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Navigating Non-Conformity • How I Re-invented my Career + Business Identities 16 Times (Part 1)
Navigating Non-Conformity • How I Re-invented my Career + Business Identities 16 Times (Part 2)

As far back as I can remember, around 4-5 years old, all I ever wanted was to get out. Out of what or where, I didn't know. But all I've ever yearned for was to be free. After many Dark Nights of the Soul and mystical experiences, I can assure you that freedom isn't for sissies.

I don't know about other galaxies, but here on Earth, navigating non-conformity and becoming free requires a soul with stamina. There is a high price to pay for freedom, but the reward is so great. An insanely high price, but a reward that is beyond words can capture.

To inspire you to make brave leaps of faith, examine your choices with wonder, and surrender to the unfolding of your unique path.

Growing up in a Taiwanese immigrant family, we were given four career choices: doctor, lawyer, finance, or failure. You pick. Because my dad was a mechanical engineer, I was given some leeway to chose between: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or failure.

Since, I've navigated 16 career and identity re-inventions, many would fall under "failure" category according to Chinese cultural indoctrination. I've landed jobs and opened businesses that I couldn't even dream of. I've also quit jobs and shut down businesses that others only dream of. I'm as shocked as anyone that I'm still alive.

May these stories of blindly following breadcrumb trails, examining my decisions with a fine tooth comb, and rumbling with letting go, fears and criticisms inspire you to make brave leaps of faith, examine your choices with wonder, and surrender to the unfolding of your unique path.

I also scored each career and identity re-invention with:

  • a grit score - the amount of stamina, perseverance, resiliency, blood, sweat, and tears required to arrive at a new career identity
  • a grace score - the amount of surrender, faith, magic, trust, serendipity, and ease that lead me to a career re-invention

Identity no. 1 • Computer Teacher

Breadcrumb Trail • My high school hired me to be their after school computer teacher for the elementary school class, aka babysitter, because I scored 129% in my programming class and was the only one to graduate the computer science track, with a final average of 109%. It was surely cheaper to hire me than an adult or a licensed professional :P

Grit: 9/10 | Grace: 4/10

Retrospective Awe • IT was booming. I was only 15 and paid work landed on my doorstep. I could have quite school and started a business out of my parents basement. Everyone needed help with websites or computers.

Letting Go / Walking Away • Programming and IT was fascinating on my own terms. But as soon as I was commissioned and paid to churn out code, the work got so dry, boring, lifeless and torturous. Soulless 1's and 0's, ugh. Teaching IT was even more boring, especially to kids or students who had to be there because their parents paid for that course or because it's a required class to graduate their program.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

I didn't have any fear, nor feel any fear. I think I was too young and unaware of the tremendous burden placed on my shoulders and sheer volume of suffering that was to come.

Critics Corner

Other than being constantly bullied by the "mean girls" (who also happened to have the worst grades), I was too invisible to attract any other criticism

Greatest takeaways • Just start. Start with whatever is right in front of you, whatever is offered to you. I worked my ass off to get earn that offer, so I'll take it! Never did I ever imagine that designing my first teaching curriculum would lead me to my Unleash Your Masterclass signature program, where I teach others how to create a masterclass curriculum, 21 years later.

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Even as a teenager, I was a trustworthy teacher, always prepared curriculum in advance, and nurtured my students with loving patience and delicate care. It'd be another 23 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Sage and Nurturer. Who knew?!?



Identity no. 2 • Web Developer

Breadcrumb Trail • Through computer science classes, I fell in love with game design and animation. Give me a Pentium I and GFA Basic and I'll immerse you in a world of awe and childhood glee, with a game I built called "<YourFirstName> Phone Home". You're a chubby little alien trying to outrun "Men in Black" in corn fields, win at Blackjack to collect a radio antenna, and 'pew-pew' shoot down government spaceships with a joystick, to get back home. God, I loved that game! Lost all sense of time and space creating the story board, the visual design, the intelligent programming and each animated adventure. (I'm kinda surprised I never went into animation...)

