English as a foreign or second language

I’ve got a case of the doubts.

Lately I’ve been feeling guilty and confused. I set out on this HeSo Project in an effort to make my happiness and fulfillment a priority. I wanted to find a job that satisfied me spiritually as well as financially. I wanted to challenge myself to be creative and take risks. I assumed this meant being an entrepreneur.

I certainly felt creative and challenged while starting BeddyBye. I learned so much about creating an LLC, and dealing with internet business. I took courses in starting a small business. I hired a consultant to figure out the logistics of working with plastic. I made countless sketches, revised the design, and made four different prototypes. I was talking to safety engineers and manufacturing experts. It really felt like it was going to happen. Then…I lost interest (or perhaps confidence). The steamroller of doubt squashed this dream.

Every expert I spoke with told me I needed over 100k just to get started, and that there was really no way to dip my toes in the water when it came to manufacturing – especially when your making a device for babies. A part of me would like to sell the idea one day to a baby product company, so that’s making me feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Actually no part of me feels like it was a waste of time. I learned a ton from that experience.

But then, when I was trying to come up with the next venture for the HeSo project, I called up an old friend to see if I could sub a few hours a week at her  school just so I wasn’t going through my entire savings.

Four years ago I was an English as a second (ESL) teacher and I absolutely loved it. The only reason why I quit was because I wasn’t making enough money. What added insult to injury was that the school was grooming me for a promotion, but it turned out that the promotion, although it was a great title, included a pay cut! That’s when I started working for my mom. I made tons of money but I was absolutely uninterested in what I was doing.

Well the subbing quickly turned into full time teaching. It’s an incredibly exhausting job, I’m working so much harder than I’m used to, and waking up earlier than I want to, and just barely making enough to pay the bills…but I love it. I come home full of stories. My students make me laugh all the time. I love the routine of work, I know I’m an amazing teacher, and I like being a part of a big team. Call me crazy but I actually like making a small salary. It’s making me appreciate the few things I do end up buying.

So here’s where the guilt comes in:

I feel like I set such a high bar for myself and I’m falling short. Of course my priority was to be happy, and I am. So shouldn’t that be enough? But another part of me thinks I should be doing more. A part of me thinks I’m not living up to my potential.

Yesterday one of my co-teachers said it was her 3 year anniversary of teaching at the school. I congratulated her, but she said she thought it was the saddest thing ever. She got into it just to pay the rent while she was auditioning for acting rolls. She said it was like she had become a career waiter. It made me wonder if I’m settling. Then that made me wonder if I’m letting someone else’s opinion taint my happiness.

I haven’t really come to a conclusion. I just wanted to get that off my chest. Any thoughts?

Lessons for a Teacher

I’ve started my 8th week of teaching English as a second language (ESL) and I’m learning a lot. (This is not new for me – I was en ESL teacher three years ago, and I taught ESL in Mozambique for 7 months). One of my favorite parts about teaching ESL is that I get to learn so much about the world without leaving home. Every class feels like a visit to a hostel in Europe. I teach adults, so I get to teach classes about alcohol, or picking up people at a bar. My students come from all over, and every class we spend time sharing about our own cultures. Here are some interesting things I’ve learned:

In Saudi Arabia, the sun is so intense that people replace the grass in their gardens 5-6 a year! While I knew that alcohol is forbidden, I learned that every town has a “foreign” compound where you can drink and do all sorts of sinful western things!

In Brazil, there’s a superstition that if you leave your purse on the floor you’ll have bad luck. However, if you put your purse on the floor of a rich home you’ll absorb some of the wealth. Also, it’s very common to have a housekeeper. Even housekeepers have housekeepers!

In Korea, they still use skin bleach. When I asked the students to talk about the first thing they will do when they get home, one Korean girl said she would lighten her skin. When I showed surprise the other Korean girls said it was common, and that freckles were not considered attractive. I’d be pretty ugly in Korea!

In Spain, the government pays for students to come to America or England to study English.

In Switzerland, you can opt out of the mandatory army, but you need to pay 3% of your salary from ages 18-33. If you’re unemployed, you still need to pay $400 a year.

I’ve learned a lot more, and I have students from many more countries, but those were just some of the stories that stood out to me. If anyone loves to travel, meet new people, and share about their culture, teaching ESL is a great job!

Financial Empty Calories

I’ve started to teach ESL again and I love it. At first I fell into the trap of comparing my new paycheck to my old paycheck. That is the worst thing I can do. There’s no point in comparing salaries between two completely unrelated jobs. You need to compare happiness, and satisfaction. At my old job, my only sense of satisfaction came from making money. When that’s the case, you need to keep making more and more money in order to feel satisfied. It’s like eating empty calories – there’s no substance.

Here’s a much better way of looking at it my new part time job: I’m getting paid to have fun. I really enjoy talking to my students, hearing about their cultures, and coming up with new ways of making the past perfect verb tense fun. Besides for the grammar, it’s a lot like hanging out at the hostel  when you’re backpacking and meeting people from all over the world.

If someone paid me to watch movies I love, I wouldn’t scoff at the paycheck, or compare it to how much I would get paid to do something I don’t like, I would say , “how did I get so lucky?

Am I trying to tell you money is bad? Hell no. I want to be able to travel all the time, and eat out at fancy restaurants, take taxis when my feet are hurting, and wear pretty clothes, and not have to worry about bills. I’m still working on my BeddyBye invention, and I hope it will make me a millionaire one day. The difference is that the money won’t be the only source of satisfaction – it will be a reward for my hard work, dedication, and risk-taking. But just knowing my product made one person’s life easier would be worth it too.

p.s. My main priory right now is finding a mentor to talk to. If anyone knows someone in the manufacturing world who would like to be a mentor, I’d love the connection!