‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’ were not my first words. I’m fairly certain my first words were, “No college.” I repeated the mantra in high school, in art school, and all the way through my design and advertising career. I did not need a degree to ascend to the top of the advertising career path, and once there, I helped many a company grow and make millions.
But, as happens, everything changed—a health issue, survival, the death of a close friend, and perspective changes led me to seek something more out of life. I already knew inside out how to build and market brands, and I could do it for the rest of my days if I chose, but I sought a deeper connection and a much more open mind.
I always thought university would be about imposition, submission, and compliance, and that belief had formed my no college myth. The cool thing about myths is, they can be obliterated. Antioch University helped me do just that.
In university, I gained a greater social awareness, and I learned I am a writer. I guess it’s more accurate to say, I remembered I am a writer. Poetry was the gift that flipped a switch in my mind during grade school, enabling me to embrace learning. I had forgotten that.
In high school, I took every elective art class offered. I honed my drawing skills, and learned painting, calligraphy, and graphic design. I took them over and over, learning as much as I possibly could. I was working as a designer by seventeen, a magazine art director by eighteen.
At nineteen, I completed my course requirements for art school two weeks early, so I sat in the computer lab writing. I vividly recall one of my classmates peeking over my shoulder to see why I was making so much noise typing when everyone else was feverishly mousing away. I was writing a short story.
She said, “Kelly, this is good. It’s funny.”
I looked up humbly, saying, “Thank you, but I’m just playing around. I’m a designer.”
She said, “You’re a good designer, but you’re missing your calling. You are a writer.”
After a thirty-year career in advertising, all it took was the desire for massive change, the right university, an amazing cast of teachers, seven years of writing books in their classrooms and libraries, and an incredibly talented and supportive cohort to realize my old design classmate was right. The efforts culminated in an MFA in Creative Writing, a ton of personal growth, and the great honor of giving the student address at graduation.
I am Kelly Ian Hobkirk. I’m a writer.