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Regret Me Not

Each of us has regrets; it’s natural. Some we may wish we could take back, or maybe even think, “if I could go back to x age, knowing what I know now. And with the wisdom I’ve gained, things would be different.” A bit of a redo if you will - but would it be a redo? I believe those moments in our life happened for a reason and made us who we are, and without them we wouldn’t be the individual we are now, and that “redo” we seek is really more of a chance to rewrite history with the wisdom we’ve gained from those negative or regretful experiences we’re looking change and rewrite that part of our own person history.

So how do we come to terms with that part of our past? The part we regret? The part that we’re resentful of? That part we’re craving to redo with the knowledge and wisdom gained from that moment? How do we come to terms with the negative experiences that have provided us with the wisdom of who we are and created the living, breathing, being we are today that we may be resentful of?

We each have that thing - some of us might have a longer list depending on the support and space we had as a child to discover ourselves, what makes us tick while still feeling loved as we transform into the person that we are. For me, it was obtaining my degree in Radiation Biology, which is simply a fancy name to say Radiation Therapy or Therapist. Yes, I went to school to learn how to deliver “reasonable & healthy doses” to individuals diagnosed with cancer, and set them up on the machine anywhere between 5-45 min: it depended on what kind of treatment plan (your Radiation Rx if you will). Yes, I was the person who got the different props required, set up the bed of the Linac (Linear Accelerator) and aligned their tattoos or markings to lasers on the wall before pressing the magic button that did all the work.

Each time I look back at my childhood and what brought me to pursue radiation therapy, part of it seems like I took a hard U-turn, going backwards and abandoning not only myself, my inner child, and who I was at the core of my being - and yes, that’s correct to a certain extent, but not entirely. Although it wasn’t my decision to go to college, it was my decision to pursue a Physics degree rather than listening to myself - my gut, my heart, my being or the everything about me - and speaking up for myself, I decided to get a degree that either causes 1 of 2 reactions: admiration & respect that provides insight to the type of heeler I am OR fear, face turning white as a ghost as if they just saw one and shit themselves. Regardless of the reaction, my degree was just the beginning of being called intimidated or providing an intimidation factor for most individuals, and its a title that still follows me today; once worn with shame, originally making me feel bad and caused me to belittle myself - but now it’s a title worn with pride because not everyone can afford Louis XIII Cognac and many individuals reject expensive items for cheaper item all the time. Here is ho my story unfolds

I was placed into a box at an early age and I think part of that had to do with my parents immigrating to the states; my mom from Sao Miguel at 2 years old and my father from Bermuda around 13 with their parents - or my grandparents. My dad went the route of developing a trade, became an electrician, worked under someone, then started his own business; mother on the other hand believed the only way to be successful was to obtain a degree; didn’t matter what the degree was in, but that was gold, the key to establishing a career, and having an opportunity to have a chance into developing as successful adult. Could you do it on a high school degree alone? Yes, but in the words of my father, it made life harder and would require more work compared to those without one, and as the first born expectations were high because my mom expected more from me than my brother.

Anyone who knows my family will tell you how sick my brother was as a child; he was hospitalized as a baby due to dehydration and the doctors said had my mom not brought him in when she did, he might not have made it…I was 4 years old. That was the day my childhood ended, and I started to get the feeling that I was supposed to be perfect, protect him at all costs - or any one of my younger cousins - and was forced to become an adult at a young age, and had to begin fending for myself. He took up all the attention, even as he got older and still does to this day; it felt lonely in the beginning, but then I started to enjoy the solitude, until I started to thrive in it, creating my own little world where I was the star of the show in order to make myself feel special cause I was healthy, rarely sick, and ate almost anything put in front of her to the point where I would throw up because family members overfed me on a few occasions, but I was never good enough even though I was strong.

There are certain stories my family, including aunts and uncles won’t let me forget; someone had the bright idea to lay me on my stomach after exiting the womb and I was already able to lift my head up, but that was only the beginning of discovering my strength. I don’t remember any of this (cause I was the same age as this picture), but my dad says he had placed me in a blanket next to my cousin, who is six months older than me, and off in the not so far distance was a closed cooler packed by either my mom or my aunt. While the adults were setting up camp, little Aly decided to go on to an adventure to the cooler, in a not so far distance, pull herself up to a standing position, open the cooler and pull out the gallon of milk stored inside. Neither my parents, both my dad’s brothers nor my aunts witnessed the journey; they all saw my dad place me on my blanket next to my cousin, who was 6 months older than me, took their eyes off me for a moment until they each realized my cousin was solo dolo on the blanket while little AlyMarie was next to the cooler, now open with a gallon of milk in her hand walking around our little are.

I have yet to find out if anyone fed me or gave me milk after going the distance to obtain.

Once I became a toddler, I started to climb another uncle and my godfather (the man in this picture with

me) - as if they were a mountain. They would ground their stance, and when they were ready hold out their hands for me to hold as I would gradually climb up the front of their bodies until reaching the apex (aka their shoulders) in which they would flip me around back down to the ground and we’d rinse and repeat until one of us became tired or this little monkey got to big to walk up their front bodies. Today, I see some of this strength in one of my brother's daughters, Savannah, and I’m very hopeful the two of us can recreate this memory together because strong women should be celebrated. My strength is still a very strong part of me today; it’s not something I can hide nor do I try too because it’s part of my identity with every fiber of my being.

Also embedded into my being: lots and lots of energy. I was a little fireball. I remember my mom had a CD stereo system that I would use to blast ABBA’s Gold album. I would close both French doors to the hallway and my bedroom so “no one could find, see or hear me” even though the neighbors could probably hear Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! too with my preferred volume, and start jumping along the couches, starting with the love seat, then jumping over to the 3-seater, make a U-turn and repeat. I felt like I was being inconspicuous, like Harry Potter under his invisibility cloak. Pretty sure my mom was thinking, Mamma Mia, here we go again.

The cloak became a bit more permanent when my brother came into the picture. It started with him severely dehydrated as an infant until he started pre-school where he was constantly sick almost every other week causing my mom to keep him home until he learned to thrive off negative attention, and cause a hurricane everywhere he went until little Aly transformed into a little adult off in the corner, and used lost her fantasy books and music to forget what life was becoming for a moment- maybe even choreographing her own number while the rest of the family dealt with Hurricane Maty - yes Maty 1 T. That’s all I remember of my childhood: got to school, dance, listen to music, practice hooked on phonics and get lost in her own world because although she was strong, healthy and full of energy, reading skills were a weak point, and was made me feel like shit for not being able to read at the same level as her cousins, or sit still. Why can’t you be like your cousins? David Paul can read; Cassandra can sit still; why do you have to move all the time? Can’t you take a page out of their book and be like them? In fairness, we did just talked about me jumping no the couches letting out my inner dancing queen before finally putting me in dance.

At a time where I just wanted to be seen, although it took me years to discover who that girl was. As I got older, I began to wonder if I was so bad, it might be a good idea run away to either my cousin David or Cassandra’s house and explain how it would be better if we switched places because I was too much and yet not enough; but I stayed put cause how do I tell my aunt & uncles that?

Then in the second grade, the question of what do you want to be when you grow up started to float around; although I danced, it wasn’t something I contemplated doing. I wanted to be a cosmetologist, esthetician or beautician; however, each goal was followed up by the response, “sure you can - once you obtain a degree in business,” until it was ingrained in my skull and I started to regurgitate, want to be (blank) but my plan is to get a degree in business first. I had no idea what business was though, but it seemed like the only thing my family went to school for, and it was starting to feel like if I was to live under her roof, a degree needed to be obtained.

I had to get a degree as I felt it was a mandatory requirement in order to stay living under her roof. This is all feelings btw - she never said I had to; however, I so remember each time I would share the desire to be a

I want to be (blank) but my plan is to get a degree in business first.

Sounded great, and led to parents either attempting to create a romantic connection or very impressed with the girl their son had for a date to the school semi-formal.

Until someone asked if I liked business…. had no idea what it was, but it seemed like a very necessary means to an end because what I wanted to do didn’t require a degree in business; but here I was, in the 8th grade, now looking at college prep high schools in order to help prepare me to obtain my business degree. I don’t remember who this angel was that allowed me to become more aware of other degrees out there, or other people sitting at the table with us for that matter, but I do remember the conversation taking place at St. Anthony’s Church in Cambridge with the sun shining through the glass walls/doors. I wish I could share more about this encounter because whomever this soul was saved my life in this regard.

That’s when the idea of becoming a dancer began to flood my mind; I really liked dance, and I was decent. Not great by any measures, but I was able to work hard enough to get more solo spots and believed that was the degree I was going to pursue for a period of time as I imagined what it would be like to be a backup dancer for the latest star at whatever award show. And many people enjoyed watching me move, which is helpful when you want to perform- even in the shadows of your brother and cousins. I had found a loop-hole that fed my soul to obtaining a degree.

That all changed at about 13/14. I remember the moment like it was yesterday when the switch flipped - cause that’s how trauma works: you’re able to remember every single detail about something but to everyone else around you, it’s just another day of the week.

I was hanging out with my cousin, the one who stayed on the blanket at Water Country while I went off in search of milk. The conversation surrounded a girl who went to school with her younger brother, Cam, who also danced but at a different studio that happened to do a performance of the Nutcracker outside of the Boston Ballet where she was talented and luck enough to be Clara.

