• Mary Kathleen Toner

When Life Gives You Flat Tires

...change your tire and maybe change your life.

If you're reading this on 11/28, well, a very Happy Thanksgiving to YOU and happy 30th birthday to ME!

Seeing as I'm personally at the beginning of a bright, shiny new decade and we're ALL about to see the start of a new one with 2020, I thought I might write a more reflective blog, one sharing just why I'm extra thankful for Functionize this year. (Plus, I never waste a good opportunity to embarrass myself and overshare with the Internet.)

I've seen more change in myself in the span of 2019 than I have in any other single year of my life. Granted, I've only had 30 of those and maybe just half was I actually self-aware enough to notice any sort of real change, but hang with me for a few paragraphs. I don't know it all and I don't know a lot, but I do know these two things: you can do much more than you think you're capable of and you should ALWAYS pay the small fee for warranty on tires.

An empty girl inside an empty kitchen inside an empty house.

I posted this to Instagram on December 31, 2018, but the picture was taken in the beginning of 2018 when my husband and I bought our first house. Can you believe how lucky I am? There I was, 28 years old, moving into a house I just helped buy! A house with a yard with bedrooms and bathrooms and all kinds of room for memories! I easily mimicked my husband's excitement, but all I truly felt was dread. This meant, at least for awhile, anyway, that we were in Atlanta for good.

And I hated Atlanta.

Well, I thought I did. What I really hated was the traffic. I hated that Atlanta wasn't the town I lived in for ten years prior. I hated that I had no sense of community. I hated my job.

The only thing I ever looked forward to were my physical therapy appointments at Functionize. I was always greeted with a smile by Remi and Audrey, and then spent an hour with Merci, who was so easy to talk to. It was more like an hour of emotional therapy and I left each session feeling lighter, more confident. I think that's where the shift started; I give a lot of credit to Functionize (both from the perspective as a patient and now employee) as being the catalyst for the change I needed.

I felt wildly out of place where I was working and, because of this, my anxiety was through the roof at all times. I was in my late twenties, in a new city, working hours that were incompatible with making and/or keeping friends, and I began to feel suffocated. I was shattered at the end of every day and could not continue to rebuild myself each and every night. I was crying every morning before work, dreading what the day held for me, and crying every night on my way home, wondering how I had let myself become the fragile, shell of a person I saw when I looked in the mirror.

Part of the issue was that I had my dream job in the fashion industry prior to moving to Atlanta and I missed it terribly. But, it was a chapter that had to end and, unfortunately, I was having trouble finding anything remotely like it in my new city.

One day, while driving on the "roads" in Buckhead (I use the term "roads" loosely because the amount of potholes in Buckhead is alarming), one of my tires popped. My tire wasn't old; I had all four replaced less than a year before this incident because this was the second time I'd gotten a flat in Buckhead...and those are the only two flats I've ever had! And I actively avoid the potholes! (I realize I'm sort of spiraling here. Back to the story.)

As I sat there crying (MORE CRYING, you ask!? Y'all, I was ALWAYS on the verge of tears!) on the side of the road in my car, I was berating myself for always allowing my dad to do everything for me like the spoiled princess I am. I mean, you would think I had to have known there would be a day when I would have to do something automotive-related other than pump my own gas, right?

My husband couldn't help me and I didn't know anyone else in the city who could, either, and my pride wasn't about to let me flag down a stranger for help. (I would've walked the rest of the way before I did that, to be honest.) I couldn't afford a tow and I didn't know at the time that my insurance coverage included roadside assistance...I only knew I didn't have AAA.

A few more tear-filled minutes passed and, out of absolutely nowhere, I had this remarkable idea- one that had truly never occurred to me before:

"Mary Kathleen... why don't you just do it yourself?"

I didn't know how to change a tire! Hell, I didn't even know if I had a spare tire! But, I had to get to work and I didn't have any other option.

So, I did what any decent Millennial would do. I pulled up YouTube on my phone and searched for a how-to video.

"How to change a tire on a Ford Edge"

I watched it. I watched it again. And, with only minor difficulty (and major cursing), I changed my own damn tire.

And then something else changed- something in me. I started doubting my self-doubt. Instead of accepting my current unhappy situation, I decided it was time to find another job- one that would allow me to get back into the fashion industry. And when I couldn't find anything that felt right while looking for another job, I decided I should create one. And while working on that dream, a door opened. A big, beautiful door with a giant green F emblazoned on the front like a beacon of hope.

Merci knew Lauren was looking for someone to manage the practice's social media and suggested me. Then, the most wonderful thing happened- Lauren took a chance on me. This anxiety-ridden, exhausted young woman who knew very little about the world of physical therapy. I tried multiple times to convince Lauren that I couldn't do this job; that I was just going to let her down and I couldn't bear it. She ignored me every time, and I'm so thankful she did.

Now I get to spend my days in an incredible work environment. I have a supportive boss, amazing coworkers, and leave each day feeling like I did something meaningful. I've made friends in Atlanta and have found a small sense of community here- a feeling that grows each day. I make time to exercise. I'm eating better. I found a primary care physician I love and am looking for a good therapist. The dream I was working on, an online boutique for women's contemporary clothing (www.shopvelvetandvine.com), has come to fruition. I recognize myself when I look in the mirror now.

As Disney as this is going to sound, I changed my life when I changed that tire, and I hope this (extremely lengthy) blog reminds you that you can change your life, too.

Thanks for reading!

Mary Kathleen

ps - ALWAYS pay for the warranty on tires! When I got my car back to Goodyear, I can tell you I cried (yes, again!) tears of joy when the mechanic mentioned it would be replaced at no cost to me. I simply paid the optional $20 warranty on my new tire and walked over to the Chick-fil-A next door to treat myself.

Mary Kathleen is Functionize’s Social Media Manager and in-house Wordsmith. She lives in Atlanta with husband Brian and their three furry children Cotton (pup), Burlap (pup), and Knuckles (kitty). She is the owner of Velvet & Vine Boutique



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