Living Life with a Capital L

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In 2004, I got fired from my job. I was managing a very busy, high volume and high profile shop and was also a trainer for new managers for the company. I took off a long weekend before the holiday rush to plan for my wedding that following summer and recruited a couple of managers from neighboring shops to cover shifts for me.

I returned to the shop to find that not a single deposit had been made in my absence, the safe overflowing. I gathered the bags, dashed to the bank, and deposited them before the mall opened. When the next staff member arrived that evening, I headed to the back to reconcile the deposits. Just as I noticed one deposit slip was missing the phone rang. It was the corporate office.

People were questioned, people were suspected, and one stopped showing up to work mysteriously but the money was never found. And while everyone knew it wasn’t me who took the money, I was the store manager, a leader within the company, and had to set an example. After the holidays (of COURSE, had to have me to get through the Christmas rush), my boss came to visit, hugged me, and handed me my walking papers.

I drove home in a daze.  I was a great employee, I've always been proud of my work ethic.  And now I had been fired from a job I poured all my blood, sweat and tears into.  But I soon realized this was a GOOD THING. I was free! I had worked in some aspect of retail for over a decade and it was wearing me down.

That Christmas, all the gifts I received from my loved ones had one thing in common – they were designed to reduce stress. It was clear I was near my breaking point.  I would work 20 days in a row without a break, I’d leave work at midnight and have to be back at 5 am, and have an hour-long commute. I was getting varicose veins and living off Mountain Dew and Venti Frappuccinos. I wasn’t doing what was best for me and my future, so Life with a Capital L intervened.

Life with a Capital L

Instead of spending those six weeks unemployed with a bottle of wine by my side, I celebrated my freedom. I wallpapered our bathroom with my dad’s old playbills from the ‘60s and ‘70s. I cleaned out my closet, my attic, and every drawer in the house. I went to the gym. I planned the rest of our wedding (and was even more diligent about having it all be on a budget), taught myself enough HTML to make a “bio” for my TheKnot profile, and I got my nose pierced.

Karl and Alison Gary
February 2004

No matter what company I worked for, how liberal or creative or funky, dress code always stipulated no visible tattoos or piercings other than ears unless for religious purposes. So hell yeah, Life with a capital L, give me freedom and give me holes in my face! I went to the place where I got my tattoo, I knew they did piercings and I knew the place was clean. 

It hurt like hell. It hurt more than when Karl and I got all cutsey college grunge couple and together went to get our cartilages pierced, and it hurt more than all the times I self-pierced my ears in high school (even more than the time I pierced my ear with a safety pin and it got stuck in there for two weeks and got infected). But screw The Man, I was now a badass face-pierced woman.

Until a week later when I was drying my face with a towel, the stud got caught in the terry and the nose ring was yanked out. I tried to get it back in, Karl even tried, fighting back bile as the nostril got inflamed and began to bleed, but no success.

The next day I was at the door of the tattoo parlor before it opened but the piercer said it was too late; the hole had already healed and they’d have to pierce through scar tissue to get it back in. And I thought the original piercing was bad, this pain almost made me faint. But dammit, I am going to be a badass with my nose ring!

Funny, that “badass” nose ring didn’t seem to even be a blip on the radar of those companies who interviewed me during those six weeks of freedom, as I received a few great offers and took one at a firm only five miles from home. A week into working there I made mention of my nose ring in a conversation with colleagues and they all looked at me in surprise, none of them had noticed I even had one.

A couple months later, I was on the phone with a client, my elbow on the edge of my desk, twirling my nose ring when I lost my balance, my elbow fell off the desk and my hand yanked the stud right out of my nostril. Just as Life had intervened when I was fired from my job, I felt Life with a capital L was doing so again.

Alison, you don’t need a nose ring to be a badass. Don’t try so hard, just be.

Living Life with a Capital L

I often get caught up in the need to define my personal style. How can I spew fashion advice when I don’t have some covetable wardrobe or enviable and defined personal style? What a hack. If I just had some cooler clothes, if I created a more minimalist wardrobe, if I dieted down to a size easier to fit and shop, if I got an edgy haircut, a new pair of boots, a new designer bag.

And then I think of those months of the nose ring. That nose ring didn’t make me any cooler, in fact few even noticed it. What made me badass during that period was making lemonade out of that big lemon of losing my job. Seeing it as an opportunity, not a failure. Taking advantage of that forced staycation, doing things I had been meaning to do and jumping on ideas that came to me while brushing my teeth or driving to the gas station.

The nose ring wasn’t badass, but the reasoning behind it was. I didn’t have to wear my badass on my sleeve or on my face, I didn’t have to try so hard, I just had to be.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. If you’re trying to impress, I can tell you right now you’re failing. Cool comes from inside, from confidence, from knowing yourself. And when you know yourself, listen to yourself, and believe in yourself that’s when personal style shines. And that my dear, makes you a badass.

