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The biggest reason I quit my job was to save myself.
I once wrote in my journal that it was like living in a Plexiglass box. You know how Plexiglass gets yellowed with time, gets scratches, goes cloudy? My Plexiglass box was letting me see life, but I wasn’t really feeling it and it was getting scratched and cloudy. I never felt extreme highs or lows. I just worked to get through another day. This was adulthood, right? It’s what adults seemed to be like on TV. Tired, achy, worn down, making it work. But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
I quit, and I realized it doesn’t have to be that way. I also realized it’s a long process to get out of that Plexiglass box. I had this unrealistic goal where life would be more vibrant just with fewer jobs. I could throw all myself into this blog and what it could be, and the creativity would color my life. The passion would bring back the highs and the lows.
It’s been a bit over two months since I quit my job to blog full-time. I’m used to not being at the office, and the emails from colleagues asking questions have slowed down to a trickle. The holidays were so busy it really kept my mind off things… and also kept my life off schedule. The blog was not my focus. After the holidays I’d get my act together. After the holidays I’ll go gung-ho.
But during the past two months I saw that there was more I had to do besides blog to get out of that Plexiglass box. It wasn’t just about the day job. It was that I had spent a decade overextending myself in every possible way. Two jobs, no exercise, inconsistent diet, not enough sleep, not enough time to recharge, spending too much, scheduling too much, taking too much for granted. Quitting my job gave me the time to see the damage I had done, and qutting my job is giving me the time to make repairs.
I’ve had writer’s block for the majority of these past two months. I’ve blamed the new schedule, my standing desk, working from home, the cold, the holidays, the new responsibilities of being a business owner. But I wonder if this writer’s block is a way to keep me focused on repair.
I haven’t wanted to write about the changes I’m making in my life. I know many of you don’t come here to hear the navel gazing musings of a middle aged white lady. We’ve got enough of that in this world. But this is a blog not just about fashion, but leading a stylish life. I regularly preach about donning the oxygen mask – taking care of yourself so you can care for others. I’ve been struggling to breathe for a while, ignoring it so I could work work work work work. So I could do it all. Essentially so I could be a martyr. I wrote so I could ignore what was going on with me. I could dish out advice but I wasn’t taking it. Not very stylish.
The most stylish thing is to be content in your own skin. To care for yourself, to believe in yourself, and to help others in the best way you can. You can’t do this when you’re running on fumes. You can’t hide it under a designer dress or fix it with a new pair of shoes. So I’m going to continue my Life After Quitting series, sharing what I am doing to repair myself so that I can be whole and pursue this dream.
Repair the Body
Health isn’t about size. I had come to terms with my size, embraced my body. I pampered it with beauty products and salon visits and dressed it in fabulous clothes. However, I wasn’t doing anything to keep it strong. I’d balance kale with a Kit Kat, water with wine, and had far too many meals on the road. I wasn’t exercising regularly, I had never consistently exercised ever in my life. I got winded walking the stairs in my home and could pull a muscle just stretching. I felt older than my years. I tried diets, going to the gym on my own, walking, exercise videos, even a cardio class and none of it was enjoyable, none of it stuck. I was watching Vikings with Karl and thought how I’d love to be a strong warrior. It was something that always appealed to me but something I never did nor thought I could do. So I reached out to Elite Technique in Beltsville, Maryland, just a few miles my home. I informed them that I had never been active, I was almost 43, I didn’t care about weightloss, I just wanted to be strong. I signed up for five 30-minute sessions a week. The first week was horrible. The second week wasn’t as horrible but not fun. The third week was the week between Christmas and New Year’s and the gym was closed. I found during that week I WANTED to stay on a meal plan, I WANTED to be active. I still would rather stay in bed than go to the gym, but I remind myself it’s only 30 minutes, tell myself once I go I can come home and go back to bed. But I never do, because I feel so good after my session.