“She’s not like us. Her dance is different from ours.”

“How so? I think that would be cool one day.”

“Well ya, it would be cool but it’s serious. Dance for us is for fun. We’re not gonna go into the Nutcracker or anything - we’re not THAT good; this is just something for fun for us.” I felt like my heart was crushed, broken into pieces as I was trying to figure out what was going on. Her words rang in my head as the nights went on.

“It’s serious; we’re not that good. This is just something for fun for us…but I was taking this seriously…this is more than “just for fun” to me.” I’m taking dance seriously. What about my solo’s in the group spotlight?! What about the extra work I did working on my lines? Expressions? I was running on the treadmill and working out in the mornings to help build my endurance and strength…You mean the dancing I’ve been doing this whole time is for nothing? It’s not gonna get or take me to where I’m looking to go and I’m not good enough again…now what am I gonna study in college?!?!?!?!

That night a major shift occurred and that little girl went to a different, dark place; one with more darkness and solitude just when there was starting to be a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I should have gone to my parents to tell them my wishes in order to pull me out of the studio I was studying at and be transferred to a different studio where I could achieve my dreams, and maybe if that girl felt like she had a chance, was good enough, smart enough, just a liiiiiiiitle bit stronger - maybe she would have had the courage to speak up and say something. Rather, it just felt like another moment where the cards were stacked against her, and kept quiet while she realized she was back at square one. A strong resentment and disdain began to build against her cousin. It took me years to forgive my cousin, as in like 3 years ago I told myself, “I forgive her'' to myself, and wrote her a letter saying so before burning it with some sage because I realize now she was speaking more for herself; she didn't have the same opportunities I did in our competition team and it’s my fault for not speaking up. In fact, she had no idea how I felt for years, and won’t learn about these feelings unless she reads this post. As my therapist says, I’m very good at masking my pain, turmoil, and heartache; in my defense, I’ve had a long time to develop this craft or skill given I started at 4 years old.

As the Universe would have it, I ended up meeting the girl who went to school with my cousin and played Clara that night. My cousin and I were discussing her accomplishments because she enrolled in the Pilates Teacher Training program before I did at the same studio, Club Pilates Assembly Row. She unknowingly exposed her hand by posting some nostalgic pictures of her younger self dancing as Clara in the Nutcracker as a child and confirmed who she was by asking, “How do you know Cam? We went to school together.” I told her I remember how my family would talk about how good of a dancer she was as a child. “Oh interesting, maybe it was someone else?” “No, it was you. Unless there was another girl who danced in your class and was also Clara 'cause my aunt made sure we knew my cousin went to school with a serious ballerina.”

So if I’m not pursuing dance, and am unable to pursue being a cosmetologist, esthetician or beautician without a degree in business - which makes me want to pull my hair out - then what degree does one search for? So Aly started to explore within her confined box, because there were conditions to this education while now attending Our Lady of Nazareth Academy, or Naz, my happy place; a place that spent a lot of time working on empowering women, finding their own voice.

It was a special place where I felt more comfortable to be myself, a place where I was able to create some awesome friendships and memories, and most importantly safe. I remember us having. a staff member part of the first graduating class of Naz: Sister of Charity of Nazareth Mary Assumpta Dwyer. I remember walking past her graduation picture and thinking how cool that was, to be part of the beginning of something, it’s genesis. If ever given the opportunity or a similar opportunity, I would want to do that; start with something at its creation and be a

part of it as it grew, developed, and blossomed into whatever beautiful butterfly it was meant to become. How unbelievably cool would that be?! One could say I manifested that opportunity for myself as I wish it could have played out a different way; however, the universe works in mysterious ways and there is always a reason for everything, even if we may be blinded by the sorrow surrounding what’s happening at the time.

In the middle of my junior year on January 29th, the school called an emergency meeting after breaking for the day and asked everyone to return to the auditorium - parents and children - around 7 pm to announce the school would be closing down at the end of the school year. The land was sold to developers and used to build residential houses on the land instead. Everyone went to different schools; some to other schools already established schools- both private and non-private, although mainly private cause many parents felt it would be culture shock to some of their daughters, especially those who were about to be graduating seniors, while some of us - 17 to be exact - went to the new Nazareth Academy created by group of parents using the old Cordis School building in Wakefield, MA. I was one of those 17, and I used that

experience to write my college essay too.

Unfortunately, the new school didn’t last. I’m unfamiliar with the entire story, but my understanding is the school license was sold to a different school: the Academy of Penguin Hall in Wrentham, NH. The only things that remain of the original Our Lady of Nazareth Academy are streets named after the different buildings on our campus: Emiliana, Immaculata, Spalding, and St. Joseph.

Like I said, Naz was a special place; let's just say it sparked an urge to join different communities during their genesis. The school closing, being part of something starting from the ground up is hard and takes a while, but it's worth every bit of time and effort. It was here that my guidance counselor at the new school told me about a different type of major, dance & movement therapy, because of my movement background with dance, but I self rejected myself from that major as well due to lack of support. “It sounds like you’ll graduate with a bachelors in being a fancy yoga instructor; are you sure you want to go to college for that?” was the main message from friends, family and also classmates.

I now recognized I was forced to obtain just to say I did college, and there were certain requirements to obtain this degree. It needed to be in the state of Massachusetts; my mom had a hard time understanding why anyone would want to go to a school outside of MA, and thought it was ridiculous that other parents would plan trips out of state to go look at different especially as someone who lived here because Harvard, MIT, and then not to mention the options in the Longwood Medical Center or the Colleges of the Fenway - all great schools- and switch their bed/room for a dorm smaller then my bedroom for 2 people.

“Why do you want to dorm when your room is so much bigger, nicer, and more comfortable then whatever you’ll get at school? No matter where you go, you’ll have to share a room with someone, downgrade to a twin size bed, relay on school cafeteria food where most students gain weight. If you already think it’s hard for you to keep your weight in check, then it’s gonna be even harder in college cause the food isn’t exactly healthy; that’s why they call it the freshman 15. What if someone wants to have a friend over to stay the night? You’re forced to go with it and can’t say anything about it. At least at home, you have a bigger bed all to yourself; you have room to study, and all you have to do is walk down to the kitchen with healthier food options if you want something to eat at any time of day.” I have to admit, m shape was a bit circular even after working out almost 15-20 hours a week via my morning workouts in the house and dance until I stopped dancing all together my junior year, when Nazareth Academy closed down.

To my mom’s credit, she did drive me to the different schools and areas I considered applying too, exploring Mass Art, Wentworth, Art Institute of Boston and signed me up for a week long course in Interior Design. Any school that checked off the list of requirements - bachelor's program in something Aly thought would be fun to pursue within a range I was willing to commute too in the state - she drove me to check it out as I tried to figure out what to do with my life. She also allowed me to sample a lot of different flavors to see what would be the new “dance” for me but nothing spoke enough to say, “this is worth pursuing” and stayed within my creativity bubble as I learned the fundamentals to play the piano, flute and guitar prior to joining the school choir in high school.

Then, around junior year of high school, a conversation took place between my mom and great aunt whose son just too happened to marry a Radiation Therapist (RT) at Dana Faber running the head, neck and shoulders machine. I didn’t know much about it but if I wanted to earn more, I could shadow her for a day and see if it was a good fit.

So naturally I did cause the opportunity was there. Why turn it down?

Not only was I able to observe the head, neck and shoulder linac but also the thoracic/chest, pelvis/hips, extremities/limbs and CT simulator where the real genesis of cancer treatment planning happens. That’s where the layout of treatment is decided and created in terms of props gathered, formed to the person’s body, and set aside until oncologist and medical dosimetrist created the treatment plan off the scans conducted in order to replicate for 3-4x/week over the course of a few weeks depending on their type of cancer.

Just like Aladdin on his magic carpet ride, a whole new world! One I didn’t know existed; and it did speak to me. Did it speak to my soul like dance? No, but enough for me to consider as a career worth pursuing to obtain the college degree that wouldn’t escape me; and that what I decided to do/be: a Radiation Therapist in order to help/heal individuals but I do now recognize there are different ways, methods, and routes one can take in the name of helping others, but given the box I was in, this fit and checked off A LOT of different areas.

Thus began the journey of where to study, and to my luck there were 2 schools in the state that had RT as an option, and they just so happened to fit the college requirements box I was placed inside: Suffolk University and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Both with impressive programs with internships built-in inorder to qualify for the licensing exam with the ARRT (American Registry of Radiologic Technicians) that would set me up with an impressive resume to be not only in the state but in the country. I decided with Suffolk because they had an extra cause part of their rotation/internship that Mass College of Pharmacy didn’t: Proton Therapy located at Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy center at Massachusetts General Hospital, where people traveled from all over the world, primary parents for their children who unfortunately had a child suffering a pediatric cancer because of the proton (yes, that one from chemistry class that make up an atom with an equal number of neutrons) of radioactive elements behaved differently with the biochemistry of the human body that provided more pros for children compared to the photon (a pocket of energy created from the atoms electron upon colliding with a high Z material, such as tungsten) biochemical interaction. The biggest difference was how the two particles traveled and deposited their dose, primarily the exit dose, how the radiation leaves the body.

