Roots, wings and everything in between
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. email@example.com — 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.