This is a completely foreign experience for me. Sure, I’ve done some Jillian Michaels with my dusty 5 lb. weights and I’ve been on plenty of elliptical machines. But lifting weights isn’t something I’ve done since high school when I chose Weight Training over classic PE so I didn’t run the risk of playing Dodgeball or any other team or contact sport. With a personal trainer, I am held accountable, but I also feel secure knowing I am progressing in a safe manner. This has taught me you’re never too old, and it’s never too late.
Repair the Soul
Quitting my Job made me see how selfish I had been. I was working so much I left most of the house and parenting to Karl. Many days when I worked from home, I’d sit on the couch for a good 12-16 hours working for the day job, and then the blog. I only moved to use the bathroom. Karl would refill my water bottle, bring me meals, drop off any boxes that came in the mail, did the laundry, took care of Emerson, took care of everything. I was oblivious to how awful this was until I quit my job. I wasn’t a decent wife or mother, and it seemed every time I spent time with my mom I was snapping at her.
One of the benefits from my day job was a health spending account (HSA). Unlike an FSA, an HSA lets you carry over money from year to year. I depleted my account with my arm surgeries, but had built back up around $1,500. By leaving the company, I now had to pay a monthly service fee for the account. However, I wasn’t able to withdraw the money without being taxed around 50%. I saw this as Life telling me it was time to start seeing a therapist again. After reading unsponsored reviews, I decided to try Talkspace. One month with Talkspace is cheaper than one session with an in-person therapist. I was able to choose a therapist (I Googled the crap out of the different therapists offered and the one I chose is extremely qualified and well-rated as an in-person therapist), and we have an ongoing conversation via text within the secure talkspace app (you unlock it with your fingerprint). We’re working on being more mindful, giving, and creating a schedule not just for the blog but for all aspects of life to find balance.
Repair the Wardrobe
One of the things that has been the weirdest/hardest since quitting my job has been my closet. All these blazers, trousers, and ponte dresses that have nowhere to go. And now with working out, my body has changed shape and go-tos that used to flatter no longer do. I’ve been ignoring it thus far, and living in more casual clothes for the week and fun maxi dresses for the weekend but it needs to be handled. I can’t be a style blogger with a useless closet. So to force myself to tackle it, I am attending Cleanse Your Closet with Rachel and Company + The RealReal on January 24th at BUREAU. Rachel and Company is a successful and established professional organizing business here in the DMV but has been featured in Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful, and more. Since 2007, they’ve helped over 1,500 homes and specialize in home organization, closet design, and home moves.
This event will be an intimate workshop where Rachel Rosenthal (the Rachel of Rachel and Company) provides her tried-and-true organizing tips with an emphasis on clearing out your closet and containing your designer duds. I think this is such a brilliant way to start a new year. Attendees can also bring some of their clothes and accessories to consign as The RealReal will be on hand to sort through and take items with them. If this sounds appealing to you, there’s still tickets (use this link to register). I’d love to see you, we can support one another with repairing our wardrobes!
Repair my Sleep Schedule
Working out has really helped me get tired and fall asleep more easily, but I still have a messed up sleep schedule. I’m working to make my bed a restful place, and working on going to bed no later than 10pm. I wrote about ways I have been improving my sleep but I’ve done other things too. Exercising and reducing dairy from my diet has almost completely stopped my snoring and I find I wake feeling more rested. I’m reading from a book before bed, at least five pages (I often fall asleep before finishing a chapter). I’m also keeping my phone not just off, but far away from the bed and put my journal next to the bed so I can jot ideas there instead of emailing them to myself. Not even a week after I quit, people started telling me how great my skin looked. The only change was sleep. To think of how much I spent on beauty products when I could have accomplished more with rest!
Along with sleep, I’ve giving myself the time to decompress and be alone. When I was working, and still now I find I have very little time when I am alone. Really, the only time is when I am in the car. I used to use that time to listen to podcasts to help my business, but now I am usually listening to nothing or classical music. Sunday, after spending the day at the American Girl Doll Store and Café, I felt overstimulated. I let Karl know and asked if he could cover things while I went to hide out in the bedroom for a bit. I didn’t sleep, but for two hours I just lay there. I looked out the window, I looked at the ceiling, I let my mind wander, I finished one chapter of a book. It felt so decadent, but it was so healthy and gave me the strength to get through the evening and a busy Monday.
