August 27, 2016
Today is my birthday, and it is also the one year anniversary of being fired from Yachay; and therefore, the anniversary of being pushed off the cliff of normality/paycheck-job-security and into this entrepreneur’s life.
What a year it has been! Last year this time, I was at a lost. I didn’t know what to do after being fired unexpectedly in the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. My housing was connected to my English teaching job, which meant I was looking at joblessness and homelessness without any prior notice. (Contrary to movies, gringos can fire you without every communicating in a verbal or written from that your personality is problematic.)
My mom suggested moving back home to L.A. I told her that wasn’t even an option. After spending a hard year and a half living with my mom prior to moving to Ecuador to teach, I knew I was too grown to live with my mom. So my mom & bro told me the reality of the situation– “Make it work!” Then they asked me what I needed to do to make it work. I told them two things– I needed to find a new apartment and open my teahouse. And it was really that simple. Find an apartment with hot water for daily showers, and open my teahouse business. And that is how I went forward with my two businesses, Mama California Tea House and Global English Made Simple – GEMS.
As I searched for a new apartment, I visited a Spanish friend’s apartment. (He was returning to Spain after a year of teaching at Yachay.) In his apartment, he asked me, “Why were you fired?” I told my “please-feel-sorry-for-me” story of being fired without warning and for being too educated, too black and too female. (There is plenty of evidence to back up this story.)
Then the Spaniard asked, “What did you learn from being fired from Yachay?” I said, “Huh?” I had never thought about what I was supposed to learn nor the role I played in being fired. I was caught up in telling my pobrecita-victim-story of being fired. But his question halted that storyline. He made me reflect on the role that I had played in being fired and focus on the more important story that I was to learn from this life event. As Oprah says, when something bad happens, ask you self, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”
After thinking, I realized being fired taught me that when life/God tells me to move forward on faith, I must flow with life and develop faith as I step forward onto the unknown path. I knew I hated working for an incompetent person who had disrespected me and labeled my ambitions to be great as problematic. Not to mention the ongoing favoritism in the department. But like the majority of workers/instructors/administrators at Yachay, I was unhappy but staying for the paycheck.
By the time my birthday had arrived, I had accomplished my three goals of working at Yachay, yet I was too scared to leave and start my entrepreneurial life. I knew I had no business experience, no cafe/teahouse experience, and no partner to fall back on. It was me, my ideas and my money. So I said, “Naw God! I’m not ready to leave this paycheck job. I need one more semester of shit work on the plantation, so I can secure my financial cushion.” But God said, “Leave Yachay! Leap and let faith float you.”
Even in the days after being fired, my faith was still struggling to emerge. But now, a year later, I’m 100% sure my firing was a result of life telling me to be the best you can be; leave the flock and create your own piece of the “American Dream.”
So now when I speak of getting fired, I speak my truth: Life fired me from Yachay because I was too scared to step out on faith as an entrepreneur; I knew that paycheck-job was over after I accomplished my three goals (get a professional work visa, get my cedula, and present at PeruTESOL conference). But I doubted my ability to really live out my entrepreneurial dreams. Yes, I had watched the YouTube videos, so I knew people spoke about the fear that hinders most of us. But there was a video that I hadn’t watched prior to being fired. That video featured a successful entrepreneur speaking on seeing the fear and walking through it to reach your goal. (It would take me eight months of working to realize the reality of walking through fear to begin to touch a goal.) I did hear people speak about the reality of being able to make something out of nothing. But I still didn’t believe that truth could be my personal truth.
In being fired, I fed myself those motivational videos on YouTube. Every morning while getting dressed, I watched a video. While cleaning up my teahouse, I listened to a business school lecture. I built my belief in self and confidence in self one YouTube video at a time. Now I can look back on my firing and know without a doubt the best decision in my life was not begging some Southern male to continue working on the plantation. (Yachay is on a former plantation.) The best decision was allowing life to take me to that promise land of entrepreneurship.
A former colleague told me the night that I was in shock of being fired that I needed to go home and cry. But I have not once cried over Yachay, the manner in which I was fired and the shadiness of my former boss. There is nothing to cry over. When something is over, it’s over and you keep it moving. This is what my year in Ecuador as an entrepreneur has taught — leave when life tells you to leave. Don’t fight life because life will always win. Thus, it is time for me to exit Ibarra. It is time for me to take my gringo ideas to a more gringo-friendly city – -Otavalo. On Monday the search for a location in Otavalo begins. (Even if it doesn’t work out in Ecuador, there is always Seoul and a normal teaching job. And have I mentioned that I love Seoul? Great city.)
I am truly grateful for Ibarra and Caranqui for a year of developing my ideas as a newbie business owner of a teahouse. This location was perfect for allowing me to figure out my ideas and business vision. As I tell people, this year as an entrepreneur was cheaper than a MBA program. I had never worked in a cafe/teahouse before. I had only visited them. Yes, my year in Caranqui-Ibarra has done me well and set me up to create my tea franchise and writing career.