Add Netscape 4.0 and chirping dial-up modems into the picture and I transferred that passion to web design. I made so many website from pure passion, pure creativity that people started paying me for a website of their own.

Grit: 2/10 | Grace: 7/10

Retrospective Awe • I taught myself HTML and CSS at 14, then learned C, C++, Javascript at school. Then I became proficient at PHP, jQuery and MySQL because why not. I could program from 5pm, when I got home from school, until 2am without batting an eyelash. I was so enthralled by how English alphabets and a few math symbols strung together could create commands that accomplished tasks and visual animation. I even invented my own full-length animated computer game. As a player, even with all the answers to unlock each level of the game, it'd take me 5-7 hours to finish the game. So it'd probably take you weeks, if not months, to finish that game I made called "ET Phone Home". Writing code came easy to me once I figured out the mathematics of it.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. My doctor alerted me multiple times of my spinal curvature that would eventually lead to scoliosis, due to long hours hunched over the computer. Eventually, the chronic spasms between my shoulder blades, coupled with an insane academic load and extracurricular classes, forced me to stop programming.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Fear of not being able to save up enough money to retire my parents and pay my siblings tuition, while saving for my own university tuition and retirement (I was 15 and this is the kind of worry and sleepless nights I'd have... sigh.)

Tug of war between settling down at the tender age of 15 as a work ox / ATM machine vs. finishing high school + graduating university (which no woman in my lineage had done before me) to explore my professional options before settling down as a work ox / ATM machine

Critics Corner

You should be churning out more websites and faster! Your parents aren't getting any younger. It's your duty as the eldest son. But since you came out a daughter, you must produce 10X more to compensate for your non-ideal gender. You are not enough until you do.

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Back then, I viewed my role as championing the underdog, showcasing their talent to the world, at an affordable rate, so that the "little people" felt like they mattered. It'd be another 21 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Heroine and Humanitarian. Who knew?!?


Identity no. 3 • Industrial Machinist

Breadcrumb Trail • Naturally drawn to structures and systems, I joined a robotics club. I was the only gal in the group and our mentor, at the machine shop where we made robot parts [lol! what a funny phrase to say], pulled me out of the crowd. He taught me how to lathe a stainless steel coupling. Mine turned out better than his, hehe, so he hired me to work for McGill University full-time, during the summer. I got to work with VERY expensive CNC machinery, on multi-million dollar aerospace projects. So cool!!! We are friends until this day, over 20 years later! No connections in high places, I wasn't high ranking person's daughter or rich person's niece. I was chosen out of pure raw talent, trustworthiness and dexterity.

Grit: 2/10 | Grace: 8/10

Retrospective Awe On my first try, after our mentor did a demo of how to make an aluminum coupling to attach a gear to a motor, I aced it. It was like I was born for it. I paid attention to detail, I was very dexterous and had great finesse and patience. The coupling that I made fit so well onto the motor shaft, down to the micrometer, that it made a suction sound when I attached it. My coupling turned out way better than our mentor's demo coupling, hehehe. My talent spread so fast that graduate and post-doc students flocked to either teach them or make parts for them. Some professors also got on board and hired me. I did so well that a paycheck or two were doubled! After two years, a mentor suggested that I not bother with university and to directly work with his company (at the 7-figure level). We even offered to make me his personal apprentice and leave me the business in about 10 year's time when he retired. I hadn't even started university yet!!! It was also the first and last time my dad ever said her was proud of me, "That's my daughter!" because he was also a mechanic / machinist and I was walking in his footsteps. Even though I had never done this job, there was zero doubt that I could. There's nothing new and fascinating that I can't learn.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. If you think paper cuts hurt, imagine hot metal cuts! Time moved in slow motion on day as I sat on the bus to go to work: I looked down at my hands and had bandages on 9 out of 10 fingers. I was never ever a "girly girl," but I didn't want to have burly man hands either. I didn't want to constantly smell like industrial coolant, with gunk under my nails that only gasoline could remove. In an over-simplified, I didn't want to be my dad. This job would have been puuuuuurfect for him. But not for me, I was so young, with so much life ahead to explore.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Fear of being ostracized, "What if the boys get jealous and kick me out of the team?"

