“Do what you love” is something we usually tell 17- and 18-year-olds. When I was 18, I loved Blink 182 and carbs and if I was going to do any of those things, I had a better chance at making love to a baguette than to Travis Barker. I wasn’t really sure what I was passionate about when I was choosing my career path. Hell, I didn’t even know what passion was yet.
When I landed a summer job as a physician’s assistant, people naturally started asking me if I was considering med school. I guess it was easier to nod my head than to give my future any real thought, so I nodded yes to med school a lot. I felt like a fraud walking everyone through my future plans as a doctor, but I did it anyway and I did it convincingly. I wish someone had told me back then that it’s okay not to know what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re a teenager.
To distract myself from the Grey’s Anatomy destiny I didn’t actually want, I started dabbling in some hobbies shortly after entering school to get my health degree. I took up guitar, wrote some poetry, mastered binge drinking and spent endless amounts of time scrolling through Instagram.
Immediately, I noticed that I really liked Instagram. I mean I really liked Instagram. I liked the meme culture that was emerging, the self-branding we were all doing, the subtle advertisements we were being brainwashed with, and the amazing accounts solely dedicated to cats (i.e @cats_of_instagram).
Towards the end of my education, I slid into a New York based influencer’s DMs and asked if she needed help. I wanted in on the craze. The term influencer was just emerging at the time and basically meant anyone with 100K+ followers on Twitter or Instagram who could be paid to promote teeth whiteners or detox wraps. We exchanged a few messages, talked for a few days, and became instant friends. When she offered me a remote internship (we didn’t live in the same city), I eagerly accepted.
Within a few months, I had made my unpaid intern-friendship my top priority. I had one of those cliché epiphanies where you’re standing still but everyone around you is moving at lightening speed and I realized that this was actually my calling. I was going to pursue social media and marketing. A few months away from obtaining that ridiculously expensive piece of paper that would certify me as a university educated healthcare worker, part of me felt really good about completing my degree. But another larger, seriously anxious, Jessie Spano-on-caffeine-pills part of me was not proud of the seemingly fraudulent accomplishment.
I invested all of my post-grad time in my internship. Eventually, I isolated myself from friends and family, put my relationship on hold, and immersed myself fully in an Instagram influencer’s goals. I was that passionate about social media marketing. But the harder I worked, the more toxicity I seemed to attract. Our working relationship became frightening and I was being consumed in a cruel way. I couldn’t believe how I’d gone from being Internet friends with someone to an Internet punching bag for someone.
I began paying to be her intern—not directly, but essentially— because the abuse escalated to the point that I secretly sought therapy. Being a university graduate without a health insurance, I was effectively paying $150 a week to continue working for a dictatorial witch while being asked “And how does that make you feel?” by a stranger. I loved the witch’s brand, and I was passionate about social media and marketing, but the “job” was killing me.
One snowy night, my non-paying boss called me and I knew it wasn’t good news. My voice was as unstable as Tara Reid in the early 2000s. She spoke calmly and kindly, like the boss I used to know, while explaining that she “couldn’t do this to me anymore.”
“I just don’t think media is for you,” she said. “You’re a good person, a good friend, but maybe you should get back into the health field. You’re just not good at this.”
The words cut like a knife. I couldn’t believe I’d wasted my time and effort, and risked my wellbeing on someone who would end up telling me to give up. I was hurt as her friend, and torn to shreds as her employee. I accepted her words, thanked her for the experience, and hung up.
After crying for a week, eating way too many carbs, and listening to Spotify’s “Rainy Days” playlist 32 times, I decided that this was not going to be the nail in my media marketing coffin. I decided to lay it all on the line and apply for a job at the biggest award-winning media and marketing agency out there. To play it safe, I also applied to a few semi-good ones, and some mediocre ones.
I told my story and confessed my love for social media like a drunk girl in a club over and over again to agencies all around town. How did it go? Well, today, despite having an education in health, I handle the media and marketing for multi-million dollar companies—ones that rhyme with Shmepsi, Smercedez Smenz and ShMcDonalds—so I think things are going pretty well!
Every day, I wake up knowing that I chose this life. It definitely wasn’t easy, but after dealing with serious emotional abuse at the hands of my first boss, I knew I could handle just about anything. Do I have regrets? Sure, I should not have allowed myself to be abused for so long. I’ll have to live with that weak part of me, remembering that I also get to live with the really strong part of me that picked myself up and figured things out. The part that doesn’t give up when someone says I can’t do something I truly love.