Let’s be a bunch of badasses, shall we? Let’s own this life, and let’s do it for our badass selves.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Great post indeed! Sometimes things happen that are a blessing in disguise but at the time we are too upset to notice. I was fired at a certain job when I returned to work after dealing with my mother’s death and funeral. I left instructions with co-workers on what to do in my absence. I returned and things didn’t get done, and a co-worker who was new and trying to prove herself back-stabbed me in the worst way. I got fired, or “laid off due to downsizing” as they say and I changed careers. BEST MOVE EVER. I’m happy at what I do and don’t look back.

  2. I love these new posts from you – I love your personal style/OOTD posts as well, but you are obviously an intelligent and well-rounded woman, and I think it sets you apart from some other ‘fashion bloggers’. I really like this new direction, thank you, it provides food for thought.

  3. A “badass blogger”
    doesn’t have to label herself
    she owns the title.

    I’m a first time commenter, and agree with your post. Unlike another “badass blogger,” who makes a point of endlessly blathering about her style transition, yours sounds very natural. In Mrs. McGraw’s case, though, she did a 180 degree turn from skater skirts to pleather pants. And it appeared almost overnight, as opposed to a more organic shift.

  4. One of my 2015 resolutions was to be more badass!! (The others were to declutter physically and emotionally, and to do 10 pushups a day… the latter may have already fallen by the wayside though!) I love this. Ps. BTW you already come across pretty badass 😉

  5. Sorry if this is a duplicate post. This is what I told you about 40 being the first time I felt like a grown up! At 40, you know who you are and you really don’t GAF what anyone thinks. Yet, I feel like if I get fashion feedback, it’s positive…exactly because I am now dressing for me and don’t GAF whether anyone else likes my outfit. Live your life, love yourself, and don’t GAF what the haters say!

    1. And back in the early Aughts I pierced my belly (it was the thing to do), I nearly fainted in the chair. My friend who came with me said it was more gross to see my eyes roll back in my head than to see the piercing! And in the end I took out the piercing when I was pregnant with my daughter – now I just have some weird scar tissue.

  6. Oh my god, you have no idea how much I needed that post today. My husband’s been made redundant (finishes in two weeks with nothing on the horizon), I’ve got to have surgery (hysterectomy :() in a week and take time off work myself and frankly life is GIANT lemon at the moment. But it’s what you make of it, right? THANK YOU for the reminder. (My nose ring has been in for 27 years and even in conservative places people barely notice it …) You are awesome.

  7. Girl you are a total badass and a phenomenal writer! I have been so taken this week with your writing, things that have really resonated for me and what I have been thinking about. The nose piercing was adorable!

    Accidental Icon

  8. Thank you for reminding us that we don’t need to impress anybody but ourselves. I’m almost 63 but I love your blog because you’re not the stereotypical woman. You are a badass and loved reading this!!!

  9. So timely for me right now. I’ve spent way too much time worrying about other people that I’ve become a shell of myself. Thank you so very much!!

  10. Thank you for this post! I got abruptly fired in October, and spent a month or so in a funk before deciding to make lemonade–so thank you for being a very relevant inspiration to me right now! I also have been nervous about my nose stud as I apply for jobs in business environments, so my take-away from this post is that maybe its not as big of a deal as I had thought! I got my nose pierced in college, and the small sparkle of a stud has become part of my mental image of myself–I really can’t imagine looking at myself in the mirror without it!

    1. I’ve had my nose stud for almost 12 years and yeah, it’s a part of me now. I work in a [nonprofit] office these days, and it’s no big deal–even other offices have allowed it because it’s small and unobtrusive.

      When I first got it, I asked some friends I’d had for five years what they thought of it, and their response was basically “What a weird question, you’ve always had a nose stud.” Nope! But it clearly goes with my face, yeah?

  11. This is so wonderful. The way you told the story, how you read Life and understood what it was telling you. You are the baddest badass I know, and I’m so honored and proud to call you a friend – because of YOU.

  12. Just starting my day reading this…all I can say is thank you, really, for sharing, for writing it.
    greetings from Mexico city.

  13. I love this oh so much as I went through the same bad-assery (although when one nostril healed – I pierced the other! LOL) and through it all – traumatic pull outs and infections, I realized something incredibly similar… I was trying so hard to be different and cool and the only person who noticed was me! Definitely taught me a lesson that coolness is created through confidence and internal warmth not facial piercings and showy things. Great post, Alison!

  14. You are a badass! I love everything about this post. Sometimes we are trying to prove it to ourselves more than anyone else. Thank you for sharing and thank you for inspiring us all to be our badass selves!

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