Today, after several months in transition, we are finally able to tell you about a huge change that’s been happening behind the scenes here at APW: After eight whole years, Maddie is leaving A Practical Wedding.
As we prepared to publicly say goodbye to Maddie on APW this week, I was given the job to go through everything she had ever written for the site, and pick a few of my favorite pieces that tell the story of Maddie’s life here over the last eight years.
Let’s think about that for a minute: EIGHT YEARS. That’s the better part of a decade. Reporting tells me that nearly half of millennials plan to leave their job in two years, and only 28% plan to stay five years. Regardless of what Maddie’s plans were when she started here, she stayed for a lot longer than that, and in those years we both had so much personal growth, and so much life change. Diving into the archives of our time together is wild, because it stretches over such a long period. When she started at APW, I wasn’t a mom (or even pregnant). Within the year I’d had my first kid, and now collectively we have an almost 7 year old, a 4 year old, and a two year old.
The business of APW has also changed enormously. When Maddie started, this was still a blog that I ran from my kitchen table, with two very part-time employees. Eight years later, we’ve gone through many home offices, three real offices, tons of full-time staff, and enormous traffic and revenue growth. I can safely say that without Maddie, we might not have survived the many ups and downs that digital publishing has gone through in the last decade. She pushed us forward with outside-the-box ideas, a relentless work ethic, business savvy, and cold calls. And while we’ve now built a larger team that also has those skills, we are all really sad to see her go.
But this week is not about the way the business has grown with Maddie helping at the helm. Nor is it about the many elaborate DIY projects she found on the depths of the internet and cajoled us into building at scale—though that definitely happened too. (El Wire and giant cloud installations, anyone?) Instead, it’s about her journey as a person over the last eight years. Where she’s come from, and where she’s going to. And while I can’t tell you the answer to where that may be, we all wish her nothing but happiness and success on the journey.
And with that, we’re handing this week over to Maddie.
When I was 22, aka more than ten years ago (👵), I was newly engaged and freaking out. (Insert many insecurities about being young and feminist and not entirely sure if the institution of marriage was for me.) My friend sent me a book about non-traditional weddings, which led me down an internet rabbit hole that brought me to a place called A Practical Wedding. I still remember the first post I read here. It was a funny takedown of the Wedding Industrial Complex (which I read with Jack Skellington-like rapture) that cracked open my understanding of weddings and marriage, and I became a dedicated reader from that very day.
It’s crazy to think that I’ve been reading this website for a third of my life. Longer than high school. Longer than college. Longer than any job I’ve had. Longer than I’ve been married. And it’s even crazier to think that this week will be my last week working here. How do you summarize something you’ve spent nearly a decade living and breathing?
Any time I tell someone I’m moving on from APW, they have the same first question: Why? And my answer is about as cliche and boring as it could possibly be: I’m ready to try something new. But if I dig a little deeper, I realize that I’ve checked off so many career bucket list items while working here at APW. I’m talking things that I dreamed up in the middle of the night and never thought could come to fruition, but somehow magically did—from the early days when we got our community to rally around hair donation so that women fighting cancer could have affordable wigs to just last year when we gathered a hundred feminists in the woods for The Compact. And now it’s time to dream some new things up.
As for what’s next, for those of you who have been following along with me since way, way, back in the day, you know that I’ve spent a good chunk of the last eight years in relentless pursuit of the hustle. There were, like, three years there I figured maybe it would be cool if I just didn’t sleep. (Whoops.) Over the last few years I’ve been on a journey to untangle that impulse. So the short answers is: I don’t know. For quite possibly the first time ever in my working life, I’m giving myself permission to pause and take a breather and figure it out. Which, from a personal growth standpoint, actually feels like a much bigger deal than a flashy new job. (And I mean, I could never leave APW on any kind of two weeks notice anyway, who am I kidding?)
I’ve already been promised that I’m allowed to roam the halls of APW like the ghost of Gryffindor tower and I quite intend to overstay my welcome. (Yes, yes, I know I should technically be haunting Hufflepuffs, but we’re a wildly underrepresented faction here.) Because the real deal is that while I might be moving on from APW as my profession, there’s no way I could ever leave this place behind for real. APW is where I learned how to be a grown up. It’s where I’ve made a home. I mean, heck, the APW staff page is a veritable who’s who of the first people at the hospital after my baby was born. APW is my family. And that’s not even getting started on all the incredible people I’ve met through this wonderful community.
The good news is, I couldn’t be happier with who is coming on board APW in my place. Like I said, I could never leave here on any kind of two weeks notice. And likewise, I could never leave here without knowing that this beautiful business is in great hands. Our newest team members, Dana and Alyssa (more on our new team soon) are two of the most lovely and intelligent human beings I’ve met while doing this job. I am so excited to see how they grow what we’ve built. (And I can’t even start in on our existing team of Keriann, Chelsea, and Mark, because if I do, I’ll cry.)
In the meantime, here is a brief list of career opportunities I’ve considered as my next step:
- Launch #MotherBoy, my exclusive line of parent/child glam rock children’s clothing
- Kickstart my life as an Instagram influencer for dairy products (primary focus will be ice cream, with a secondary niche into cheese. Special programming will include an overlap of the two.)
- Justsleeves.com, a business where I just make sleeves for dresses that don’t have sleeves.
I can’t even begin to thank you all for what this place has meant to me for the last decade, because if I think about it too hard, I start to get all weepy. But I will say this: thank you for letting me share my vulnerability, my insecurities, my personal growth, along with my recommendations for financial software and meal delivery kits with you. I consider it a privilege that I’ve been able to talk about everything from sex to mortality to parenthood and body image issues with you, and to know that my words would always be received by such a kind and supportive online environment.
And of course, to Meg. It’s hard to explain what it’s like working for a small business for eight years except to say that it feels like building a family. While Meg has been my partner in work, she is also the parent to my godchild, the person I have had the most sleepovers with, the first person to meet my baby, and the one I text when one of my siblings decides to get a bad tattoo. We’ve traveled together, weathered losses together (personal and professional) and generally shared life with each other. At work, Meg has been the person I have shared all my wildest dreams with. She’s been the logic to my emotion. The “go ahead” to my “can I?” The Don Draper to my Roger Sterling (but with less whiskey).
What brought me to APW in the first place was the whip-smart, strong, thoughtful voice behind the site. And somehow, in an amazing twist of fate (or as I like to call it “sending emails to people on the internet that you don’t know”), that voice has turned into my friend and confidante. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without Meg’s mentorship and friendship—but I know I’d be a much less confident, outspoken, brave human being and I’m so grateful to everything I’ve learned at her side from here:
Plus a whole lot of shenanigans in between. (Do I have more photos of myself with Meg in my phone than of my husband or pretty much anyone who isn’t my child? Yes, yes I do.)
As I’ve been transitioning out of my job the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what this job has meant to me, and I keep coming back to the scene from Mad Men when Peggy gives Don notice. It makes me sob hysterically every time I watch it, specifically this quote:
I want you to know that the day you saw something in me, my whole life changed. And since then, it’s been my privilege to not only be at your side, but to be treated like a protege. And for you to be my mentor. And my champion.
Spoiler alert: I’m definitely crying again. Because that’s really what APW has been for me. A life changing experience that has brought me some of the biggest growth, happiest memories, fiercest champions, and best friends I could ask for.
And with that, for the next week you get the treat of watching me grow up on the internet. Let’s do this.