by Cricket Desmarais
“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.” ― BRENE BROWN
For many, marketing can conjure notions of manipulation, deception & exploitation. I only recently stumbled across two exact photos of a semi-nude model, side by side. One air brushed, the other, not.
The difference made me gasp.
Not because the woman was less than beautiful in her “authentic” image, but because, for all these years, I’d actually (mostly) believed in the flawless perfection of what I saw on the page. Something so many women unconsciously measure themselves against that’s not even real to begin with!
I admit that I am an ultra sensitive sort, & what others experience as normal affect me deeply. It’s the poet in me, what can I say?
For a long time, marketing actually made me queasy. Like, pack my bags & vamoose queasy. You see, I worked, for a brief while, in a marketing department. Despite the decent salary & the high-profile, uber cool company that I was suddenly aligned with, I quit not long after I was hired.
At first glance, it was the dream job. The answer to my unstructured whims & ways of the past. Hell, the job post on Monster.com even had the word “creative” in it. I was fresh out of grad school with an MFA in Creative Writing & through the moon about my new job offer.
It gave me ground under my feet, unlike the previous installment of FINDING FORM: HOW OUR EARLY YEARS SHAPE US, where I bobbed along, tumbling this way & that, sometimes led by a deeper wisdom within & sometimes just spilling myself forward, hoping for the best…
Durham, New Hampshire, 1988.
The first two years of college are a joke- a waste of time, money & energy. I am not mature enough to appreciate it, reject the structure & get by with minimal effort & attendance. I do, however, make lifelong friends, which has to account for something.
Then poetry enters & changes everything.
The world is illuminated by language. I am smitten with its power to invoke investigation, to help me feel & think. In that order.
My own poems are terrible- sentimental drivel at best. But I don’t care. Much, anyhow. It only stabs a little when, during a conference I request with my instructor & Pulitzer prize winning poet Charles Simic, he thumbs the paper of my poem, never meeting my eyes & asks, after much silence, “You really love words, don’t you?”
Upon graduating- terrified by questions from fellow classmates that ask “Which companies are you interviewing with?” – I move to the central coast of California with nothing more than a duffel bag, $300, & the desire to learn to surf.
I find a spot that lets me drop in from some rocks & paddle out behind the break, take endless beatings in enormous winter waves. Advanced surfers paddle up to me with genuine concern, wondering what I am doing out there. I have no idea, am quite likely the happiest kook on the coast, catching my first wave by sheer accident: a double overheader that I ride straight in to the beach, hooting the whole way there.
In the two decades that follow, I live a ridiculously adventurous & creative life, taking risks & living by whims, following what feels like FLOW. Somehow, I manage not to die. I even accomplish a few things.
I help implement an arts youth program for at-risk teens, organize gallery fundraisers, work in an art supply store, go to graduate school (where I learn to write somewhat better poems), captain boats for eco charters, swim regularly with wild dolphins, help deliver boats across the Atlantic, back-pack through Central America & Cuba, publish stories & poems in newspapers, magazines & literary journals, edit literary journals, exhibit photographs in galleries, perform with a modern dance company & a burlesque troupe, act in a thriving theater circuit, teach dance & yoga & help other creative people & businesses along on their path.
Though there is certainly some planning required to help make some of these things manifest & some steep learning curves to be had, for the most part, much of it happens serendipitously & by trusting my gut.
I also move the way people go on vacation- at least once yearly. I unconsciously collect addresses the way people collect souvenirs.
Though always taking in amazing, new & fluid experiences, I am nearly always stressed about money because I do not understand the basic principals of business, or how to apply them to my creative endeavors.
To supplement my creative expression, most of which I invest time & money in with little to no financial return, I wait tables, tend bar at microbreweries & jazz hall clubs, work in art supply stores, temp at (miserable) corporate jobs with cubicles, substitute teach, wait more tables, sell artisan carpets & at one point even consider stripping after a fellow thespian lets on about the gobs of dollars she makes each evening.
The only time I make a reasonable wage with my creative endeavors is during a brief stint of creative marketing for a large alternative newspaper in New York. I play with words on the page & study how simple shifts can alter the entire essence of the message. Add the graphics from a savvy designer & presto!…we have ourselves the beginnings of a decent campaign.
I also begin to notice ads EVERYWHERE. Buy this & you will be sexier, smarter, happier. Drink this & you are a demi-god. Something deep within me begins to sicken.
I begin to have hallucinations on the subway. Letters drip down from advertisements & smear the person’s head below it. I have regular full-blown anxiety attacks at the drugstore trying to decide which of the fifteen brands of toothpaste or deodarant to buy. I become overtly self-conscious of my clothing, anxious about the hairs from my beloved cat, the tiny pills, the loose threads.
I cannot escape it.
& the poetry of language? Gone, taken over by the heft & weight of words set together to SELL.
Then, the week of three pairs of new shoes & the almost Blackberry happens. Standing in the store with yesterday’s answer to today’s smartphone in my hands because I truly think I might need it, I begin to shake & sweat. I grab my bag of shoes (that I will never wear) & walk aimlessly until I find myself in front of the Natural History Museum. I pay my way in & plunk myself down in the dark IMAX theater to regain composure.
While the film reveals its story of the indigenous people of the Amazon, the extreme rising & falling tides & the fabled pink dolphins, I cry my head off, longing for nature, for simplicity, for the ease of a world not driven by mass consumerism.
& then, I make the biggest mistake that costs me almost two decades of time to realize I have it all wrong. I make marketing the bad guy.
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