Making Your Own Luck

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

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  • Amanda L.

    As I start a search for a new job due to my husband’s recent cross-country transfer, this was EXACTLY what I needed to read. Thank you, and welcome, Emily!

  • What a beautifully written post!

    I was really interested what you said about being competitive with your spouse, how him being successful drives you to accomplish more, and how he supports you so you can do more. I love how in a marriage, it’s not a zero sum game. When you “compete” you’re really encouraging each other and you can be so much more together.

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us – looking forward to hearing more from you in the next few months. And big fist bump for making your own luck!

    • This view on competition in a marriage really struck me too. I’ve never thought of my relationship as competitive, but we do both push each other to new achievements and successes in very different areas of our lives and thinking about it in some ways the motivation is competition.

      When Bunny’s just carved out a new niche of success I’m always cheering him on and so excited for him. At the same time I don’t want to be left behind as the “unsuccessful” one and so I try to find new, fulfilling and challenging ways to create my own success. If that’s competition that’s got to be the best kind of competing ever.

    • Paranoid Libra

      This struck such a chord with me too. I am also a competitive person, but my husband doesn’t seem to be so much so. I feel like my being successful but he can’t seem to catch a break just causes a vicious cycle of sad. My husband has created his own bad luck in the job search. I agree that you can make your own luck…whether it’s good luck or bad luck however also depends on you.

      I want us to go make some concrete goals not just these generalized ones like for him get better job. Get a better job doing what or where? I want to pay off credit card debt…well make it concrete what cards I want to pay off by when. And make those post it notes for daily reminds damn it as I think that helps so much. It helped me when I used to swim to post the time I wanted to hit in an event and helped to remind me to take care of my body so I can give myself the best chance to hit that goal.

      And Emily I love your writing. The style reminds me much of Meg’s awesome wisdom so it will still feel like there is some Meg styled awesome wisdom coming through as she goes to have a hopefully smooth transition to parenthood. I love hearing from the ladies behind APW. You are all awesome!

  • Flowers for Zoe

    Welcome Emily! This is the first time I’ve posted here. Your words resounded with me in a profound way. I can’t wait to read more from you. I’m putting up my own goal post it today. :-)

  • carrie

    You’re kind of my hero. :-) Thanks for sharing awesome advice!

  • rys

    Welcome Emily!

    This resonates with the work/professional/hobby/athletic side of my life in which hard work and persistence have combined with strokes of good fortune (and learning from failure — so very important!) to lead me to wonderful places. But for me, the one realm where hard work and persistence have not seemed to yield dividends is in my love/dating life. And this has been a hard realization. To be clear, I think hard work and making your own luck matters a lot in relationships. But I think luck (good or bad) is its own separate, often super aggravating (though potentially super wonderful), entity in the realm of finding that someone to date. Preferably someone you like and who likes you back. Recognizing this has been really important to becoming and staying relatively calm (except when I’m, uh, not) as a single 30-something. And much as I hate that this means letting go and recognizing I don’t have control, the corollary is that I also wish others would recognize the role of uncontrollable luck (ahem, family friends who assume I’m “not trying hard enough” or just “need to be less intellectual and more social.” Charming, really.)

    That said, I do think “part of making your own luck is surrounding yourself with good people” does apply. Because hopefully they know other good (maybe single?) people and that could, you know, lead somewhere. Or at least make sure you have fun in the meantime.

    • Jashshea

      What, praytell, are you supposed to be doing to be perceived as “trying hard enough?”

      Some people, I tell ya.

      • Paranoid Libra

        ummm….standing on the street corner passing out your profile to anyone and everyone or being a hooker. I hear hookers get to meet lots of people.

        Clearly you will find a well-meaning relationship by saturating the market with yourself and having 0 standards. I’m sure that drug addicted 60 year old homeless man would be a great match!

        And on another semi related note I want a sarcasm font.

        • Jashshea

          Lol @ sarcasm font. So necessary.

          I have this one friend who is drop dead gorgeous, has great taste, is brilliant and has a great life/job – and she’s single. The only reason I want her to find a special someone is because she wants that. I know she “puts herself out there” and “tries to meet new people” and all the other pat phrases people use, so I try my best to lay off her about her dating life. I’m sure the people who ask/offer advice mean well, but COME ON.

