Dear 21-year-old Pat
It was my birthday three days ago. I have clothes in my wardrobe older than my colleagues. I am at that age where I get annoyed with old people who think that just because I’m the boss of my company, I have the most amount of free time (mum, you losing your Facebook password is not a matter of life or death) and I find it appalling how young people could leave half-eaten lunch on the table expecting it to magically find itself in the trash can.
I am basically a grumpy middle-age woman.
I entered the Advertising industry at the age of 20. Bad timing, bad economy, and wrong gender for further education, I was shipped right into the last whiff of The Batey Era (Ian Batey, go google).
With nothing to shout about but my determination never to be my parents, there I was, celebrating my 21st birthday in the Creatives-only meeting room in Publicis Singapore.
If I could pen a letter to the 21-year-old Pat in that meeting room, this is what I would have said.
Look around you and savour the moment. I know you’re socially awkward, but these folks took time off to celebrate your birthday. The Executive Creative Director. The Art Director. The Writer. The Traffic Manager. The FA Artist who will end up being your colleague again over a decade later.
Stop sulking and go apologise to your boss who has just given you a shelling for being rude to your client. She scolded you because while you have grit, you have no grace. She didn’t scold you because she sided with the client or because she had no spine. She scolded you because you are better than the client.
Guts. Grit. Grace. Glory. You will discover that they are relative to each other.
In the years to come, you will find yourself in a very dark place. A soulless place where you struggle to find the will to live. Your boss will be there to save you. She will be one of those few friends you have in this industry, who knew you before you became THE Pat Law.
You did the right thing by coming out at work. It wasn’t as terrifying as you thought it’d be, was it? At least for one third of your life at work, you don’t need to live a lie. I wish you knew that mum already knows by now you are gay, but anyway, you’ll find out soon enough when your girlfriend breaks up with you. That’s in 2 years, by the way.
You shouldn’t let those fresh graduates who complained about how you aren’t qualified to be their supervisor because you’re a diploma holder get to you. Your boss chose you because you are dependable.
Don’t be bothered by your peers leaving you out for lunch. You’ll end up being emotionally independent because you were ostracized by them. Besides, you’ll be spending those days in the pantry eating alone reading up on all kinds of marketing books you borrowed from your boss. It’s a good thing. No one expected a 21-year-old to put together a strategic plan for L’Oreal Conseil, the headquarters in Paris.
Let’s talk about that colleague of yours, who came up to you to say:
“Ah, didn’t realise Publicis would hire non-degree holders. They must be desperate.”
Trust me on this — you’ll progress so far ahead in your career you won’t even remember her name anymore. Shame on you. You should have remembered her name so that you can Facebook-stalk her and gloat. I’m kidding.
You’ll spend a little too much time perhaps, being angry at what she said. You’ll take her job, mate. You’ll end up working on L’Oreal, and her, on Osim. You need to learn empathy — which will continue to be your biggest weakness to come.
You have an issue with punctuality, and I wish you’d sort it out pronto at this age. Your bosses have been too lenient. For all the times you have been late for work, you were only told off in person once. How dare you think you have the right to be angry at your boss? Young lady, sort it out now. It will bite you in the ass in the future.
Your business cards get you one-for-one drinks at Wine Bar on Media nights, I know. It doesn’t mean you should marinate your liver in alcohol. DO NOT DOWN THAT TWO SHOTS OF BACARDI 151. You have nothing to prove to your Creatives. You will end up puking your guts out, with several pictures held ransom by your heartless colleagues, and your poor boss having to send you home and face the wrath of your parents.
You are so lucky there wasn’t social media then.
You should know that dad will fall ill before you turn 30. Ill in such a way you will end up leaving the career you love so much, with one last shot at growing up. No mate, he isn’t going to be one of those lucky old folks who’d be well and kicking at 80. In fact, you’re not entirely sure if he’d make it to 80.
Save your money. You’re currently spending $110 for every $100 you make. You have just gotten your first credit card, and already, you’re rolling a credit of $500 a month. It sounds little, but you’re making $1800 a month. If you don’t stop now, your debt will roll to some $20,000 and you’ll take months to clear it.
You are financially immature and hypocritical of the highest, most annoying degree. You complain about not making enough money, but yet, there you are, spending your money on $5 coffee, Evisu jeans, and oh my god why the hell do you think you need Commes Des Garçons shoes even?
Your girlfriend will give up on you eventually, and you’ll experience your first heartbreak. You don’t think you will survive, but you will.
You will learn from your mistakes and become a better person over 15 years later.
A person deserving of a very special woman you’d want to marry and grow old with.
The special woman I have spent my last four birthdays with.