking-up hard.

But I never do. Even now, I can’t be the change that I really ought to be, the one that makes a difference. By all accounts, I have everything it takes — except courage.

So I stay very tight lipped. I don’t tell anyone anything until I know th answer and have somehow found a way to control the message. That’s how I stay in charge. Always.

This, incidentally, makes me a master at handling stress. Like when my mentor emails to ask if I’ve applied for jobs, which I should have but haven’t. I hear myself telling her, “I’ve had a few more important things on my mind. You know, dying cat, dying sister, this class that I’m teaching that I know I’m fucking up, and the other one I was saddled with, too. O, yeah, and making ends meet on a lousy $19k intern pay. “ I hear myself saying this and know that it’s honest, gritty, transparent, vulnerable, exactly what I should say to be human.

But I don’t say it. In fact, I say nothing. I just ignore her message and keep all of this tamped down hard. Brick hard. Starbucks baristas got nothing on my tamping skills. Healthy. Keep those emotions hidden from view. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, right?

Turn it off, like a mother-fucking light switch.

Day 48 – Sunday

I start hiding the tahini bread from the children after I see my son take a slice that’s well over two inches thick from an 8×4 loaf pan. I would understand if it were a 12×4 loaf pan but this clearly isn’t. And it’s delicious. The tahini bread, which tastes like halva humped a pound cake, is mine. He can have the Cinnamon Toast Crunch (but not the Nutella — that’s also mine).

Looking back at previous posts, I realize my dates for posts are either entirely bullshit or time actually has ceased to move forward and I really did only advance 4 days during the past week. I honestly don’t know which is more true.

More treats to hide.

Day 44 – Monday

We’re low on beer. Dangerously low. All that remains is some shitty low alcohol stuff left over from before last November’s switch to 5% grocery store beer, and the insanely strong stuff that I reserve for weekends-only.

We have wine, but it triggers my allergies, which are already getting bad, and I don’t know why. I blame this one really bad cat — one of the five who lives in our house. She sleeps on my side of the bed all day and is likely intentionally making me sneeze. Anyway, I swear off wine from about April through June to keep my eyes from watering so much and so I can taste something, anything. It sucks. I have good wine that needs me to drink it.

We stocked up on beer, whiskey, and everything else on day 1, one of the last times we left the house for anything other than a run. Actually, I didn’t go. My husband was more than willing to sacrifice himself for booze. He’s a good man.

We had an obscene amount of beer when all of this started. The garage Kelvinator was full. It had beers stored on top of it. Now it’s sad.

Teachers shouldn’t run out of booze. Ever.

I drink about one beer a day. I can’t say how much my spouse drinks. Probably a whole lot more. I’m pretty jealous.

Sometimes the wine on the counter or the grappa — I am one-quarter Italian — calls me early in the morning, before a Zoom meeting. I tell it to shut up. Summer will be here soon enough, but, you know, I won’t heed it’s call then either.

The grappa bottle in question is dressed like Santa Claus. Usually he’s naked, but someone has put his full coat back on him. It’s cold in our house so I understand.

We keep saying we’re going to the liquor store for real beer, but I know we’re both chicken. Is hooch worth the Covid? Utah won’t sell to-go beer and grocery and liquor stores make you walk inside to buy it. Is it worth the risk? Probably. I’m guessing we’ll find out which wins — sanity or health — in the next few days. My money is on sanity.

Day 42 – Saturday

I find out that my sister has cancer. Great. I’m not really processing it.

I look it up after hanging up the phone. Calls are weird. I text whenever possible but there are obviously times for exceptions. I couldn’t find anything on the type of cancer she has. It doesn’t exist. This would be wonderful if she were a pathological liar or a hypochondriac, but she’s not.

I found another cancer with a similar name. She texted the name to me before she called. Did My guess is that in her haste or the doctor’s she wrote her cancer down wrong. Or maybe Apple changed it for her. Long story.

I hope I’m wrong. The cancer that I found with a very similar name is rare, hard to detect until it’s almost too late, and has a low 5-year survival rate.

It all feels very clinical to me now. That could go on for a long time. I didn’t really process my dad’s cancer maybe for a few years after he was gone. It was HIS cancer. This is HER cancer.

Why is cancer possessive?

When Kenny Rogers died

Somehow, Kenny Rogers’ death turns into two hours of me regaling my family about 1970s variety shows. The conversation, which is likely just me monologuing, moves from Kenny Rogers to Glen Campbell to John Denver, Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme, and finally Stiller and Meara, who are by far the most memorable of the bunch but, looking at the list, the odd men out.

