Tracy McCormick: Turning Darkness into Light

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Tracy McCormick is founder and owner of Lightfinder PR in Los Angeles. She shares the highs and lows of her personal and professional journey with Career 2.0.

Arriving in Manhattan in 1989 from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, I was young, big-city struck, and the world was my oyster. Barely out of college, suitcases duct taped shut, I lived briefly in an apartment with a group of female Columbia grad students in Spanish Harlem before getting my own place in the Upper East Side. It was heaven.

During college, I’d worked as a dental assistant for Jack Kammer, founder of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). I arrived in New York with no job, but landed one with AACD President Jeffrey Golub-Evans, a renowned artist and cosmetic dentist when cosmetic dentistry was just taking off. I was making $60k and working for the “dentist to the stars” in Manhattan.

I was accepted to NYU School of Dentistry. My career path was set, or so I thought. Upon telling my then fiancé about dental school, he balked.

“Whatever shadows are cast, I choose the light and the world remains my oyster.”

“We’re getting married, we want to start a family,” he said. “School will cost $100k and now is not the time!”

So I forfeited dental school, got married in 1990, one year after we started dating, and we moved to Westchester County. Our first daughter was born in 1991.

We moved a lot—from Westchester County to Boston, and back to New York following his trail of jobs. I was alone most of the time and when we were together, his emotional abuse escalated.

In 1995, our son was born, and our third child, a girl, was born in 1999. My husband accepted another Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.41.32 AMposition in Arizona and we moved again.

Arriving in Arizona was like landing on Mars—the desert seemed surreal. I spotted many saguaro cacti, and thought, “I’m stuck here now.” Then I looked up, saw the vast, blue sky and felt serenity I’d never felt anywhere else. I realized this might be the best place I’d ever lived.

My husband’s emotional abuse amplified, and by 2004 I’d had enough. I filed for divorce.

The root of all abuse begins with emotional abuse. “Whether it’s physical abuse, rape or incest, it begins with emotional abuse.

He moved back to New York, leaving our children and me in Scottsdale. Other than paying the mortgage, he cut me off financially. I needed a job.

Luckily, I love people and I’ll chat with anyone, anywhere. My gift for gab quickly led me to a job in sales for an international cleaning products manufacturer. One day I noticed a boutique fitness center opening up in my neighborhood. I went in to open an account, spoke with the owner, and wound up hired as the facility’s director of sales and marketing.

TracyMcCormickI signed 150 new members in six months, bought advertising on ESPN, wrote an ad that ESPN hired me to voice—which I did in one take. ESPN gave me more work, which sparked an idea to launch a radio career. Nothing wrong with reaching for the stars, right? That’s the journey of life.

A Craigslist ad for an AM radio station marketing rep with potential for “on-air” caught my attention. They hired me and I went on air immediately. I’d started a radio career!  I hosted “Your Insurance Matters,” a public advocacy program on 1310 KXAM.

Program director Jeffrey O’Brien, now host of “Business for Breakfast” in Palm Springs, gave me a non-paid spot on his show “The Daily Blender.” I created “Dear Tracy, The Relationship Expert,” a modern day “Dear Abby.” I was having fun! Later, when I was living in LA, I took “Dear Tracy” to Howard Stern’s “Miserable Men” show on SiriusXM. I called in from LA to New York at airtime.

So I was networking in Arizona and developing relationships in the film industry—everything we do is about relationships— and continued with the radio show plus a weekly remote broadcast from an Arizona State campus bar. The remote, called “Drive Time Happy Hour” featured live acoustic bands from around the globe. I thought it would be fun to manage a band, and plunged into music management. I also worked with a nonprofit for victims of emotional abuse, and learned about various healing modalities.

In 2006, I moved my children to Tempe. New adventure.

In 2008 I used LinkedIn to meet people in other cities for business. I was on dating sites too. Ironically, I’ve made more business connections on than LinkedIn!

I did meet a guy named Kevin on a dating site. Kevin was also in radio. Although we didn’t date, he invited me on his show “Driving With Gass.” I co-hosted “Drive Time” and did my “Dear Tracy” show on KWSS 106.7FM.

In 2009, I moved to LA., was working in A&R with Guitar Center, building a music management company, and joined another radio show called “Between The Sheets”.

I moved into a lovely rental house in Bel Air, CA then promptly had to vacate due to safety code violations. Out of savings, with no idea what to do next, my parents offered to temporally help with my children, but my ex wanted them with him. Not wanting to live with their dad, we chose my parents’ home in Wisconsin so I could travel back and forth to see them.

Next came an ugly custody battle, during which my father died of cancer, multiple myeloma. I lost my Guitar Center work because the court case and my father’s illness kept me out of LA for long stretches. Devastated and struggling financially, I started to rebuild.

New heartaches.

I found film location industry work through a friend, a union location manager. I wasn’t dating, but still Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.41.14 AMtrying my luck on dating sites.

In March, 2012 I met Leon, a former street performer and stand-up-comic, turned dark angry screenwriter. I was running my music management company, but a lawsuit between my most promising band and their former band mates halted touring. I signed several artists to various labels, and became an A&R rep for one of the labels, which I still am today.

By June of 2012, I had a temp job and Leon was unemployed. He sold a film that went to Sundance, but didn’t make money. Two days after convincing me to move in with him, Leon announced he needed  “a short break” from L.A. Little did I know, Leon had no intention of returning to L.A. He wanted me with him and in January 2013, we drove to Fairfield Iowa for his dad’s 75th birthday.

In Iowa, I took a marketing position with the Maharishi University of Management’s distant education program and learned Transcendental Meditation. A year later I was hired as Director of Media and PR for Maharishi Foundation and was doing PR for the Maharishi University of Management’s-David Lynch Masters in Film program. I spearheaded the PR campaign for comedian Jim Carrey’s commencement address at the 2014 graduation.

Maharishi Foundation abruptly shut down the communications department and I was let go. I collected unemployment, broke up with Leon, and started the healing process once more.

Today, I am principal of Lightfinder Public Relations, based in L.A., but I’m grounded in Fairfield. Whatever shadows are cast, I choose the light and the world remains my oyster.

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