This is a story not yet told anywhere but in-person. It’s that good. I’ve kept it in a jar for a year, but I’m unscrewing that lid right now. Release the hounds!
You probably knew that at one point I was in charge of the social strategy at an independent fashion etailer named Moxsie. You probably know that now I work with a larger breadth of clients at an agency called Red Magnet Media. What you don’t know is how I went from Moxsie to Red Magnet Media.
Just like that situation in the summer of ’09 where I was promoted, hired, and moving in with my boyfriend all in the same couple of weeks and that other situation in the winter of ’09 where I was discovered for a new job through Twitter, I’ve had really ridiculous, unheard-of job transitions. But even with all that, how I got here, in my opinion, takes the cake. It was at once convenient and ugly, depending on who you talk to. For me, though, it was serendipitous. A sopping wet Sloppy Joe.
Bring a napkin.
When you are unhappy, you are unhappy.
The time, early 2010. I had been working at Moxsie for a year, and I was earning a solid reputation for myself. I had fallen into my calling (at least for the twenty-something phase of my life, anyway), and found that doing digital and social marketing was something I naturally excelled at and really enjoyed doing. I was incredibly lucky to be doing this type of marketing in an industry that personally interested me, indie fashion.
But I wanted to branch out. The solo commute was getting to me (Berkeley to Palo Alto. It even has its own Quora thread.), and while working at a startup allowed me a lot of freedom to experiment in campaign tactics, marketing indie brands had its own set of challenges that made me crave an opportunity to try these tactics on larger names. The reasons were completely natural. I just got an itch.
I didn’t put out any formal feelers for new work. I met with an ad agency once, but that intro came through a friend and I used it more for practice in interviewing than for something to seriously pursue. I casually looked up listings online in my spare time, which was very seldom. I stayed awake at night trying to formulate the dream position that would be the perfect next step for me. Nothing called out loud or clear.
A couple of months into the year, my boss at Moxsie, the one who had originally found me through Twitter, was offered an excellent opportunity at WePay. She left Moxsie and I was promoted. Considering that my LinkedIn resume looks like I have MPD, I decided that the extension of my role at Moxsie was as good an excuse as any to stay at the company for at least another year. Maybe I could make more of an impact. It’d at least help me look more consistent in my rather-peppered track record.
“Let’s grab some coffee” is the new “We are interviewing you.”
The promotion at Moxsie kicked off the bane of all my current habits of mind, a complete inability to turn off my brain at night. It’s persisted for over a year since. I fall asleep easily, then my mind wakes at midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., or whenever it feels like, and it whirls around useless concerns like a machine pulling salt water taffy. I’ve done guided breathing exercises. I’ve seen an acupuncturist. The bitch about it is it’s not straight insomnia. It’s completely reactive to stress from work and interpersonal conflicts (more often than not it’s the former), and it all started with all the new responsibility I had assumed at Moxsie.
One day I got a quick email from my old boss that two people in the industry would like to meet me to talk shop. Considering that I had only been in my revamped role for a short while and all my recent nights of interrupted sleep, being able to talk to real life people about the nuances of social success sounded pretty good. Heck, maybe I’d be able to sleep through the entirety of an evening after a long, healthy discussion. I agreed. Let’s talk it out.
I planned our meeting for a day when I’d be in the area, and met the two co-founders of the two-person agency. We talked about social media and who was doing it right, and at some point I said I hate gurus and how sick I was (am) of the social media networking scene and how it’s the same “gurus” over and over again. I wasn’t rude or unpolished, I was just very forthright with my thoughts. They held similar views and worked with big name clients, so they knew precisely what I was talking about. The reason I agreed to meet with these people was so I wouldn’t have to sugarcoat my words or paint social media as a more magical approach than it is. Proverbially speaking I let my hair down. It was refreshing.
Before our hour was up, they asked if I’d be available for contracting. Shit. Did not realize that this was an interview. Not only did I not bring a resumé, but I had already cussed a couple of times, and I had already rattled off how ridiculous it is for companies to monitor their employees’ personal social media for swear words. Seemingly non-disastrous first impressions aside, I was interested. Moxsie allowed me to contribute writing to non-Moxsie outlets, so I’d just have to see what the agency would need. Unfortunately, realistically, I wouldn’t be able to do shit for them.
This came out in their follow-up question. They asked how much time I’d have for outside work. I had to get school-of-hard-knocks real on my own schedule and communicate it to them: “Honestly, not a lot of time,” I said. “I can maybe do three-to-five hours a week. Maybe.” I made it clear that if they wanted something turned around in a day, I was not their girl. Still, their work was interesting to me, so if they could think of non-time-sensitive writing that needed to be done, we could probably work something out.
