What to do after your job sucked the life out of you [Interview with Liz Yim]

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Many people keep going, loyal to a job that is sucking the life out of them. When I walked into MLovewell a magical stationery store located in Santa Ana, California, I knew there was something special behind it.

It was my first time stepping into the store, really by chance, I just needed to kill time, but it was impossible not to read between the lines. I decided to interview the owner. Here is my conversation with Liz, Mlovewell’s co-owner, transcribe with heart. She was unhappy, her creativity was pretty much sucked dry, and her body was reacting with a terrible rash.

Interview

Andrea: Thanks for meeting with me, Liz. What I love about your store, is that you put together a creative outlet. With your workshops you are giving people the opportunity to slow down a little bit to think about what they want, what resonates with them, instead of just doing, doing, doing, right?

So you opened the shop two years ago. Right? and tell me again what were you doing before that. What was the path here?

How your young self can give you your life back - Andrea Bahamondes

Liz: I worked for a church for 10 years, a little over 10 years and it was fun at the beginning and then things started to get really difficult towards the end of the last couple years of being at the church and a lot of it was listening to people and their complaints about the church and how upset they were. At that point, I think it was sucking the life out of me and all the creativity was pretty much sucked dry.

Andrea: Wow!

Liz: I was really unhappy.

Andrea: What were you feeling like? What did you notice when you thought, “OK I’m just dying here.”

Liz: I think it was just this robotic feeling, I guess? You’re just kind of going through the motions you’re trying to get from one conversation to the next conversation without having some kind of a breakdown or getting super upset about something that someone said. I was reacting to the immediate things in front of my face and there was no room for anything else. There’s no room to hang out or a desire to even hang out with friends. Because I was so consumed by what’s happening at work.

Andrea: You said something very important, you were concerned with what’s in front of you…you can only see so far, there is no way to have a vision of what you want your life to be like.

Liz: There was this constant feeling that something was on fire and what do you do when something is burning down? Just imagine your house is burning down, there is no time for anything else, all you can do is put the fire out, that’s what it was like. And it wasn’t just me, it was other people also, the staff that I was working with, everyone around me was trying to do that, put out fires.

Andrea: Sadly many people feel like that at work, and I think that’s what brings them to the ground.  You are always turning off fires, there’s always something that needs your immediate attention, right? There’s never time for you.

Liz: And then you know, I can imagine someone that has a family, because I’m single but to be going through that and then also have a family, you have kids or you have a husband. Now not only you have all this stuff going on at work but then you have to take care of all these people too, so that is added to the load.

Andrea: Yeah, you are absolutely right. So you ended up quitting.

Liz: Yeah, the church ends up closing down.

Andrea: How long did it take you to realign? Because when you’re going so fast, you are so occupied with whatever is happening at that moment, it’s not immediately that you are able to think what’s next. It’s kind of shocking at first when you stop, right? What was that like, the transition between ending that job and the amazing business you created after.

Liz: Yeah, I mean at the point where it was pretty much official that the church was going to close down. I started thinking, ok, what am I going to do? There was like a physical reaction to the whole transition. I got eczema which I never had it before.

Andrea: Wow! Your body was paying the toll.

Liz: My body completely went into this rash, it was like crazy.

Andrea: For how long?

Liz:: It was like two and a half months, so I had to go see a doctor. It was very strange, I never had it before and I haven’t had it since. But I think it was because it was such a shock to my life and such a huge change from doing something that I was so invested in and consumed by for over ten years and then have it to suddenly kind of just stop, and then to have to figure out, what is it that I want to really do.

Andrea: Were you scared?

Liz: I was scared.

Andrea: What was your biggest fear?

Liz: I think it’s just this feeling of, should I…. and then not knowing what you should be doing? I didn’t want to just go and do whatever job, you know go back to teaching. That’s what I thought I was going to do because I was a teacher before I went to work for the church. So my first instinct was, oh I’ll just go back to teaching. But that wasn’t like what I really wanted to do. Then the fear of going into the unknown is never a fun one. 

I had this business idea, but I never owned a business before. I don’t know enough about business to be able to be successful. It takes money, we don’t have money. All these things I felt like were stacked up against us. My friend and I who started MLovewell we just felt like it was too much, too many hurdles to get over, but then I was like, I don’t want to go back to teaching.

Andrea: Okay, so your resistance to not go back was stronger than the fear.

Liz: Yeah. OK, so I think the biggest thing that got me from this kind of wavering back and forth, between should I get a stable job, or I should go to teaching or do something that I’m familiar with to going into the unknown and starting a business. It was just pure commitment at that point. It was like one day I told myself I’m committed to doing this, and it’s almost like this feeling of you burned the boat, you like traveled across, you get off and you burn the boat and you say you are not going back and I think that’s what helped me get to this place.

Andrea: I love that analogy! Burn the boat.

Your young self can give you purpose today - Andrea Bahamondes

Liz:  Yeah and I think that’s what helped me get to this place of, I’m doing this and I’m going to see it all the way through. My friend and I talked about what’s the worst that could happen? We played the worst case scenario. OK, we go into debt, like thousands and thousands of dollars. Ok, then go get a job and we’ll just pay it back. OK. That’s really the worst that can happen and so for us, that wasn’t even that bad (she laughs). It’s bad but it’s not like anyone is losing their lives, right? I’m not going to be sick in the hospital, the fears were not life ending.

Andrea: So you did it! You decided, you committed and what I know is that once you make that commitment things begin to happen, right?