As the law of conservation of energy states, energy can either be created or destroyed - only converted from one form to another. What means is the energy created will continue to flow and travel until it has been transformed into potential or resting energy; however, radioactive elements contain a bit more spice or heat if you will, because the more radioactive or unstable the element is, the hotter it’s considered because it delivers/deposits more radiation in the outside world and can have catastrophic consequences. If you’ve seen the docuseries Chernoby or are familiar with it in some type of capacity, you already kniw how potentially destructive radiation can be if the proper precautions are not taken. In terms of photons, they travel longer because they tend to be lighter allowing them to travel a larger distance, creating more exit dose when traveling through the body because it takes longer to convert into potential energy; protons are heavier, causing them to travel a shorter distance, allowing them to convert into potential energy faster which in tern creates a smaller exit dose. This is important because the ultimate goal in treatment planning is to have the smallest dose possible delivered to healthy/non-cancerous cells. In the picture below, A is how a photon interacts through the body while B is a photon interaction.

If it wasn’t obvious, I did enjoy a large part of my education because I’m able to regurgitate all of that to you after graduating in 2014, putting some parts of this big, beautiful, intimidating brain I’ve acquitted over these past 31 years to a bit good use. It took me years to come to terms with it but I’m ultimately blessed to have the knowledge that I do, and I have accepted the fact and given myself the permission to understand some people will be put off by it, if they’re already not put off by Herculean strength as it’s allowed me to go the distance to be where I belong.

Side note - there are people out there stronger than me, who can lift heavier items and can mostly likely do harder things; Physical 100 is proof of that on Netflix. But there are 4 things I have been called since birth: strong, creative, shameless and intimidating. Each of those traits are what makes me authentically me, and I wear each badge with pride, even when used in a ton designed to weaponize me.

Thank you for reading my mini Radiation Physics Ted Talk. Now let’s get back down to business - climbing up the mountain and coming to terms with regret. Yes, I was very much a Disney and Harry Potter child growing up. I needed some kind of escape my reality where I felt safe, even if it was in the only in my head.

At the time, MGH Boston was the only location, and was part of the 5 states who had access to this type of treatment, along with New Jersey, California, New York and Florida as those were states I considered moving too at the time I graduated; however, now there are over 40 centers across the USA - almost 1 in every state. Please keep in mind this was all at the time of my graduation; I do not know if any of this changed as I’ve naturally not kept up with changes in the field.

I was excited at the opportunity to leave Boston just to get a chance to explore something else a little bit. was an understatement and I relished the idea of living in a different state. All I had to do was pass my licensing exam, but I failed by 6 points the first time, 3 points the second attempt. Third time the charm though right? Nope.

Failed by 1 point.

A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from the ARRT stating that if I wanted to requalify for the exam again, I would need to redo the companies that I performed in during my rotations/internship at Dana Farber, Brigham and Womens, and Mass General Hospital and essentially go back to school for a Certification in Radiation Therapy given I already had a bachelor's degree because the hospitals would not accept me without a school to back me up; if there was a mistake for any reason, I was considered too much of a liability. This is a key thing to keep in mind for later.

So I gave up on being a Radiation Therapist, and everything else that went with it, including moving out of state. I felt like I had no future with almost $50,000 in student loan debt after 4 years, no college experience aside from spending a week in Birmingham, Alabama for spring break freshman year with Habitat for Humanity. I had a silver lining of a sheet of paper saying, “Aly did college” with no way to apply it the information learned, and started to become very resentful of what I got out college: that piece of paper, no dorming, next to no partying in order to maintain the 3.5 GPA to stay in the program, and only 1 friend, whom I already met in high school and transferred to Suffolk before becoming a lawyer and whom I’m still lucky enough to be friends with still today to be a bridesmaid in her wedding 2 years ago, even though I was her Regina Gorge in high school - she told me during one of our many walks around Breakheart Reservation. Thanks Naz.

Now, how to pay off these student loans! A job would be a good place to start with decent pay until I figured things out, leading me to SimpliSafe. First as a call center rep until I became the Operations Admin, which included Human Resources or People Operations tasks for the call center. Essentially, I was the more adultier adult going over benefits, taxes, onboarding paperwork to get them set up on payroll and working with the accounting department in regards to anything payroll related.

Did I hate being an HR/People Operations Admin? No, but I also didn’t love it. It sparked 0 joy within me, and felt more like this is where I had landed based on the cards dealt with because of college, which I rarely tell people unless they ask cause even now to this day, it creates a look of surprise given how far in to left field it made friends with Pluto - the planet not the dog.

At this same time, I was also coming to terms with and processing my brother's college experience. I actually really looked forward to my brother's experience, bonding over the different areas where college sucked but it was something we did because we had to obtain a degree cause mom.

He also went to Suffolk University, got a scholarship, did general business and hated it, completing only 1 semester. He told my parents he wanted to take a break, work with my dad, who had chosen to be an electrician and had an established business. It worked out that my dad also needed another helper, and hired my brother to see if that’s what he wanted to do, which led to sponsoring my brother in regards to hours required to qualify for your electrical license along with advising him on how to become an electrician. He’s now a Master Electrician.

When I first found this out, I was pissed, fuming, livid, etc and had a very hard time understanding why I had to do “college” just to pursue a trade; I now know I don't need to understand, I just had to make peace with it. However, I felt unheard, neglected, mentally abused and like a doormat from my own family. It took years to get over this expired relationship and come to terms with my college experience, but it is still the root of my feelings of being a failure cause -in my eyes, I failed at college, and because I failed at college along with my mom sitting through multiple parent conferences about the importance of enjoying college, as in the experience, that she felt the value placed on getting an education was lacking. In addition, college didn’t work out so well for me; and she admitted that because of how things placed out with my licensure exam changed her perspective to, “not everyone needs to go to college” adding robbed, and cheated to my already sour college experience. I also kept all this bottled up in me for years until things hit the fan in 2019 into 2020. It felt like the ultimately sexist thing my modern Portuguese parents could have done to be in an already highly sexist Portuguese culture, something I remember my mom and many other females would complain about growing up. We'll come back to this when we discuss my teacher training experience.

As luck would have it, my godmother reached out to me, describing a challenge she was having for her business - Isotonix - and there would be a presentation about it along with some samples; I went in order to support her and decided to become a consultant myself; however, given my movement and RT background, I decided the TLS weight loss division would be a better fit for me. It was a way to get myself out of whatever I had managed to get myself into rather than different vitamins and supplements, but it was hard to get individuals to take this little lady seriously. The word intimidating began to creep up again, but this time from my business partners, suggesting that if I soften myself because I would be more successful as a wellness coach as people don’t like working or talking to someone who intimidates them. You could tell by the way I spoke I knew what I was talking about, and that I was familiar with how the body worked, but it made people uncomfortable.

Well world, I hate to break it to you, but I’m an intimidating, strong, creative little bitch; if my presence makes you feel uncomfortable, then get comfortable with being uncomfortable around me because you are now in your growth zone and I am done diminishing my light for anyone’s satisfaction. Rather I invite you to take the opportunity and level up, cause you're worth that extra bit of growth baby, but if not I get it, but you can see yourself out of the same door you came in cause I’m always going to be intimidating to someone, step on some toes, .

Around this same time is when my now sister-in-law formally introduced me to Pilates via Club Pilates, and decided to enroll in their teacher training program through the Assembly Row location. We had our separate interests as we progressed along our journey, but I would ask her questions from time to time about the program, what made her want to become an instructor, etc. Essentially, what was it like and why? And then my grandfather passed away in the late summer of 2019, and the everything inside Aly’s being changed because a part of thats Aly passed away with her grandfather, Vavo Laudalino or Lenny, causing that void to be ignited with different flame within her, fueled with grief, anger and dissatisfaction of what her life had become strengthening the desire within her to want more than the hand had she had been workin with. As my dad would say, I was trying to make a chicken salad from chicken shit; so I pivoted, getting rid of the chicken shit I had in exchange for some better quality ingredients.

In September 2019, I noticed an ad while doing something lying on my back during Pilates, at the same studio both my sister-in-law was doing her training at and where I was practicing for almost 3 years for the next teacher training program being conducted. I don’t remember anything else but thinking “I could do this. I could be a Pilates Instructor. I already did college and met the requirements I felt needed to accomplish from my childhood in order for Aly to finally be Aly. And I knew Vavo would want me to be happy, that he would be with me, watching me from afar and guiding me into this different magic carpet ride discovering another whole new world. Who was gonna tell me no? Who would be unsupportive of my journey at this point after meeting my family’s requirements to do so?”

I did initially turn down the program due to cost, and the greater desire to have a dog instead, Initially a Samoyed, my very first dog ever and the last dog I remember living in my grandparents house, Sam. I would feed him rocks, ride him like a pony, but my hat on him, and snuggle between his front paws when he would lie down but in typical Aly fashion, I self-rejected myself from that breed because my ego said it would have been too triggering given Vavo’s recent exit from earth. Those thoughts transformed into the desire to get a Husky, the next best thing in my book. In fact the down payment for the program was the same price as purchasing a puppy Husky, and I had a stranger desire to have that piece of Vavo with me through a dog than on this unknown path to who knows where to become a Pilates Instructor; so I told the studio I would enroll in the next teacher training program so I didn’t have to dip into my saving and then 2 weeks later I found myself putting a downpayment on a Boxer instead after driving for 4 hours to Chesterfield, NJ before driving back home. Like I said, the universe works in mysterious ways.