Things fall apart.
The next week, I met up with my new clients, Red Magnet Media, to go over the project they had scoped and sign necessary paperwork. I strategically started at their San Francisco office first thing in the morning so that I could get to Moxsie in Palo Alto at a reasonable hour without throwing off my day.
Papers signed and assignment in hand, I was starting my car to head to the Peninsula when I received a text from a coworker. Five people had just been laid off at Moxsie.
Five people out of thirteen.
I chose a helluvatime to have new, even part-time, work fall into my lap.
Of course that day at Moxsie was tough. The next day was even harder. We were all doing our best to commence work, but almost every department had lost a chunk of its personnel, support, and friends. The sadness was palpable. One coworker’s significant other knew the mood we would all be in, and filled a plastic bucket of homemade cake for her to take to the office. It was our “Happy Bucket,” but eating out of it was the most pathetic attempt at being positive and focused I have ever experienced.
That day, like a sick live enactment of “The show must go on!”, we had a photo shoot. The team was milling around without any bounce in its step attaching accessories to ears and steaming wrinkles out of dresses. I was on my laptop in the darkened studio, tweeting and Facebooking and taking my turn at Happy Bucket Cake.
I clicked over to my personal inbox because I loved (still do) my Gmail teahouse foxes and just generally didn’t want to be pulled into the depression associated around the work inbox when a third of the people who email you is gone.
My jaw dropped at my newest item. The women I met with, the ones I just signed with the day before, were interested in bringing me on as Red Magnet Media’s first full-time employee, could I meet for breakfast the next day and talk? The email read as quickly as the shock that ran through my body. Here I was, this foul-mouthed I-hate-gurus git, a guilt-ridden survivor of a proportionally massive company layoff, and someone wanted to breakfast me into a new role.
I met with them the next day, but everything was moving way too fast. They didn’t ask me formally, and I couldn’t have answered anyway. Reeling emotions aside – Flattery! Treason! Excitement! Complete and total trepidation! – I enjoyed my first meal at Plow.
Get me the fuck outta here.
Fortunately for me, before any of this happened – before my boss moved to WePay, before I met with Red Magnet Media, before my coworkers were let go – Bill and I had planned a vacation. Italy! It being our first international excursion together, the trip was a bit of a stressor of its own.
The countdown to our flight out was only a couple of weeks, just enough time to not actually get any meaningful work done for Red Magnet Media while simultaneously being courted heavily by Red Magnet Media and still feel massive pangs of responsibility and guilt for anything that could possibly happen at Moxsie. I didn’t want to go to Italy just to travel anymore. I didn’t even want to go to Italy to “clear my head”. I just wanted to go to Italy to be braindead and completely overwhelmed. If I survived the voyage, then I would switch the life-changing decision maker back on in my head after my return.
Sleep be damned. Just get me to Venice.
On the afternoon before our flight out of the country, two of my coworker friends were pantomiming how much pasta and pizza I should eat when I got a call on my cell. Rachel and Athena, Red Magnet Media’s Co-Founders, were calling to formally offer me a position as their Senior Strategist and first full-time employee. The sun was beating in my eyes and I looked at my friends. They were smiling, it sounded like Rachel and Athena were smiling, and my mouth was just kind of vaguely open because the moment had found me completely torn. I thanked Rachel and Athena for their call and their offer, but asked that they give me a couple of weeks to vacation, get back, and think about it some more.
When in (almost) Rome…
Getting to Italy was a little rocky. I got sick on the plane. We missed our connection into Venice. I got classically duped and booked our hotel forty minutes outside of Venice. We ponied up for an overpriced and gawd-awful Euro hotel. Bill got electrocuted on the first day. Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was brush my teeth because all I’d had to cleanse the airplane vomit from my system was airplane water (Yeah.) and a bottle of iced tea at Charles de Gaulle.
Aside from everything related to the trip in, we had survived, and this vacation had nowhere to go but up. Indeed, it was amazing. I was in an inspirational country with the love of my life. Relics and art were waiting around every corner. There was so much to take in. But I couldn’t sleep.
It wasn’t jet lag. Going east doesn’t give me jet lag, and in my version of jet lag, I just sleep off schedule. No, my restless sleep complex had followed me across international date lines and would not let me close my eyes without worrying about Moxsie or Red Magnet Media.
I had foreseen this happening. In a bold move of separation, I turned off Moxsie work communications on my wireless devices before I left the States. I would receive no work emails that trip. I would check no Tweets or Wall posts. I needed this vacation and took all necessary precautions to be in it 110%.