Liz: Exactly!

Andrea: I mean, people say it all the time “Jump and the net will appear.”

Liz: That is so true! It was like every door started to open for us.

Andrea: No way!

Liz: So, we obviously had to do the work. You know, there’s work involved. There’s research, talking to a lot of people. There is everything that goes into this, it’s a major research project to launch a business. So we started with workshops first.

Andrea: But wait, so it wasn’t until you made that commitment that things began to roll, right?

Liz: Yes.

Andrea: And then you were just taken by it.

Liz: Yeah and we were like, let’s just go with it, and I think the two of us had a tendency to think 10 steps ahead, so we had to stop thinking 10 steps ahead and just think, OK what’s the next right move for us? What’s the next thing that we can do that it’s the right thing for us to do, in the stage of the business that we’re in right now? So for us, we’re like, OK let’s start with workshops. We know we can run our workshops, logistically, we have the logistics background and we have the people background. We knew we could do events, so we started with that. I was kind of assessing what our strengths were and what is it that we are good at.

Andrea: How did you get to that mental space? You were so burnout that you had forgotten what it was like to be creative, right? So what did you do?

Liz: You know it was a period of 3-6 months after my job ended. It was really going back and reassessing, what is it that I really love? My partner and I told ourselves everything that is in our past is not wasted. So, I knew everything that I’ve learned along the way had value.

Andrea: Was it alone? Taking a walk? How was it that you came to all these realizations.

Liz: Lots of conversations with people. My friend who started this with me, we would talk about it all the time.

Andrea: So you had someone.

Liz: Yeah, I had someone to kind of talk with and bounce ideas off and I do a lot of reflection, and self-reflection, so that helps too.

Andrea: What is your process for reflecting?

Liz: Just sitting down and thinking about what is it that makes me happy? Even though my work with the church ended and it was awful. Being able to reflect and think through all the moments. I had memories and moments where I was happy. Bringing back the memories of what fueled me throughout those 10 years helped.

Andrea: So you had to be reminded of the good times.

Liz: I had to go through a mental log of what were those times and it’s easy to forget because all you can focus on is the things that went wrong. But going through and thinking about, oh hey! This Christmas, this one year we did this, that was really fun and that turned into an idea for a workshop.

Andrea: That’s interesting. So recalling the good times, the good memories that you can create from.

Liz: And seeing what was fueling to me. This kind of just came to me. I think it’s remembering what is it that you gravitated towards when you were a kid.

Andrea: That usually comes up when I am reconnecting my clients to what makes them happy. Believe it or not, we forget.

Liz: I think as kids like you just naturally will do things that you love. Because if you don’t like it you are just not going to do it. I remember as a kid I was always making things for people, like crafting things, even when I was like in elementary school and it was something that I loved to do. But I think as I got older obviously responsibilities come and you just let go, those things kind of fall away. But I think it’s going back to those times too and thinking what did I really like as a kid? And it was that, a lot of creativity and making things.

Andrea: So you made that happen, you created this amazing, heartfelt business!! What would your advice be or your little bit of wisdom for someone that’s feeling out of touch, that’s feeling burned out? That is feeling that their job is sucking the life out of them.

Liz: Maybe it’s cliche, but I think some space, even to just write things down, go to a coffee shop an hour and just start writing how you are feeling. I think the question, what is it that you want? Did it for me. Someone had asked me that question and that’s a really hard question to answer.

Andrea: That is a powerful question.

Liz: Yeah, that question was constantly on my mind, what do you want?

Andrea: Really? I think the foreplay of life is in finding the answer to the questions we ask.

Liz: I was taken aback by that question because I don’t think anybody really asks you what do you want in life. What do you want?

Andrea: Right.

Liz: And then I couldn’t answer that question and by the end of it I’m in tears because I’m so sad that I can’t answer what is it that I want. So I think, even just that simple question and sitting with that, ask yourself what is it that I want right now? Not five years or even three months from now, like this moment, what is it that I want? Oh I want to be able to sing, exercise more, or I want to go workout, how is it that am I going to do that? what are the steps that I’m going to take to be able to work out tomorrow and create it? I mean it’s not easy, right? It’s hard, but you know if it’s something that you truly, truly want then I feel like you’re going to make it happen.

Andrea: I love that you gave yourself time to be with that question.

Liz: You were talking about having it all figured out. It’s so true. As adults, we don’t have it all figured out and even now like that question of what do I want? I can’t answer that in all areas of my life. I can answer it for this. But in other areas, I might not know what I want, and that’s ok. But it is about the journey and it is about going through the process of figuring out what that is.

Andrea: Are you happy that you did it? Are you fulfilled? Running a business is tough. It has more downs than ups. So I’m not going to ask you about that. But in your heart are you happy that you went for it?  

Liz: I wouldn’t go back. I truly would not go back. I am really the happiest I’ve been. This has been so much more life-giving and I get to tap into the areas of my life that needed to be tapped. I need to be doing creative things. That makes me happy.

Andrea: That was missing.

Liz: And so to be able to do that, why would I want to go back? You know there are things about our business in which we still don’t know what we are doing, but still, to me, it’s worth it. Who knows what it will be like in a year or five years.

Andrea: Well, how about we end with the present moment, you are the happiest you’ve ever been!

[Hugs]

Links from the interview

Store in Santa Ana, CA. – M.Lovewell

Instagram – M.Lovewell on Instagram

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