And then the studio countered my, “I’ll sign up next time,” by offering me a scholarship to enroll in the teacher training program and was separate from the franchise altogether. They would pay for the remainder of my program, hire me once I passed my Apprenticeship test out to gain the experience needed as an instructor working 8 hours/classes per week until passing my comprehensive test out with the franchise, and would then need to work for Club Pilates Assembly Row for a year after full completion so long as I was willing and able to cover the down payment for the program. It almost sounded too good to be true, and I felt like I’d be cuckoo for cocoa puffs to turn down this opportunity. So I closed out my savings, because there wasn’t any funds left to keep the account open, and started my journey to become a Pilates instructor with a puppy on the way. The dog would be introduced to her new home the same week my teacher training was scheduled to begin.

Did I have a lot of my plate, and would have a lot of my plate for quite some time? Yes, but I was proud, happy, and excited for me! This was it was the first thing I ever did for me. I didn’t know where it would lead to, but I knew I loved Pilates and puppies; the idea got me so excited and happy I was blinded by the idea to see how anything could possibly go wrong?

Then I started to share my new journey with my family. Sharing the news with my parents, brother, and godfather. Mistake #1; I will say this. is an ugly time for me and my family, but I can say that we've worked through it, and have now developed stronger relationships allowing me to finally feel heard, seen, loved and accepted. There were many family arguments around this, and there was a point in time where I wanted nothing to do with my family because of my college experience and lack of support for my career choices, especially after feeling like I was forced to check off a list of boxes before I could really do what I wanted, what made me happy and to explore me. Although I knew they loved me, I didn’t feel my best interest was in their heart. It felt like they didn’t care about me, my feelings, wants, desires and needs as a human causing the resentment I already held to fester inside me, grow and I was quickly amplified though learning SimpliSafe didn’t have the best interest of their employees in mind based on conversations with my boss at the time. The life I wanted to live, the one I dreamed about since prior to starting college, had to come from a different meaning and for a moment didn’t look like it was going to happen at all. If it was going to happen at all, I was going to need to start taking it by the rains or the bull horns as my father would say and take control of it, and begin to create the life I wanted and dreamed about if it was going to have not only the opportunity but a fighting chance of even getting started.

Mistake #2 was deciding to do teacher training through Club Pilates Assembly Row.

Don’t you think you're copying your sister-in-law? Isn’t being a Pilates instructor her thing? How? How was this her thing? I was the one who started dancing at 3 years old, who wanted to become a professional dancer, who worked out in the living room and woke her brother up most mornings, who went to school for RT and was wellness coach? HOW WAS THIS HER THING WITH MY BACKGROUND?! How was Pilates not big enough for the both of us and why did I have to pick another fitness modality cause she decided to become a Pilates instructor first?! How could they be so unsupportive of me after all the requirements, conditions and restrictions they placed on me as a child to pursue a career? It made me feel like they had chosen my sister-in-laws happiness over their own daughter/sister/niece. It turned out it was because my sister-in-law was also pissed I enrolled in the program because I had taken her thing; we had a 2 hour conversation about that later in that year because I wanted my questions answered and get better clarity as to why I was unable to pursue my happiness as I was under the assumption I had already met my families requirements to do whatever I wanted career wise that would bring me joy and how Pilates was not big enough for the both of us. I wanted nothing to do with my family; I hated them and I wanted nothing more then to get far, far away from them, where no one could find me. But that was only the beginning of the shit storm that was about to unfold as I was getting more and more resentful of my job at SimpliSafe. I had an interview with a gym who said they were willing to try a Pilates-fusion class if I had another certification. After that conversation, I decided to quit SimpliSafe, get a certification in something else, and find a job teaching somewhere while I was working on completing my Pilates certification. It seemed like a good plan, and the first certification I decided to get was Barre - cause I danced.

We eventually worked through this dark time in my life thanks to my beautiful sister-in-law suggested we have a meeting with just the two of us to talk about it: why both of us decided to become Pilates Instructors, etc. I’m happy, fortunate, grateful and lucky for this 3 hour conversation as lot of feelings came out and were expressed that day as we together we opened and nearly finished a box of tissues. It was the best thing we could have done and it saved our relationship.

As for the rest of the family, I had to spell everything out for them: what my needs where, how I felt I should be treated just as a basic human in order to grow, thrive and finally be able to freely be herself because I was tired of feeling not good enough, less than, and being the overlooked child who was never good enough to be chosen for anything and gathering dusk in the corner, beginning to feel like Remy Martin’s Louis the XIII Cognac from constantly being rejected for cheaper items. No parent wants to see their child suffer regardless of what the reason was. I’m grateful to finally develop a relationship with my family where I can now be myself and accepted, but it required learning a very valuable lesson; even to family, I should never have to tell anyone what’s the proper way to be treated, and they became the last people I explained how I should be treated. The moment I feel I’m being disrespected, I pull my energy away, because they are not family. They are the first and last group of people I explain my worth to. To everyone else who’s unable to see how amazing, fabulous, and incredible I am the first time I show up, that’s your problem - not mine.

And that’s when people started to drop out of my life like flies out of my life….it was a rude awakening not only learning but truly understanding how many people were actually in my corner when I felt I needed them the most. Even though I was living with my partner at the time, I felt alone. It was a tough horse pill to swallow discovering just how many snakes were lurking in my garden. So kicked them out.

Regardless of what I was dealing with personally, which was starting to take a severe toll on my mental health between fighting for myself not only with my family but with the studio I was doing my teacher training. Although I knew I needed to work with the individuals there to move forward, the more I worked with them, the more I felt incompetent, stuck and running around in circles practicing teaching and developing different ways to say the same exact thing but in a different way, or dynastic range is what we called it in my HR days, especially each time I spoke or worked with the studio owner; however, I continued to taking the necessary steps that we’re best for me, putting in my notice at SimpliSafe and found myself unemployed at the start of the pandemic and spending a LOT of time focusing on the teacher training, and moving forward with my plan to obtain other certifications to create my own leverage in order to obtain the teaching opportunities I knew I needed in order to move forward. My only saving grace was being a TLS weight loss solutions coach as it allowed me to qualify for unemployment, but it was very unfruitful cause it felt like no one wanted to hear what I had to say with the small voice creeping in the back of my head, “No one wants to talk or being around someone who’s intimidating…”

It began with barre, then balletone and TRX before unfolding to Precision Nutrition. I had to stop mid-way through the program as my time was sucked with Pilates and a series of empty words - saying one thing but then doing the exact opposite. I was now working now with all 3 master trainers employed by the studio undergoing endless teaching auditions with the feedback of, “you’re doing great, you just need a little bit more time but so long as you continue to do what your doing, you’ll be fine.” I never felt so alone, abandoned, and left out in the cold high and dry with nothing to help keep me warm attempting to throw spaghetti at the wall attempting to what would stick leading to more and more setbacks with Pilates causing it to take up more space than I had available to provide, even after explaining my frustration to the studio owner. In fact, it felt like the more I expressed my obstacles, the ones she was suppose to help me with, the slower my journey became, and the more teaching auditions I had to undergo, causing friends and family to tell me I should look at a different studio or teaching training program all together however, I was holding onto that scholarship for dear life. I knew if I took their advice, this other program would be more than $2000, and the feelings of being incompetent, not good enough, dumb were strong and it took everything I had left to keep the though of, “Did I make the right choice? This whole becoming a Pilates Instructor that is or is this another failure like RT?” to prevent a panic attack from occurring as I started to feel more and more like a liability than an asset to the program. I continued to advocate for myself in attempt to get out of this mess I had gotten myself into, until the studio owner responded back stating saying she would decide when my test out would happen. Well if that was the case, then why was I wasting my time advocating for myself? So I stopped following up and left the decision to her; whenever she felt I was no longer a liability to the studio, but I was starting to wonder why she had even given me or offered the scholarship as feelings of regret started to sink in again for accepting it.

In order to better understand what exactly Pilates was, I decided it would be in my best interest to start studying other styles of Pilates on my own, \and work towards my comprehensive test out given the apprenticeship test out no longer looked like a part of my future, at least through CP Assembly Row, but I was ok because that studio was the last place I ever wanted to work and I was beginning to get to a point where anyplace, even a different Club Pilates would be a better place to work then the one located in assembly row. It didn’t matter where, but I was beginning to lose my sanity, feeling like I needed to be perfect or sound like I had 20+ years of teaching experience under my belt in order to progress forward BECAUSE I had chosen to do my training at a studio who happened to have 3 other Master Trainer, leading the “member’s” to have a high expectation of what was required from a Pilates class, but my gut was beginning to tell me I was not only being played with, a pawn in a much larger scheme being conducted behind the scenes, as I stayed “doing was I was doing” and end up exciting the required observation hours, practice teaching, and assistant teaching but 20 hours or more but it also felt like that’s what her, the studio owners line was in order to prevent me from obtaining the opportunity to teach because my gut told me she didn’t want to employ me as an instructor, which I was starting to become ok with that gut feeling cause it was mutual.

