September 26, 2023

I’m Just a Teenage Dirtbag, Baby.

Back when I used to think that my purpose in this life was to be a marketer, I would do all the things that marketers had to do.

I took out a loan and went to school. I applied for jobs and wrote cover letters. I used LinkedIn (through gritted teeth). I even got jobs and got dressed and went to them, which was always a surprising consequence of having applied for and wanting those very jobs.

I don’t think I ever believed that I was truly passionate about marketing the way that other people seemed to be (particularly on LinkedIn). These were people who regularly attended webinars on how to write compelling copy and inspire trust in brands. Even if these were things that would have been useful for the work I did five days a week, the idea of becoming an expert in analytics or SEO or communications strategy made something in me want to turn inside out.

When I did go back to school in 2018, I felt like I was doing the correct and inspired thing. I knew I no longer wanted to be a journalist, and I knew enough to know I didn’t know enough about anything else to turn it into a career.

The program was one year and 36 classes long. It was full time, but then it was over and done with, and I could be the best marketing professional in…the kilometre radius around my apartment in Osborne, maybe. Probably not even that.

At the beginning of the program, we got to attend different presentations about our exciting new professional education. One of the instructors talked about the idea of discovering your passion within the work you do, and how you may be surprised at what you enjoy.

After all, what little kid grows up thinking they will be deeply fulfilled by working in HR and building a highly effective onboarding process? These are things you learn as you grow up and find ways to marry your own personality and interests with what the world considers to be useful.

I don’t think he was totally wrong. His words rang out in my mind every time I finished an assignment and found that I was pleased with the creativity and thinking that it took. It seemed like a good sign. I might not daydream about marketing, but I could find joy in being good at it. This is what professionals do, right?

I never talked to my classmates about it. We seemed to all be under a similar presumption that this was a career path with a lot of options and one that might be able to make you some money. Good enough.

I think there are people who are genuinely excited about their professional work, and those people are the ones who should be doing it. Maybe it’s just because it wasn’t for me that I found it so completely disingenuous.

I had been a moody high schooler who could never sleep enough and later a half-engaged university student who found everyone’s outfits, parties, and relationships a lot more interesting than Rhetorical Theory 101. I could always find some satisfaction in writing papers and passing classes, but I hadn’t outgrown my need to sit out and watch and know that I can leave at any time.

The strangest thing about getting older and diving into the corporate world is the sudden need to buy slacks and agree to tell everyone that what you’re doing is exciting and full of wonder and not at all disappointing. I’m not sure I ever quite got over that teenage surliness, which stood in wonderful opposition to everything I was being told. There were a lot of obnoxious questions that we were all proud of at the time. Why do we even, like, have to go to class? It’s not like we’re even learning anything.

As a teenager, you get to be obnoxious, and you get to say you don’t want to do things without thinking out the logic behind it. As adults, how often do we make decisions based on what we think is “right” rather than just how we feel? The more I dive into the realms of spirituality and how the universe works on a deeper level, the more I’m seeing that doing things based on how you feel is actually much more important than doing them for any other reason.

This feels petulant, like something we should grow out of at some point.

We’re told to weigh the pros and cons of things, to consider all the perspectives and people involved. This is how we make our decisions: everything from the job we think we’ll love to the social plans we keep to the food we eat. We rarely let “I feel like it” or “I don’t feel like it” be a good enough reason for anything, as if our feelings are toddlers grabbing at our hands rather than, I don’t know, a deeply useful and authentic compass built right into us to help us navigate our lives.

In the spirit of reclaiming more of that gorgeous, raw teenager energy, here are some things I would love to see more of:

Sleeping in and not worrying that you’ve missed the day. Sometimes sleep is what that day is for.

Cutting things you like out of magazines and hanging them on walls.

Saying no! And saying I don’t think so, not for me, not really into that.

Saying yes! And not being embarrassed about what you want.

Going to the mall. Purchases not required, except maybe an Orange Julius. Yes, I realize actual teenagers don’t really do this now, but it’s nostalgic for me, okay?

Having a crush and not having a single, suave, grown-up approach on how to deal with it. Rather just hoping you get to talk at some point and kicking your feet about it later.

Asking obnoxious questions, especially about things that seem to be so part of the status quo that we’re almost unaware of them.

Not pretending to like things that genuinely make your skin crawl (sorry, LinkedIn).

And of course: listening to My Chemical Romance.


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