After being ostracized, foggy confusion as to what I did wrong?

It'd be another 17 years before I learned the term "smart shaming" where jealous peer hack you down to size for being too smart, too accomplished, to naturally talented at everything you touch, instead of building themselves up and cultivating their own talent

Weekly joy of making stuff, which only made certain peers more envious and ostracizing

Incomprehensible, naive questioning why I'm being attacked when my supervisor was the one who chose and hired me (I didn't even apply or ask for the job)

Critics Corner

Jealous peers ostracized me completely me overnight.

You think you're special because you got the job out of all of us?

So your dad's profession isn't good enough for you?

Do you not realize the profitability of 7-figure even 8-figure contracts you could have?

Sacred Brand Archetypes

I was in awe that my own two hands could shape raw metals into practical couplings, gears and levers to join two disparate parts together. I just adored making things that ended with "tada!" It'd be another 20 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Alchemist and Artist. Who knew?!?



Identity no. 4 • Banking Officer

Breadcrumb Trail • Blood, sweat and tears. Maintaining straight A's, leading innumerous philanthropic projects, and making historic wins at national and international science + tech competitions earned me a full four-year scholarship to university, as well as three work-terms at a bank. Career 180! I took the job, thinking this was my ONE chance to become the BEST white man I could be, the BEST eldest son that my dad expected me to be.

Grit: 10/10 | Grace: 6/10

Name that fear • "What if dad disowns me because I didn't stay in tech to create and sell the next Yahoo or Youtube for millions like he wanted me to?" Fear of criticism, fear of being ostracized, and fear of loss of love and safety.

Retrospective Awe • I contributed so richly to my bank during our national merger that they personally requested me for a second term. I was ultra organized, trustworthy, light hearted and dependable. I had a finesse with staff and customers. Within days, I learned everything there was to know about personal finance, mortgages and basic investments. Fellow peers who got their foot in the door through the same way rose to senior manager and even Vice President positions within 4-5 years. For the first time in my life, I had connections in "high places," with supervisors who legitimately liked and respected me. I could have glided seamlessly to the very top. I was even offered a position in the international division from a global competitor bank without even an interview because my reputation proceeded me..

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. I declined the third work-term as well as the global offer, which were practically free money falling from the sky, for super easy work that I could do with my eyes closed. I defied the Asian indoctrination that shackled me into 4 career options: doctor, lawyer, finance or failure, ie money, money, money or failure. I saw clear as day how the banking system lulled people into debt, teaching them nothing about wealth creation. Working at a branch also showed me how the adgage of "customers are always right" is such BS. Until then, I'd never met so many whiny, disempowered adults, with such poverty consciousness, blaming the bank for their own disorganization, procrastination or lack of foresight. It was like having an 8-lane red carpet boulevard, with rows and rows of green lights laid out in front of me. But I couldn't. I didn't want to. That wasn't my path. I knew that if I took it, I would cry myself to my grave, tears of boredom and soul aridity.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Dread from never hearing the end of it from the critics for leaving a perfectly good money job (in a culture where money is the only measure of success and self-worth)

Worry that my scholarship sponsor will think I'm not grateful for the opportunity

Foggy disbelief that I'm throwing away such a straight path / ladder to the top

Pride that I was able to pass this opportunity on to a family member who benefited greatly

Tingly knowing that working in a branch was not related to wealth cultivation

Critics Corner

WTF are you doing in banking, didn't you get an engineering degree?

When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?

Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?

Why can't you settle down like the rest of us?

Why do you have to change all the time?

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Interestingly, banking didn't draw out my Ruler. Instead, every customer felt so cherished while interacting with me. They knew I was just the girl next door, with a sunny disposition, who'd keep their money safe and sound. It'd be another 19 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Nurturer and Humanitarian. Who knew?!?


