Y’all, we’re not doing a podcast this week. So, instead, I thought it’d be nice if I gave you some background on me and how I came into this weird, wonderful world of advertising, design and marketing.
Let There Be College
I graduated high school and started college in 2000. I was majoring in “classic art.” Drawing, painting, sculpting, the classics. After a solid year of trying I was still struggling with Drawing 201 (it sounds really sad, but trust me, it was VERY hard to please that instructor). This was my biggest struggle, at the time. I was having a pretty standard college experience, I think. Hanging out with friends in my off hours. Working after school and on the weekends. My sister was still in high school so she was preoccupied with high school girl stuff.
June 30, 2001
I remember it very clearly. I was sleeping in the living room of my mom’s house after a LONG night of playing Super Smash Brothers with my friends, some of which had decided to stay over instead of driving home. It was early when the phone rang, around 6AM. Mom got up and walked to the kitchen, she didn’t have a phone in her room.
I heard her say something like, “Uh huh. Okay. Thank you for calling.” She walked into the living room and gently shook me.
“Sweetie, wake up. We’ve got to go,” she said in a gentle voice. I rolled over, rubbed my eyes and put on my glasses.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, groggily.
“Your father was killed at work,” she said, stone faced. “We have to go identify the body.”
The next few hours are blurry. I remember getting dressed, no shower. I remember mom wanted me to drive. I remember going to the hospital. Mom asked if I wanted to go inside, and at the time, I felt like a coward for saying no. Now, at the age of 35, I feel like I probably made the right choice. I don’t remember anything else between then and the funeral except a fleeting memory of a church pot luck where everyone brought food for us. I always wondered about this. I knew a lot of the people who were there, but we didn’t go to church. Any church. I thought it was nice of them, but I didn’t, and still don’t, understand why they did it.
The day of the funeral came, and I hadn’t shed a tear. I knew I was in shock. I wasn’t close to dad, but he was still dad. And I loved him. After him and mom were separated, my relationship with him had actually begun to improve. I saw him more often than when he lived with us. At the funeral, my cousin, Edie, gave the most amazing eulogy. She started off with a perfect line that completely describes my dad.
“One time …” she started and her voice cracked. She was trying to keep it together, to get through the speech without breaking down into tears. She started again.
“One time, Uncle Omar (my dad’s nick name from the Army) came over to the house, and I said to him ‘Well, you sure do smell good!’ He said, ‘I just farted.’ and gave me a big hug.” There was laughing. Laughing at a funeral. It was exactly what dad would have wanted.
I went home, sat on my bed, and cried for hours.
September 11, 2001
When you say 9/11, everyone knows where they were when it happened. It’s like watching the moon landing.
I’d started school in August and was well into the routine by this time. Why did I pick an 8AM math class? Because I was still too young to know better. I was driving to school when I heard on the radio that, somehow, a plane had accidentally crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings. I was shocked, but didn’t think too much of it. By the time I made it to school the second plane had hit. I walked into the student center and every TV was tuned to a different news station, all reporting the same thing. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, and went about my day. I called mom and talked to her briefly about it, and she seemed concerned but who wasn’t, right? My last class for that day ended at noon, and I started driving home. On the way my cell phone rang.
“Hello?” I asked, about to pull into my driveway.
“Sweetie, it’s mom,” said mom, her voice shaky.
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
“I think I’m having a heart attack. I’m almost home, I’m right down the road.”
“Why didn’t you call 911?! Where are you?” I was parking in front of the house by this time.
“I … I’ll be home soon.” Click. I immediately called 911.
We spent the night in the emergency room, my sister stayed with a friend.
The Next Day
After no one telling me anything, I finally got mom to tell me what was going on. She’d had a panic attack. And she’d been having panic attacks since dad had died. She told me later that she’d heard that because of what had happened with the World Trade Center that the draft was being re-instated and I was going to be sent off to fight in the new war on terror. She had been having small panic attacks during the day when she first heard about the planes, but on her way home she had her first major attack. She went on a long work hiatus and I quit school so I could work full-time to help pay bills.
Moving to Raleigh
After her panic attack, mom had asked me what I truly wanted to do. I’d always wanted to be an animator (although I called it a cartoonist when I was little because I didn’t know there was a difference). There was this technical college in Raleigh that taught 3D animation that I’d visited while I was in high school, and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen! So, she agreed that if I’d use it for tuition, she’d help me get my portion of my dad’s death benefit money to get me started.
That ended up being what led me to where I am now. I learned a few of my crucial skills there. I haven’t animated anything since leaving school, but I use the concepts taught during my design classes every day. That’s also where I met Robert. After I started working with him, I moved to Alabama to start with this business.