It was glaringly very obvious that I was stuck, sprinting on the hamster wheel that was now going so fast I would fly off if I stopped running. With my luck, I would land in quick sand, and end up suffocating myself in my own decisions and realizing I couldn’t trust anyone because in order to get myself safely off this uncontrollably spinning wheel, the studio owner must be left in the dark; she had to in order to have any chance of moving forward as she would spoil my opportunity before it had a chance to get started and get off the ground. It was a toxic environment causing a plethora of inner-child wounds surrounding being the invisible child, being neither heard nor seen, and boy did the feelings of failure sink DEEP. I couldn’t be an RT, or a wellness couch - how on earth was I going to be a Pilates Instructor?!?!? The everything in my being told me if I didn’t start taking things into my own hands, then Pilates could and would be added to that list, and the feelings were solidified after a coaching session with the Master trainer I was assigned to, Maite, who started talking about other students where the studio fought them on their progress, and even though they were great, on the right track, and fine so long as they continued to do what was required, these same students were ultimately unable to move forward as well.

Essentially Maite’s advice: a different studio might be best suited for me, which made my heart tank as I remember my sister-in-law attempted to do that same thing for her own reasons; she was all set to teach at Club Pilates Burlington & Lynnfield until a phone call was made between the CP Burlington & Lynnfield General Manager (GM) and Assembly Row studio owner - who new nothing about her wanting to move to another studio - causing her whole plan to fall apart. If I was to take Maite’s advice, then it would need to be at a different studio outside of the Club Pilates franchise. Soon, other instructors I worked with began to follow suit, providing me with the same advice, but I stayed in that toxic environment as I felt like I had no other choice at the time. I now know I should have ended the program sooner; I should have felt more comfortable and competent in my teaching ability especially after completing almost 1000 hours of training just through the franchise alone - almost double of the required 500 hours, never mind the additional 200 hours required from Breath Education. Regardless of the amount of hours competed, I felt like I was moving in the wrong direction, feeling more and more incapable with each day that passed, wondering if I had made the right decision to become an instructor even with all this overtime I had accumulated. I felt it would be in my best interest to complete the certification test out rather then become an apprentice with the studio - cause the absolute last thing I wanted to do was work there: I could work for Club Pilates, but definitely not the Assembly Row location. Then, I found out I would be responsible for paying for my certification test out cause it had taken me over a year to complete the progra- perfect! The best news to come out of the pandemic since the contained the right to reject paying for my test out exam and Maite wanted to make sure she was getting paid for her time and work - rightfully so.

Now that I was required for paying for my Master Trainer, we could forget all about this apprenticeship test out I felt the studio owner was shoving down my throat, and just move forward with the sheet of paper I needed, cause in the words of her dearest trainers Katie, “Once you pass your certification test out, that’s when your career take off.” If she reads this, I would recommend her removing that advice because the image I had of “a career takin off” felt overwhelming short, and the more I studies with Breath Education, trained with their trainers and tried to figure out if I could trust any of them to help me without screwing me over like Assembly Row had, but it seemed like a no brainer. Set up the exam directly with Maite, pass my test out and then I would be free from Club Pilates Assembly Row once and for all, which is what I wanted the most.

It was a fantastic idea finally around me, my happiness, and the most direct route to get me to my end goals, until I thought it was good idea to loop Maite in, and it seemed like we were on the same page until she brought up the apprenticeship exam again because students who did the apprenticeship exam first had a tendency to score higher on the comprehensive test out, but like one or 2 points. If she was in my shoes, she would be so desperate for the opportunity to teach, if she were me, then she would reach out to the studio owner herself, set up another audition to showcase my teaching skills directly with her rather than Maite relating her thought and feedback about my teaching since she felt it wasn’t her place to do so. Although we had worked together for almost 6 months under her guidance and coaching, she felt very familiar with my teaching ability and was uncomfortable vouching for me to teach, providing her thoughts on my teaching abilities with the main concern of the studio feeling blindsided. It would be better if the owner saw my abilities herself, and we took it from there. I hated this idea, and vocalized my disdain; not only did it create a pit in my stomach and I expressed to Maite how uncomfortable this made me feel, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

How are you unaware of my teaching abilities after working together for almost 6 months?!?! What on earth had we been doing then?!?! I really thought I had been clear on my stance and feelings until I got an email from the studio owner; after speaking with Maite, they came to the conclusion it would be best to create another audition to assess my teaching abilities after the past 6 months. Afterwards the 3 of us would speak about potentially scheduling an apprenticeship test out.

My heart sank. NO. This is a sick joke; it has to be. Did my words really go in one ear and out the other? How could this be in my best interest with the amount of knots in my stomach. I wanted to throw up after being unheard and having my feelings being invalidated yet again as I watch the horror show unfold. An email went out to all the instructors again for the un-teenth time saying bodies were needed to participate in a class I was going to teach. One of them was a Master Trainer, Katie, who was pregnant and in her 3rd trimester. Please be busy that day. Please be unavailable to participate. If you attend, you’ll be my first pregnant lady; I already feel like I need to be perfect. Please, please please, if there is a God, let Katie have something else to do that’s more pressing and important than being a body in my mock class.

She confirmed her attendance on the email thread 24 hours prior to my audition that she would be attending….

FUCK ME!!!!!! Did I have a pregnant lady friendly class? Yes, but it required me to clone myself. I felt it did not set me up for success, but it did check off the box required for my beginner class submission to complete the program, which was the vibe I got those classes were for when we met to go over those classes when it was created with Maite. It took everything in me to remain positive about the situation. I would have a better chance of succeeding if I created a new class from scratch cause I would definitely fail this audition with the one we created; I pulled out all the textbooks I had in order to create the best class I possibly could at the time with whatever experience I gained: Club Pilate, STOTT, Rael Isacowitz, Kathi Ross Nash: EV.ERY.THING. I saw this as an opportunity to showcase everything I had learned, demonstrate how far I had come, how far I had come, and try to hide how much I was freaking out inside in order to sound confident in the plan I put together. So I locked myself in my studio (oh ya, I had purchased my own reformer cause I asked the studio owner if I could go in and practice, when it went unanswered, I started looking into getting my own) and got to work.

The class came, and went. I remember the studio owner staying as clear as day, “I was really hoping we could have a conversion where we were scheduling your apprenticeship test out, but I don’t know what you did. Whatever you came up with, it wasn’t Pilates. I wasn’t able to follow, understand or comprehend anything you had done; I kept on asking Maite what you were doing cause I had no idea what you came up with, and she had no idea what you were doing either. I had to stop everything in me to not interject and stop you from teaching; You had Katie lying down on her back for more than 5 min on the wedge; you really need to keep track of your timing better. And then you had her arms up in the air while doing the series of 5, inner thigh splits - which are a big no-no for pregnant clients, they could over stretch their inner thigh and cause the tendon to break. You were also missing pulling straps. If you were to teach that same class with an average pregnant client on your own outside of the setting we created today, it would be a huge liability for the studio. We’d be in big trouble. Although your teaching has gotten exponentially better since the last time I saw you teach, and you created an extremely creative flow, your teaching capacity is still nowhere at the level required in order for you to teach here. As you know, we have 3 Master Trainers, so there is a very high threshold of teaching required in order to teach your own classes here compared to other studios. All you need is a little more time, but you're on the right path to being great one day. What I think would be good for you is to take some classes already created for you to pick from and teach. I think that would be a good starting point for you once you’ve honed in and worked on different areas of your teaching that need to be addressed.” I kept my mouth shut; I wanted to scream, shout and go somewhere where I could beat the shit out of something, release all the anger and frustration inside me. I had been sandbagged.

I was expected to teach the class where a clone of me was required.

It was now 2.5 years into the program since I started, still fighting for a chance to teach Pilates; how could I be on the right path to being a great instructor with feedback like that? I felt like the worst Pilates Instructor ever. Also, where is the long box with the hole it is in for the mom’s belly?!?!?!?!?!

After that, I decided to go work at a doggy daycare because I felt everyone at Club Pilates was full of high quality shit. I didn’t trust a soul in that studio, there was no one there with my best interest in mind, and I lost whatever little faith I had as I walked down my latest road to failure. I reached out to my master trainer, Maite, making clear my decision was to move forward with the certification test out, requested a quote since I was responsible for paying her; following up once a week for 3 weeks with no response. I felt like I was being ghosted. My last email to her stated I’d quit the program. Immediately after, I reached out to the studio owner explaining how I was against the last audition, expressed my concerns to Maite prior to it happening, and now she had ghosted me given I had not heard back from her for 3 weeks after requesting a quote for the certification test out. In order to move forward with the program, I requested a new Master Trainer; if the studio could not accommodate that wish, then I quit.

“Alyson, I don’t like how this is going. This lady, the studio owner, seems to enjoy messing with people's lives. I hear what you’ve said going through the program, and it reminds me of things Cassandra (my sister-in-law) would vent about to me as she went in the program. I understand it’s a business, but I don’t trust this lady. Send me the scholarship agreement; I want my lawyer to look it over.” “Mom, I think that’s a bit excessive mom; besides, I’m looking into a different teacher training program because that was her last chance to help me.” “You’re better off staying with them, and leaving Club Pilate in the dust.”

Yep, the night I realized if I was to move ahead, know what I need to work on and actually make any progress towards my goals, I scrolled through IG, I found an ad for Breath Education: a 200 hour virtual teacher training program, given I had now completed over 1000 studying with Club Pilates, and $4000 in coaching session with Maite where we’d practice teach a different series of exercises repeatedly and received the feedback, “that’s a good place to start. Now do it again this time, use different words and say it faster” to learn she had no idea what my teaching ability was or enough to speak on my behalf with the studio owner and whatever she did help me do, it wasn’t Pilates according to the studio owner.

