A month ago, my bosses invited me for lunch on a Berlin rooftop restaurant to tell me that my contract was being terminated. The investor of our magazine, they explained, had decided to end funding it – effectively pulling the plug on the whole operation. They had been tasked with shuttering the company and so every single employee was going to be laid off over the course of that summer afternoon.
There was a remarkable disconnect between the sunny terrace and the bleak news, the unceremonious firing and the decadent quinoa salad; and so I hid my incredulousness behind sunglasses, finished my ice water and took the absurdity of it all in. Back at the office, we were treated to a short speech before my bosses would fire each other and everyone got to go home.
Companies do of course fail all the time. Particularly in the magazine business, where success stories are the exception rather than the rule. But when the news went out and people started asking me if I was alright, as though I had been dumped after a long relationship, I realized that this ending seemed particularly dramatic. And it kind of was – not just because of the sudden ending but also because my stint at the magazine had often felt like a very deliberate journey.
Five years ago, on the verge of graduation, I was reading my favorite magazine and I decided that working for such a publication was what I wanted to do. I moved to Berlin, stumbled upon a vacancy, got a few lucky breaks and was suddenly doing what I had envisioned. Four and a half years later, I was holding my termination papers in hand and it was time for a new plan.
I had come full circle.
It had taken some undeniable naiveté to having started this job in the first place. I knew very little about the magazine and even less about journalism. What I did know was that online journalism excited me, that it was the time for running a digital publication and that I was willing to not just pour my heart but also countless hours into it, simply because it felt like the right thing to do. I also knew that I had a passion for writing, photography and design – and that working at The European was an opportunity do all of the above, picking up the tricks of the trade as I went along.
Over the past years, I have edited countless pages of text and formed a pretty good idea of what differentiates a good from a bad one. I have written lots of own pieces, interviewed a whole bunch of people, met national and international celebrities along the way and realized that the rich and the powerful are just like everyone else – plus some money and power. I have been taken seriously, been frowned upon, been called too young, too conservative, too radical. I have had loads of fun and the occasional passionate argument with my colleagues, worked with very skilled designers, photographers and developers. I have learned a ton.
Meanwhile, the company waxed and waned, struggling to stay afloat in the cutthroat ad business. I would be lying if I didn’t mention that it got ugly sometimes and that a sudden ending, as absurd as it continues to be, never seemed fully out of the question. What I am the proudest of is therefore not the work you could read on the website or – eventually – on newsstands, but that we accomplished it under severe financial constraints and with a very small, young team. During its best days, working for The European unleashed a certain creative energy, a sense of possibility that was not just exhilarating but also very rewarding.
The company eventually found a new buyer and is surviving, but without me. Today marks the final day of my contract with The European, the end of an era if you will. Am I fine? Yes. This doesn’t feel like a break-up – it feels like moving on. And that creative energy? Well, I will soon be taking it elsewhere.