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  • Writer's pictureMaia Dunkel


Updated: May 23, 2019

I know. It's been close to a year since my last post. To be specific, it was Father's Day 2018. I am ashamed. Truly. When I launched this blog I was committed to doing a post a week. My cousin told me that if I did a post a week - after a year - it'd be a book! Not that I am aiming to publish another book but it is a great way to show that if you just do little by little, it will add up over time. Because time flies. But when we are in IT (life), our grand plans often fall to pieces. So here I am, starting anew. I am committed now to thinking less and editing even less so. I am just going to put it out there and not put pressure on myself to write every week or have every entry be so DEEP. Spelling errors...who cares? A blog is...well, a blog. I was treating it as my weekly New Yorker article. In my mind it had to be perfect. Guess what guys! A year later, I am SO DONE with PERFECT. It doesn't exist. The same cousin told me months later when I was working my new business website, DONE is better than perfect. (Thank you, Liza) HALLELUJAH!

As many of you know, I haven't been working in advertising for over a year. So what have I been doing with my time? Well, for one, I have been being a better mother, aka a Solo Parent, to my daughter. I am (mostly) more patient. I cook better meals. I read more books. I have her friends over a lot and love being a mystery reader at her Montessori school. I am a master sewer of costumes and we take improv classes at Second City. I cliché bake. (I won't even get into all the estate planning, two years of Dad's taxes etc.) I have been fixing. Oh and I have a business now!

Also, I take things less seriously. I have perspective. Things that use to seem so important aren't and things I thought were "skippable" actually mean more to me now. Do I panic? Of course. Do I run out of patience? Doubly, of course. But I realized I need to give myself a BREAK.

Within 18 months, my Dad got cancer. One of my best friends died too young. I was laid off from the agency I had worked at for a decade, a fifth of my entire life! My Dad, my best friend, died. I had been working at ad agencies without break (ok, a short one in 2007) for 18 years. It was a great run. The industry is different now. I am different now. That's life.

Life is unpredictable.

Last week I went to a new doctor here in Chicago to check if my meds needed adjusting. It had been a decade since a real visit and while all is fine, I decided one was in order. Our bodies and situations change with time and I am all for being in tune with what's going on physically and mentally. There is a phrase in Russian that I try to live by when it comes to doctors: "Nelzya ekonomits' na zdorovye" (Translation: Forbidden to economize on your health). If I have to pay $350 out-of-pocket and can "afford it" to get things in order, I must do it. Dr. C asked me what industry I was in. I told him advertising with the caveat I had been out of it for some time. He smiled. No, he chuckled. "What?", I pressed. He proceeded to tell me that in his 25-year practice, the people who come to him most for help are a) lawyers and b) advertising execs. I was shocked. Advertising, really? Not bankers or CFOs? What about Dentists? Aren't they famous for suicides? And then I breathed a sigh of relief. No, it was it a sigh of understanding. (Thank you, Doctor C.). Thank you.

So what does all this have to do with solo parenting? Well, after that session, I had a revelation. Advertising was good to me. I was good to it. I loved it and still do. It was and still is a life-long education. I've had a great career and worked in the best shops with wonderful people. I started at Ogilvy in NYC working on Kimberly-Clark's Huggies brands. I had the best bosses and colleagues (Laurel Richie, Amy Starkman & Andrea Huemmer). They are life-long friends. I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi on Head & Shoulders and learned a lot working on P&G. I worked in digital shops on good pharma brands (that really do help people) at DDB with super smart, fun people I still stay in touch with. I did amazing creative work on BAE Systems with Chris Wall (my friend who died too young). It won an award. I am proud of the work. I had mostly good clients and a few bad eggs. We all do and it's silly to pretend that's not the case. I traveled all over the world. I was living it and loving it. And I worked my way up title and salary-wise. It was HARD but it was also fun. But it was 24/7 for sure. Right, Dr. C?

But the absolute best thing advertising gave me was my daughter. When I was 39, I was living in NYC and knew I needed a change. I was invited to come back to Ogilvy in Chicago. The office was growing. "Great! I LOVE Chicago!" I loved Ogilvy, but I also thought Chicago would be a perfect place where I could have a baby on my own if that was where my life was going to take me. (I figured it would). It's a great cultural city (with an amazing ballet company #joffreyballet), and way (WAY!) more affordable than New York. With the demands of an advertising job and zero family or support system here, it was a numbers game. I needed to know if it would work financially to have a baby completely by myself. I met with an accountant and financial planner. Three weeks later on December 30, 2011, I swooped into corporate housing on North LaSalle Ave. Happy New Year to me!

I gave birth to Mila in December of 2014. Now she is giving me a life-long education. Had I not had moved to Chicago for that job, likely she would have never been. I wouldn't have had the means or courage to go through with it. But I had a few supportive co-workers who said I could, who said I should. Mainly, my boss Dasher Lower. (Thank you, Dasher. I will never forget how you changed my life.)

So, thank you, advertising.

What will be in the future is not totally clear. And I am OK with that. HALLELUJAH!

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