Repair the Finances
I made a very good living at my day job, and a very good living off this blog. We’ve enjoyed this money, and its convenience. Take out sushi when we didn’t feel like cooking, a last-minute weekend trip, silly things we don’t need from Target and Amazon, and plenty of clothes and makeup for me when I wanted to cover up the fact that I felt tired, fat, or frustrated. We aren’t struggling financially, we’ve made smart decisions during our marriage and I didn’t quit without knowing the financial ramifications and how we would fare. However, it has reduced our spending and forced us to reassess what is important. It makes me see how many times I have tried to repair with purchases. If it wasn’t clothes, it was makeup. If it wasn’t makeup, it was home décor. If it wasn’t home décor it was concerts, or books. This is a forced but good lesson to learn, and I think at a perfect time as Emerson is at an age where we discuss money, value, saving, and prioritizing.
It’s a lot to do all at once, but for the first time in my life I have the time to do it. I cannot WAIT to do all I dream to do with Wardrobe Oxygen, but I know it will be even better if I am in a better state. So stay tuned to hear how all of this goes and my future goals (and I promise there will still be plenty of fashion content!).
I, too, adore this series! I have been a freelance ESL teacher for about 14 years now, but I took a contract teaching job last year because I figured I would like the financial security. I lasted one school year (and only barely – so much of the job was just admin, when my heart is with the language, the contend! So left that teaching job in June, found more work as an author of teaching materials, and I couldn’t be happier. But at the same time, after having worked from home for a good seven months now, I am still in repair mode, and slowly, slowly finding my way. I so appreciate your honesty in sharing all this, and I look forward to every life after quitting blog post! Please keep ‘em coming. As much as I like clothes, I like finding ways to like my life, myself, my body and the way I spend my time so much more! Thank you.
Alison Gary says
I wish you much success with your journey through repair mode! <3
Thank you for this thoughtful, thought-provoking piece. Just, thank you.
Alison Gary says
Thank you Alex, because of readers like you I feel safe enough to share these things.
Great post. I’m plan to attend the Rachel & Co event. See you there!
Alison Gary says
After being self employed for now 37 years ( egads) I can stay the day to day routine is ever changing as it should be with growth and opportunities. Some days it takes 12-16 hours on the sofa and some weekends are nearly work free. What I have learned now that my kids and grandkids are grown is that they all see what I do and consider me an example. They call me the motivator. Could not do it without a support system they, including number one fan the Mr., are all a part of. I applaud you for knowing what you want to adjust and wish you the best. -Laurel
Alison Gary says
I love it that they call you the motivator, that is awesome!
I love your blog and these types of posts. I’m rejoicing with you as you enjoy the changes in your life. Don’t feel that you need to do “more” with this blog. Personally, it’s perfect the way it is. Enjoy your new life!
Alison Gary says
thank you so much Christine!
Have read your blog for years and think you are just amazing. This post is truly inspiring for those of us who ‘have it all’ but start to wonder what the heck it’s ‘all’ for. Will be making some changes of my own because of you. Thanks. Look forward to more of your thoughts….whenever and however they come.
Alison Gary says
Thank you Valerie!
You are such a fabulous person and a good role model for girls and women of any age. As you can see, you have lots of support out there. And that is just from the people who comment. You can be sure there are plenty more people cheering you on who do not comment on your blog.
Alison Gary says
Aww thanks so much Chris!
L H Carter says
PLEASE continue to write “Repair Mode” posts. You are writing what I am thinking and exploring also.
Alison Gary says
Awesome, thank you for the encouragement!
