Monday, June 1, 2020

On being myself because everyone else was taken

Image credit: Cult couturier Ziad Ghanem
"Be yourself everyone else is taken" - so said the incredibly talented Oscar Wilde, OK, you can also get it from cult couturier Ziad Ghanem in the image above "no one will be the new anyone ever". Thankfully, I decided that long ago - my career was literally filled with that:
"In ten years you will be the next me" - when I was offered the job at one of the most prestigious research offices in Lebanon.
"Stick with the magazine, you'll be my number 2" - when the owner offered me the editor in chief job.
"Who am I leaving the agency for?" - when I told the creative director I was leaving his shop.
The above is but a small sample of how many times this was said to me in my life.
The good news is that I never wanted to be an obese chain-smoking research office owner, or be anyone's number 2, or inherit a faltering ad shop from anyone.  I admit it before anyone, taking the uncharted territory was not the easy route (I left a secure government job in 2001 - a dream position to any Lebanese !).
Now, whereas I did make quite a bit of money in communication, it was rare to find a client I really wanted to work with. Most dumbed down the creative ideas to the point of flatness. Which is why teaching (which I sadly stopped in late 2019) was the perfect antidote. I was that mad, wild client and pushed the students to deliver.
Do I regret leaving my research career? I never left it to be honest. There was always this research element in everything I did communication-wise. I distinctly remember when we were pitching for a large automotive account, the designers came up with these funky layouts. Then while looking at ads already done internationally for the brand, I discovered there was a rigid grid that the brand was adhering to. I got everyone back to the drawing board. The client was super impressed when he realized it.
And that editor in chief job? Well, I am the editor in chief of the blog - or as they say "head chef and bottle washer" because I do the marketing, branding, image, promotion and what not at the same time. And I do all this on my terms without compromise to get ad space or what not.
The agency I left? Well, it does not exist anymore.
Today, like many in Lebanon, my career is in limbo. Oddly, I have zero regrets. I have used my background to the fullest extent before the financial crisis struck, took as many precautions as possible and now seeing where this will lead me. Throughout it all, all "friends" or relations which brought nothing to my life - or worse took from it - have been disposed of. "Better be alone than badly accompanied" the saying goes.
It was Dwight Eisenhower who said "plans are useless but planning is indispensable" - as someone who has lived the Lebanese war (1975-1990) I can attest to that. As someone living in Lebanon today I can certify it.
I took my bets, now I shall see if they will come to fruition.
At least I took those bets as myself not as a surrogate or as a version of anyone else. 
Apparently everyone else was indeed, taken.