Editor’s note: When life dealt Maggie Meade a deeply crappy hand, she learned something about who she really was and what she really wanted out of life. This is her story.
I didn’t set out to be a producer. I was a bit noncommittal as an art major in college.
I just knew I wanted to be in a creative field. I was raised with a lot of self confidence and ambition, so I never really spent any unnecessary energy stressing about my future or career. I knew it would work out.
(Please know my self-assuredness was not driven by ego or cockiness. I just knew in my gut it would be ok.)
Moving the chess pieces
Right out of college, my cousin got me my first job in advertising as a traffic coordinator at Cliff Freeman & Partners. From that moment on, I hustled for each successive stage of my career, calculating the chess moves of my career path.
I reached out to be hired by David Droga as Director of Innovation in the founding days of Droga5, back when the phrase “branded content” was catching on. I worked there for a year and a half to help launch the Tap Project, which won the first ever Titanium Lion at Cannes.
Wanting to move into production, I took the role of Executive Producer of Design & Digital for @radicalmedia. Over four years, we built a very successful department that worked on some of the most innovative work for the company at the time: Mission Juno/NASA’s launch to Jupiter, the Gagosian app, and a Tommy Hilfiger campaign and website.
The chess game stops
Then on a Sunday morning in March, I found a lump in my neck while lying in bed. It felt like a pea in my throat.
Two weeks later, my husband flew home from his freelance job at Mother, London. I was told I had a tumor the size of a football between my heart and my lungs.
As if having a football-size tumor wasn’t enough of a kick in the gut, I was also told the treatment would be so tough on my body that I wouldn’t be able to have more children. This, for a strong, production woman, was a tough pill to swallow. You aren’t prepared for this kind of news or know exactly how to emotionally handle it. I have always had a rule for myself to never cry at work — never let them see you crack. Stay the strong pillar you are meant to be for your employees, co-workers, friends.
But on this day, when I got “the call” at work, I cried in my non-private glass box of a office… hard and unapologetically.
(As if the universe knew this chapter was coming, I had randomly asked my not-yet-husband for a baby a year and a half earlier. Every day, I’m thankful for the miracle of my daughter and that I threw caution and control out the window for once.)
When I got “the call” at work, I cried in my non-private glass box of a office… hard and unapologetically.
For the first time ever in my career, work seemed so unimportant and trivial. Yet I went to work every day out of routine, programmed by my unflappable work ethic. I believed that unless you’re on your deathbed, you get up everyday and go to work.
But then I felt like I was on my deathbed. And it didn’t feel good.
Reality sets in
I felt I wasn’t being inspiring to my staff because I was so run down — and extremely bald. I went through seven months of treatment at Sloan Kettering and continued to go to work trying to maintain a sense of normalcy by being available for five of those seven months. The other two months, I sat at home with my laptop in bed. My family was constantly shaking their heads during their visits, thinking stress was the reason I wound up sick in the first place.
Several months later, I came out on the other side of cancer and did what most people would do; I quit my job. I have been working since I was 14-years-old, so this felt so foreign and unnatural to how I am wired and my self control. I felt lost.
For context about my social life, I have never been lacking in friends and family. Once I meet someone and we share a moment, you are now in my large, beautiful pool of people in my life. I love people, my life is so rich by the energy of the people I surround myself with. My husband is constantly telling me to stop making friends, there aren’t enough hours for everyone, but I disagree.
And yet, even with this supportive web of friends, I felt alone and unsure of where to turn.
Then as luck or the universe would have it, on a sunny spring day in Tribeca, I walked into Le Pain Quotidien and met Mikon van Gastel for coffee. One hour later, after telling me about the type of company he wanted to open with Joe Wright, he said, “Let’s do this.” And just like that, we had agreed to start Sibling Rivalry.
I’m not sure what it was about Mikon’s optimism, his self-confidence, but I felt like it was the most natural evolution for me. For the first time in a year, I got excited again about working. Of course, my family thought I was insane to open a company after the year I’d just had. But they’d also agree they didn’t expect me to do anything less.
Opening Sibling somehow healed me of my constant internal urge to look for the next “best” job. Every day, I get to work with my friends Mikon and Joe Wright to cultivate a smart, creative, nice place for us, our staff and our freelancers to work.
Changed by cancer?
Many people go through life-changing experiences and pivot their story into something 180 degrees from their previous chapters. I came out on the other side to help grow a successful creative production environment.
Cancer changed how I prioritize my work and life.
People asked me if cancer changed me. In a way… no. Cancer changed how I prioritize my work and life.
I see the glass half-full in life always, and cancer gave me the perspective to continue to push and grow at Sibling while also balancing the love and laughter of my daughter, friends and family.
I said I didn’t set out to be a producer. But through this journey, I realized that is exactly what I am. If it weren’t for this experience, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help build and shape the type of company my way, a company with no politics, and a great culture of people that embrace work/life balance.