I have had so many people message, e-mail and phone me to ask what is going on… what happened… what have I done??? Well, I am going to try to explain it all. This post is about why and how I quit my job with no solid back-up plan, just a lot of hopes and dreams. So how, why and what is next? Grab some coffee… this might be a long one.
This has been coming for the longest time – years, really. I worked as a senior fashion designer for a leading manufacturer serving all the top brands and boutiques nationally and internationally. As far as fashion careers in South Africa goes, it was pretty amazing and I should have been so grateful to be there. I wasn’t, I was miserable. I’d allowed the crush of the daily traffic, the aggression, the stress, cynicism, the time away from my family, the office politics, the drama, the unrealistic expectations and a formidable workload to slowly suffocate me and in doing so, I’d started to forget who I was and what it was that I did want. I lost myself so completely that I did not even know what it was that made me “me”, or what I really wanted to do with my future.
All I knew was that I craved the freedom to create my definition of success, the power to have my own ideas and to make them happen, and the ability to be the mother my children deserve. In the 7-years of Mikayla’s life and the 3-years of Knox’s, I have never been able to stay at home with them during school break. They have both been sent to school sick more times than I care to admit. I have not been able to attend a single parent day at school, any of their prize-givings and very few sport events. And no, I am not exaggerating… One day we had a bit of an emergency and I had to pick Knox up from school. His teacher did not recognize me… a solid month into the term. She had never met me before.
When my kids got too ill to go to school, my first thought was not “my poor child”, it was a crippling fear and anxiety of telling my boss that I would not be coming in today. I would spend the whole day worrying about what was going on at the office, what was being said and the shit-storm I’d be walking into upon my return. I am not proud of this, and it is easy to say “I would never allow that” if you had never worked in an environment like I had before.
People ask me all the time if working in the fashion industry was really like The Devil Wears Prada. The answer is no. Not at all. It was worse. You work the insane hours, and you are treated like servants. You get screamed at, sworn at, belittled and broken down when things go wrong – and then praised just enough to get your spirit back up for the next match when things go right. There is probably one glam party a year (that you are expected to work at) and no free samples or clothing allowances… and there is definitely no happy ending. In some ways, it was all about the sacrifice just to have the privilege to work there.
I’m pretty sure that anything can be tolerated, up to a point. What drove me to quit my job was a few things. One was my mental health — I was not sleeping, I was popping anti-anxiety medication like smarties, I was depressed and constantly in a negative mindset. My husband and kids deserved more than this shell of a woman that I had become. Then, when I saw how miserable the people around me was who were in much higher positions, I knew I never wanted to be that. My mother-in-law’s death was a major turning point in my life. All of a sudden death and mortality became very real to me, and the fact that life is so short is something that now is constantly on my mind. I no longer measured my worth by what I’d accomplished — and I know this is an epidemic among women today.
Far too many people are frightened of making a wrong decision; you want to be sure you’re doing the right thing, but there is no way of knowing until you try. You only get two choices; stay in the situation that feels comfortable and safe because it’s familiar and there is a set salary at the end of every month (even when it is painful and may lead to a life of regret), or be willing to experience the discomfort and uncertainty that comes from the unknown (and which may lead to a life more exciting than you could ever imagine).
I was walking towards our office one morning when I just burst out into tears. I had to go back to my car, I was having a full-on panic attack and I kept thinking “I hate this place, I hate my life”. That day, I went home and told my husband that I was going to resign the next day. I thought he was going to try talk me out of it – he is a very logical person. He said “That’s okay baby… I am so glad you finally made the decision. Good for you. Don’t worry, anything you do will work out – I know you. You will make it work.”
Life’s too short to go home every day feeling unfulfilled. Life’s too short to work for a terrible boss. Life’s too short to go home every day feeling taken for granted, feeling taken less than seriously, or feeling taken advantage of.
Life’s too short to not be as happy as you can be.
I had enough… so how did I do it? And no – we are not rich, I did not win the lottery and no-one died and left me money.
I have been blogging for almost 4-years, in this time I was able to grow my blog into a successful source of income. It was not enough to replace my salary, but it was enough to show promise. I saved up enough money to provide me three months worth of salary through paid gigs on the blog. A safety net. Three months is not enough, but I could not wait any longer. I have a lot of financial commitments… rent, school fees, food, a car and insurance – all of which requires regular income. So, I made sure my blog earnings were just about enough to cover my basic monthly costs. Not going to work actually saves me a bit of money as well. Less petrol and the kids do not need to go to after care. There are a couple of little things I did to bring my monthly costs down as well – every bit helps. At the same time, the blog was not quite enough to give me piece of mind, so one night I was sitting and wondering what I could do using the skill set and experience I already have… and it just came to me. I realized that I still do love fashion, even though it is an industry I do not want to be part of.
I wanted to do things my way, I wanted to do something that would make the difference I was longing for. I wanted to help women succeed and feel good about themselves. So, I started asking women what they really needed help with in their wardrobes and created a service in response, one that also distances me from so much of what I disliked about the fashion industry. That is how The Image Consultant was born. I love working with women, I love exploring their lives through their stories and hearing about their desires. It is the opening up and sharing and the opportunity to help a woman write a new story for herself that I find utterly compelling. I also offer blog consultations to help bloggers reach their full income potential and to get things going. I have a few bookings lined up, and I am looking forward to the amazing opportunities coming my way. I need to spend some time to grow it and work on my blog at the same time. It is scary, terrifying really… but I have to try. I have to make this work. There are so many amazing women who have taken a leap of faith and made it successful, it is not impossible.
This is your life. If there’s a voice inside you telling you what to do, then listen. You must get clear about how you want to feel and what makes you happy and then create that life instead of pretending you can’t have it.
Ultimately, you’re the only person who can decide what’s right for you.
I have never been happier, I feel free, I can breathe again… I am not even stressed about money, even though I really should be. I just want to live my life instead of just surviving.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me, it is going to be a wild one.