This morning, we introduced the newest member of the APW staff, Submissions Editor Maddie. Now that you guys are through your whirlwind of excitement (Who am I kidding? You’re still excited!), Maddie is here with her first post as a staff member. Long time readers will remember her lazy girl wedding two years ago, and now she’s back, writing about what she learned. She’s writing about how sometimes we do need to sacrifice dreams for our relationships and how instead of that being anti-feminist, it can end up being the most empowering thing we ever do.
Growing up with my ill-paired parents, I got used to hearing conflicting messages as a kid. My mom and dad (separated well before I was born) disapproved of most of each others’ parenting lessons, but there was one they could agree on: Getting married one day would be a perfectly fine option for me, so long as it didn’t compromise my bright, shiny future.
It’s not that getting married was a bad thing exactly—it’s just not something I was ever supposed to aspire to. I had much bigger fish to fry. And if fate would have it that I should get married, I was not to let it hinder my bright, shiny plans for success (to become Jodie Foster if my dad had it his way; Oprah Winfrey if my mom had hers). Furthermore, it was made very clear that if I were to get married, my success would have to be despite that relationship, and most certainly not because of it.
I’d be like that surfer girl who kept surfing even after she got bitten by a shark; marriage could set me back temporarily, but it would never prevent me from realizing my greatness. (Holy swollen ego, Batman.)
So when I married Michael two years ago, that was very much where I stood with regards to marriage. Sure, I was in favor of being with Michael forever—that was an easy promise. But committing to another person and committing to a lifelong partnership are two very different beasts. Still, armed with my parents ideologies, I trudged onward in my dedication to have my cake and eat it too. (Oh and I was going to eat lots of cake. I might even eat all the cake. Watch out world!)
And for the first year of our marriage, I did just that. Michael and I built up a casual existence in Connecticut, eventually adopting a dog, settling into a cute downtown apartment close to the commuter rail, and sometimes doing things together on the weekends. On the flip side, I had a completely independent life in New York City, where I commuted two hours each morning to a Soho office to work 10-hour days at my, ahem, dream job in the entertainment industry for $14 an hour. It was perfect. I wasn’t compromising my goals for domesticity. I wasn’t sacrificing my dreams for a man. And I most certainly wasn’t letting my marriage prevent me from becoming Tina Fey (eat that, parents). Sisters, I was doing it for myself.
I also wasn’t sleeping. Or making any money. Or seeing my husband. Ever.
Around our one-year anniversary, I broke. The dog we adopted was seriously ill, my job was not promising any upward mobility, and I hadn’t slept for more than four consecutive hours a night in almost six months because our downtown apartment was directly above a bodega with 5am deliveries. And it hit me: I was giving, giving, giving all of my energy to a lifestyle that I hated and getting absolutely nothing in return, just so that I would never be accused of settling. I was stunting my own growth as a human by refusing to acknowledge my marriage as a relationship that could propel me forward, rather than hold me back.
So finally I let go. I quit my job in the city and accepted a higher-paying position closer to home so that I would have more time to pursue things that make me happy. With emotional and financial support from my husband, I started a wedding photography business that will never turn me into Tina Fey, but that brings me more joy than indie films ever did. And now, having finally opened myself to the idea that our marriage is the adventure, we are about to embark on a move across the country, to live in a city we’ve only visited before, so that Michael can live out his dreams and I can continue to figure out what my dreams look like.
Do you want to know the punchline? Since quitting my “dream job,” my life has begun to resemble something so much closer to what I had always hoped it would look like. And now, working for APW, I get help share your stories, write about my own experiences with the signature APW snark, and I’ve been told the staff goes for regular Gelato trips. Now that, I think Ms. Fey could get behind.
Oh, I called my parents last week to tell them the news. You know what? They’ve never been more proud of me.