So happy for you making these positive changes in your life — sounds like you are seeking, and starting to find, some much needed balance. I’ll echo what someone else said: be kind and gentle to yourself, don’t say anything to yourself you would not say to a close and cherished friend you were trying to support. Also, I totally hear you on the strength training — I started in earnest last year and am amazed what a positive effect it has had on my life: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I love feeling strong and capable, I love the feeling in my muscles afterwards, I’ve seen my skin tone and complexion improve, and everything just feel more in place. Best of luck – and thanks for taking us on this journey with you!
I love the posts where you share about your life & what you are learning after you quit your job!
Lizer Pearl says
You go girl! Wonderful to know that there are like minded ladies all over the world.
I almost love this post, Allie. Almost because I believe it takes twice as long to correct damage already done, and thrice if you try to hurry it along and get impatient about it. Just be gentle with yourself and those you love. xo
Nihongo Dame Desau says
I’ll encourage you to be kind to yourself and gentle with the words you use. There is so much value in looking back and seeing what we want to do differently, and I applaud you for that. But please don’t say that you weren’t a “decent wife or mother”. I’m absolutely certain you were. You weren’t, however, doing it in the way you can now see that you want to and can, and that’s great insight to have. But when I read that comment, it seemed to have so much guilt and shame, and neither of those things will serve you well as you to try to repair and grow. Be kind to yourself as you look back and reflect on things you want to do differently going forward.
This is why I read your blog …
On some level, we all are facing similar challenges in our lives. Some deal with them privately, but yearn to know they are not alone. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone.
What woman in her 40s can’t relate to this? I love what you’re doing here–on a personal level and as part of your expanding conversation about the deeper meanings of style and beauty. I’m really happy for you, and wish you every good thing. XO
I liked reading this as its a reminder to stop and look around and taking first care of yourself so then you can bring the rest on!!
Kelsi carter says
Alison this was so beautiful and so are you! Sending you all the love and hugs in the world! Miss you!
I’m a year out from a divorce and will turn 40 in this summer, so I am thrilled to hear someone else talking about what it means to make a big life decision and then move forward in a real, authentic way. I appreciate always your honesty and maturity in how you are so thoughtful about looking at your life.
Also, I would just like to say, I don’t consider these kind of posts navel-gazing. They are very relatable and what makes your blog more enjoyable and authentic. I love the fashion AND the human connection. Keep on doing you!
Not that you need anyone’s permission to do what you want to do, but wanted to share my experience with standing to work in case it gives you some perspective on the whole “standing desk” idea.
It sounds good in theory. We know sitting around all the time isn’t good for our health (or our buttocks). But I found the whole “standing to work” thing overrated and unproductive.
My business is computer-based which means I can work anywhere that I have an internet connection. So when an opportunity to move to Europe for a bit came up, I of course jumped on it. My SO had already gotten purchased an apartment and gotten it set up for us ahead of time, but he was pretty computer illiterate so there wasn’t any proper internet for me when I arrived. I mean, we had some janky internet connection, but only if I stood in this one precise spot in the bedroom with my laptop on the dresser.
It was horrible. At first I thought, well, at least all this standing will be good for my health. But it was so uncomfortable to stand and try to work and write for long periods that I ended up procrastinating entirely too much and letting things pile up on me until I could get somewhere else comfortable to work for the day. But that wasn’t ideal either because for truly productive, creative work where concentration is needed, I could not be in a cafe or anywhere there were people and noise and other distractions going on.
It was absolute heaven once we finally got REAL cable internet set up about a month and half later, and I was able to set up a little office space where I could sit in peace and quiet and COMFORT and get. shit. done!
I could get my exercise in other ways that didn’t require me to compromise my productivity and creativity. And the other benefit was that by being COMFORTABLE, it took me less time to get the things done that I needed to so I had more time to spend going on walks, getting my cardio in, etc.
I appreciate the authenticity.
Count me in as another fan of this series! I love hearing from you about how YOU’RE doing b/c I care and want you to be at your best. I also want to thank you for sending us a blog post where you are sincere and honest without trying to sell us a bunch of stuff! The fact that you mentioned exercise but didn’t put in a ton of links to workout clothing, or exercise equipment, or healthy food, or shoes, or just any material goods is SO refreshing! I want your blog to do well financially, but it also tells me a lot about your (good) character when you share this type of info without trying to sell us everything under the sun. Thanks for that. Best of luck to you in this new phase in your life. Rest and take care of yourself!