Not sleeping when you’re packing in days of walking and not being native is awful. After a couple of restless nights in Venice, a couple more restless nights in Florence, a few harried journal entries, and a number of existential crises discussions with Bill, I came to a point where I simply needed to decide to decide. My gut was pulling toward Red Magnet Media, and that I couldn’t deny. The problem was how to leave Moxsie. I didn’t want to be that jerk who came from vacation and put in two weeks’ notice. That just seemed like a dick move. The company was clearly not doing well, but at the same time I was in a position to make big changes. I felt so invested in the company’s culture that I couldn’t picture getting home and immediately peacing out on my coworkers and friends.
Perhaps merely to feign a sense of closure to myself, I wrote to Red Magnet Media, asked if we could schedule a time to meet when I returned, and firmed up a date and time in a manner of hours. Already, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulder. I was breathing better. Putting a date on things will do that for an OCD person like me.
That night, I slept!
The day after, Bill and I had planned a day trip to the Cinque Terre. Getting to the area required a really early start in the morning, so we dutifully went to bed at 8 or 9 (Man that sounds delicious.), and the shit show began! My restless passenger had returned. I stretched my arms and knocked over a lamp. I stretched my leg and smacked my shin into the bunk bed overhead. I sneezed really loud multiple times, which is not unusual, but jerked Bill awake along with all the other shenanigans my body was plotting against our rest. He handed me a pillow, saying, “Sneeze into this. Or sleep on the top bunk. Or something. I can’t sleep!”
Hopped up on self-induced stress and this sudden case of allergies, I decided the best thing for me to do was to quarantine myself. I gathered up my journal, pen, and iPhone, and locked myself in the bathroom (which was private, thank you AirBnB). It being a European bathroom (piccolo) and it being, well, a bathroom, the only place to sit was the toilet. So I sat on the toilet. I jotted out another spell of what we had done and seen that day, ending inevitably on more projections for what I should or shouldn’t do about my current and potential jobs.
I had written all I could write with my brain no more settled than when my pajamas first met the cold porcelain, so I turned on my iPhone. I didn’t pay for an international plan, but our room had Wi-Fi, so the Maykaphone chugged along to update who-knew-how-long of a slew of backlogged messages.
The first thing I got was an alert that my Moxsie password was not working with my account. I expected as much. My mailbox settings were confused ever since I unsynced my email.
I stared at the screen as my personal messages started loading in, when one of them caught my eye. It came from a friend who was let go from Moxsie a few weeks earlier. It read “Did you know Moxsie went bankrupt and laid everybody off?”
Shut the what the fuck now?
I read more. A couple of cryptic messages came into my personal inbox from other once-Moxsie employees saying thank yous and good-byes and listing their contact information.
What the fuck was going on?
The floor gave out from beneath me.
I was sitting on a toilet in Florence when I learned my company didn’t exist.
I was unemployed.
I was in Italy.
Against better judgment, I barged out of the bathroom to share the news. “Bill! Bill! Moxsie went bankrupt!”
Bill, who had probably just gotten in about forty continuous minutes of sleep, muttered out, “What?”
“Moxsie went bankrupt! I don’t have a job!”
“Well, that’s good, I guess,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s crazy. Oh my god. What the fuck.”
It was 1:40 a.m.
Like so many nights before, there was no hope for sleep that night. Having unsynced my emails before my trip left a gaping hole where the official announcement for all of this lived. Now that the entire company’s emails were shut down, I’d never be able to read whatever landed in my inbox. I spent a few more hours plugging away on my iPad trying to piece together what happened. I wouldn’t get the full story until well after my return to the States, but the main point was clear: I didn’t have a job.
But then…I did have a job.
The Cinque Terre was amazing, by the way.
At twenty-eight, I know I haven’t seen all the world has to offer, but that day trip to the Cinque Terre solidly remains the best day of my life.
The Aftermath: How I got over.
Bill and I got back to the Bay Area on a Sunday. Our luggage went on its own two-day bender in Amsterdam and our hot water tripped itself while we were away, so our noble aspirations to wash our clothes and selves quickly slipped into passing out for fifteen hours.
On Monday I dilly dallied and ultimately did nothing.
On Tuesday I drove into the city, signed on to officially join Red Magnet Media, and picked up the box of effects my coworker retrieved from my desk.
The next week, I was in LA for my first client meeting with Incubus’ management.
I am one lucky fuck.
Oh! P.S. I also got a free computer out of it. As it turns out, when your company ceases to exist, there is no one to collect company property like laptops. Plus I got that New Trent charger that I love so much, which I specifically purchased for Moxsie’s use at overnight conventions. Win some, win some.