Disclaimer: I recognise that it's a privilege for me to quit my job (especially in a foreign country, where paperwork is everything), I'm not your average person, and to naysayers it's 2017, I believe people know what they want, but are either too scared or care what people think when it comes to following their dreams. If you can quit your job, leave a relationship, change your gender, "come out the closet,” move abroad, change your religion, run for political office, go back to school, go base jumping, whatever, go for it (of course with a plan and some money). And if you fail, at least you tried.
Why having a great job is not enough
I worked really hard to get my last teaching job at an international school (highly competitive to get in Thailand), and once I landed this amazing job, a few weeks working into it, I knew this was not for me. If I wanted to be a teacher for the long term, this was the perfect job. Great salary, professional and fun workplace culture, teachers freedom in the classroom, excellent location, amazing coworkers, school invests and listens to the teachers, and I had the best students a teacher could ask for, but I was not happy. And this was not what I wanted. And for those that know me, I go by 2 names, Angela and Blair, as a teacher I went by Angela, and I reached a point were I created a different identity at work, “Teacher Angela.” When I went to work in the mornings, and changed into my uniform, before heading up to the inter-teacher office I looked in the bathroom mirror and recited :
You are Teacher Angela, you're happy, a team player, you love your job, your coworkers are your friends, Blair, the entrepreneur doesn’t exist here! This job pays well and you can manage being both a teacher and entrepreneur! Again, Blair doesn’t exist here, so don’t talk about your life outside of work, and if people ask about your weekends, keep it light.
Sad, I know, and this worked for a few weeks, but the longer I stayed the harder it became to keep up with this dual identity and growing responsibilities of my startup.
Making a choice: teaching or my startup
I reached a point were I no longer had the energy to work full time as a teacher (too often teachers are expected to sacrifice their time outside of working hours) and meet the growing responsibilities of Healthy Hair Asia. On top of that, my time was becoming increasingly more valuable. And the “nail on the coffin” was when I was assigned to be one of the event organisers for the schools largest event, that was happening in February, and it was such a big event, roles and responsibilities were given in September (yes this was disclose in my teacher contract but the reality these responsibilities, made it clear that this was a real teaching job unlike my other school where I had a lot of flexibility and freedom despite my teacher responsibilities) I couldn’t imagine spending my valuable time and energy outside of work, planning for a school event, let alone the biggest one. I thought to myself, I have to leave this job, now.
Resigning from my teaching job
I got the news of this responsibility at our weekly meeting on Friday, September 22, and on Monday September 25, I woke up around 3AM (don’t ask me why) to write my resignation letter and get some work done for Healthy Hair Asia. Not a wise decision. When I got to work at 7:45AM, I felt fine, a bit nervous because I emailed my head teacher my resignation letter and not sure if she read it. When I came in for work (after reciting my morning ritual of being Teacher Angela) I asked for a moment of her time. Nervous at first (I read for articles about how to gracefully resign) I was very genuine and told her that this is an amazing teaching job, everyone at work is great, and I admire their dedication to the students, but this is not what I want, and she understood. She stated that she was sad, and just needed to find a replacement.
Sleep deprivation and overworked
I’ve always taken my health seriously, but as an entrepreneur I’ve tended to push my limits further and further, this time I went too far.
I was exhilarated and after our talk I had a pep to my walk as I headed to my class to begin teaching. However, Monday morning is swimming for my section and as I was leading my students to the pool, I felt a bit dizzy, withdrawn, and not focused. And I remembered I skipped my breakfast (not a good idea), so I left my students with my co-teacher and assistant teachers to eat some yogurt I had in the classroom. But, it didn’t make a difference, and when I returned, I just sat and smiled, looking at my students, so proud of them swimming and having fun. But, something was wrong, I was running very low on energy and the day just begun (teaching requires a lot of energy, especially when your teaching 2 year olds) , so I went to look for the school nurse to get some help. Things got a bit blurry after that, but I was in the nurses office lying down, slowly crying and saying that I need to sleep! All the lights bothered my eyes and every sound was too loud. She walked me to the international teachers office, so I could get my stuff and go home. Somehow, I was able to text my boyfriend, who was able to pick me up and take me home to rest.
Last day of teaching
Once I got better, I returned to work and had to make a trip to immigration, only to learn that I had to leave the country to renew my visa (one of the benefits I guess living as an expat in SE Asia there are so many neighbouring countries to travel to for a weekend). So, this time around I went to Penang, Malaysia, which turned out to be very fun and mini business trip. I met up with a friend who owns an organic home farm and family bakery business, and got to learn about the organic and natural market in Malaysia. And once I got back to work, refreshed and slowly counting the days that I wouldn't have to be “Teacher Angela,” I learned that they found a replacement, who would shadow me for 2 days, and Friday October 6, would be my last day teaching.
Being a full-time entrepreneur: Day 31
Early this summer I did work full-time on Healthy Hair Asia, but I didn’t manage my time so well, plus I was focusing on finding a job. Working full-time and part-time, I’ve learned
how to manage my time and responsibilities a lot better. So, day 1 , October 9th my morning routine was solid and so I naturally woke up at 6AM to write, do yoga, read and eat breakfast, all before checking emails, notifications, and other work related issues (for all freelancers and entrepreneurs I believe having a morning routine is essential before you start working!). Now that I can be “Blair” full time I have time for building business relationships, attending events like In-Cosmetics Asia 2017, making products, and so much more important tasks that I couldn’t do when I was teaching. Before I left teaching, I did discuss my decision with my mentors, who all are very proud of me :)
Going back to the US
So far in 2017, I’ve left 3 jobs, lived in 2 different countries, co-founded the Ladies Afternoon Tea Network, celebrate my 1 year relationship with my boyfriend, and now was working full-time on my startup. Returning home I wasn’t Blair the entrepreneur, I was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and old friend.
Every week I talk and message my family, and since visiting the US last year for my cousin’s wedding, I thought I could wait another year to see everyone. Well, it’s hard to explain that feeling to return home, but something in me said it was time to go home, and I did. However, I wasn’t exactly prepared because I’ve changed, people who I grew up with changed (good and bad), the American society has changed (good and bad), so I felt out of place. Since I share so much of my life on social media (so my mom can see me) it was wonderful to see my niece and nephew who I love and adore, I hugged and kissed my mom like I haven’t seen her and years, and bickered and gossiped with my older sisters and cousins. Being in my home town, Leominster (pronounced Lemon-ster) walking around and observing the few changes and new faces I thought: my I’ve come far as a small town girl!
Exploring the NYC startup community
New York City, may be the “capital of the world” but for a startup, it’s expensive, people live in a bubble (New Yorkers, there is a world outside NYC and the US), it’s very conservative in investments, there is A LOT of homelessness, people don’t really smile or make eye contact when walking the streets, but what I loved most about NYC is the diversity of people, I forgot how diverse the world is!
Never skipping a beat I headed to NYC to explore the startup community and pick up some products that I would otherwise pay a fortune to ship to Bangkok. For about 6 days, I worked in a few co-working spaces, met some really cool entrepreneurs, attended networking events, meet ups, met up with old and new friends, and bought some really great products. My overall experience was okay, but I think NYC doesn’t meet the top 5 places in the world as the best startup community (my top places: San Francisco, Israel, Singapore,Bangkok, and Shanghai).
November is here which means the holiday shopping season has begun! And so many great things are happening in the background, I have a team, I’m partnering with beauty brands and retailers, I’m selling more organic products on the Healthy Hair Asia marketplace, and more. Out of all the craziness that has happened in 2017, I have absolutely no regrets and look forward to how this year is going to end for me!
As always, thank you for reading :)