The Creative 9: I Felt like Giving Up…

I Wanted to Leave

- Rola Ghotmeh, Chairman- Chief Creative Officer, The Creative 9

I believe in never giving up. We will keep trying until we come to a decision that this is not giving us pleasure or happiness anymore.

Where were you on August 4 at 6:07 PM? I was with my team at The Creative 9 office in Monot, Achrafieh. What is your first impression upon seeing the damages and desolating scenery that affected your workspace and Beirut? Words fail me when I try to describe. It’s so many feelings mixed together. I went into so many stages and changes in my feelings that It’s hard to put them in a short answer. I’m going to start with despair.

When the explosion blasted through our walls (and our souls), I felt complete and utter despair. Dreams shattered. I couldn’t believe how the madness that hit us this year could escalate further. All the positive thinking and the we-will-get-over-this mindset went to trash, as I heard the windows scream, people shout, the walls blast and the cars’ alarms squeal.

I felt like giving up. I wanted to leave.

At first glance, I checked on everyone, my team, my family and my friends. I was very grateful that everyone was alive. Then it took me until the next day to have a good look at the material damages, that was hard to face. But when seeing what happened to Beirut and its people, my case looked trivial.

We invested our dreams in a defiant place, for the love of Home, but Lebanon didn’t love us back. It hurt. What happened to Beirut and its people was devastatin­g, it shook me to the core. I was under shock; I had an overwhelmi­ng feeling of anger mixed with empathy to my fellow Lebanese, a need for change, and a will to help and support those in need, starting with the close ones who were affected greatly by the blast.

I decided to stay. For now. How is the morale of the team? The morale of our people is the most essential. Throughout this phase, there was a heartwarmi­ng show of unity and solidarity in the face of adversity, combined with an overwhelmi­ng anxiety over the devastatin­g losses of souls, of homes, and workspaces. It’s hard to keep the morale up when change doesn’t seem to be happening; but standing together and supporting each other is going a long way. I try as much as possible to listen to my team’s fears and anxieties, and share mine in return, and to offer a somewhat safe space for everyone to flourish despite the odds. We all have been facing these hurdles, and we’re pushing through. What’s next for you and the agency? We are striving to do “business as usual”, to service our clients both locally and internatio­nally uninterrup­tedly, while offering the team a level of flexibilit­y to work away when things aren’t going great emotionall­y. I have the biggest respect for this young generation, witnessing these tough times but still fighting for Lebanon- a free Lebanonand not giving up. Will you be able to bounce back after the hardship? I believe in never giving up. We will keep trying until we come to a decision that this is not giving us pleasure or happiness anymore.

We are going stronger in the GCC market thanks to our long-standing relationsh­ips, the establishm­ent of our agency in Dubai, and the continuous efforts that are impacting positively our reputation. Our efforts are materializ­ing, as we added interestin­g accounts to our roster of clients this year. Have you already resumed work and under what conditions? We immediatel­y recurred to begin the restorativ­e works and fix the damages, as it would also help the morale at Nine, to see things going back to normal, “a normal”. We took a few days to recoup then went back to servicing our clients within and outside Lebanon on the emergencie­s before we were back to our offices and resumed our normal office hours. What’s left when we lost almost everything? This is a good question, and I’m not sure I have the answer. I think the answer resides in people’s unity.

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