By Maya Enista Smith
Chief Executive Officer
Earlier this month, Pam Cyrtrynbaum shared her wedding and marriage tips for the Millennial Bride on the Family Goes Strong blog. Having talked about nothing else for the past 18 months other than my own wedding and impending marriage, my staff shared her blogs. Over the past two years (even before Dave proposed), I’ve spent hundreds of hours planning our May 29th, 2011 wedding and I’ve heard all these tips, and many more.
As a Millennial Bride in every way – attached to my blackberry, running multiple spreadsheets, communicating with guests online, inviting guests from all of my “communities” (online, offline and each of the jobs I’ve had, cities I’ve lived in) – I want to take Pat’s article as an invitation to share of the gems I’ve learned, from one Millennial Bride to another. I won’t call it advice, because the best piece of advice I’ve heard about marriage is that you shouldn’t follow other people’s advice, but I hope my experiences and the unique perspective that I have as both a Millennial, and one that studies the Millennials, will provide some laughs and perhaps, some insight. All I know about marriage can be summed up in three stories, which have the following lessons:
I’m Romanian. First generation American, and when I was born, my name was Maya Bianca Enistaneau (later “Americanized” by my parents). Twenty-seven years later, I stood at the Salinas County Courthouse in California, and I became Maya Enista Smith. My mom jokes that she immigrated to this country for the American dream, but didn’t expect it to only take me one generation to become a Smith. I married a sixth-generation San Franciscan, named David Smith.
A year before we were to be married, he turned to me and asked me whether or not I’d change my last name. I wanted to be his wife, in every definition of the word, but I didn’t want to be anyone but Maya Enista. People hear my name and they ask, where are you from? I’m given the opportunity to share my story, the struggles and triumphs of my family, who built their own American dream. I kept thinking about introducing myself, as Maya Smith, and realizing that no one would ask me how to spell that or where my name was from. I told Dave I’d think about it, and over the past twelve months have gone from Maya Smith to Maya Enista back to Maya Smith, once again to Maya Enista and finally landed on Maya Enista Smith.
I made a deal with Dave and agreed to add his story (Smith) to mine (Enista) if he took to the time to learn Romanian, my native language, so our children would speak it too. Now, we sit on the couch at night and I laugh at his pronunciation and he learns how to say “I don’t eat sushi” (Nu muninc sushi) and “Do you have a menu in the English language?” (Avets un menu in limba inglese?). We’re true Millennials – collaborative, entrepreneurial and diverse.
I had the unique experience of being engaged, and married within three months of my best friend Jen, and it was such a joy to experience this milestone alongside her. She told me, days after I got engaged, that the only things my wedding would be measured by is: food, alcohol and music. I laughed, because as an organizer over the past ten years, I’ve said the same line (minus the alcoholic beverage part) to groups of young people around the country, when they asked me “how do I run a successful meeting?” or “how can I get people to join my club?” Feed them, show them a good time and then, change the world together. She was right, and I’ll leave it to her to comment on the blog and let y’all know how I did in the food, alcohol and music department.
Jen’s wedding was just a couple of weeks ago, and it was full of love, personal touches and genuine, clever memories of the love that she and her wife, Caitlin, share. As Jen stood before 150 of her closest family and friends, thanking them for making the trip to beautiful Sonoma, she made a comment that will stick with me for a long time and one that I think points to the diversity and inclusiveness of the Millennial Generation. She thanked people for traveling across distances “geographic, and ideological” to support her and Cait. I was struck and continue to be struck by Jen and Cait’s courage, in the face of distances “geographic and ideological” and I think that in that courage, they have the most important ingredients of a successful, long-lasting partnership. People may say that Millennial weddings look and feel different but the love, respect, admiration and partnership that underlies them, does not.
If you know me personally, you know that I’m a nutcase. In particular, I knew I wanted to marry Dave a long time before he knew he wanted to marry me. One day, not long before he proposed, he got frustrated with me and said “Maya, I need to feel like this is my decision. Even if you’re controlling my sense of control, I need to do this on my terms.” I stormed off, and sulked but he was right. I was used to strategic planning, scenario planning, governance committees and controlling a national organization and the idea of compromising, losing control and trusting Dave with our future seemed impossible.
Since then, I’ve been able to practice compromise, trust and giving up control (especially in the months of suspense leading up to our engagement) and that practice will make me a better wife and mother and, a much better CEO. This experience with Dave, as he often points out, is strikingly similar to the theory of change of Mobilize.org. We empower Millennials to identify the obstacles that they face and convene them to work collaboratively to create and implement solutions to those challenges. In both the Mobilize.org model, and my marriage, collaboration is key.
I am so proud to be a Millennial, and I am so proud of the work that my organization, Mobilize.org, does in partnership with the Millennial Generation. I spend my days talking about educational milestones, economic milestones, political milestones and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to use this platform to talk about another important milestone for my generation, building a partnership (whether that’s a marriage, partnership, friendship, organizational acquisition or any other name that is given to two people intertwining their legacies) and reminisce on my own marriage, three months old, my relationship with Dave, six years young, my friendship with Jen, eighteen years antique, and all of the relationships that fuel me in work, and life.
I hope as you read this, you’ll take some time to do the same and as much as I love sharing my story with you, we’d love to hear yours. And, as is the tradition in Romanian, I’d like to wish you and all of your partners, in all of their forms, a “case de piatra” or a house of stone.