Thursday, August 14, 2014

How One Business Trip Changed My Life, Or That Time I Went to New York and saw Kinky Boots

In January, when I was still at my last job, my team was flying to New York for a bit meeting with out client. All of the agencies were gathering together for an annual meeting, and it was being held at BBDO New York.

After what had been a very rough set of projects for the client, and because we'd let go our account manager, it was decided that I should go with the team. I knew the business, the client seemed to like and respect me.

And so during the "Polar Vortex" of 2014, we hit New York. I'd lived on the East Coast while attending Yale for grad school back in 1998, and I had an idea of how cold it would be. For some reason I thought that meant I could walk from Bryant Park to my hotel on 52nd (10 blocks) in 19 degree weather. I'd forgotten how that kind of cold can burn your nose. But I made it. And then my coworkers and I went skating at Rockefeller Center at midnight:


Ice Skating in Rockefeller Center at Midnight during the Polar Vortex of 2014

There was plenty of real business going on during the trip. We'd prepared several presentations and were meeting with the other agencies that worked on the account. But, I did book myself an extra night for that Saturday because, good grief, when in the near future would I be on the East Coast and have the chance to explore New York again on my own?

Saturday became a truly life changing day. After shopping and exploring, I met up with my own life coach, the one and only amazeballs Michelle Ward for cookies and fun.  After having worked with Michelle for four months over the phone, during an especially turbulent time, it was really lovely to get to meet her face to face. Why we did not get a picture together is beyond me. She's chatty and personable, and as wonderful as you'd gather from working with her or watching one of her videos. She also hung out with me when I ate at The Shake Shack ... so tasty.

Broadway at night

My next stop was to see Kinky Boots. My only introduction to it was their performance on the Tony Awards for the previous year, and I knew they'd won Best Musical. And that Cindy Lauper wrote the score. I did not really know that it was a musical about drag queens and making boots for queens. And frankly, the characters and the score stole my heart, while simultaneously capturing a crap ton of the emotions and feelings I was already going through having had the worst set of jobs in the world.

And yeah, I know that's a tad cheesy. But I'm that same girl who cries all the way through Rent, every freaking time I see it.

But here's what stood out for me that night, and became the soundtrack for my next three months. Charlie is trying to figure out a way to save his family's business and in the midst of doing that, and reinventing a shoe business (to be a high heeled boot business for drag queens), he changes. In the song "Step One," he sings -

I may be facing the impossible,
I may be chasing after miracles.
And there may be the steepest mountain to overcome.
But this is step one.

I was so overcome by the show that I stayed afterwards, to meet Stark Sands and Billy Porter (the two leads). What I didn't know at the time was that many of the leads had already announced they were leaving the show. I got their signatures, and I got pictures with them. It was a really special evening.

With Stark Sands (he plays Charlie Price) of Kinky Boots
 And that's truly what that weekend, that day started to represent for me. I knew that I very much wanted to become my own boss. Having rubbed elbows just the day before with folks at one of the biggest agency's in New York City, and then sitting across from a successful entrepreneur and being surrounded by the magic of New York, well, it just solidified what I knew I needed to do. I needed to take "Step One."

With Tony Award Winner Billy Porter (he plays Lola) of Kinky Boots

By the time I got home I was looking for a new job. I knew I needed to make room in my life to get back to doing what I love, and leave room to train for what I needed to do next. And that's how I got to my "Ten in Three."

 


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