I requested more information about Breath’s teaching training program, started listening to the Pilates Elephants podcast, and enrolled in their teacher training program as part of their Nov 2021 intake without telling a soul at Club Pilates; they had messed with my life enough and the last thing they were interested in was helping me. If they felt blindsided by my actions going forward, it was because they earned and deserved every blindside coming their way given I had more faith in a sneaker, and I needed an exit strategy to get out of Assembly Rows claws. It was glaringly obvious after my last in-studio teaching audition that if I had any chance of getting out and surviving this mess, I needed to start getting to work on the different modules Breath had set up.

My goal in enrolling in Breath Education’s teacher training program was to learn if I was really the garbage instructor as I was made out to feel. If it was, the feedback from these new trainers should reflect that, and this time I would be getting the guidance needed to fill in my gaps accordingly and no longer be this massive liability. If I had any chance of getting out and surviving this mess, I needed to start getting to work on the different modules Breath had set up. Six weeks later, I finally heard back from the studio owner saying that I got a new Master Trainer, Jenna who was based out of Indiana; I’m pretty sure she felt my sigh of relief when I found out she had nothing to do with Assembly Row. We agreed to do the Apprenticeship Test to get a baseline of my teaching abilities, and if all went well, then I could start teaching along with the big question: do you want to work for Club Pilates. Rather than admit I was willing to work for anyone but Tammy, even a sneaker would be better boss, I stated, “I’m keeping my options open.”

As luck would have it, I passed my Apprenticeship Test out, which led to a phone call with the studio owner, Tammy, to discuss my teaching schedule. One of her biggest concerns was to not overwhelm me, which I appreciate, and although I had the availability to teach 10 classes/hours a week tops, we agreed to start with 4 and then add more as time went on; we didn’t talk about what kind of classes they would be as my assumption was standard Reformer Flow & Cardio/Jumpboard classes to get started with based on my conversion with Jenna; instead Tammy agreed to give me a Reformer Flow, Center & Balance (stretchy class), Restore (foam rolling) and a Jumpboard; I hated 2 out of the 4 and already felt burnt out looking at my schedule cause I felt it required me to continually change hats and I had a hard time trying to program a class that didn’t require 4 different class plans to achieve; not to mention disappointment to learn I’d be teaching 2 classes I’d never taught, had any experience or help to prepare for. I took it because I was a new teacher looking for experience, but I started to get vibes that I was being set up to fail again, and even though the goal was to prevent me from getting overwhelmed and burnt out, this schedule was appearing to put me onto the exact path she was trying to avoid: getting overwhelmed and burnt out. At least I had a couple of weeks to prepare; that was also when my tutorials with Breath were scheduled to start. I was excited but also scared - naturally - because I knew I would get feedback that would help me, but I was surprised by what I actually got.

“I can tell you love Pilates; it carries through the screen as I watch you teach and it’s obvious you’ve been studying this for a while. You're able to say a lot of words in a short period of time, which is impressive, but you don’t need to say all of that to your body. If you cut down the amount of words you use, you’ll provide your bodies with more time to process what your saying, give them a chance to feel it in their bodies, allowing them to learn what your saying. Maybe take a sip of water to help give yourself a break. Also, since your using less words, you’ll have more energy to do other things. Also, try using more external cues to help your bodies create the different shapes your looking for them to execute. It’ll set them up for success better.”

I was mind blown he was able to pick up all of that in a 10 min teaching segment. It was nice to hear, but also freaked me out a bit as I felt very transparent like an open book. The next week I taught my first class, and implemented not only the feedback I got, but everything I had learned from Breath thus far, which was everything but showing up for the tutorials for the next few weeks. One of the other instructors, had given me a heads up right before my class that she would be sitting in the back office. She made it clear she didn’t want to make me feel nervous, but she also didn’t want me to feel alone or like I was on my own in case anything happened, like a new situation I had not encountered yet. This brought me a bit of comfort, but it was also the beginning of instructors attending or sitting into my classes. They were there was, “I heard had told me you sounded different. I got a message from her saying that had she not talked or seen you before class and walked into the studio, she would have assumed the studio had hired a new instructor because you sound completely different compared to the last class we took with you, and she’s right. You sound completely different.” From there I was able to get extra hours working at CP Salem, Burlington, & Lynnfield in order to get the hours I needed to make ends meet and get the experience I needed, and that’s when I began to realize that working inside any CP was not for me; I had gotten sick under Tammy’s care, and I thought going to another place away from her would help me to heal, but it didn’t happen cause I had gotten sick in the franchise; if I was to heal, then I needed to leave, but not after CP helped me pass my training with Breath as many of my peers started to ask me a LOT of different questions relating to Pilates the feedback I’d gotten during those practice teaching sessions were, “you sound like you’re already teaching Pilates’ or ‘it sounds like you’ve been teaching for years, you don’t belong here or need our help’ and my favorite ‘I was really intimidated to show up to today’s session when I found out it was just the two of us cause I’m just getting my footing and talking to you, it seems like you’ve got Pilates all figured out and it made me nervous, but I’m really happy I showed up cause I feel a lot better with where I am after talking to you.”

I continued to show up for my tutorials with breath, working with mainly 2 of their trainers, praying each time I met with them that they actually were giving me advice to help me succeed without any other ulterior motive because trusting another Master Trainer, regardless of what their background was, was extremely hard for me. Although I’m strong and have been called so as an infant, I feel like I should have has a sign on my forehead saying, “I’m a fragile and delicate flower; don’t F with me.” I was terrified to say or share ANYTHING. There were countless prayers and signs I would ask for just in regards to being able to trust them, especially one cause over time I had confided in a LOT of Aly shenanigans with him. I was still extremely nervous every single time at my core, I was terrified this would backfire in my face again, even after asking and receiving 50,000 signs from the universe saying “it’s gonna be ok.”

Then had a breakthrough, a way out of the Club Pilates world: I was able to obtain an audience with a local STOTT based studio, C2 Body, because I was beginning to feel like I was handicapping myself but also those attending my classes due to the list of Pilates do’s & don'ts. I was still in the process of completing my test out with Jenna, and the last thing I needed was her telling Tammy I had scored a teaching audition & opportunity and mess that up; however, one of the Breath Master Trainer’s did offer coaching sessions, and I had been attending their class weekly; none of the Masterclasses with Breath fit in my schedule due to working at CP or sleeping cause 2 am. I was terrified to schedule this session, but I was petrified about this new audition more, and I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity and the audition did go south, I would blame myself for not swallowing my fear and anxiety cause I was too scared to ask for help. So I took the risk, and signed up for the coaching session with him as I continued to pray and ask for confirmation that I was doing the right thing. I got that confirmation when I was hired after the audition in addition to passing my certification test out with CP in March 2022. To say I was excited was an understatement; I reached out to the respective studio owners/general managers but I still wasn’t out of the woods yet given it was the very early stages of implementing my exit strategy.

Tammy congratulated me upon passing; however, also informed me they were unable to release my certification due to the remaining balance. Based on what she saw, I hadn’t put any additional funds towards my balance for the program and would need to pay that off first before my certification could be released…you know, the remaining balance that was supposed to be covered by my scholarship I agreed to at the beginning of training after putting the down payment of $2000 back in September 2019. I made the mistake of checking my email before my block that day; I was livid. I opened my “AlyMarie’s Pilates Jam’s” on Spotify that was almost 10 hours long - i enjoy obnoxiously long playlists on shuffle bring me joy as I feel like it’s the universe's way of speaking to me through music - and the universe made my pain known as all the FU, I’m done, fed up, pissed, etc songs came out during class. The main one people enjoyed and commented on was Billie Elish’s Happier than Ever came on. “Great song, you can tell she’s pissed.” The Moody Blues Night in White Satin - a song that made it’s daily appearance traditionally during feet in straps that also got much attention from those attending class - decided to stay away that day. I didn’t know this at the time, but that was the last block I ever taught at Club Pilates Assembly Row.

I also didn't realize how much people LOVE feet in straps until Night in White Satin started playing almost every time during feet in straps in class...I feel like I'm committing a Pilates crime if I don't include it in my programing in some fashion.

Another instructor who happened to be there that day attempted to give me advice to help calm me down, saying she wasn't sure bout the terms and conditions, but she was under the assumption I would need to work there for another year and didn’t think Tammy wanted that kind of commitment with me. That was music to my ears cause neither did I, but it was also advice foreshadowing what was to come. To say I felt like Tammy was literally doing everything in her power to prevent me from getting my sheet of paper that Katie (my real pregnant lady in my mock failure of a class) told me would allow my career to finally take off.

Side note: if I ever see Katie again, I’d love to have a conversion about what her definition of a career taking off looks like in the Pilates world cause the picture that was placed in my head was the further thing that could have played out in real life and it sounded like another piece of advice setting me up to fail given it created an unrealistic expectation on where to go and how to grow from here. My gut tells me her answer will be the same thing she’s told me a million times during the program, “your path is different.” She’s right, my path is different and thank God for Breath Education cause I wouldn’t be here or the instructor that I am not without them. They deserve that credit, and CP gets the credit it deserves, I started my training with them and worked there for some time, but the process was so traumatic I had to look for a different teacher training program because it seemed like they were more concerned with me fitting into a mold of what they though Pilates was then to actually become a Pilates Instructor, and making the decision to leave was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.” In true fairness, it wasn't 'the franchises fault for creating these feelings, it was specifically Club Pilates Assembly Row cause I actually liked the other locations, but I was too sick mentally from my experience with Assembly Row, Club Pilates Salem, Burlington & Lynnfield didn't stand a chance.

