I’ve allowed myself to be very absent from my blog for a while. It wasn’t intentional… it just happened.
I’ve been putting off writing about it for a long time, too, because I didn’t want to put forth the energy it would take to sort out my feelings. While I know it’s perfectly okay to cry and be emotional, it’s also exhausting. I wasn’t ready to open the blinds and let the sunlight in yet.
But I’m finally ready.
Here’s where it started.
I left the U.S. in February 2013 to be an English teacher in South Korea. From the minute I started, I loved it. Living in Korea was the literal best decision I had ever made for myself.
For the first time in my adult life, I had a disposable income.
I was closer to other places around the world and traveled to see more of it.
I had job security in a position I loved and was truly good at. I was promoted and repeatedly asked to stay on and sign new contracts.
I found myself – my true self – living in Korea.
I made wonderful friends.
Things had never been better but after nearly 5 years, I was ready to move on to the next thing. I was burned out and tired of teaching the same content over and over again.
So, I left. I went to Dallas in July 2017 to live with my BFF from college just like we had always planned, but I didn’t have the stomach to promise more than a year there. I knew I didn’t want to live in the States for long (living abroad had completely changed my outlook and I wanted to be free to roam) and I didn’t want a lot of the things that are truly necessary for living in an American city – I didn’t want a car or a commute.
I had grandiose plans for starting up my own content business and I did a lot of things to get started. But I did a lot of unnecessary things because I was truly afraid of the “real work” and finding clients.
The realization hit me while I was in London, 2 weeks into a 6-week Europe trip with a dear friend of mine. I was (and had been since I went back to the States) bleeding money and had no source of steady income that would be enough to cover my monthly bills. I now had rent to pay, health insurance to worry about, plus my more than $1,000-monthly student loan and credit card debt payments. I had a minor, actual, panic attack.
I went back to the U.S. immediately, tail between my legs, and started to look for a “real” job.
The “Real” Job
In sharing with my friends that I was looking for work, my previous boss and friend, Anna, told me her previous boss was looking for someone to do what I did: Content and social media management. He needed someone right away.
It was the weirdest and most “laid back” interview process I’d ever had. I talked with him over the phone for no more than 10 to 20 minutes, we exchanged some text messages, and I got hired. The entire process took about 2 days. The interviews were on a Thursday. I started working the following Monday. It was that fast.
I told myself I would give it 6 months, maybe a year at most, to get myself re-established and then I would truly leave to start running my own business.
The only good parts about this job were that:
- A. I had a job that was paying me actual money consistently.
- B. It was completely remote so I was able to work from home, thus not needing a car or adding a commute to my life. I also spent an obscene amount of time with my bestie’s adorable dog (pictured above).
- C. I was reimbursed for the desk I purchased to do my new job.
Fast forward to just a few weeks in… and I knew I hated it. He was a horrible boss – not only was everything incredibly disorganized (which I can’t handle on a personal level) but things always seemed to be getting done last minute.
My responsibilities of handling written content and creating social media calendars and publishing social content were more than a single person can handle in a 40-hour work week. I was constantly stressed and couldn’t keep up well. Not to mention, I wasn’t happy.
He didn’t provide health insurance, so I was paying $300 every month for health care via Healthcare.gov. I had never been so thankful for the ACA before 2017.
He was rude and I never felt valued as a team member. I remember thinking over and over again, How do these coworkers of mine stand to put up with this shit? I would talk to them about projects we were working on for clients and mention something the boss would want, and they would simply say, “Yeah, that’s Alex…”
I genuinely couldn’t understand why these people stayed in this environment and how it could be, in any way, fulfilling. I started plotting my exit within a couple of months of starting the job. It was that awful.
And in turn, I did some of the most awful work I’ve ever done. I didn’t care like I had in past jobs because I felt no appreciation for what I did.
It’s not worth harping on about how bad it was… No one wants to read or hear about that. But what is important to note is that, while I was doing all this stuff for his clients and getting incredibly burned out by him and his business model, my own motivation to get my side hustle moving was waning and I had little to no interest or energy trying to do my own stuff.
I was losing my focus and I was depressed. I gained more weight. I wasn’t making enough money and I was still bleeding money because Dallas is expensive, even without a car.
I had to figure something out. And then, another window opened.
My close military friend that I met my first year in Korea was living with her family in San Antonio. She was being redirected by the Army to El Paso but she and her husband decided they didn’t want to move their kids again. Long story very short: They needed a nanny and couldn’t really afford one.
They offered me a free place to live, a free car and car insurance, and free meals to help take care of their kids. The husband’s mother-in-law was also living in their home to help, so it would be a joint responsibility between her and I the majority of the time.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay down debt and, hopefully, save a little money. I still had dreams of leaving the U.S. and living more “nomadic” life. I moved into their home in March 2018. Things started out okay – there were some bumps, of course – but it didn’t take long for it to feel like a train wreck.
Long story short, living with the mother-in-law and attempting to “co-parent” with her was a nightmare. To top that off, I was still dealing with my awful job and boss while trying to get some of my own content written for my own business by freelancers I had worked with in the past. I was treading water and getting nowhere, and still incredibly unhappy.
Korea Called… Again
I escaped San Antonio for a few days and went to be with my BFF in Orlando, Florida for a week over the Independence Day holiday. While there, I received a message from a previous coworker in Korea asking if I would consider returning to my old job.
At first, I laughed. I showed my BFF and said, “Of course this happens! I can’t go back there!”
He said, “Why not? I’ve been leaving jobs and cities for the last 4 years and going back to them and getting a better deal when I return. Why can’t you?”
I started to think long and hard about it because the truth was, I had been pining for Korea for months. I missed my life here.
“Take steps forward, not back…”
I have always had this thought in my head that I can’t return to a place I’ve already lived or take a job I already had. In my mind, it was like “going backward” – a failure.
I felt like when I left Korea for what I thought was the last time (as a legal resident, at least), that going back there would mean that somehow, I failed. And the worst part was that I felt like I already had failed.
I hadn’t started the business I dreamed I would start. I wasn’t successful like I wanted to be.
I was fat and tired and depressed and stressed and dying to whip my passport back out.
I was miserable living in San Antonio and working for that guy and I had to admit, the universe was giving me “an out.” All I had to do was take it.
Within three days of that initial message from my coworker, I had re-accepted my previous job in Daegu, South Korea, with a small raise and promise of a better apartment. I went back to San Antonio the following week and immediately started the long and tedious process to renew my visa.
Once I had confirmation that my visa was approved about 3 weeks later, I gave two weeks notice to my insane boss who, in his response, made it abundantly clear that I was of little value to him as a person or employee. I felt so free, it was crazy.
I spent the next two weeks balancing the rest of my work responsibilities, packing up, giving things away, and moving out. I spent my last week in the Americas back in Dallas with my bestie and then, On August 31, I boarded a flight to Seoul. I spent the weekend in my new apartment and started work right away on Monday.
It seemed like I had just been gone on a long vacation and it felt so good.
Thanks for reading!
Some stories take a long time to tell and I’m just getting started describing my long absence from my blog. This week’s story is the foundational “background info” for what’s to come. Check back to get the rest of the story! Big things are in store for A Little Bit Brave in 2019 and beyond.