I Go Down With This Ship

As you guys know, I haven’t been blogging at my regular schedule for the last few months. My podcast has also fallen off, even though I’ve been recording them (well, one of them). I haven’t had the time to convert and publish the files.

The agency has become my all-consuming priority. Despite the fact that I haven’t taken a cent of pay since January, I have spent every free second there, but it wasn’t enough. I took a part time job to offset costs, and even though I drew a firm boundary that the job came second to the company, I slipped in that regard so terribly and so obliviously that we have come to this point.

We are operational for exactly one more week and then everything closes down.* We’ve been here before. But we moved faster back then. I will carry on wrapping up loose ends until the end of the month and then we will close permanently.

And I don’t feel anything but obligation, though not in a bad way. For the first time in my life, I can really say that this is my profession in addition to being my livelihood and my passion. Because a professional knows that, no matter the circumstances you show up, you practice your craft, and you manage yourself. Catastrophic changes of fortune for better or for worse are only scheduling issues. Suddenly you have more time in the schedule, suddenly you have less.

This is something I should be writing about well after the fact. After I’ve pulled our ass out of the fire. After everybody is safely re-homed and nostalgic for the time I tried to start an agency. How delightfully young and unfettered. What an adorable little mistake those crazy four years of my life. Coming on the heels of the adorable little five year mistake that was Los Angeles after college, that was college itself, that was everything that ever hurt me or showed me who I am.

I don’t know what will happen. I can see the wrong turns that projected me off this cliff so clearly from this state of free-fall that I want to catalog them before I get distracted by whatever comes next, which will be entirely consuming whatever it is. Because that’s who I am. I only ever contemplate trajectory between the frying pan and the fire and I don’t necessarily mind it. If I didn’t do things like this I’d still be in the frying pan wondering about the bacon smell.

I should have broken more eggs. Ironically, for being such an off the cuff person, I became obsessed with process when I had other people working with me. The risks I took as an individual seemed untenable with other people on board, which may have been a smart impulse, but it went too far.

Even as I became very conservative in terms of process, I remained too casual in presentation. I realized too late that the things I did as a person to put clients at ease actually made them question my professionalism as an agency executive. I focused too much on my work and too little on my outcome. I was still a soldier when we needed a general.

As a result of all these things, I started to isolate. When it was crucial that I go out into the business community and represent us as the knowledgeable, young go-getters we were telling ourselves we were, I spent a lot of time hiding in my house or behind the laptop, exhausted from my part time job and my personal dramas, not just unwilling but physically incapable of spending one more second shaking hands and making business talk.

In the end, I rearranged my schedule, re-stated my priorities and dove back into community life, but it may be too late for us. I would like to say that I regret that these lessons won’t get to be applied, but they will be. Maybe not here, maybe I don’t deserve the luxury of applying lessons in my own company anymore, but somewhere.

If we close now, or if we close 20 years from now, I regret nothing. Even if I would do so much of it differently today. Part of me wants to say that I am sorry for the team I assembled and have to let go, and maybe it’s selfish but I’m not. I picked skilled, driven, smart women to work with me and nothing is going to stop them from being successful and lucrative wherever they go. I have complete faith that this was just a small interlude in an otherwise upward trajectory for us all.

For the next 5 days, I will be working frantically to save what I can. Like I said, we’ve been here before, but how many times can one ship sink and then bob triumphantly back to the surface? And is this the point where the captain becomes resigned to her fate, or is it the point at which she realizes she’s been driving a god damned submarine all a long?

* In the span of 12 hours this statistic has changed. We are currently operational until Aug 31. I don’t need to ride roller coasters, I have a business. For now.