I started looking through my email for all the documentation pertaining to the scholarship I could find, filled with regret for telling my mom it was a bad idea to get my lawyer involved when she suggested it, and just focused on what I could to get my sheet of paper I had more then rightfully earned at this point. I later found out not only was the other instructor right, I would need to work at the studio for another year after getting certified, but I was also not meeting the terms and conditions of the scholarship since beginning employment with CP Assembly Row; it was stated in the terms and conditions that upon passing my Apprenticeship Test out, the studio was suppose to give me 8 teaching hours a week instead of the 4 Tammy had originally decided in order to prevent me from getting overwhelmed and burnt out. I was to work with the General Manager to get that squared away adding the extra 4 hours to my schedule, 4 hours I no longer had because I was now working at 4 other studios to make up for the lack of hours Assembly Row was unable to provided that sounded like I was entitled to have since the very beginning of my employment. In addition, if I did not take on those extra hours, then I was required to pay the remaining balance within 7 days of providing my notice.

I was a volcano about to erupt….and boy did I erupt.

I talked to my lawyer, my one remaining friend from high school and college, my fellow Naz girl (Regina thanks you and fetch is totally a thing), and gave her an update on my situation. “I’ll type you up a demand notice; with you passing your certification, she can’t hold it back from you. She will have to provide it to you in the eyes of the law; she stands no ground once we sign and send that over, especially after you pay off the remaining balance.” The next day I reached out to the studio saying according to my rights with MA state law, I would be quitting CP Assembly Row effective immediately, and would need to work things out with the GM to pay the remaining balance. I called the studio 3x that day and received no answer. Excessive - yes, but I had a balance to pay off and my gut told me I was being ignored by the GM. So I sent an email that night to the GM & Tammy, stating I had called and no one answered. I would be free during this window tomorrow, and would be expecting a phone call; if I did not get one, my lawyer would be reaching out on my behalf and all communications would be going through her from here on out. In addition, I wanted a letter from Tammy stating that the certification would arrive within the 2 month time frame Jenna provided. Paying the rest of the balance meant I cleared out my savings again; an idea I hated, but if that’s what needed to be done then so be it. When I told my parents that night, they both interjected saying the remaining balance would be going on my dad’s Amex as they both did not believe I would get my certification within the 2 months Jenna told me it would take to arrive, and if that happened, my mom wanted to be able to file a chargeback due to Club Pilates now not meeting their end of the deal.

The next day I got a call from the GM at the top of the hour for the time frame I provided, payed my balance, received my certification with Club Pilates 2 weeks after paying off the remaining balance, and 2 months later I quit the franchise all together. That summer, I got an opportunity from a member at C2 Body stating another small STOTT based studio was looking for another instructor to hire, and based on the classes she had attended so far, she thought this was a great opportunity for me since it payed more then where I was currently working, and I needed to make ends meet; she didn’t know this, but C2 Body was also out of alignment to where I wanted to go in terms of my career and helping me get there. Another opportunity, a real one that actually allowed me to grow and blossom as an instructor; a place where I finally felt like I could be myself and use the space for Aly Shenanigans so long as the studio wasn’t in use; this meant social media content creation, classes and workshops given a large majority of my teaching occurs at this studio even to this day. Things that fill my cup up. Some of these shenanigans were validating, allowing me to get more self confidence which I felt like I needed, but it’s unfortunate I had to be that excessively squeaky, stubborn wheel and go to the lengths I needed to in order to finally be free, but it was worth it.

The last workshop I ever attended though was called 10 Things to Teach on a Monday led by 2 instructors: one I was already familiar with and asked for 50,000 signs regarding weather or not I could trust this person; the other I was familiar with as in I’d listen to some interviews and podcasts she’d done and it made me feel off afterward cause as a listener, it appeared as if their goal was to intentionally play devil’s advocate regardless of what the person doing the interview said or asked. It took me forever to sign up because of that feeling I got from her energy. Part of the reason it took so long to make a decision is because I was also a testout body for another student completing her Comprehensive testout, which at this point I felt like I was adapting to after all the classes I had taken with the instructor I was familiar with. A phrase he says a lot is, “what are you adapting to?” and being a Pilates body capable of doing things other people couldn’t to demonstrate in a teaching or learning environment seems like where that adaptation process was going, aside from guilt free eating.

Due to the amount of time I had spent working with this instructor, I started to feel like we were becoming friends, and if they had something similar where a demonstration body was needed, then they would pick me. That’s what my gut told me and I genuinely believed that would be the case as they had also helped me to feel seen, heard, rather than being in the background, invisible like when I was a child. In addition, being a body for a test out seemed like a Pilates performance; to me, it was like a modern recreation of my 14/15 year old self wanting to be a dancer as a child. Seems like I was starting to heal some long overdue child wounds and starting to make progress with my life that had been falling apart for so long. So I signed up the last day the early bird coupon could be used - and forgot to use the coupon - because my curiosity got the best of me: what were the 10 things they felt that you should teach on a Monday, starting from lying down to standing on the machine? I taught Monday’s, and still do, so I wanted to know and compare notes. Did I need the workshop? Probably not, and I knew going into it there would be familiar with about 40% of the content provided.

Did I learn something? Hell ya I did! Let's get into it

I never reached out cause it was my error and figured it would be a way to teach myself a lesson as sometimes lessons hit differently when money is involved. I did the same thing with a parking ticket once when I inputted the wrong license plate number. Regardless, I was naturally very excited for this workshop cause it allowed me to focus on my movementI forgot about that for a bit, brushed it out of my mind and focused on me, my movement, and what I needed to do to fill up my cup including a little weekly movement prelude to the workshop, cause it made me happy even when my IG account got hacked the week before the workshop occurred.

That day the workshop came around, I felt off, unable to explain why as meh feelings tend to be, but something wasn’t quite sitting right with me. Knowing movement would be part of the workshop I intentionally under indulged as much that day cause there were some muscle cramps creating some of the videos leading up to it and I didn’t want to repeat those feelings. A now expired friend reached out, interested in getting together that night; we agreed it would be after the workshop given it was something for me, and they required extra space to vent about their obstacles in life, usually pertaining to her romantic relationships. My partner at the time - another now expired relationship - knew I would be traveling to the studio I worked at given that was the space where I would perform the different exercise, HYP: Hot Yoga Pilates. Aside from waking up feeling “eh,” it was a normal day dedicated to things that bring Aly joy.

I should have honored that off feeling; part of me wonders what would have happened if I skipped attending live and went to hang out with this expired friend instead cause when I showed up to the workshop, there as a body chosen to demonstrate the different exercise we’d be learning, a body who I truly admired and respected for her movement capabilities. Although I respect her as a human, her abilities, and happy for her to get the opportunity, I also recognize, validate, and respect my emotions that started to buildup inside me because as a human, I’m entitled to that. The biggest emotion was confusion because my gut told me I would have been picked, and I trust my gut whole heartedly - but yet there, witnessing it all unfold wondering where the disconnect was within me given I was extremely wrong I was about being picked for an opportunity like this, and the confusion only grew stronger as the workshop went on because I couldn’t help but wonder how this was any different then being a test out body for the 3 hour comprehensive test out prior, even after hearing confirmation how I was an “advanced mover” who follows a cycle of taking a break from movement then getting back into, but they would always come back to moving. Is that what I am to you? The little girl who pulled a gallon of milk from the cooler at water country, who climbed her uncles like a mountain, was dwindled and watered down to the latest “advanced mover”... I thought a friendship was starting to form a bit…I was wrong about that too…I kept trying to shove these thoughts to the back of my mind.

Then there was a 10 min break; everything changed. All of a sudden, my stomach became an Eldridge knot that dropped like a block of cement to my feet, my breathing started to increase, becoming extremely irregular; my heart racing just seconds before tears started flooding my eyes. In less than a minute, this “advanced mover” found herself in a full blown panic attack before having a moment to register the opportunity of what was going on. I thought about leaving, cutting the workshop short and going home, maybe start the plans for the evening that I had pushed off because of it…until a voice in the back of my head spoke,

“If you leave now, you’ll just be a quitter; you're stronger and better than that love. Get yourself together: stop crying, steady your breath, splash some water on your face, and get your head back in the game. You only have to get through another hour then you're gonna go out, have some drinks, food, and you can process all your emotions then.”

I was together enough to finish, but I was nowhere near 100% - 50 at best. I kept doing something simple wrong: putting the strap on the wrong limb, turning towards the wrong side of the machine, etc.

C’om Aly, you're better than this. Yes, you’re not 100% but these are silly nonsense mistakes you're making. Keep breathing, keep focusing on the task at hand. Soon you’ll be able to leave, get on with your plans for the evening and forget this moment ever happened. I completely giving up on the Nordic Curls cause the person demonstrating complained about cramping, and I couldn’t get the box correctly placed on the machine and gave myself permission to “fuck it.”

