31 August 2007

one year of culture collisions

My first day at Naked New York was 1 September 2006. Technically, it is not my Nakedversary yet, but it is the same Friday.

I don't even know what to say about the past year. I dreamed about being at Naked – and only Naked – for nine months before it became a reality. I didn't care which office in the world it was, which was strange because I thought only about New York for six years before this. I had Naked in my mind when putting my entire portfolio together.

Here is how it happened. I read about them in Fast Company, fall 2005. I got so excited, I was about to jump out of my own skin. A couple of months later, on winter break from Adcenter, I was reading blogs at three in the morning at my parents' house. I read somewhere (Adweek? AdAge?) that Naked was opening a New York office. I nearly fell out of my bed. I frantically looked around for contact information and finally thought "I should do this when I am more awake." The next morning (okay, afternoon), I woke up to the following e-mail.
Hi Johanna,

My name is Ed and I'm in strategist at naked communications in London. I came across to your website through Russell's. I hope you don't mind me writing to you out of the blue.

I just wanted to send you a quick note to encourage you to keep thinking and writing. You have a great style and you'll make a great planner - if that's what you want to do.

That's it. Take care. Keep loving.

I paused. I thought "...what? DID I e-mail someone in my bleary-eyed excitement?" Nope. This was pure serendipity. Ed and I became fast friends, chatting on IM despite the time difference, about everything from culture to comms planning to ideas in general. He put me in contact with Paul, one of the founding partners of the NY office. I e-mailed him directly with I-don't-remember-what, but it was something along the lines of "Congratulations on opening Naked New York, I want to work for you." That began our dialogue.

In February of 2006, Ed writes to me "I have to talk to you. Important. Call as soon as you can." I thought "Oh no, something bad happened, he talked to Paul, they are going to tell me to get lost." It was the opposite - positions open in London. Was I interested. "Um, what? Um, can I think about this and call you back?" Two minutes later, I called Ed back "Yes yes tell me what I have to do."

We had a really enjoyable back-and-forth. I woke up at 8.00am on a Saturday to overnight work samples to London. I spent three weeks working on an assignment (I had no clue what I was doing, but maybe I did because I got passed along to the next stage - the interview). When it came down to it, I would have had to fly there on my own money. It terrified me, because spending upwards of $1500 for a chat that might not even turn into anything - right after I graduate with a Master's and become officially unemployed - scared the shit out of me. I have been known to jump right into the middle of fear, but this really scared me. It wasn't about being scared of running into an ex boyfriend at a show. This was a lot of money, a long distance, a different country, etc. I am not sure why (even to this day), but I didn't go. I REALLY don't know why. But I felt something, and that something compelled me to keep talking to Paul.

I found out that Paul was going to be speaking at a management seminar at my school that summer. I immediately called the assistant managing director and said something like "canIpleasepickPaulupfromtheairport." So I did. He probably thought I was nuts by then.

The following month I went to visit. My interview was nine hours. Afterwards, I was caught in the Queens blackout, I had to walk one subway stop to where I was staying, under train tracks, in the pitch black, in the rain. It was a bad. But it paid off because a few weeks later I got the best e-mail I have probably ever gotten. I read the contract, said yes almost immediately, sold my car really quickly for way too little money, got broken up with because of the prospect of long-distance and moved my entire life up here. Nothing has been the same since then.

I just realized that I wrote a long, long entry, and I still don't know what to say. I don't think I'll ever be able to find the words to describe the experiences I've had with Naked. I had a really successful client call yesterday and was in total shock. Shock that I even was saying some of the things that I was saying. A year ago, I had no clue about anything. I can't believe I'm doing all of these things, meeting the people I'm meeting, getting to go to the places I'm visiting, etc. And I have learned so much, thanks to everybody here. I wouldn't trade this for the world. Thank you to everybody.

One of my favorite things that Naked has been a catalyst for is blending my different worlds. Here is a quick example: my friend Arthur has a tendency of bringing cool shit into the office all the time. magazines, stickers, postcards, party invites, etc. He is kind of an urban culture maven. Anyway, this is how I signed up for and started getting daily e-mails from Worship Worthy. Today's features a Kansas City-based clothing line called Peggy Noland. In the accompanying image is someone I know and consider a friend, Kristen.

I met Kristen last summer; she is in a band called Vedera. They were touring with Murder by Death when my then-boyfriend was their audio engineer. I met up with all of them in Orlando for a couple of days, and we all hung out a bit. Last fall, they were on tour again and played a show in my neighborhood (and the following night at the Knitting Factory). I went to both.

Guys, listen to some of Vedera's music on their MySpace page. They are so talented, and some of the nicest people I have met in my life. I never would have seen this and reconnected with them today though if it hadn't been for Arthur's Worship Worthy cards. And I wouldn't have met him if not for Naked. See where I'm going with this.

Long story short: I am happy. The weekend is going to be great. I'm going to Brazil on Wednesday, and then I turn twenty-five. And that's all.
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