I Sacrificed My Body For My Dream Job

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woman working

In 2018, my company lost the contract over which I was the manager. It was no fault of our own, as happens in business from time to time, another company that was inexpensive and shiny came along and promised them the world. We know how that story ends.

I found another job within the company, but I had to take a $10k pay cut. I was a freshly divorced single mom of a teenager. I needed a job, and I was happy to have one. Of course, maintaining my home on a now lower single income was a challenging and stressful adjustment.

I had started writing to process what was happening in my life. After that, two surprising things happened: people read it and paid me for it. This is how I ended up with a 20-hour-a-week second job by the end of 2018 to make up the $10k pay cut.

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About 15 months ago, I found an editing gig that was more lucrative than writing.

At this point, I also realized that the emotional toll my career was taking on me would ruin me. I was miserable. But, for the first time, I had an exit plan. It would take at least a year. You can do just about anything for a year.

To save the money I needed to leave and start my dream job focusing on my creative side, I needed to pay off as much debt as humanly possible while still making up the deficit from the pay cut. I worked an extra 30 hours a week for over a year.

This, my friends, is where sanity is lost. This is where you become a grumpier person than you ever thought you had the capacity to be.

Nine months ago, I inventoried my life. 

I can’t stop being a mom. I can’t work one job and shift my career later. I can’t stop cleaning my house.

So, the calculated decision I made was that I could not be as fit as I was and still work 70 hours a week. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t have the time. I let my gym membership lapse. I used to walk 45 minutes every day. No way in hell was happening.

I ate whatever was in reach because planning ahead was too much effort. I was too tired to cook anything so take out was my saving grace. Carbs require next to no effort to make, and I ate all of them, all the time. Have you ever been so tired that the best you can do is eat four pieces of toast?

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The majority of the weight I put on happened after my day job ramped up and I had to put in an extra 10 hours a week there. I gained weight at a steady rate of a pound a month over the last ten months.

I also realized that my life gave me no capacity to date. Not dating makes it really easy to not care about the inches that are creeping up because no one is looking at you. No one sees you but you, and you ignore the mirror.

Now, here I am, a woman with her dream job and no pants to wear. I feel like my figure was the collateral I put up to make my dream happen, and now I want my collateral back. That’s how it works, right?

This is the huge issue I have with the “women can have it all” nonsense because, no, we cannot. We cannot have it all and the fact that I only lasted eight minutes in denim shorts yesterday stands as a testament to that.

When I see my body in the mirror, I’m not mad about how it looks. I have promised my body that I will love her because she loves me, and we’re in this together. But I am mad at the reason why she looks the way she does.

I hate that getting out of shape was necessary to achieve my career goals. I hate that my body was the "something" that had to give. I really wanted to have it all. I hate being back at square one. I can’t see the muscle in my arms and legs anymore. My strength has dramatically decreased.

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Still, I’m now showing up for myself in a way I couldn’t, and that is worth celebrating. Every time I go to the gym, there is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I have the time to do it. I have replaced the six hours I spent commuting each week with six hours of hiking.

My body is telling me it needs me to do yoga. I’m listening and dragged my mat out of hiding this morning. When I wake up in the morning, I can see on my face the difference that getting seven hours of sleep instead of four makes.

I eat better because I can plan. Not going to the office means I have a kitchen full of delicious, healthy food. I never thought that taking five minutes of my day to slice cucumbers would feel like a luxury. This is how bad it used to be: Cucumbers are a luxury.

Even though shorts seem to be an angry form of oppression right now, I wouldn’t change for the world where I am now. It was worth it. When I look at the decision between sanity and vanity, I am sure glad I gave up the vanity.

I’ll get my figure back. I try to be kind to myself and patient, but it’s hard.

I bought a dress yesterday that I cannot possibly fit into, but it was too fabulous not to buy. So it will hang on my closet door for a few months.

But I will tell you this: This is the final step of the journey, reclaiming my body.

Not because of vanity, not because of societal expectations, but purely because I deserve to do that for myself.

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Vanessa Torre is a freelance writer, a flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, and horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.