Reemergency: noun re·emer·gen·cy \re-i-ˈmər-jənt-sē\
1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances that transpire when trying to reinvent oneself and/or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.
2: an urgent need to revitalize and/or remake a situation, circumstance or general way of being.
I don’t often coin terms, but when I do… you know it’s something major.
For the last several months, I have been in a state of severe unrest. Restlessness. Like the ground is shifting, and I’m holding on for dear life, just trying to find my footing.
Problem is, I have no idea where to get even a toehold.
Maybe you’re feeling the same way? (As us people of a certain age are wont to do…)
Assuming you can relate, I’ll tell you a story or three about how reemergencies happen — so you know you’re not alone.
Let’s take a minute in the way back machine, all the way to the late 1990s, right about when my career at the time was peaking — I was on a corporate track that was about to lead to a dream job opportunity. Things were CLICKING.
But things were also TICKING, and suddenly two kids in rapid succession (20 months apart), that insane urge to ditch the City for a life that was “child-friendly,” and a bunch of other factors, and BAM! The Bitch’in Suburbia was born out of that face-first dive from being chief ass kisser to chief ass wiper.
Since then, it has been a series of situations and jobs that have been centered around the fam first. And while there was “work work” in addition to the “home work” going on — a mom and pop shop, a company called “Wow Creative” (cuz, you know, WOW is MOM upside down =) — the eternal struggle for “balance” was on.
Ahhh balance. That wily unicorn that when caught pauses for about 3 seconds before ramming its sharp horn into your ass to prod you back to the perilous, unpredictable edge from whence you came.
Then again, for me that struggle, which was so damn real for so damn long, kinda dropped off recently. It coincided with the oldest kid being able to drive the younger one, and both of them wanting their own places, their own spaces.
What was set free along with the children was also those potent nesting hormones that made it all possible.
And so, time for reinvention. There was the inevitable scrambling for relevance by taking online classes (Copyblogger certification program, LinkedIn Riches — da works), a poking around at past lives and old opportunities (quite an exercise in humility, I’ll tell you that much!), and a lot of soul searching.
The Nancy I knew as a kid was enthusiastic — wildly so — into everything and also was that girl that always wanted to help out, earning her the “service” award on the Honor Roll. A good kid prepared to take on every single activity with equal aplomb, running the bunk line in her Speedo bathing suit, tennis racket in hand, always prepared for the next thing.
This grown-up person is the same way — which proves Kurt Cobain* and my theory that people come as they are. (*This analogy is purposeful — you’ll see in a sec…)
When she was in her 20s, Nancy founded her first non-profit, Dress for Success, which supports women in the move from welfare to working by providing them with professional attire to wear to job interviews and beyond. She then left that company to run Do Something, which is one of the largest organizations worldwide dedicated to young people and social change. And now Nancy is at it again as CEO of Crisis Text Line, which is just what it sounds like — a place you can text for help when you need it. (And now you get the Cobain inference — had he been able to text someone in that crisis moment, would things be different? If not for Kurt, how about for all of the people who followed his lead? After Robin Williams killed himself, for example, there was a spike in suicide prevention hotlines nationwide, with waits as long as three hours.)
While Nancy’s story is amazing and fantastic, the parts that resonated most with me were those moments of reemergency that drove her onward to the next thing. During her speech she talked about what happens when people DON’T ever leave what they once started. The illustration was this: In Scooby-Doo, the decrepit villains who, when discovered, shake their fists and scream, “I’d would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t have been for you meddling kids!” are ALWAYS the former owner/operator/star of the mall/ghost town/space mission.
It doesn’t take one of the gang from Mystery, Inc. to get what she means.
And while I’d like to think that reemerging is something that happens lickety-split, it’s also inspiring to know it took two solid years of pitching for Nancy to get seed money for Crisis Text Line — despite her impressive, proven track record.
That I was hearing all of this at Toms, which honestly is probably the happiest place on Earth (sorry Disney! You’re not even close!), was particularly relevant. And that’s because its founder, Blake Mycoskie, has had a few of his own reemergencies, which in turn have thrown his company into multiple, violent bouts of reinvention.
(This, by the way, is a good thing =)
If you think Toms is a one-to-one shoe company, you’d only be partially right. It’s a company that’s dedicated to using business to improve lives as a one-to-one company, period. Buy one product, help one person in need. Getting down to that core definition, and revisiting it over the years when things got stale or out of touch even is the practice. And that is why Toms now is also about eyewear (sales of glasses provides eye care), bags (sales of bags fund safe births for mothers and sales of their backpacks support bullying prevention AND specifically, the Crisis Text Line — so double up and buy yours TODAY!) and coffee (sales from their roasting co. supports safe and clean water).
According to Mycoskie, focusing in on the WHY is the fuel that ignites the reemergency. (For all the details, you’ve got to check out his recent Harvard Business Review article — it’s a fascinating and inspiring read.)
Toms as a company is changing and growing, and that evolution was literally born of a sabbatical that its founder took. (Actually, the founding of the company in the first place was the result of a sabbatical of sorts, so it’s not the first time.)
In other words, sometimes you have to go away for a bit before you can come back.
And when you do, well, might as well make it a bona fide reemergency. Because that’s the kind of urgent energy that thoughtful reinvention actually takes.
ALSO, if you feel like you are in crisis and you’re not just experiencing a garden-variety reemergency, then please, text the Crisis Text Line — just text GO to 741-741 for free and confidential help. (Interesting fact: According to Nancy, the people suffering most from depression and suicidal thoughts? Not teens – middle aged men. Just sayin’.)
So if you see me looking wild-eyed and crazed for a minute — don’t worry, I’m just all amped up in a state of reemergency. Because reinvention is a mutha, and so might as well let it burn, baby, burn!
And now, just because I’m so damn proud of this amazing all-around camper, please check out Nancy’s TED Talk on Crisis Text Line.
Photo: Slide, Toms Headquarters (yup, people re-emerge from that thar slide DAILY!)