429. LEAVING SEVEN YEARS BEHIND ME

10:46:00 AM


Tomorrow is the big day for a lot of students, teachers and other people that are going back to work. And for me, after being home for 8months, it's time to start a new chapter: a new job. Some close friends already know the whole story, a few had a little 'pre-talk' at events and others are still quite curious about everything that happend after being diagnosed with my disease. You missed that part? It's not too late to still read the first two personal stories about it: 'When your life changes' and 'A second chance in life'.

''Time has a way of showing us what matters in life."

It will be around 4months since they found out I had fibromyalgia and not a burnout. Every day is still a struggle and even though I sometimes still can't accept having it, I try to make the best out of every day. I've always been that active, energetic and smiling girl so it's quite a big contrast to now being forced to rest double as much as I was used to, to adapt my agenda to my body (for example: if I have a festival during the weekend, I can't plan another physic event during the week as I need to rest) and to realize that my future plans won't be the same as those I had last year. And when it comes to having fibromyalgia it's not only about your body being in pain 24/7, it's also quite heavy mentally as you need to stay strong and fight to get through the days and the events planned. I refuse sometimes to rest as I want to enjoy my 'young' years and seeing my friends going out, having late night plans etc sometimes kills me. I did that too but can't anymore. So when you're months at home trying to rebalance your life and adapt everything to it, you start thinking, or even over-thinking about e-ve-ry-th-ing possible. The main thing on my mind: 'Where and how will I be next year? Or within 5years?'. Those thoughts got me to the decision I took at the end of June this year: I left Zara after 7years of working there. But why exactly? Let me tell you my whole career and explain you the story.

I just turned 18 when starting as a student. Actually I was still at high school and I always told myself that if I had a first 'real' job it would be at Zara. Well it was after 3months being at Medical school that I realized that my childhood dream to become a doctor wasn't really the topic I was still interested in. Fashion, styling and already the blog were constantly on my mind (I started blogging back in 2009 when I was 16) and the only way I could stop studying was getting a 'real' job. So they had a part time sales assistent offer on the children department and I signed the day after. The first months as a student and 18hour employee I mainly did the cashpoint and what every other sales assistant does: folding clothes, fitting rooms and customer service. But I soon needed to have a new challenge as I've always been a leading-kind of person. However, that idea and project was more difficult than expected as it's never easy when the persons 'above' you don't support you, neither believe in you and the only option you have is to keep on fighting as you know you can and you're right. Luckily I had my shop manager, that is now a very close friend, who did believe in me and thanks to her I never gave up and never will. At my 19years old they started the manager-program with me to become a floor assistant and after the first 6months of training they transfer me to the biggest store in Antwerp. A huge way to test me, I knew that it was to made me fail so I was prepared for it, but I was never prepared for certain things which happend without going into detail. Those who need to know, do and those who still deny it, can. That year in Antwerp changed my view on a career forever and I became a warrior in my own way. I came back stronger than ever, oh yes they know that and made me to the person I still am today: determined, driven and not scared to talk. During that year I let too many people walk over me, decide for me and I know now that it's because I was so young and haven't been in those situations before that I let it all happen: 'unexperienced'. Today I know it wasn't correct, neither acceptable at all, but as I said: no further details. It did result in having my first tattoo, the bird on my back that is flying away after her chain broke. Which refers to me standing out. After that year I was send back to my original store, worked there for about 6months as manager and than started working as Visual Merchandiser for the country. Didn't I say that I came back stronger than ever? Aha!

"The greatest failure is not to try."

That was the job of my life. Merchandising the clothes and collections, creating the image they stand for and helping people with growing in their own job: I just loved it. And I loved it too much. My job became my life and before realizing it seeing my friends, working on the blog and even spending time with my parents became an 'option' when I had time. I'm talking now 3years after stating to work there. Every other month we had a workshop or store opening in our own or other country so I was more away than home and vacations were postponed. A year later structure changed at work and I became Commercial Responsible for the Belux. I worked close in team together with the most driven woman I've ever known and I learned so much from her. Even if during all those years I learned things I would never ever see in life if I didn't do the parcour I did, but damn that woman is one of a kind. With those changes people changed as well, situations changed to unhealthy environments and stress and also my health suffered. Cause it's never healthy when your job becomes your life or when you see your colleagues more than your own friends and family. Even vacations 'became' an option and when you spend all your love for your job and energy in it without getting any appreciation, it stops. Literally. 