Identity no. 5 • Aerospace Engineer

Breadcrumb Trail • Not yet knowing about introversion, I went back to the sciences thinking, "I'm not a people person. Keep the whinny customers as far away from me as possible." Thanks to tons of extracurricular leadership roles, my work with Engineers Without Borders on the United Nation's Millenium Development Goals, and an impeccable academic record, I earned 3 prestigious fellowships for women in S.T.E.M at Canada's national research institutes. "FINALLY!!! A perk for being a woman, ONE single perk! Woot woot!" I thought. I moved from East to West coast, worked at an astrophysics research lab, perched on a mountain, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and lakes. My fellows and I had sooo much fun together, BBQs and hikes on the weekends, and using million-dollar telescopes to watch the meteor showers.

Grit: 16/10 | Grace: 5/10

Retrospective Awe • There are at least 2, maybe even 5, telescopes out there with custom designed metal parts or glass lenses that I made with my two bare hands. Someone out there is able to study the cosmos thanks to these two hands. How cool is that?!? I could fluently speak design and manufacturing, which is so rare in engineering. I also fluently spoke electrical and mechanical, which is just as rare. I had this genius within me, I could have made this an incredible career.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. I kept the awe of the cosmos in my heart, but I left the pure and applied sciences because I couldn't stand being micro-managed by old white men who treated me like a secretary or who were threatened by my talent, had no emotional nor social intelligence and deeply lack leadership, passion and vision. My boss's boss was generally pretty cool, but my direct report (with one exception) not so much.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Hopeless despair that even the coolest subfield of S.T.E.M. was not fulfilling to me

Despressive confusion as not know what would fulfill me

Anger at myself, "Why can't I just pick this, stick to this, and call it a day?!?"

Fear of a never ending stream of lame bosses

Fear of constant uphill battle with an impenetrable "Boys Club"

Titanic pressure to chose a specialty, get a high paying job and retire my parents within a one year window

Listlessness from being surrounded by listless colleagues

Fear of being controlled and perpetually patronized

Fear of never having my talents acknowledged or rewarded

Fear of constantly having to push paperwork to secure funding

Critics Corner

Why don't you just stay the course in engineering?

You could have a great career and earn one extra week of vacation after 10 years of service like us?

When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?

Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?

Why do you keep shifting. Just pick one and stick to it FFS!

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Even though I couldn't articulate it at the time, I felt like a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, tinkering with software and hardware, playing detective with the cosmos, through experimentation and scientific rigor. It'd be another 15 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Explorer and Sage. Who knew?!?


Identity no. 6 • Energy Researcher

Breadcrumb Trail • Though both of my previous fellowship placements were in aerospace engineering, I used my last one to safely try a new field. I always loved the ocean, whales, the environment. I'm an avid minimalist with a super low carbon footprint. My dissertation project in junior college was on energy efficiency. My proudest volunteer project was related to solar energy. Yes, I think I could become a tree hugger!

Grit: 7/10 | Grace: 3/10

Retrospective Awe •  I self-taught and setup very expensive and sensitive monitoring equipment. I wrote and tested algorithms and collected tons of data on energy saving initiatives, from solar panels, to glass window composition, to smart sensors. I studied the data and converted them to financial savings to inspire people or companies to switch to these energy saving devices or materials. It was tedious work, but I was driven by a purpose to treat Earth the way it deserved to be treated: consciously and wholesomely. My supervisor even offered me a full-time work term after graduation. I declined.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. I mean, who does that? Who declines job offers? I was more and more realizing that "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." Just because I was capable, even passionate and talented about the environment, doesn't mean I should pursue a full-time career in it. Things might have been different if I were working withing a corporate setting, but I was working with government and oh my god are they sloooooow to take action. Endless debating, with near zero action. The work was luxuriously peaceful for my introverted soul, but also incredibly dull and isolating. Though my inner hermit wanted to hold on to it, research wasn't for me. It was not fulfilling.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Fear of not making a big enough impact or a meaningful enough legacy

Mild shame at not fitting the "tree hugger" archetype to fully dive into this career

Fear of perpetual lab rat loneliness

Fear of research never turning into concrete, tangible application

Agony of having to start all over from scratch at the bottom of the ladder in a new field

Pain of lost time and of sunk cost

Pride at not having told anyone about this career change to minimize criticism

Dread of having to write endless grant applications for funding

Multi-potential identity crisis of "I could do anything, if only I knew what it was!?!"

