Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and PR officer at Ally Financial, is a 1987 advertising graduate. She received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2018. ComArtSci asked her to reflect on her career and life by writing a letter to her former self as a student at Michigan State University.
Dear 20-year-old Andrea,
Your life is going to be very sloppy, embrace the slop. Because the slop is where real life happens.
It’s hard to imagine now. Your life is carefree and fun. But it’s structured because it has to be.
You have the honor of playing soccer for a Division 1 program…on the first varsity women’s team EVER at Michigan State. You have practices several days a week, and games all over the country. This has been your dream since you were a young girl, and you want to be elite, because you play with, and for, elite. So let up is not an option.
You are at the only university you ever wanted to go to —
Michigan State —
getting a degree in something you have wanted to do your whole life. Advertising and marketing has always been in your blood, it’s fascinated you, it’s thrilled you, and there is nothing you want more than to get a job on a big brand where you can shape its DNA for years to come. But, the job market is fierce, and there are thousands of kids just like you. Kids who have better grades, have had internships, have won advertising competitions, who have produced real work, and they all want what you want, so let up is not an option.
You are dating your high school sweetheart. On paper he is perfect. He has a great degree in electrical engineering from the school down the road that we Spartans dislike…but hey, it’s a damn good degree. He’s already graduated and making good money at a big company. I know it’s in the town you grew up in, and you have always dreamed of getting that advertising degree and working on Madison Avenue. Working at a big-name agency, living big city life and making your own fortune. But ugh, how can you leave such perfection for so much uncertainty. If you stay home after you graduate, you can have that ring, that house, that perfect little yuppy life. So put that dream behind you and stay the course, let up is not an option.
Andrea, you are going to get exactly what you planned for. You’re going to play four years of soccer at MSU and win the Spirit Award for the player that has shown the most grit and moxie in the times it matters most. You are going to get that job on a big brand, at a good agency and your career will be on a rocket ship to the top where you will be the youngest account director —
and the only female account director — in the 90 years of the Chevrolet account. You are going to do great work and win awards and move product and have a great big spotlight on everything you do. You are going to get the ring, and the house, and the two adorable kids that make your heart feel like it never has before, and the perfect husband on paper. And it’s all going to look magical to the outside world, so stay the course, let up is not an option.
Enter, the slop.
Your star is going to get too big, and the target on your back is going to become bigger and bigger, and that perfect agency job isn’t going to be, well, so perfect. You’re going to get tired, and the pace is going to consume you and those two little boys, who are the loves of your life, are never going to get to see you because all you do is work. You’re going to get bored and resentful of that perfect paper husband and your marriage is going to fall apart. And worst of all, the unimaginable is going to happen and your beautiful, sweet brother is going to get sick and die, right in front of your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it. Oh my God, now what is the course? Letting up is all you want to do.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And despite all these challenges and hurdles and life events that you never ever pictured happening to YOU, you’re hurting. But you are strong as hell. And you aren’t going out that easily. You’re going to be ok, in fact you are going to be better than ok, you are going to finally really live.
You will connect with your boys, Alec and Drew, on the deepest of levels and they will become your world. Their strength will lift you thru the darkest of times, and with them you will have the best of times and you will truly learn what it means to be a present mom. You will get a job that you love, and from the ground up you will create a brand! A brand that is good, and authentic, and contemporary and brilliant. You will be surrounded by amazingly smart people and you will learn and excel and ascend to a level that you never could have imagined in your wildest dreams. You will learn about yourself, you will be tested, you will learn new things, you will do amazing work, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that YOU did it, you built something that will last forever. You will find love, real love with a wonderful man who makes you happy and makes you laugh. Your family will expand, and his kids will become your kids (you will finally get that daughter you always wanted without the hard drama years) and you will have a beautiful life. And your brother will always be in your heart, and you will take the lesson of his death as a reminder to always live every day as if it was your last. And his death will bring you closer to your sister and your parents as you will never take any of them for granted again.
You will learn to give your whole self in everything you do. You will learn that giving is way better than receiving. You will learn that a strong body makes for a stronger mind. You will find out that you can’t take yourself too seriously, and that life is not defined by what you do, but who you are as a person. You will learn the meaning of life is to find your gift, but the purpose of life is to give it away. You will find a few really great friends, that are there in every moment that matters. You will be content and settled and you will find peace.
But most of all, you will learn to love the slop.