Roots, wings and every­thing in be­tween

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Up un­til last Fri­day, I’ve called just one com­pany “home.” In a decade I’ve pro­duced hun­dreds of spe­cial sec­tions for South­ern Mary­land News­pa­pers. In­ter views have taken me to meet chefs and gar­den­ers, brides and bed-and-break­fast own­ers. I’ve writ­ten about the im­por­tance of sun­screen as of­ten as I’ve edited press re­leases from Toy­ota. No day has been ex­actly the same.

Much of my work was of the be­hind-the-scenes va­ri­ety, but “Right, Meg?” has been my pub­lic face since 2009. This col­umn de­buted in The En­ter­prise, The Calvert Recorder and Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that Novem­ber. I had no idea what I was do­ing. A man­ager had heard about the per­sonal blog where I kept track of what I was read­ing, cook­ing, feel­ing . . . a di­ary of sorts, only I was aware my grand­moth­ers were read­ing it.

The Clas­si­fied sec­tion of our pa­pers needed some spruc­ing up, and Steve thought I could write some­thing fresh.

Okay, I must have said. About . . . what? Any­thing. Like: stuff fea­tured in the Clas­si­fied sec­tion?

No. Thoughts, maybe: in­for­ma­tion. What­ever you want. “Just give me a heads up,” Steve once said, “if you’re go­ing to write any­thing con­tro­ver­sial.”

Con­tro­ver­sial? . . . Um, se­ri­ously?

I have in­ad­ver­tently stirred up big re­ac­tions on top­ics like Peeps, pump­kin spice lat­tes, fa­vorite movies, first jobs. But I couldn’t imag­ine what in the world I would pos­si­bly say to raise alarms (or make any­one care) when “Right, Meg?” — even­tu­ally named by my mom — was born.

My first piece was about de-clut­ter­ing, of all things. I still have it. I have al­most all of them in print, iron­i­cally; I’m ter­ri­ble at part­ing with these things.

In the be­gin­ning, there was no “I” voice in my work. I didn’t know there could be. What did I have to say? I was a 24-yearold ed­i­tor liv­ing at home with her par­ents, younger sis­ter and golden re­triever. I’d re­cently split from a long­time boyfriend, newly re­turned from an im­pul­sive trip to Cal­i­for­nia, drown­ing my sor­rows in cookie dough ice cream . . . and won­der­ing, above all, what was next.

Just a few years out of col­lege, I’d landed a job work­ing at the com­mu­nity news­pa­per where my fa­ther had once been sports ed­i­tor. Two gen­er­a­tions of Sniders: I thought it was destiny.

And it was, I think. I started at the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent in June 2007, and June 18 marked 10 years at the job I came to make my own.

It would be im­pos­si­ble to sum up all I learned work­ing for and with so many tal­ented peo­ple, but the lessons — the im­por­tance of com­mu­ni­ca­tion; learn­ing to be flex­i­ble; pow­er­ing through hard times — will al­ways stay with me.

Fri­day was my last day as a news­pa­per ed­i­tor. I started a pub­lic re­la­tions po­si­tion Mon­day and, though I’m thrilled with this new op­por­tu­nity, change is of­ten bit­ter­sweet.

But I’ve to­tally buried the lede. My day job has changed, but “Right, Meg?” will con­tinue.

What does this mean for read­ers? Prob­a­bly noth­ing. I’m a free­lancer now (ooh, sounds fancy), so my email has changed to msjohn­son. — but the col­umn should look and sound as it al­ways has. Af­ter sharing so much here over the years, it just seemed dis­hon­est not to men­tion a ca­reer change.

You’ve been with me when I in­tro­duced a new boyfriend — then a fi­ance, and now a hus­band. You cheered for my sis­ter and me when we both got en­gaged and were plan­ning our fall wed­dings. You’ve walked be­side me as I com­mit­ted to get­ting healthy, when I tear­fully left home, as Spencer and I were ren­o­vat­ing the house in which we are now rais­ing our chil­dren.

And oh, the chil­dren: the ones who will, no doubt, be ter­ri­bly em­bar­rassed to learn their mother has cat­a­logued their young lives this way . . . but will, I hope, someday be glad to know this “young” mom — and “be­fore” mom — through hun­dreds of silly, se­ri­ous, ridicu­lous and lov­ing sto­ries.

Though I try to keep it light, life isn’t al­ways cup­cakes and kit­ties. I’ve worked through hard things here, too. When I an­nounced my first preg­nancy and, months later, the pre­ma­ture birth of our son, it was only through the telling that I be­gan work­ing through my fear and shock and pain. Writ­ing is ther­apy. Some­times I’m asked how I can write on such per­sonal top­ics. I know these 1,000 words will scat­ter from Wal­dorf to Lusby, Leonard­town to New­burg — and across the un­know­able in­ter­net. I run into read­ers at gro­cery stores and banks, festivals and tea rooms. It’s typ­i­cally when I’m “rec­og­nized” that I re­al­ize my hair couldn’t pos­si­bly look worse, but I feel like you ac­cept that about me . . . and I love you for it.

We’re a com­mu­nity: within our still-im­por­tant, still-chug­ging lo­cal news­pa­pers; here, as South­ern Mary­lan­ders: as par­ents, read­ers, ci­ti­zens, friends. In a world lit by smart­phone screens, ink brings us to­gether.

I started at the pa­per at 22, ner­vous to make sim­ple phone calls but con­fi­dent enough to post an on­line dat­ing pro­file. Now I’m a week shy of 32, a mar­ried mom of two . . . and though my thir­ties have been de­fined by change, it hasn’t worn me down yet.

As I’ve started my new job, I’m thank­ful to have this space to give me roots at an­other time of tran­si­tion. I know I can be melo­dra­matic, but “Right, Meg?” has changed my life.

In the past I’ve been ac­cused of writ­ing about “noth­ing.” But to bor­row a fa­vorite line from “You’ve Got Mail,” well — all this noth­ing has meant more to me than so many some­things.

So I’ll see you Fri­day, friends. Thank you for be­ing here.

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