I’ve already started, stopped, and restarted this a few times, because as it turns out, it’s hard to officially say goodbye! Who would have thought! But the rumors are true, dear reader: after five years of late nights, hard work, and a truly astounding web of messages haranguing, circling back, and “just checking in” about tardy assignments, it is very bittersweet for me to announce that I will be stepping down as Editor-in-Chief of Merry-Go-Round Magazine and handing over the reins to one Cristopher Jon Simonson.
You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been a year for the record books in the absolute worst interpretation of that phrase possible. But one thing quarantine has provided that isn’t entirely reprehensible is a chance to sit and think. This wasn’t an easy decision in the slightest, and I spent the entire first half of the year mulling it over and bouncing back and forth between decisions in my mind, but I have reached a place where I can comfortably and confidently admit that I have taken this little publication that could as far as I can personally take it and that it is best suited to grow and continue to prove itself as a viable and vibrant voice of independent writing under the purview of someone else. It’s a little bit about the fact that I’ve begun a full-time office job that finally won’t allow me to do Merry-Go-Round work during the day instead. It’s a little bit about filling all of my free time with my newfound passion for the culinary arts. It’s a little bit about the fact that I’m human and after five years I’m simply a little burned out. But it’s mostly about the fact that I can acknowledge that my talents lay with keeping a status quo maintained. That is an important skill to have, and I think it was uniquely suited for keeping this going through my senior year of college and the ensuing years of everyone figuring their adult lives out, but from his first day with us CJ has demonstrated a propensity for always thinking five steps ahead, and it’s that kind of vision and drive that Merry-Go-Round requires in order to keep growing. As exciting announcements will soon reveal, he’s already taken to the new role with gusto, and I’m sure my tiny Grinch heart will go three sizes and more seeing where this thing ends up.
But don’t worry! You won’t be getting rid of me that easily. This is maybe a quarter of a retirement at best. I’ll probably lay low writing-wise for awhile (though I’m sure you’ll see me during Spooky Season in one form or another) if for no other reason than the time my job will require of me, but I’ll still be signing legal documents, nodding sagely and saying “Hmmm” while looking at our bank accounts, and writing checks (re: sending incremental PayPal compensation) in my capacity as the majority owner, not to mention lending my talents at the Oxford comma and proper em dash formatting to our copy for the near future and being the one who gets on the horn with GoDaddy at 11 PM at night when we’re on the fritz. So I still plan on playing my part to keep the train chugging along, but I want to make it clear that now if you don’t like something we publish it’s CJ’s fault and not mine!
I’m proud of what we accomplished together. From the time we switched to Merry-Go-Round I noted that while our previous incarnation as Crossfader felt like “mine,” from the beginning Merry-Go-Round felt like “ours.” I’m pleased to report that that feeling carried consistently throughout the roughly two years it’s been since the switch, and as such, it’s been nice to see that everybody knows that this change is a positive one. Things won’t fall apart without me. The new blood on our editing staff has already brought in exciting new voices and writers. We all know we’re going to fly harder, better, faster, and stronger under CJ. To have started something that’s at a point where it can run without me at the helm is genuinely one of the most flattering feelings I’ve experienced. I didn’t outgrow Merry-Go-Round, but Merry-Go-Round did in many ways outgrow me, and that’s honestly really rewarding to acknowledge. Maybe this is how parents feel when their kids go off to college.
But while Merry-Go-Round may have outgrown me, it also helped me grow, and that’s what I’ll never forget about it. When this started, I was still a kid, even if my actual age was still in the low 20s. I was loud, brash, and occasionally probably pretty rude. I had strong opinions that I would express regardless of context or situation. I thought it was more fun to dislike things other people liked than try to find common, relatable ground. And in many ways, Crossfader at the time reflected that. I was electrified by the long and pedantic debates about media that my college friend group and I based our entire personalities on and successfully got that energy down on paper, but comparing articles from 2015 and 2016 to articles we publish now is like night and day. Everyone grew up. Everyone got more thoughtful and considerate. Everyone began to shift from considering what the “hottest” take might be to what the most valuable take might be.
And after five years of being involved in the field of critiquing what other people create, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to always remember that there’s a real person behind the screen. I’ve learned that joy is fleeting and increasingly rare, and it’s not rewarding to belittle others experiencing it. I’ve learned to really think about where an opinion is coming from, who it’s reaching, and what its potential impact could be. I’ve learned that not everything needs my voice chiming in on it. And as in some ways is reflected by the transition in leadership, I’ve learned that there is a world out there beyond our thoughts on the latest Nolan film or Taylor Swift album, and a world that has far more important issues to address than the same. I now have hopes and dreams that have nothing to do with justifying why harsh noise is creatively legitimate, or what horror films are underrated, or why FLORIBAMA SHORE was the most entertaining television show of 2018 (although that part’s still true), and that genuinely wasn’t the case for a sizable portion of my young adult life. That’s not to delegitimize what we do or why we do it in the slightest – we’ll always be there to offer our opinions on who should replace Ellen DeGeneres, or intellectually connect the music of 100 gecs to avant garde dance theory and our relationship to our own bodies, or yes, even just let you know that the new show from the Muppets sucks shit, and there is entertainment and value to be found in all of those things in their own way. But virtually everyone who writes for Merry-Go-Round is a personal friend of mine, and it’s been affirming to see our great collective acknowledgment that while pop culture is a source of great and intense personal joy for many (us, for example), when it comes down to it it’s never the most important thing you could be engaging with at any given moment. That, more than anything, is what I’m proud to have seen happen in real time. Maybe we’ll turn out alright after all.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the last five years. Thank you to every writer, new and old, for investing your personal time and energy into sharing your opinion with me, the publication, and the small corner of the internet we reach. Thank you to our Patrons for literally being the reason why the lights stay on and why we’ve slowly but surely begun being able to pay writers for the hard work they put in. Thank you for every like and Retweet and comment. Thank you not as much for engaging with our content on Facebook dramatically less than you used to, but I understand, it’s the way the world works these days. And most importantly, thank you for trusting us as a source of recommendations and discourse. Some of my best friends in the entire world and I started this with absolutely no plan in mind and no idea of where it would go. Here we are. I think my biggest regret is that I never came up with a signature catchphrase to end this out on. Here’s to another five years.