There’s a point where I question whether my brain is strong enough to remember the names of Steve and Edie — I see flashes of them in my mind, Steve Lawrence’s buttoned-too-low shirt, the highlights in his perfectly 1970s-coiffed hair, how I was always sure he was best buds with Frank Sinatra, although I have no idea why. Edie was one of my mom’s favorite, I think, or maybe I’m confusing her with Robert Goulet. Their names seemed so similar when I was a kid.

I can’t actually come up with Steve Lawrence’s name. I push myself incredibly hard and somehow squeeze Edie Gourme’s name from my grey matter, but for some reason, I wrongly want to connect her to Sinatra. Maybe her co-star and Frank seemed equally slimy to my eight-year-old self?

I say this aloud — “I keep linking her to Frank Sinatra, but I know it isn’t Frank Sinatra and Edie Gourme,” and I don’t want to use the internet to find out her name, although I know for a fact that I could simply type in “1970s couple variety shows,” and Steve and Edie would be near the top of the list, likely after Sonny and Cher, but maybe no one else. When I remember Edie’s name, I breathe a sigh of relief and allow myself to search, which is when I find Steve Lawrence’s name and kick myself for not figuring that one out without the electronic crutch that people like me who live for nonsense trivia have become so dependent upon.

When I mention Stiller and Meara, however, my husband, who’s nine years younger than me, can finally play along. I mean, he knows Ben Stiller’s dad, Jerry. You know, Seinfeld. For a minute, however, he thinks that Ann Meara was Ray Romano’s mom in that show, but I reminded him, no, that wasn’t the case. “No,” I say. I go through the game shows they were on, something about apples and bananas, how she was taller than Jerry, and how they were hilarious. I say out loud, “Why weren’t they my parents? I’d FaceTime them with a glass of wine right now,” bringing back a discussion we’d had a few hours earlier about how pandemics make people drink in FaceTime and may actually b we bringing families closer together … but not mine ‘cuz my mom’s a stick in the mud.

Turning back to Ann Meara, I correct him again with, “The last time I saw her was in the movie Reality Bites, when she doesn’t give Winona Ryder’s character the job and Winona chases after her trying to impress her unsuccessfully with her knowledge of words and concepts that only … an … English … major … would give a shit about.”

And then I think I’m back to me. Because I’m pretty sure by this point, I’m spouting off only information that an English major who graduated in the late 1980s would know or care about.

Alabama, where abortion is just another team sport

I spent a large portion of my childhood in Alabama. Birmingham to be exact. It’s called the Magic City, but I never figured out why because there’s was nothing magical about it.

There were some great parts about living in Alabama. You could ride a new bike on Christmas morning. You were only a few hours away from a beautiful coastline, although the beach never seemed warm enough during spring break, at least not for people who lived in the South. The trees and flowers and greenery in Alabama were beautiful. As a child, there was no shortage of “woods” to get lost in. Plus, foods like monkey bread, boiled peanuts, and moonpies tasted great (yes, I do love boiled peanuts but I accept that it’s an acquired taste). Oh, and people were incredibly nice. Really nice. Unbelievably nice. Frequently with an emphasis on the unbelievable part.

See, what I remember most is that everything in the Deep South centered around outward appearances. You looked like you were being sweet, so obviously you were sweet. You looked sincere, therefore you were. You looked put together and in control (that’s why you put on lipstick and fixed your hair before running to the Winn-Dixie to pick up tampons and toilet paper), so you must be. You looked like you cared, so you did, right?

Probably not.

That’s why it didn’t surprise me when I heard about this week’s bullshit abortion legislation in Alabama. It’s a show. Legislators in the state have even admitted as much. In this case, it’s an empty effort to try to get some high court to overturn Roe v. Wade. But I’d argue that the show is actually deeper than Roe v. Wade. I’d argue that these people don’t give the tiniest rat’s ass about the 1973 decision that deemed restrictive rules prohibiting abortion as unconstitutional. Their goal instead is to show that they have power. And for some reason, abortion has always been caught of this political pissing match.