Then the workshop went over, and the instructor I’d heard on podcasts thanked all of us for attending, and thanked the demonstrator for helping with such a glowing inner child-like expression of such happiness, joy and awe. It resembled a child remembering it was Christmas morning, and Santa had left presents under the tree shining brighter than anything I’d ever witnessed before. I was devastated and knew it was never my opportunity to have, not with that shinning face. My gut told me I wouldn’t be able to provide her with that same joy clearly written across her face. If anything, she’d be another woman intimidated by me. No one wants to talk or work with someone intimidating…as the past advice echoed in my head, realizing I was still very much still unseen and unheard as I had felt as a child. I’d been through enough, packed up my things and set the studio back up for me to teach the next day before going back to my car, or so I thought.

Plans had fallen though. My friend at the time also had a panic attack, called her ex because she knew I was busy, started drinking and didn’t want to drive. I started to look forward to going home, relaxing instead with my now ex, and letting my feelings process. Maybe we could watch something funny, anything to distract me from what had unfolded. Instead, I came home to him sleeping on the couch with the TV on in the background cuddled next to the dog with half eaten take-out from the Cheesecake factory; he admitted wanting to stay up to and tried so we could have dinner together, but it was now almost 9 pm EST and agreed it would be better to go to bed. There, I cried myself to sleep, the dog now snuggling against me, pressing all 80 lbs into me, giving me more kisses then I could have asked for as I hugged her tightly to forget all the pain. She could smell my pheromones; she knew something wasn’t right with mama. She didn’t know what it was, but she knew just how to make it better, and that’s my favorite part about dogs. Unfortunately, I had to give her up when that relationship ended - it wasn’t working out, taking up too much space in my life and I ultimately was settling; words will never be able to describe the unconditional love she provided: letting her go has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and something I still grieve over cause she was there for me when no one else was as all my past trauma and wounds unraveled.

How did beautiful day turn out so bad? Go so wrong? How was I still not good enough? Invisible? I was making such good progress with myself…I had come such a long way…How did a day designed to fill my cup turned into a deserted, dried up reservoir? Depleting whatever was remaining in there instead? Where did things go so horribly wrong? There was nothing but regret for attending live rather than going out instead and watching the recording later. Everything told me I would be better off skipping it all together. My cup was so depleted, I had to back out of all my commitments because I couldn’t show up: mentally, emotional and physically.

The greatest piece of advice I’ve been provided from my therapist, “get used to having uncomfortable conversations. It’s more important to speak your truth and have that conversation in addition to whatever the consequences are then to keep silent, push it down, let it fester inside you and eat your soul alive with the resentment that gets created. So when I got an email asking for my feedback, I spoke my whole truth and nothing but my truth - just like now to each of you reading.

Reflecting back on the experience now, I should have known better. I felt very hurt by my friend instigated by my gut and for a time wondered if I made this friendship real or something I made up in my head, mistaking it for a different kind client/student I had experienced. I realize now it was a friendship forming, but it took A LOT of reflecting, additional healing, and taking to other friends unpacking the situation to realized it was a growing pain; only time will tell if strength will form, but I definitely needed to pull back my energy, refocus and reflect, better understand the situation at hand to discover the best steps forward. I also recognize those different podcasts and interviews leading up to the workshop were red flags; although they did not drain me, it didn’t fill my cup up either or enhanced my life. Another moment I settled into my life, but I thank her. That day was devastated, but it was the last tower moment I needed, the last stabbing and crushing required to murder the old version of me.

Prior to that point, I viewed myself as a diamond undergoing pressure in order to form, except I was already a diamond shattering to dust, ashes, my childhood spat back out at me before lighting it all up and transforming into the glistening, diamond-cse Phoenix that is now shining so bright and standing in her true power, it’s blinding to all those around her. Thanks to her, I am now more resilient, stronger, brighter, intimidating, and in tune with my worth and value than ever was before, creating an instructor who was now beyond confident in her teaching ability and knows she doesn't need to attend another workshop for quite some time. I am also aware she is undeserving of my energy, time because 1) I will never be able to provide her with the spark of joy that was on her face when the workshop completed and 2) she looked scared and/or intimidated by me the last time we spoke cause there were other mannerisms present similar to others who called me intimidating. I’ve only attended one class of hers, and it’s probably going to be the last one I attend because one should put their time (and money) into things that bring them joy so they feel replenished rather than depleted. I was pulled aside that class where we were unable to make eye contact; I remember that look of fear because I had/have those same expressions when I talk about something that petrifies me. She felt like the class the planned might not be hard enough for me, giving me permission to go off script with another modification I felt would be more challenging; however, I already knew I would feel underwhelmed attending her class based on the material provided in the workshop…so I attended an athletic hot yoga class, chugged a protein shake just minutes before this conversation, and I politely declined the invitation to make the class harder for least we were both on the same page about something. My favorite part of that conversion was learning about what Pilates Instructors say about AlyMarie, the advanced mover, during those Pilates Instructor Cocktail parties. Why did I attend? Because her IG picture kept popping into my head; I could feel my energy being called and I wanted peace. I am more than deserving of peace, so I gave it to myself, pacifying the calling and removing it from my mind once and for all.

And now a toast: to the melody of inner peace; there isn't a sounds I love more!

I’ve healed from this traumatic experience, both with my degree, my teacher training experience, and the workshop. And I would do each all over again without changing any details cause I learned very significant life lessons I’d like to share with each of you in case you unfortunately are able to empathize with my experience.

  1. Your voice is your most powerful tool; always speak your mind and your truth as its always better to say what’s on your mind, even if it shakes and/or the other person has a surprised expression because keeping quiet, burying it deep down inside your body where it’ll start to eat away at your soul. You're worth more than that.

  2. What people say and think of you is a reflection of themselves. For every figure they point at you, there is 3 pointing back at them. As far as I'm concerned, their opinions are invalid.

  3. You attract: anything that is rightfully yours was written in the stars before you were born & experience the life you are living, even the emotions you're experiencing, positive and negative, cause it’s a blessing to experience them. Some people aren’t able to feel emotions.

  4. Get comfortable with discomfort. You can be both thriving and uncomfortable because that’s how you grow and staying within your comfort zone is dangerous, leading to becoming stagnant. It’s important to keep a balance but aim for 75% discomfort, 25% comfort in order to adequately grow.

  5. The more you say no, the more value and heavier your ' yes’ becomes.

  6. Be you, authentically you. What people think of you is their perception of how they see or view themselves, whether they recognize it or not, and that’s not your problem: it’s theirs. Know you are not pizza, tacos or feet in straps; you can’t please everyone, and your not going to like everyone cause you are your own unique flavor. If everyone was meant to like you, then you would have been cloned into multiple different flavors in order to appease everyone. If you don’t know yourself, then spend some time alone, take yourself on dates, and spend time providing yourself with what you need rather than looking for it in another person.

  7. Listen to your gut/intuition. If it’s telling you something off, not right, or out of place, chances are it is as your body is able to pick up on energy faster than your able to recognize it. It's your higher self trying to speak to you.

  8. Like Mulan and Hercules, only you can take yourself from zero to hero with the force of a great typhoon, does not need to be a nation; you are your own savior and the creator of your own life. Yes, the universe is always on your side, even if it feels like you're being crushed by it. Those crushing moments are divine protection and redirection towards what’s ultimately towards your highest good - like in my teaching audition - in order to grow and blossom into the powerful, divine human you are, but you need to take aligned action in order to get there, and have faith everything is working out for you.

  9. Let go of anything and everything that is no longer serving you. It’ll allow you to be happier and develop into your highest good faster.

  10. Be clear about what you want while open to life’s detours as you travel along the way, like a new hiking path you decided to explore.

  11. As long as it makes you happy, no one else’s opinion matters. You're better off being lonely and happy, maintaining your state of peace than unhappy surrounded by many who deplete your energy. Not everyone is meant for your or is meant to come along with you as you grow, that's why sorts cars usually have 2-4 seats opposed to school buses as we arrive closer to our destination. Quality over quantity.

  12. Energy goes where energy flows; if your energy is not being reciprocated, then redirect it to a place where it is.

  13. Every closed door is creating space for the 10 new doors getting ready to open in your favor with better opportunities than you could imagine for yourself.

  14. If you keep experiencing the same negative emotions you're unhappy with feeling, you haven’t learned the lesson you are supposed to learn, and you will keep experiencing those same feelings and negative emotions though different souls until you do.

  15. Gain control of your emotions and observe your thoughts. Take care of yourself, and your energy. It’s poor spiritual hygiene to give everyone access to your energy as it’ll deplete your cup faster than you can replenish it, and you’ll soon find yourself with a hole in your bucket, dear Liza a hole.

  16. Work smarter, not harder; just because you're busting your ass off doesn’t mean you’re getting anywhere, even when you ask for help to work smarter instead, like my coaching session and time at Assembly Row. Sometimes those people you’re trusting to help you grow are only creating more busy work for you. If you feel like you're stuck on a hamster wheel, it’s because you probably are. Realize you are powering the wheel for them rather than for you in order to prevent yourself from getting burnt out.

  17. Know your worth; no one can tell you what your value is but you and you need to see it first before others can see how great, powerful and beautiful you truly are.

And with that, I leave you with one last cup o'beats so sum it all up, and maybe help you find a bit of strength when you feel like a big baby, stuck in your own crib, and you need some help to rise, regardless of your strength level cause sometimes its hard being strong after being strong for so long. And if you need more, my I'm Alive gym playlist is called Uncomfortable & Thriving with the same picture below created by yours truly, AlyMarie Moniz, because you can be both at the same time a you grow into the best version of you and sometimes you need a reminder that your alive or to boost your mood up and get a little amped.

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