  • Aw. I’m so happy and excited for you.

  • katieprue

    “What I wanted was a plan.” Ding-ding-ding we have a winner, folks! This statement really resonates with me and I anticipate that I’ll be chewing on it for awhile. A plan, a plan, any plan… I’ve been looking for what feels like a long time.

    Emily, you’ve had some great posts and I look forward to seeing many more. Congrats!

  • JESS

    I just lost my job a couple days ago (the day I returned from my honeymoon!), and I’ve been panicking over what to do now. Look for any other job, stat? Go back to a job doing something I didn’t really enjoy? Or is it time to throw myself fully into opening my own bakery, a dream that I thought was years away?

    Thanks for the reminder that it can be done, no matter how impossible it seems. And how do you guys just KNOW what to post at the exact right moment???

    • Jennie

      It can be done, if you have the means to make the bakery happen, go for it!

      I started my own business three years ago and had been working on my own since then. At the beginning of this year a colleague approached me about buying out a partnership. I had some rough stuff going on in my life along with planning a wedding, but I’d been wanting to work with a partner and had been working to make it happen over the last few years. So I went for it and I’m so happy I did. It’s been a hard year, a year full of changes and it feels like everything has just kind of fallen into place.

      Reading this post reminds me that I did it myself, I made this luck. You can too!

      • KB

        Knowing nothing about you, your personal/financial circumstances, affinity for business, baked goods-making skills – I vote for the bakery :-)

    • I wish you the best as you figure out your new path. May it be a wonderful adventure, whatever it is…

  • Congratulations on achieving your goal Emily!

    As a side note, someone told me during my planning process that it was good luck to get married on the half-hour so that’s what we did. I’m all for arbitrary superstitions and think it’s hilarious how many contradictory ones there are out there. Like you say, we make our own luck.

    I’m totally adopting your post-it idea. Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!

    • Emily

      I love superstitions, too! I’ve also heard it’s good/bad luck to get married in the rain.

  • Laura

    “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.”

    YES. I am so grateful for this, each and every day.

  • Congratulations Emily!

    This is exactly what I needed to read today for so many reasons. I am going to put that advice on a post it note myself and tape it to my forehead, my steering wheel, my bathroom mirror and quite possibly my cat’s tail.

    • mimi

      Haha I hope your cat doesn’t mind!

  • Kara

    We sometimes joke that we’re on plan c, alt 4 and don’t even remember plan a any more.

  • eb

    What if your significant other’s dream job doesn’t pay enough that you can float and chase your dreams? He’s a teacher, so money will always be rough for us, even tho we’re in our thirties. This rubbed me the wrong way a little bit because while it’s nice in theory, it may not be realistic for a lot of people—there will never, every be a time I can not work and our family will be okay, sometimes we have to take those admin jobs because they pay the rent and make it possible to chase our dreams. Because I work that shitty admin job I can go to school at night and eventually transition to my ideal career. You certainly have a lucky situation (maybe self made, maybe more), am I less “lucky” because I married into a less financially supportive situation?

    • Maddie

      Interestingly, most of us who work for APW *have* actually been in that situation, often not even quite as lucky as to have two jobs while pursuing our dreams (when Meg started APW, her husband had just graduated law school into the recession, so she was supporting both of them on one salary while putting together APW at night.)

      But the thing is, I think what you’re talking about is pretty much what Emily is talking about. I mean, listen, most of us aren’t going to be born into the luxury of not having to work and just pursuing our dreams however and whenever we want. So what it comes down to is pooling your resources as a couple to help make each other’s dreams come true. Sometimes that’s going to mean that one of you doesn’t have to work for a while because the other one’s paycheck covers that, but sometimes it means that your partner picks up extra slack at home even though you both work full time so that you can go to night school to make your dreams come true. And sometimes it even means putting your dreams on hold for a bit so that your partner can go for theirs.

      Making your own luck just means recognizing what opportunities you have available to you, and then hustling the shit out of them.

  • Nina B.

    Congrats, Emily! I love your story and will put a sticky on my bathroom mirror posthaste! (Also: said bathroom mirror happens to be in Durham, NC. Are we close?)

    • Emily

      I live near the airport, so yes! We are close! And there are a few other Triangle readers, too! :)

  • Ana Maria

    ” 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. ”


    And Congratulations!

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