I remember a point in the middle of The A.V. Club’s 2012 annual planning meeting when I realized I had it about as good as I was ever going to have it. I looked around the room and saw all of these people whose writing I had read and enjoyed and idolized for years when I was working an office job I hated, whose words had kept me tethered to reality through some very dark times. Keith Phipps. Scott Tobias. Tasha Robinson. Steven Hyden. Sean O’Neal. Nathan “Nabin” Rabin. Josh Modell. Kyle Ryan. Noel Murray had Skyped in earlier to share some thoughts. Hell, I had been reading the site long enough to remember when Genevieve Koski was the newbie, to have watched her grow into a vital, trusted member of the staff. (I don’t think John Teti was there, but my brain keeps trying to insert him, so let’s just say he was.) And there were other faces, new faces, whom I hadn’t read back before I started working, people like Erik Adams and Marah Eakin and Sarah Collins (whose tenure as our web person was regrettably short—she was great).
I’m sure I’m forgetting someone—or many someones—but you take my point. That these people thought I belonged in that room was one of the greatest feelings I’d had up until that point. (And I’m married to the greatest human being alive, so it takes a lot to crack my “great feelings” list.) I had been up late the night before, worn down by jet lag from flying to Chicago and my general inability to sleep in hotel rooms, to say nothing of the weird, foreboding nightmares that kept waking me up intermittently. But every time my attention would start to flag, I would remember where I was, and it would send a whole new surge of energy through me. And I’d been working with these people for almost three years at that point, first as a freelancer and then as a full-time staff member. The feeling shouldn’t have struck me, over and over again, but it did, and it was so welcome. To do meaningful work is one of the best things we can do with our lives, and even if the rest of my life is filled with abject failure, my five years at The A.V. Club were filled with meaningful work. Time passed, and faces changed, but I still felt like everybody surrounding me had only the best interests of myself and the publication at heart. That’s not nothing.
Of course, I’m leaving now, and in all of the excitement and sadness over new ventures beginning and old ones wrapping up, I haven’t taken nearly enough time to look back at that work. Fairly early on in my tenure at the AVC, I realized I had wandered into a situation where my editors would let me write about essentially anything, then treat it with the utmost of care when it landed on their desks. That’s a kind of paradise for a writer, and it was something I was always, always grateful for, even when I was squabbling with my superiors or huffing about having to write yet another What’s On Tonight or even just having days when I wanted to stab my job in the heart and leave it for dead. (A valuable lesson from this job: You will have days like this even on your dream job.)
I’m excited about Vox—not least of which is because I, once again, get to work with people whose writing has gotten me through many a long day and caused me to think about the world in new ways—but I didn’t want to let this passing go by without marking it somehow, without taking a moment to remember the work. (And, of course, because I am an insane workaholic, I have a handful of pieces still scheduled that have yet to run. I’m ridiculously proud of the last piece I ever wrote for the site, a retrospective on Frank’s Place, which will run July 23. Also, of course, it might have been the last piece I wrote, but it won’t be the last piece that runs from me, because scheduling is weird.)
With that in mind, here are the 10 pieces I will look back on with a great deal of fondness when I remember my time at the AVC. I am kind of grumpy about my own work and hold myself to impossible standards, but these ones… these ones I thought managed to get close to what I wanted.