Yesterday we introduced you to the newest member of the APW staff, Editorial Assistant Emily. Now that we’ve all had a day to process how excited we are to have her (I’m still doing cartwheels, personally), Emily is back with her first post as staff, giving us a little insight into how she got here. Her story reminds us that the future is not a fixed target, but something we are continuously building toward together. And that sometimes hauling up your own star means letting your support system step in from time to time when your arms get tired. And now, Emily.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
I was sitting in a pearl-colored rental car in the parking lot of Audubon Park when I was given the best life advice I’d ever heard. While worrying that starting our ceremony on the half hour would be a bad omen (our officiant was late and I’m superstitious), my husband-to-be reassured me by saying, “You make your own luck.” At the time, it calmed my nerves about the ceremony, but it lodged itself in my brain and became a phrase I’ve returned to many times since. It’s true in so many aspects of life. Love, dinner parties, tests. Even careers.
Before graduation, my post-college plans were incredibly vague. I was going to get like… a job. In publishing? Or teaching. Or go to grad school. Or move abroad. (“Move abroad,” in hindsight: not actually a plan.) When getting married became the new plan, I embraced it. It settled where I was going to live, because Ian had another year of school to finish. And because he had a good job, too, and we were splitting the cost of our rent and bills with two roommates, it allowed me the freedom of not having to work right away. Which was a huge gift, because within one year’s time, I had buried my father, graduated from college, moved cross-country, and eloped. And I needed a minute to breathe.
But once I recovered, I was a little lost. I worked as a bridal registry consultant but quit after eight months, with Ian’s full support. (Turns out I was bringing all the crap that customers gave me home, and I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around.) I worked as a social media manager, but that turned out to be a temporary position. After speaking with the people I went to college with, I realized I didn’t want to be a professor, or be in sales, or work for my alma mater. What I wanted was a plan.
While I didn’t have a plan, I had managed to set myself up for success without realizing it, just by saying, “I do.” I married someone who believes I’m going to do great things someday, and someone who pushes me when I’m not achieving my full potential. I married someone I’m inherently competitive with, so when he’s successful, it drives me to accomplish something, too.
In February of this year, I was unemployed, and as a result I was able to drive down to Atlanta on a Thursday night to see Meg talk about her book. While she was signing my cover page, I told her, kind of offhandedly, that I wanted to work for A Practical Wedding someday. She pointed to Maddie and sent me on my way with instructions to get “all up in her head,” which I attempted to do over cupcakes and wine. On our way out the door, my best friend Margaret looked at me, and said, “You need to send them a resume. Tomorrow.”
So I did. Eight months later and here I am. And as I prepare to start something I wasn’t even sure was possible to begin with, I keep thinking about how I got here. And how it might have all started in that pearl-colored rental car.
Part of making your own luck is surrounding yourself with good people. To be honest, I might not have sent my resume in had Margaret not said something to me. Like my husband, she believed I could achieve a goal I wasn’t totally sure was achievable. And I probably would have been working another stressful retail job by now if Ian hadn’t been so supportive about my slow job search.
But part of making your own luck is work and hustle. I took a cue from the book talk and wrote “I WORK FOR APW” on a neon green post-it and taped it on my bathroom mirror. Like Meg said once, “In real life, you decide you want something and you work yourself into the ground trying to get it. You ask for what you want, you get told no, and you ask some more.”
Throughout this year, while I was applying for administrative assistant jobs that I didn’t really want, I kept dreaming about making a difference in the world, even if that difference was something tiny, like being part of a community where smart women (and men) can discuss things openly. I realized that it’s difficult to get a job like that, but worth it. Somewhere along the way, I also realized that it’s okay to not have a plan. It’s easy to get discouraged if you set a goal for yourself and you’re not quite sure how to achieve it. But I also know that if you learn to make your own luck, your support system will be there to spot you while you’re hauling up your star.
Photo from Emily’s personal collection