Critics Corner

FFS what now?!? You invested 9.5 years of training in becoming an electrical / mechanical / computer engineer and now you want to go hug trees?

When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?

Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?

You are hopeless. You'll never amount to anything.

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Only in retrospect was I able to see why I was so drawn to a career 180: I felt the deep calling to stand up and advocate for Mother Earth with sincere belief that I could make it shiny and new again. It'd be another 15 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Humanitarian and Innocence. Who knew?!?


Identity no. 7 • Systems Designer

Breadcrumb Trail • I earned another "Women in S.T.E.M." leadership award, which came with a seasonal contract at Canada's premier engineering firm. When I returned from my 11-country around-the-world trip, I reached out to them, and they offered me a full-time position in any of their national offices. I took the opportunity to move across the country to where it no longer snowed in winter. As long as it wasn't dry, lonely research, I had every hope that it'd be big thinking, large scale projects, from inception to design to manufacturing to testing to launch.

Grit: 12/10 | Grace: 2/10

Retrospective Awe • Everything I had worked for, in science honors programs, at national robotics competitions, and at international science fairs, was leading me to the top of Everest. I had designed micro-chips from scratch, could compute Calculus IV in my head, and could master any software you threw at me in under a week. I had FINALLY made it! Because of my previous internship with this engineering firm, I was offered a full-time position, paid at $42,000/year, without even an interview! I was assigned to work on the electronic communication systems for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics skytrain. I gotta admit, being at the ribbon cutting ceremony and leaving that kind of legacy sounded super cool.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. After 3 days of work, when the novelty of upgrading from poor starving student to full-time paid professional wore off, I started to feel a heavy in my walk. With every passing day, my feet felt like bigger and bigger cement blocks (you know, the ones used to anchor picnic parasols). I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. I spend my day being treated like a secretary, by boring old, white men. Then got home around 6pm just to crawl into bed. My life felt like I was inserting needles under my fingernails every morning, taking them out every night for a short reprieve, and knowing they'd be re-inserted the next day... and every weekday after that. My boss's boss was pretty cool, but my direct boss whom I'd work with 95% of the time was regularly threatened by my talent and speed. He also got paid double for taking credit for my work, oh hell no! Worst of all, I'd have to sell 10 years of my life to this company just to earn a third week of vacation. Ten effing years!!! I was on a 90-day probation, meaning they could fire without notice and I could leave without notice. I made it to day 89 and... <insert drum roll> I resigned. ONE day before the golden handcuffs went on.

It be another 12 years before I'd stumble on The Heroine's Journey on a friend's bookshelf and learn of the term "soul aridity." That is what I was feeling. There's a name for it! I could have stayed at that job, with golden cuffs on, but I'm 100% certain that soul aridity would have turned into mental illness and/or physical cancer. I'm 100% sure. I had no clue back this is how our soul communicated with us, through feelings of expansive freedom or contracted imprisonment.

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Agony of accepting sunken cost (I spent 10 years of blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights working for this holy grail that now feels like a prison sentence)

Hopelessness and dread of being stuck in a listless future (even if I applied to different companies, I already knew that any role would be the same prison, just different jail cell)

Terror of not knowing how I'd to pay for my younger siblings' tuition and retire my parents in comfort by my 24th birthday

Sorrow of knowing even if I fully provided for my family, there'd be no energy, time or money left to take care of my own well-being, security, and retirement

Torment of mental war: if I choose filial piety (being a subservient daughter and ATM machine), then my soul dies; if I choose my soul, then my family dies

Grief of knowing that I have to be the best father, mother, husband, and wife to myself and to my family because no one else will

Deep depression after not being shown an ounce of gratitude for moving my family across the country, buying my parents' a home, and retiring them in comfort by 24 (but was definitely criticized for lacking to provide a 4th bedroom and a full-size garage)

Grief in letting of wanting dad's validation knowing I'll never get it

Fear of being perceived a an "ungrateful little bitch" for leaving this good job that I got even without an interview

Critics Corner

You know what the problem with you is? You're too ambitious. [They said it as if ambition was a disease or plague.]

