Life on the other side (happened for a riesling)
By Grace de Morgan
In January 2017, my apartment flooded and I was made redundant from a job I hated. In the same week. It was all very bad news bear.
Only a year before I had moved cities to work at a respected creative agency on a dream account. I would be writing and creating social content for several different wineries. As a long-time wino—with my very own nerdy blog in tow—I was happy and hopeful that this job could marry my passions with my skills.
And to be fair, it started off pretty well. Even though I had been paired with someone substantially younger than me, I worked with an immediate team who were kind, funny and supportive. We pitched interesting work to varying degrees of success. And hey, I was writing about wine, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?
Things took a sharp turn when my art director quit and wasn’t replaced.
I became a floating writer who mostly worked too quickly through her copy briefs or was paired with art directors who were spread too thinly across several other jobs.
“No bother”, I thought, “I’ll be proactive.” I pitched going to a nearby wine region on my own dime to gather more in-depth interviews for social content. My initiative was rewarded—I got to go on my first (and only) business trip—before being superseded by a larger TVC idea. After an encouraging start, the trip soon became an Australian version of ‘Apocalypse Now’ (except markedly less cinematic).
Around this time, I couldn’t help but see the cracks starting to form. I knew I had been optimistic in thinking advertising could really scratch my creative itch.
I realised that even if I presented my best work—it ultimately was being assessed by clients who just wanted the brand’s name to be a little bigger please.
If I was going to give that much of my time to one place, I wanted to be given more control over my work. I wanted to at least believe a little in what I was doing. But I wasn’t and I didn’t.
On top of this rising existential angst, nearly every second week someone in the agency would be made redundant. (Happy birthday, Susan.)
So I double-downed on my passion for writing outside of hours by penning a play and keeping up my wine blog. The thing is, full-time work + leviathan-sized personal projects + no friends in a new city do not a happy person make.
So even though my theatre projects were gaining traction and I had my own grown-up apartment in Richmond, I was miserable.
Regular Friday night drinks at the pub had gone from opportunities to wind down with work buddies to venom-filled debriefs where I would stupefy myself before crawling home and drunk-crying in the bath. I’ve only been blackout drunk twice in my life and both times were that year.
I decided I had to quit my job. A stable income could only be my siren song for so long. I felt burned out, hopeless and desperately lonely. And it was at that time that I was made redundant.
Being made redundant from a job you despise is kind of like being dumped by a bad boyfriend. You’re relieved – yes – but also indignant.
And boy, was I indignant. So much so that I took my monies, finished my play and flew overseas with finger-guns firing.
Somewhere in this white-hot rage, I managed to pitch a comedic guide to wine for Penguin Random House and landed the commission. (Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, I guess.) So I dragged my depressed butt back to Sydney and started to work on the book. It turned out that THIS was my actual dream job. I could write in my own weirdy-beardy tone of voice, interview wine professionals I admired, and ponder what Merlot or Semillon might be like as people. Plus, no brand names in sight! (Unless I wanted them there.)
That’s how ‘Everything Happens For A Riesling: A Not So Fancy Pants Guide To Wine’ came into being.
It was a word-baby birthed from deep hurt and insecurity that somehow managed to bring me back to life in the process.
It made me excited to get out of bed in the morning. It made me feel like I had something worth saying. It made me remember that I wasn’t a half-bad writer—in fact—I was quite good. Ironically, I drink less now after writing a wine book than I did before. I still freelance at agencies and in-house (…lady has to eat), but things don’t seem to weigh on me as much as they used to. And I’m hopeful it will stay that way.
If you learn anything from my story, it’s to trust your intuition when it says to get out of a toxic workplace.
It’s to make an effort to leave most days at 5:30PM (if not before) and be creative outside of hours. It’s to not let yourself get isolated or be too proud to admit you’re not OK. It’s to pitch, bish. (Hey, you might even get a book deal out of it.)
‘Everything Happens For A Riesling’ is available at most good bookstores. You can listen to Grace’s podcast ‘Everything Happens For A Riesling’ on iTunes, Spotify or Whooshkaa.
For events and updates, like ‘Everything Happens For A Riesling’ on Facebook.
And you can follow Grace on Instagram or Twitter @wineinaonesie