The first signs of a 'burnout' started after the first year in that position and I admit that I denied them just because I was so focused on my job and all the work we had to do. Cause if I stayed home, than who will do it? I can't put all the weight on my colleagues, I'm not like that and never will. So working with the flue, my arm in a plaster etc were normal. No way I called in sick for a little headache or because of having menstrual cramps. 'WTF CINDY?' no but really. You should be surprised how many people call in sick for that. I know it hurts, I'm a woman as well. But let's be real. I remember calling in sick once when a stone felt on my foot during vacations and they told me that 'I couldn't effort myself staying home as a manager'. Even though that was back in Antwerp, I would never forget her words. So I kept that in mind the 5following years working there. The symptoms became worse, the tiredness as well and the fact that I lost almost all social contact was making me so unhappy. The work situation that time as well, but also here no details. They who know, know what I'm talking about. I decided to go back to the store. Again with not as much as support as expected but in the end you need to do what makes YOU happy, not what would make others happy. I did have to leave the job of my dreams for my own health and sake and until know I don't regret the decision. That all happend last year and I also wrote the personal story 'Where have I been' about it. 

I went back to store as a manager at the mens department and the first two months were great. In August we had the hardest time ever when they cut in hours and we as managers were the only staff doing all the tasks for 10-20. The piled up work created during that time lasted until the end of 2016. It was a battle field for real. It was hard and we had to be a strong team as managers more than ever. Tears were rolling, sweat and broken nails, even backs, were a part of it as well. But we did go through it with a smile. For who? Our costumers and team members. Cause if we smile, they smile and we keep ourselves motivated. But that period made me curse a lot, think a lot and of course: crash. My body crashed, my brain crashed. December was so hard and I remember when a Belux colleague visited our store and told me I didn't know my priorities as a manager, I lost it. I freaking lost it. 'Are you kidding me?' was my first reaction. The second one was going away, locking me up in the bathroom and crying out every frustration I had from the last months. Did they realize all the work we did A-L-O-N-E? My sales results were around +20% in progress every month, the story was image-ly correct and my costumers were happy. So telling me I didn't know my priorities after working for the Belux and 7years of experience was the last drop that made my bucket overflow. That the pain I've denied all that time, coming to work sick and more weren't important to anyone, is something I realized the second after hearing her words. And than I crashed as I said. I cried non-stop, it felt like all the 'hidden' pain popped out and I couldn't do anything anymore. So with that happening my doctor told me it was 'enough'. My body was empty, my mind was a mess and I was even a bigger mess ready for hospitalization, for real. The story of being home you could all read in the story 'The unexpected happend'. Back then we still thought it was a burnout btw.

What I did know during the months at home is that I wasn't going to put myself back in all those situations. My health doesn't allow me to do the same work over again and even if it did, no thanks. I thought I would go back, but after standing up for more than 3hours I feel the weakness in my body coming up. So no possibility to stand 8hours or more in a store doing what we did and maybe even more than we should. I did ask for an adapted work situation during recovering with the hospital but it got rejected. First I continued to stay sick home but the stress of not knowing whether to go back full time or not made me even more sick. And than the thought again of 'Where do I want to be within a year or more?' made me realize it wasn't the life I've been through for over seven years. I putted my blog, my biggest passion, aside for them. I stopped traveling because of the job. I literally stopped living. I want to do what makes ME happy and what's worth MY energy. Instead of creating and achieving goals and results for others I want to do it for myself. So no doubt it will be appreciated as I will profit from the time and dedication putted into it. Fulltime blogging during those sick months confirmed my thoughts as I re-found myself. After 8years I could finally write a story without doing it during the night as I came home late from work. After 8years I didn't need to say 'No I can't come due to work' to events and if I do now, it's because my muscles and body hurts so much that I just can't. But not because of someone or something else holding me back. Cause if one thing will stop me now from achieving my goals it will be my own decision. Not the one from others! Like how many people are stuck in a job because it's for their income? I understand, the first months sick home were hard having my own house to pay, all the bills and still buy the necessary food. But at the end I didn't want to spend another several years to regret later that I didn't achieve any goal and to be unhappy each day thinking the 'WHAT IF?'. STOP! I decided to go to the occupational physician and she confirmed that being a manager in that environment wasn't possible with fibromyalgia. That confirmation brought so much peace in my mind and a light at the end of the tunnel. Now I can focus on all the good things.

''Don't feel guilty for doing what's best for you"

Which part of the 7years do I miss the most? Spending time with my colleagues. Cause I can promise you that our jokes and pranks are worth some money and that thanks to them I had a smile on my face every day I came back to work. Merchandising I miss as well but luckily my dressing room is big enough to change it from time to time, haha! 

Even if at times it has been hard, I did learn so much. Zara was a school I'm thankful for being there as the experiences and skills I have now are thanks to the situations I've been through. But it's now time to start something new: brand and creative responsible at bYooma. More about that later as I now wrote a book and you must be tired of reading that much. I'm sure that new chapter adapted to my health situation will bring me so much for the future and I'm sure to see some of you in that chapter as well! #keepyouposted

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