You know what the problem with you is? You think you're better than us. [I don't think that. You think that. You put yourself in the "less than" box, not me.]

You know what the problem with you is? You won't settle down. You'll never get anywhere at this rate. [Actually, the problem with me is... YOU.]

You finally have a full-time, long-term grown-up 9-to-5 job. Why can't you be satisfied with that?

When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?

Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?

[With constant, daily reinforcement that there was a problem with me, it is no wonder I needed $100,000 in coaching, therapy and healing arts.]

Sacred Brand Archetypes

Even though I had the same training as my peers, I saw how outdated the system we worked and lived in were. All I wanted was to break the shackles of conformity and gather my people for a revolt against "the man." Who knew that a job could stir such cataclismic inner evolution! It'd be another 14 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Ruler and Maverick. Who knew?!?


Identity no. 8 • International Aid Worker

Breadcrumb Trail • I drifted for months in utter shock and disbelief, "How could a decade of shoving needles under my finger nails to earn straight A's so I could earn $80,000 in scholarships and internships to pay my way through university, while financially supporting my family of 5, lead to a holy grail job that made me feel like I was dying, every single day?!?" It'd be another 7 years before I'd learn the gravity of the chemical, emotional and spiritual depression I had sunken in to. With the excess adrenaline and cortisol running through my veins, from knowing from a very young age that my family would die from shame and starvation (but mostly shame) if I didn't succeed, I managed to sift through job banks and find a generic position with a women's rights organization in New York City. S.T.E.M. had "failed" me, so I figured, at this point, I'll just throw random spaghetti at random walls. I passed the first two rounds of interviews and they even paid to fly me to their NYC office for a final interview. Once I got there, and was deafened by the screaming babies brought to work and barking pets running through my legs, I went home and cried myself to sleep for 6 months straight. "Oh, hell no, I am not trading one hell for another hell."

A mentor, whom I met 6 years prior, called out of the blue. As we reminisced about the good old days, she helped me remember a time of laughter, team spirit, creativity, adventure, play and fulfilling work. She suggested I visit another mentor, now living in the mountains. Though money was super, super, super tight, I found myself floating into the computer, bypassing all sense of rationality, buying a ticket and heading to the mountains. Spending those precious days in the crisp air, being seen, acknowledged, and championed yanked me out of my depression. I did an inventory of my multiple language skills, love of travel, international experiences, and leadership skills and decided on a career in the "doing good" industry.

Grit: 3/10 | Grace: 10/10

Retrospective Awe • I stumbled upon this overseas position 3 days before the application deadline. I met every criteria, including age (under 30), being trilingual and having both e-learning and leadership skills. What were the chances?!? The day after the deadline, I got a call for an interview. The following weekend, I had an in-person screening. And 8 days later I was being flown across the country to the last training of the year. I breezed through the entire process. Even police checks, vaccinations, insurance, and paperwork came through so quickly that the officers working at each location commented, "Wow, this document is never ready this fast" or "Wow, this appointment is never available on such short notice."

A month and a half later, I was on a 35hr flight from Vancouver to London to Nairobi (Kenya) to Bujumbura (Burundi) to Kigali, Rwanda. I'd be managing a team of 4, bridging the Western world with the East African world through e-education. I mean, is there anything more rewarding than empowerment through education? It felt so good to follow my heart, for the first time ever, into a meaningful and humanitarian profession. I just wanted to do good. I just wanted to be free from the profession that was expected of me. I found some kindred spirits there, some of the most generous, warm, and inviting women I've ever met. They took such great care of me. I had a 3 bedroom house and regular fun visits from colleagues when they came into the capital.