Look, if any of the Alabama legislators (or any pro-life activist) actually gave a shit about babies that weren’t their own, they’d be equally as focused on what happens outside of the womb. Our healthcare system would be accessible by everyone. There would be no poverty. Hunger would be eradicated (and healthy food choices would be available and accessible to everyone). Gun violence wouldn’t exist. Children would be guaranteed at least one parent who was supportive and gave a damn. Homeless would be nothing more than a literary concept. Acceptance and tolerance would extend to every child and every person, regardless of religion, gender identity, color of skin, ethnic background, who they fell in love with, or what they wanted to do with their own bodies. Our education system would be incredibly well-funded rather than weak and anemic, and it would provide equal opportunities and access for all, no matter how much wealth a family had or hadn’t accumulated. And every child who exited the womb would honestly have a chance to do something amazing — a real chance at success, not some bullshit one filled with societal hurdles that are easily maneuvered only by light-skinned, native English speakers with a wallet full of cash.

That, however, isn’t what’s driving any of these legislators. What is driving them is the opportunity to show that they can effect change through their attempts to turn the clock back almost 50 years, which, 46 years ago, was at least 50 years too late.

These are the same legislators and Alabamians who were also obsessed with football and team sports when I lived there. It’s something I never really understood either, especially since it was college football and the state then and now has a lower-than-average percent of residents who even attend college. They’ve applied this same my-team v. your-team approach to social justice. The right-wing team has the ball and is doing its damnedest to get it into the endzone, which is now overseen by fresh, new referees (or judges) who might be willing to let some sketchy maneuver through.

It’s not sincere. But if the moves they’re making to overturn abortion rights work, these team-players will finish the game looking like winners. No, they won’t do anything that would actually ensure the lives they claim to be protecting have the “chance” that they also like to claim all babies (more accurately, fetuses) deserve, but that doesn’t matter. Deep down, what appears to matter most to anyone who’s trying to eliminate abortion access is that they’re finally on the winning side, and that their team is able to go the distance and surmount a 46-year losing streak. The impact of the game? Well, it really doesn’t matter now does it.

 

 

Make America Skeptical Again (Or Why Am I Still Doing This)

I’ve spent the last nine months, give or take some vacation time, in school taking classes to become a teacher. Yes, a teacher. Something that will pay about one-third of what I have been making in marketing, will likely be twice as frustrating, and frequently be less fulfilling than helping useless companies make money off of other useless companies. But I think teaching is what I want to do.

“Think” is the operative term here. I don’t know yet for sure. I’m a skeptic, you know?

While the skepticism likely started the day I was born, the teaching-people idea stems back to a very dark day in 2016, somewhere around November 10, by which time I’d had a day and a half to realize that everything happening around me wasn’t some really bad joke. That’s when I finally had to accept that Trump had really been elected president. By people. Who share a country of residence with me. Who were my age (and older and younger). Who shared my bland-ass skin tone. Who should know better than to vote for a racist, homophobic, sexist assclown.

It was less about the person elected than the act of electing him that really bothered me. We had embarked upon a complete shift in direction from a stalwart, progressive society to an anti-intellectual time-out corner.

I tried to understand the people who flip the knob for Trump. Turns out I regularly try to figure people out, quite unsuccessfully I might add. Somehow I was sure this time would be different. I knew these people must be getting their bizarro info about Hillary’s child-sex-trafficking pizza ring from somewhere, but I didn’t know where. I mean Fox News was/is crazy AF but even they’re not that batshit, right?

I turned to Alex Jones. I’d learned about him previously from my son, when my son revealed that he and other teen gamers were regularly targeted by alt-right messaging in gamer chat rooms and on message boards. I also learned about Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars, and a bunch of other whack-ass sites I try to keep out of my brain that way. Oddly, Alex Jones seemed like the most mainstream of the bunch. I found his podcast and tuned in during my daily run.

I lasted four days before admitting defeat, knowing that I had learned nothing about his audience except that they had the patience of Gandhi to be able to listen to the same toad croak on for four hours at a stretch about nonsense that was pretty obviously bullshit. Alien lizard people? Lefties stealing children out of backyards and sucking out their souls? People actually believed this?

Plus, Alex Jones’ anger was infectious. I would finish my run really pissed off for no reason, which is the exact opposite of what running usually does for me. I tried a few other podcasts, like Michael Savage’s, someone whom I knew my mother listened to and she was all over that Trump bandwagon (and parents wonder why their children never call), but I didn’t even last a day with him because he was so intensely dull. Apparently people who listen to the drivel vomited by right-wingers possessing a microphone have low expectations in terms of entertainment. That probably explains the popularity of a lot of television shows, too.

