My Taiwan Story: From Student to Teacher to Coach

I came to Taiwan after graduating university, to be with my then-boyfriend. To keep my options open, I decided to study Mandarin, so that if things didn’t work out between us, I could at least have this experience of living in Asia for a few months and learning a new language, and just return to Vancouver. Several years later, I’m still here, finding new ways to experience and explore Taiwan.

After a few months of studying, I applied for jobs teaching English. My degree is in tourism and business management, but immigration laws in Taiwan would require me to have two years of work experience AFTER my degree in order to apply for work in my field. None of my work during or prior to my degree was considered relevant. So, in order to legally stay in Taiwan and earn a living, English teaching was the only way to go. Not my ideal choice, but the only one. 

I eventually got an open work permit, and was excited that now I could do any work I wanted. And yet… somehow, inertia held me in. That or fear. It’s comfortable and easy to stay in the same position. To keep the same job. To keep major life changes to a minimum. It’s a lot of work to break out of routine, out of comfort zones, and to put energy into our dreams. Even defining what those dreams might be seemed unrealistic to me. 

The good news is, teaching English in Taiwan earns a higher-than-local-average income. I paid off my credit card debt, line of credit, and my student loans! There was no way I could have done that so quickly living in Vancouver, while still having freedom to travel. I saved up some money, and finally, with the comfort of being financially secure for the first time in my life, I allowed myself to begin to dream.

What was it that I wanted? I wasn’t happy at my job. Even though I had friends, a good income, and reasonable hours, I still wasn’t happy. I saw my stressed-out, unsupported coworkers yelling at three-year olds for acting like three-year olds, and died inside every time I did the same. I experienced middle management making promises they were powerless to keep, because upper management overruled their decisions in the name of saving a few dollars in the short-term. I witnessed upper management falsifying and lowering documents including raises and NHI contributions. The same management gave hardworking employees a higher workload for minimal compensation, while effectively rewarding employees who showed up to work late and showed no initiative, with less difficult work. Professionalism was essentially punished instead of rewarded. A lack of professionalism was overlooked because it was so difficult to hire new teachers. Supervisors were also given high responsibility and stress with very little actual power and again, minimal compensation. Furthermore, the job itself, while widely common, is illegal, meaning that any time labour inspectors or other government authorities came to the premises, all of us illegal or uncertified teachers literally had to run through hidden gates and down the street to a pre-arranged meetup point.

While for some, the money, or the passion of educating and being around young children, is enough to make up for these shortcomings, for me, it wasn’t. I knew it was time to step back and work towards my own future, and yet I didn’t want to burden my friends when the school was losing so many teachers. Management agreed to give me a very light schedule, after I listed out the many things I wanted to study and pursue: herbalism, tour planning, Mandarin studies, and more. Unfortunately, at the onset of the school year and my new contract, it became clear that the company as a whole was severely understaffed, and my school once again was not able to follow through with their promises.

There comes a point where one must sink or swim. It had been three years already since I had gained the legal freedom to leave this job, and yet there I was. Stuck in the same patterns, and foolishly believing in something I hadn’t received in writing. “Oh well, just another year!” my friend and coworker commiserated when I shared my dismay. I could feel my soul screaming inside me. How many times had I already done “just another year”? How many times had I taken the seemingly easy way, the comfortable way, and just sat in my misery, doing the same thing over and over, for just another year? It was at that point that I knew I had to quit.

That night, I sat down and wrote my letter of resignation. It was a very difficult hurdle to jump, emotionally. It meant finally, finally listening to my soul, listening to my heart, listening to what my body and its chronic dis-eases had been telling me for years. It meant letting my friends down. It meant breaking my contract. It meant, for once, putting myself first before others and enforcing my boundaries. The emotional effort it took to DECIDE to do what was right for me was huge, and it marked the beginning of a major paradigm shift for me.

After my last day of work a month later, it was time for the real work to begin. Recognizing my need to be busy and be rushed. Observing my reactions and my emotions. Building a morning routine to start my day so I can be most effective in the world. I felt lazy. I felt the constant need to prove that I was doing something productive with my day. When really, what I needed most of all was to decompress, calm my frazzled nervous system, and learn the art of self-care (I’m still working on it). I also felt the need to have a business plan, in the same structured way that I had learned in university. Everything would need to be in place, everything would need to be perfect, and then, only then, could I begin.

However, life showed me new lessons. I heard coaches and entrepreneur specialists saying “start before you’re ready.” I heard so many messages to just get started, to figure it out as you go. To build a business plan organically through the process of beginning, and through the process of listening to my inner guidance. Morning meditations gave me the clarity and insight to let go of the need for so much structure, and to allow myself to trust that deep inner knowing and guidance. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s getting easier as I go along.

Now, three months after devoting my time to deep inner work, and working with coaches to become aware of old limiting beliefs and choosing new beliefs, I feel ready-not-ready. I feel enough trust in the guidance of the universe. I also found old journals from years ago, when I wrote down goals, including paying off student loans (check! Earlier than my goal, too!) and… becoming a life coach! So I’m listening to guidance, experience of others who walked similar paths before me, and not so much to the “shoulds” and “supposed-tos” and structures I “should” have in place. Now, as we prepare to enter a new decade, I am taking on life coaching clients as free beta-testers to develop my program. It’s exciting and feels so, so rewarding!

I also know, deep down, that moving abroad gave me the opportunity to reinvent and rebuild myself. Had I stayed in my comfort zone, seven years ago, would I be the same person I am today? No. Would I have faced so many challenges and grown in confidence so much? Unlikely. Because I would still be in my comfort zone. Have I had countless support along the way? Absolutely, and I am so, so grateful for everyone who helped me get here today. I am grateful for the friends I get to see more often now that I have energy and time and freedom. I am grateful for my little dog, providing me with company throughout the day and a reason to get some exercise when I might not feel like it. I’m grateful for the rapid growth I’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short time.

And I’m so, so grateful to be able to bring my gifts, my experience, my knowledge to YOU. To the people who still feel stuck, or lost. Who are in need of guidance. These changes in my life began when I DECIDED to work with a spiritual life coach, but BEFORE our first session. When you make the decision to work with somebody, that you are dedicated to changing your life for the better, the decision itself is enough to get the momentum started. Once you decide, the universe blazes a path for you and everything becomes so much clearer. I guarantee it.

Written December 27, 2019
Coincidentally, my thirteenth anniversary of sobriety!