Foreign Policy

Capitol, Washington, DC

Nationwide is on your side. It’s on repeat is what it is. His sweet little voice transforms into the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard every time he belts it out. At the dinner table -Nationwide is on your side. I cringe. When his sister is in the midst of a teenage crisis, he sings it from his bedroom loud enough for her to hear. The child even sings it while he’s on the toilet. I never thought I would yearn for the days of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

He is obsessed with ads, but this one in particular has really stuck. Normally, he’ll just recommend the product at the moment he thinks someone needs it.

Dad is scratching his head. “Try Head and Shoulders Shampoo because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Car is acting up. “Get a Ford Truck – They’re built Ford tough.”

Someone is thirsty. “Drink not bland. Be not bland. Sparkling Ice!”

I’m fairly certain these companies’ target audience are not eleven and a half year old boys, especially Nationwide Insurance. Unless, of course he’s planning on getting that Ford Truck for his twelfth birthday. I certainly never expected to have Nationwide by my side quite so often. Truth is, I’m more of a USAA girl.

During a recent visit from my mom, I did an audible eye roll when she tried to carry her own luggage upstairs, and he swiftly grabbed it from her with a loud, “Nationwide is on your side.” As he scurried up the stairs, she turned to me and said, “Not only is he the spitting image of your cousin, Roberto, he has the same interest in advertising. Maybe he’ll be just as successful.”

And just like that, she turned that jingle around for me.

My cousin, Roberto, came to the United States when he was a little boy. His parents left everything behind for a chance at a better life. The moment they entered this country, they set to work on providing their two children with a future that would have been unimaginable in Cuba. Their dreams started small. A sufficient supply of toilet paper, rather than the ration of one roll per household to which they were accustomed, or the idea of having meat more than once a year.

As they found jobs that provided more income per paycheck than they could make in a whole year, even at minimum wage, their dreams grew a little more. Now, with the peace of mind that their children would be able to attend school rather than being sent to work the fields, they allowed themselves to dream a little bigger. Perhaps, their children would be able to earn a high school diploma. Maybe, they could choose a profession they loved rather than a job they needed to survive. As each dream became a reality, they allowed themselves to dream even bigger.

The day Roberto earned his high school diploma, they sobbed with pride. They also stood a little taller as he crossed the stage, knowing the decision to walk away from the only life they knew so many years ago had led them to this exact moment. Roberto graduated with a degree in Engineering, took an entry level job at a plant, working there for a year before he approached his dad and told him it wasn’t for him. His dream was a career in Advertising. It had been all along. However, his counselor had advised him Engineering would provide a stable job for someone who was gifted in Math. Roberto’s parents didn’t support his decision, reminding him how important stability was when it came to earning an income. Roberto listened quietly before responding.

“Mom and Dad, I understand your concerns. You have been the perfect example of what one can achieve with consistent, hard work. When you set a goal, no matter how small, you both worked tirelessly, often two and three jobs to reach that goal. And, the moment you achieved that goal, you didn’t allow much time for celebration before you were striving for the next one. You instilled that drive in me. You taught me the meaning of motivation and determination. You also taught me that sometimes we have to risk it all for our dreams. We have to take a leap of faith and forge ahead.”

The very next day, Roberto began applying for entry level positions in Advertising Agencies. He was employed at a small agency for two years before deciding he wanted his own Advertising Firm. He partnered with two colleagues and opened a small firm in Manhattan that catered to the Hispanic community. That small firm grew, and went on to be internationally recognized. Industry awards line his walls next to his Engineering degree, serving as a reminder of what we are capable of when we take a leap of faith in the direction of our dreams.

As I type these last lines, I hear my son’s voice float up from the basement. “Nationwide is on your side.” This time I don’t cringe.

I’ll have to ask Roberto if he’s ever worked with Nationwide.

This piece was selected to move on to the second round of YeahWrite’s Super Challenge #5 – Non-Fiction/Mostly True Stories

Prompt: A phrase that gets stuck in your head.

Genre: Personal Essay

Word limit: 1,000 Time allotted: 48hours

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