I was quickly realizing I wouldn’t be able to think like a Trump voter (something to be proud of), and walking a mile in their shoes was beyond my capacity to reason. This was more apparent when my boss at the time informed me that he was tired of people calling him a racist because he voted for Trump. He followed this proclamation by showing me a handful of texts from a friend of his that justified his vote. One was a link to a video in which Hillary Clinton was said to be laughing at her defense of a child rapist. Another was information about Evan McMullin, the savior candidate for Utahns who couldn’t bear to vote for a woman and weren’t so keen about that pussy-grabbing stuff either. According to my then-boss, McMullin was working for the Clinton campaign to divert votes from Trump so Clinton would be the state’s winner.

Now here’s the thing. I’m pretty aware of what’s going on in politics, and both of these seemed like they should have been big big big big big news (plus, everyone knows a democrat can’t win Utah, not to mention a WOMAN, why would someone bother paying a third-party candidate just in case?). So why hadn’t I heard of either? In less than three minutes online, I learned from reputable sources that both “facts” were complete bullshit. I also had time to cross-check and fact-check, that’s how little effort it took.

Why hadn’t my soon-to-be former boss done the same? He was a grown adult — do adults just accept what they’re told now?

This became the singular idea that drove me for the next year and a half as I tried to figure out how to Make America Skeptical Again. For a long time, I’ve defended the rights of anyone to say any dumbass thing they want to. Freedom of speech ROCKS! Freedom to believe, however, doesn’t. We all have the responsibility to find the facts before accepting anything hook, line, and sinker. And for some reason, people had stopped doing this.

When I was a kid, almost everyone I knew had two newspapers delivered to their home daily. Usually, the a.m. and p.m. papers had different political bents, but people (a.k.a., adults) read both anyway. In my house, my dad would read them cover to cover, do the crossword puzzle, take the sports section into the bathroom, etc. We all knew the drill. He’d complain about something he read in one paper and deem one of the editorial writers a clown. But what mattered most was that he was trying to see at least two sides to an issue.

In short, no one believed anything back then. Whether it was in print or broadcast, it deserved to be questioned.

Eventually, however, this changed. Most towns lost their second newspaper in the early 2000s. And most papers that survived are still existing by a thread. The message today from most news sources, and I use the term “news” loosely when personal blogs and social media platforms are seen as forms of news, says that no one bothers looking for the full story any more. A one-sided, biased opinion is good enough, thank you.

But as the Internet took hold, something else happened — people became too busy to look at the facts. Google and Facebook and other ad platforms started feeding us info that spoke to our exhibited biases, and in return, those platforms were rewarded with higher click thru and ad rates. Real news outlets, which have always been whores for cash, took notice and also started publishing stories that people WANTED to read, watch, or hear, rather than the ones people NEEDED to hear. A super-objective piece? BORING. Lizard people is where it’s at.

Anyway, back to November 2016 … or maybe by this time, it was December or 2017. I have two teens in my house so I know for a fact that we all reach adulthood as skeptics. I question why people have lost their natural skepticism and drive to prove authority figures wrong, why we read headlines and 140-character sound bites. Is it that we’ve become too comfortable and complacent? Do we have so much more Netflix to watch that we can only be bothered to pay attention if someone pre-chews the information for us?

Somehow society needed to change. Somehow I decided it was up to me to fix it. It took me a year and a half to figure out how. My decision: maybe I’d become a teacher. I could try to help the next generation to fix all the shit my generation and the ones that preceded us keep getting wrong.

Will it work? I have no idea, but I’ve finished my coursework and have only student teaching left before someone unleashes me on a class full of students and I get to find out. I think. I’m a little skeptical so I really don’t know if this will work or if I’ll be able to engage single mind or if this could be the single dumbest idea I’ve ever had.

Is anyone else offended by Happy Mothers’ Day?

Quick digression from the usual here, but is anyone else bothered when they’re told “Happy Mother’s Day!” by someone who isn’t their child?

I know this probably seems silly, but when the term is tossed around all willy-nilly by passersbys at Walmart, the person in front of my house picking up recycling, or a guilt-ridden employer with a credit at the flower shop, mother’s day feels even cheaper and wronger.

If mother’s day actually means anything, then it’s something personal — wishes and from a child to his/her/their mom or any other parental figure they choose. When a mother’s day greeting are extended by some third party, the whole day becomes about as meaningful as the Hallmark holiday that it is. That goes double when your creepiest, most annoying client ever texts “happy mother’s day” to you before you even wake up. Eww.