Last March, everything changed.
It was 10 a.m. when I got the email from my office manager: “Mandatory company meeting at 10:30.” A few minutes later, another email with a reminder. I joined the meeting via video from my home office with a sense of foreboding.
I watched our general manager, Alison Moore, deliver the bad news with sincere regret in her voice. I saw the New York editorial team — cherished friends whom I’d worked alongside to build a business — huddled together on a couch.
DailyCandy — my place of employment for nearly a decade — was shuttered.
This was not just a job to me: It was the core of my professional accomplishments, freedom from financial worries, the day-to-day scaffolding of my life, and the dearest friendships a woman could want. And now it was all gone.
What was I going to do?
I’d joined the company as a part-time copy editor in early 2005, when there were fewer than 25 employees and a room where we took naps. I’d watched it grow to a staff of more than 100, ridden waves of funding, weathered the sale to Comcast, celebrated the merger with NBCUniversal, and held on tightly during failed attempts at both Gilt-style sample sales and Groupon-style discounts. I’d seen things go from good to bad and back to good again.
I doubt anyone cried more than I did that day — or in the weeks and months that followed. The crying, however, was not about money. I’ve always been smart about money. Driven by the knowledge that more money equals power and control over my life, as well as the fact that I have neither a spouse nor a family who can provide a financial safety net, I had amassed the kind of savings that Suze Orman told me to in so many late-night CNBC appearances.
I had eight months’ salary in cash, and the severance package that NBCU offered me was a generous cushion to the blow.
No, my tears came from a place of deep heartbreak.
I was in denial for a while. Even after most employees had turned in their ID badges (things happened in waves; I stayed a couple of weeks longer than most of the staff), I held out hope.
The brand was intact! It made money, just not enough for a media giant! I couldn’t imagine that anyone who had ever been involved with DailyCandy wouldn’t want to get the band back together immediately — especially founder Dany Levy.
She was still rich, right? And her original backers, Pilot Group? They were still rich, right?
I guessed that there was probably a deal on the table even as I finished another box of Kleenex. Fantasies about having my daily routine restored to its previous position powered me for weeks.
Levy did attempt to buy her baby back. NBCU declined her offer. And I was left to figure out next steps.
When you lose your job of nine years and you’ve done all the right things financially, you don’t have to rush out and get a new job right away. For that I felt so grateful. There have absolutely been times in my life when I would have needed a job that Monday, but this was not one of those times. So I took a deep breath and allowed myself the space to sort things out. I went on long walks. I did a lot of yoga. And I took a vacation.
On bad days, I revisited the crying stage. On days I needed convincing it wasn’t all just a shitty dream, I checked the site to see whether anyone had posted new content. On good days, I schemed, making a list of the things I love and trying to determine which ones could be meaningful and provide a viable living.
But once September rolled around, I began to feel the passage of time, and I knew my severance wasn’t going to keep coming forever. I also knew I had a six-figure lifestyle, including mortgages on two properties. Plus, there’s the matter of health insurance. As part of my severance, NBCU is covering COBRA premiums through the end of 2014. After that, I can choose to pay nearly $600 per month through COBRA for another 12 months, or I can obtain insurance through healthcare.gov — a daunting process for even the smartest among us.
Today, nearly nine months after DailyCandy published its last story, I am at my desk at home, doing contract editorial work and teaching Pilates a few days a week. I’ve had a strong couple of months as a full-time freelancer, but I don’t know what the future holds. Sometimes that feels scary.
One of my projects is a Dallas-based series called Oral Fixation, which connects people through real-life stories. And my goal is to one day have a business teaching exercise to elderly people. I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than helping old folks feel better in their bodies.
For now, I am laying a foundation for that new venture, living a bit more modestly, and paying my mortgages with what I know best: copy editing, project management, and journalism.
After 20-plus years in the editorial business, Allison Hatfield is taking some time to figure out a new path, which may not be that different from the old path. It's too soon to tell. She has written extensively about weddings, pets, houses, and the things that make the city of Dallas awesome. You can find her very occasionally on Twitter.