A Lesson in Failure

This is a longer read than usual, but stay with me friends.

January is inherently a terrible month, and this one has been worse than usual.  Hence my total radio silence.  Who wants to see “OOTD:  oversized sweater and weird politically-caused pimple on cheek.”

But I’ve pulled myself back from the brink before, and I will again.  And so will you.


My greatest, most epic failure occurred not in January, but in the glorious summer of 2000, when I was 22 years old. This was pre-terrorism, pre-Bush, pre-recession.  The world was totally awesome and I was totally awesome.

Right?  SLC Senior “Prom” 

I was a freshly minted college grad in NYC with a plan to land a job at Vogue.  Which I would obviously get because I had never failed when it really mattered.  Oh, young Jennifer.


I was offered a job at Jones New York’s ad section which I turned down because it wasn’t glamorous enough (bitch please) and landed a job at an advertising agency handling some of the big Italian houses.  I was starting as the receptionist based on ability to answer the phone perkily and basic knowledge of publishing industry.


On my first day I showed up with a little Kate Spade nylon bag (you know the one everyone had in 2000) and a suit from Banana Republic (which would be mercilessly mocked by my co-workers in 3-2-1…).

Except when I got to the office, there was already a receptionist there!!!  Because I had received an instant promotion!!! Winning!!! I was going to be the advertising coordinator.  Whateverthefuck that was.

Rather than answering phone and dinking around the copier, I would be dealing with clients and doing fun projects.  Much better.  I was sure that with a few weeks of training, I would be the best advertising coordinator ever.

Except, of course, none of that happened. My new boss was instantly mean. There was no training.  He didn’t understand why I didn’t speak Italian.  He didn’t understand why I didn’t know what film size needed to go to the printer.  He didn’t understand why I was eating lunch since I needed to lose 20 pounds anyway.  Seriously.

Within a month, the plucky Sarah Lawrence girl who could do anything was reduced to crying in the bathroom after being screamed at for 10 hours a day.

Graduation day with my don, Joe Lauinger who was a freaking saint. 

The worst part was that none of it fucking mattered.  Did it matter if I got the kind of feathers that my boss wanted (but was of course unable to describe, just expecting me to magically get the “right” blue feathers somewhere on Canal St)?  No.  Did it matter that the stupid lettering on the press release was .00001 inches from where it was supposed to be?  No.

Not only did it not matter, but the people were terrible.  Really the fucking nastiest, most petty, unhappy, bitter POS humans New York could puke up.  We had a runway show through a sit-down advertiser event thing (who knows) which was basically 15 year old girls wearing $10,000 dresses parading around in front of rich people who don’t make eye contact.  One girl was reduced to tears because the zipper on the gown wouldn’t go up all the way and had “obviously gained weight.”

Fuck that noise.

After I accidentally ruined a $10,000 print run, I was summarily fired. It was the happiest day of my new adult life.  I left immediately, like grabbed my shit and ran, went straight to the Continental Bar on St. Marks, called all my friends on my hilarious 2000 cell phone brick, and proceeded to get gloriously drunk.

v. drunk, circa 2000

I failed badly.  It ruined my self-esteem and changed my view of the world and myself.  It made me grow up.

But it’s okay.  I got a desperation-job at a law firm  I never would have voluntarily worked for lawyers had I not been ground into paste by the fashion industry.

My career is one where I get to help people and it matters.  Fashion is great—every day I lovingly pick out what I’ll wear to the office—but I didn’t have the attitude, or the Italian, for it.  I had to crash and burn to figure myself out.



So this failure-full January, I’m going to go to the proverbial bar, call my friends, and get my shit together.  And look like a muthafuckin boss doing it.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. quinncove says:

    Haha love it! Your writing style kept me interested throughout the post!


    1. jenengelmann says:

      Thanks! You should read my hilarious legal briefs….


    1. jenengelmann says:

      You too, dearest oldest friend


  2. Arline Galvan says:

    I do believe all the concepts you have offered on your post. They’re very convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for starters. May just you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.


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