It seemed that loss followed me wherever I went. Life kept throwing me curve-balls, but I tried not to stay down for long. I learned that you may not be able to control the curve, but you can control how you swing at it.
I grew up in Long Island in the 1970’s with my parents and five siblings. My parents were of first generation Irish and Scottish descents and were incredibly tough. They were always hard on us, but it was for our own good. They both were raised to know the importance of wanting a better life for themselves and their kids. We were pushed to work hard for success.
My grandfather and my great-grandfather were both alcoholics, so mother had a difficult life. She had to learn to be tough. She wanted a successful life for her children, especially her daughters, so she always pushed my sisters and me to become independent. She didn’t want us to ever become reliant on a man, and she wanted us to go to college to get educated. We’re a family of survivors. We spent most of our lives trying to survive what was thrown at us.
After high school, I went to college in New Jersey for Chemical Engineering. I had no intent to return to New York after graduation. I love New York, and I always will. It’s a great place to visit, but not the best place to grow up. It was very competitive, but it did shape me as a person. I think growing up in New York also made me tough.
Upon graduation, Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati offered me a job to work with its beauty care products. I also got to study pet care while working for them. I fell in love with the city of Cincinnati and decided to build a home here. New York is my heart, but Ohio is my home.
A year after I moved to Cincinnati, my youngest brother Billy passed away. Sadly, he died on my mother’s birthday from an aneurysm. Billy was only 21. It was a genetic anomaly that the doctors said would have been difficult to notice symptoms for or try to stop. It hit our family hard. My mother refused to celebrate her birthday for years after his death. The heartbreak from this death had me searching for comfort. I married a man that I didn’t really have a connection with just for the sake of having someone to lean on. We divorced about a year after getting married.
This divorce along with my brother’s death made going through daily routines difficult. I never went to therapy or got any help. I didn’t have any family close to me, so I didn’t process what was happening in a healthy way. I dived into my work and tried to move past the rough patch. A year later, I remarried. I was married to this man for 13 years, and I built a family with him.
Things seemed to be turning around, but then my father passed away in 2012. My mother tried her best to be strong for the rest of us. It was just another terrible event to add to my sorrowful pile. By 2014, things quieted down and became normal again. I had by then two sons that always kept me busy with their sports events. I was loving my job at P&G. I discovered a new passion and was planning to launch my own business as a life coach.
I developed an interest in life coaching when I had a chance to speak to a life coach myself that year. As a company benefit at P&G, a few of us were offered the chance to speak to life coaches to help us figure out where we wanted to go with our careers. Speaking with my life coach was an enjoyable and inspiring experience. Instead of us just wallowing in what was wrong with my life, she asked me lots of questions about where I wanted to go from this point. After all the bad events, where would I like to go from here? That question enlightened me. She challenged me and made me dig inside myself to find out how to improve myself. I was intrigued by this process and started wanting to be a life coach myself to help other people. I was hopeful.
However, the string of curve balls kept getting thrown at me. At the end of 2014, it was announced that the department I was at was being sold to another company. I knew with this move my career there was coming to a close. I began thinking about what options I had. Could I do life coaching for a living? I started working toward building up this business. In 2015, I signed up, got certified to be a life coach, and started the business.
By September of 2015, I was officially unemployed. My 22-year career at P&G ended.
It was a disheartening time. And frustration prevailed at home, too. My relationship with my husband was deteriorating. We were separated and had decided that we needed a divorce for us both to be happier. When we were going through the paperwork for the divorce, I learned that I was going to have to go back to work full time because I wouldn’t qualify for spousal support, and the life coaching business wouldn’t be enough to pay for all the bills.
By December, we were officially divorced. Fall of 2015 was the lowest point of my life. It felt like all the walls were closing in on me, and I couldn’t escape any of the terrible events.
It felt like nothing would ever go right. I remember sitting in my bed under a blanket for three days and feeling hopeless. The distress wrapped around me like a thick smoke and suffocated me, until something in me changed gears. Why am I here lying in my bed acting as if I didn’t have the ability to control my own destiny? Resilience, that’s the word. That’s what I need. I pulled myself out of bed and started to come up with a plan. I saw a therapist to help me talk through the divorce (something I should have done the first time). I knew I couldn’t coach other lives if I didn’t have a hold on my own. I started bullet journaling to get my thoughts out of my head onto something concrete.
I then started looking for jobs and later found one at Good Year in Akron. It was a long commute, but I was able to make a living on my own. Meanwhile, I continued with my life coaching business, which I call Whiskey Tango Fabulous. The goal is to get people to getting themselves out of the WTF moment in their life.
Here I am, smiling and hopeful again.
In many moments of my life, I let fear control my decisions and how I reacted to situations. I no longer hold that fear in my heart. Nobody likes not having control. It is true you may not control the situation, but you can control how you react to it. If you learn how to swing at the curve balls thrown at you, they don’t always have to hit so hard.
I used to let my career define who I was. After leaving P&G, I realized that I was much more than my job. Now I define myself through things that are more important to me. I’m a mom. I’m a role model. I’m resilient. I’m a badass. My motto for Whiskey Tango Fabulous is “be bold and reinvent.” This is something I advise to my clients, and it’s a phrase I live by. Through coaching the lives of others, I help enrich my own.
November 21, 2017
-This is the story of Ann Marie Cilley-
Ann Marie lives in Mason, Ohio with her two sons and boyfriend. With the loss of her brother and father, going through two divorces, and losing her job, Ann Marie was resilient and kept trying. She tells a story of determination and finding the positive even when negative events keep piling on top of you. Ann Marie works part time on her life coaching business Whiskey Tango Fabulous (WTF) and full time for Good Year. She is also developing a new location of Casual Pint in the Mariemont area near Cincinnati with her boyfriend.