In Echo Park, a section of east LA, there is a big lake where you can ride paddle boats. There’s also a big bloom of lotus flowers. Due to all the rain this winter, the flowers are bigger and better this year. This is our first year seeing them, so I wouldn’t know.
Linky and I set off to see them for a few reasons: 1) we like pretty flowers (#LincolnTheFlorist); 2) it’s a spiritual flower that symbolizes rebirth; and 3) I have a lotus flower tattoo on my lower back that I got in San Diego at the start of 2000.
In the year 2000, I was living in New York City and had a job in marketing for a startup called Mail.com. I’d only been working there for a few months. I’d left a job at Polo Ralph Lauren in their store development division when I heard the siren call of the Internet boom. As much as I loved fashion, I was bored at PRL. The Internet promised the future.
At Mail.com, I was going to work with a woman named Lynn, who had previously worked at Vanity Fair. She was creative, cool and had big ideas for our department. She saw my creative potential and loved the ideas I came up with in the interview process. I believed I was going to learn invaluable skills for the Internet and maybe even magazine publishing. I was so excited.
One week after I gave notice and one week before I was set to start, I got a call from Alison, the mean, one-eyed other head of marketing. (Her other eye was glass.) She was whip smart (got her MBA from Columbia) but was as mean as an alley cat on bath salts. She explained that Lynn had been fired. She gave me the option of opting out of the offer. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’d filled my spot at PRL and a week was short notice to find a new gig. Plus, I’d been so excited. I told her I still wanted to come onboard.
What I didn’t know is that Alison pitched a fit when HR told her she needed to stick with the offer and hire me. She didn’t want one of “Lynn’s people” on her team. The only option HR gave her was to give me an out. When Lynn called me right before I started, she apologized but warned me. Luckily, HR kept an eye on me and met with me weekly. I shared what was going on–Alison gave me no guidance. When I finally made a mistake, which was including our budget number in a spec email to prospective research companies, she flew into HR to get me fired.
HR protected me because I’d already documented the lack of guidance, including an email asking Alison for what I could include in the spec email. I’d never done pitched research companies before, so I wanted to make sure I had the 411. She wrote me that I could include all the “relevant details.” Budget certainly seemed relevant (I now know you wait until they come in with a number.) I was employed there while they waited for another slot to open up, but we all knew that it was a cushion until I found a new job. Luckily, I found another job within two weeks at another startup that helped foster my creativity, leadership abilities and business understanding (the CEO of that company was eventually my mentor on my own pet-centered startup.)
Just one week before I’d made my one mistake at Mail.com, I’d traveled to San Diego.It was my first solo trip and first visit to San Diego. I stayed in Pacific Beach and had my first ever Coffee Bean Peppermint Mocha. I explored different parts of the city and reveled in its beauty. I visited Mission Beach as well as the Gaslamp downtown. On a walk through Pacific Beach on my last day, I spontaneously stopped into a tattoo shop. I flipped through an art book and stopped at a drawing of lotus flowers. It spoke to me immediately and I got the tattoo on the spot.
It was my second tattoo, the first being a star/sun I’d gotten on my hip my sophomore year of college. My friend Kia (Tupac’s step cousin) and I drove to a random shop in Westland, Michigan. But that’s another story. Also, tattoos 3-5. But those are in the fuuuuuttttuuurrrre. Back to the year 2000.
I’d wanted the tattoo to be in a discrete spot and I chose my lower back, below my waistband. It’s a tramp stamp, but this is before the term existed (trendsetter alert.) Anyhoo, I winced in pain as the artist rendered the piece that was as big as a quarter. He told me he was as high as a kite on painkillers and I prayed that he was a functioning addict.
I distracted myself by reading the art book. It said the lotus symbolized rebirth because it blooms freshly every morning. In the evening, it retracts into the mud. Each and every start is a fresh one. I’d felt good about the tattoo because we’d just started the new millennium. I wondered about who I’d marry, if this was my last startup and what my life would become. It was the beauty of being 24.
The tattoo artist did a beautiful job with shading the petals from red to pink. He placed a large bandage over my lower back, which felt like I had a bad sunburn on top of a huge bruise from falling off a horse and landing on my coccyx. Unfortunately, I’d scheduled a massage in La Jolla that afternoon. I got there thirty minutes late for it. It didn’t really matter because the masseuse couldn’t go near my lower back making it a grand waste of an effort.
I returned to New York City and my job. Just a week later, I’d be pushed into rebirth, out of shitty job and into one that would prove pivotal.
I still have the lotus flower tattoo. Admittedly, I don’t see it a lot. But I look at it from time to time (when I check how successful trampoline dance cardio is for my backside.) The colors have faded, but it still reminds me that what seems like bad luck can just be re-direction to something better.
Now, until the end of the summer, I have beautiful lotus blooms that I can go visit.
I look forward to whatever rebirth I have ahead of me.