As a longtime reader, I really appreciate your honesty in all of your posts, be they fashion or personal.
As someone who quit her job three years ago, I can say that it takes a LOT longer than I thought it would to get your feet back under you and find your new (and improved!) groove in life. Be as patient and loving with yourself as you would be with your best friend or daughter.
Finding the exercise that you start to crave is an amazing feat! Not only is it good for you, it is good for Emerson to see you value your health, strength, and physical activity.
Love this post! These honest assessments of your life are a huge reason why I read your blog. It’s great to see you taking care of yourself and being mindful as you do it, and being honest about the costs of past choices, and the trade-offs for right now.
I too am a long time reader and have never commented— but relate so much. In my early 40s, going through many life changes and also trying to repair! So many similarities— except I’ll never have your amazing taste! Thank you for being so authentic & honest.
What a powerful and revealing post! Change is scary and changing jobs is at the top of my list of things that would make me anxious, so I can imagine what you’re going through. And now that you’re still in the early stages of reinventing yourself, adapting to your new environment is still a work in progress. Luckily, you’re doing well with taking care of yourself by adding exercise, making good use of your “me” time and knowing that you have a wonderful support system in Karl and the rest of your family. But, also know that your readers like me are also here cheering you on as well. We’re here for you and hanging on your every word, wishing you nothing but success. Stay strong; you got this!
I love your post workout stories on Instagram! It’s clear you are loving it! I checked out Elite Technique’s website and WOW what a great deal to get this package for $400 a month – it is this much or more for a week in CA where I live. I had a solid 7 years working out regularly with a trainer and felt the best of my life when my life got sidetracked for reasons out of my control and now it’s been several years since I’ve seen the inside of a gym and I miss feeling how you are right now – what a difference it makes! I’m again in a position to get back to it and I’ve been dragging my feet because I’m so out of shape and embarrassed about it, but seeing your progress and smile, I know it’s time to suck it up, endure the beginning and feel good again. It is SO worth it! Thank you for the inspiration!!
While I love fashion, these posts are actually my favorite. I’m at a crossroads too. Adoptive first time mom at 45, struggling with career choices (freelance or corporate), mid life crisis, need health/fitness tune up, need zen. So yes, this type of authentic writing speaks to me more than ever and I hope to see more. Thank you for always being so real and honest.
I loved this post – very encouraging – can’t wait to hear more. Long time reader, first time commenter – thanks for changing the comments so I don’t have to login to something.
The Widow Badass says
What a fantastic post! Brava, brava!
Alison, I’ve been reading your blog for years and wondering how you did it all. (And suspecting on a gut level, the toll it was taking on you…because I have been THERE, albeit under different life circumstances).
I think you are doing a great job at reclaiming your life. It sounds like you are doing all the right things and already seeing results. Thank you for being so honest and transparent. You are helping so many women out there, I know it!
You’re saying the important things and I appreciate it.
Thank you so much for sharing this.
Sharon Harmon says
Wow it’s like we are twins lol. Doing the same thing. Cleaning up my life. Trying to lighten the load both internal and external. Loved reading your blog. Love your honesty. Thanks for sharing!
Caitlin Wallace says
THIS IS SO GREAT!!! I am so happy to read about you taking control of your life in a way that feels positive to you. I’ve written about this, as well. It feels so freeing to add the “constraints” of diet, exercise, bedtime, etc., because you see they’re not constraints at all. They’re doing what you have to do so you can do what you WANT to do.
Gay B says
I don’t even remember how I found you blog, but I read it, honestly, just to see how you style the clothes that you wear. However, this post has stuck a chord with me. I need to make some changes of my own. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for sharing what goes on behind the scenes. And congratulations! Love your blog and am a longtime reader.