If there’s anything I’ve learned from my nearly three years at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, (other than my love for my advertising major), is the importance of what makes a good ad.
No, it’s not celebrity cameos or the fact that all ads have to end eventually, but the fact that some of the best ads are the best, and most memorable short stories I’ve ever seen.
What brought me into advertising was the power that comes from creating a story from scratch, and as an avid, longtime lover of writing, cinematography, and all things media creation – it wasn’t hard to find this industry as my true calling.
Which got me thinking: if I was a product, what would be the story I would tell to sell myself?
It seems like an odd question at first, but then I realized I already did and wrote that very story in the form of college applications in the Fall of 2016. Amongst the hundreds of rough drafts and hours of editing was the creation of a story of who I was, what I valued, and what I bring to the table in roughly 650 words.
So today I wanted to share my story, re-modified, as a story that got me into college, brought me to this very moment in my life as a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and made me a true believer of grit. And no, this isn’t a story about a sports injury; this is a story of pain, tenacity, and more than anything – overcoming and redefining what people think. This is my advertisement of a moment in my life that incapsulates what makes me, me.
“I knew I had screwed up seconds before I hit the ground.
Actually, if we’re going to be honest here, I knew who had caused me to screw up the moment I landed, a clear pop snapping through the air as my kneecap slid out of place.
My initial reaction was to curse, naturally, as one does when it feels as if someone took an axe and lodged it into one’s bone. My second reaction, however, rather than bursting into tears because my leg was starting to resemble a boomerang, was to begin threatening my step-brother. It was his foot that kicked me from behind as I chased to intercept the soccer ball he couldn’t reach in time, and it was his face I saw first as I looked up from the ground, cussing loudly enough to catch the neighbor’s attention.
“Oh god, I-I didn’t mean to! I’m so –”
“Don’t,” I threatened, raising a shaking middle finger up in the air. “You say one more word and I’ll roundhouse kick you to North Korea.”
I bit my lip, censoring myself as my family began to rush out the house, finally realizing that something had gone horribly wrong. I had accidentally released a stampede of aunts and uncles in my direction, and while the average age for the elderly in my family is about 70 years old, these people could run faster than my then 12 year old sister.
The pain shooting up my thigh was almost numbing, and despite the lack of waterworks in my eyes, I felt as if the ligaments in my left leg had disintegrated into nothing more but jelly. As my relatives dropped the laundry they were doing and halted the Chinese drama they were watching, I suppressed a scream and prepared for the disappointment soon to follow.
No one stepped forward to help me as I balled up my fists in fury, shaking from both agony and anger as my family watched from a distance like I was a zoo animal on display. This was because of one reason.
1) My father wouldn’t let them.
A man of iron will and tenacity worse than a bulldog, my father is an avid believer in sorting out your own problems, regardless of the situation. We don’t take lemons and make lemonade; we take lemons, demand for who gave us bad lemons, and make use of them anyways.
Howard, the culprit, staggered backwards as I turned to face him, caught between whether or not I should insult him or scream because I was paralyzed below my left kneecap. My reputation in the family was already not a positive one. My family thought I was reckless and had an attitude of a Westerner who didn’t understand respect, or how to solve her own problems. I was labeled as a hot head, cocky, and most definitely, my father’s daughter.
“I’m going to kill you,” I growled, just loud enough so only Howard could hear. “How do you feel about dying over a soccer ball?”
“I thought you –”
“Are you trying to argue with me?” I shouted. “Look at my leg! Look. At. It.”
“I’ll go tell your dad –”
“Don’t,” I interrupted, shaking in pain. “Just shut up and let me think.”
By then the remainder of the family had come out; circling like I was a invader on their land rather than an injured 14 year old girl with a leg inverted like it was inside-out. My leg seemed to turn purple, and my brother was starting to turn green.
“You need help,” he stuttered. “You need –”
“Shut up,” I grumbled, finally settling on a solution as I grabbed my left thigh between my two hands, and sat up.
I was livid, infuriated, and above all, incredibly irritated with every single person standing there, watching to see what I would do next. Not once did anyone offer to help me, and even in that moment, as I struggled to restrain the geyser of obscenities I wanted to release, the golden rule of the Fang family still held true. Something’s broken? Then you fix it yourself.
“What do you want me to do?” Howard stuttered, freezing in place.
“Be quiet?” I suggested, furrowing my brows in frustration as I eyed my surroundings, trying to find a suitable stick to use as crutch.
Maybe it was the anger, or maybe it was adrenaline, but as I sat there on the ground fueled by pure stubbornness, I had decided that enough was enough. Forcing my weight to the left, I pushed myself to sit up, my left leg caught in an angle of a crescent moon as my knee jiggled with every inch I crawled.
“You might want to close your eyes,” I warned, violently pivoting so I could align myself with my leg. Howard fumbled, eyes widening once he realized what I was about to do.
“You’re not actually –”
I looked up, gripping my calf in one hand and what used to be my knee in the other. My aunts made a double take and my father stared absentmindedly with his arms crossed, as if he was expecting for me to finally make the move he was waiting for as I centered my weight on my leg, trembling in agony. If they wanted me to deal with the problem, so be it. If they wanted me to prove myself, then I would prove them wrong.
So with a final swear word and utter determination, I gritted my teeth and threw my leg in the opposite direction, ramming it against the ground, and popped my knee back in place.”