Letting Go / Walking Away • But I let it all go. I cared soooooo much about capacity building and sustainable change, but no one else on my local team did. It was challenging to teach and train a team on e-learning when we often didn't have power. Turns out, we just didn't have a designated person to turn on the generator. And when I suggested we assign someone, heck, I'll do it!, I was shot down as fast as a cream pie falls face down off the window ledge. On days when we did have power, I did an hour training and my colleagues wasted the rest of the day away watching episodes of American TV shows. Ugh, so depressing. Months passed, nothing changed. Living without running water, electricity, nor refrigeration was cute for a while, you know, to read by candle light and sleep with the natural rhythm of the sun. But I couldn't bare to watch my talents and passion for service atrophy like this. So I ended the contract 1 month early. It's not like that month would have made any difference. And I need high speed internet to thrive, who are we kidding here?!?

Fears / Emotional Rumble

Daily agony of watching my talents go to waste

Fear of not actualizing my fullest potential

Suffocated by bureaucracy and broken systems, unable to be of service or make a lasting contribution to society

Self-doubt: For the first time ever, I followed my heart when making career decisions. This didn't work out, so does that mean I can't trust my heart to decide what's best?

Lost and confused at how else to have a meaningful career that does good

Fear of poverty, ie falling prey to the narrative that I have to be poor to do good (aka Mother Theresa syndrome)

Fear of disloyalty: that my peers in the field will think that I abandoned them

Courage to speak up, end the contract, and not waste funds on keeping me on staff when there is no growth nor deliverables

Grateful for the clarity that my place is in international headquarters, not in field work

Hyper grateful for the international experience and career booster to "manager" level

Critics corner

You walked away from a lucrative, well established grown-up careers, with stable paychecks? You are certifiably insane.

How dare you abandoning us to trot off to Africa?!?

Who will be your parents' ATM now? Who will pay their mortgage? Who will be their retirement savings account?

You're such a failure. Why couldn't you become the perfect eldest son, Silicon Valley white boy you were supposed to be?!?

When are you getting married? What is wrong with you?

Why haven't you pumped out 2.5 kids yet? What is wrong with you?

Why can't you settle down like the rest of us?

(When I left this career)

Now look at you, you're as black [from sun tan] as those Africans! [I swear, the critics are vicious with their unawakened souls!]

See, we told you it wouldn't work out.

You should have just stayed at your 9-5 job.

Why do you always have to be different.

Sacred Brand Archetypes

I so wanted to be a bridge and a voice for the "Third World" and create lasting change through capacity building, so that together we can all rise up from the hand that we were dealth into a better future. It'd be another 13 years before I understood the nature of my soul, expressing itself organically, beyond my control, through the Sacred Brand Archetypes of Humanitarian and Heroine. Who knew?!?

Unfolding Destiny • I couldn't understand how a path that seemed so destined, paved with serendipitous timing, ease and flow, with door after door flung wide open for me, would turn out not to be my path... Perhaps it was the earthquake I needed to rumble my world upside down and yank me out of a 9-month silent depression. Perhaps it was meant to seed in me the knowing that no matter where I go, sisterhood would be be there to embrace me. It was only 3 months later when I landed a dream job in NYC that I realized how much this managerial role legitimized and fast-tracked my professional identity. In less 16 months, I went from "undergraduate student" to "web manager."


Part 2 continued next week...


The sooner you begin again, the sooner you get there anew.
– Ellany Lea

With infinite grace,

xo, Ella

ellany writer fountain penInspiring Stories of Surrender,
Reclamation and Freedom

Practical tools on how to navigate identity crises, creativity and lifestyle freedom through joy, grit and grace.


Author • Ellany Lea is a success coach, master freedompreneur, and modern mystic. She writes about collecting the 4 types of knowing as a pathway to total freedom.