I am almost ready to move!  I am excited, nervous, annoyed, frantic, happy and going crazy all at the same time.  Hopefully by the end of August everything will haven fallen into place and I can go. This is a game-changer…

No more working 55+ hours and 6 days a week.  I’m so tired of not being able to do anything but work, eat and sleep!

No more spending nearly every waking minute with my Vietnamese family.  I still love them all dearly and am more grateful than words can express for the love and care they have shown me over this last year, they truly scooped me up and healed me with their acceptance as I was recovering from my divorce and I’ll never forget that.  Now, by the way, my Vietnamese family consists of about 20 people as some of their friends and family members also love me and claim me as their family too!  In many ways they are just so amazing and I’m sad to leave them.

But the Asian culture is very different from what I’m used to and I’ve hit a wall in certain areas – I just can’t do it anymore and it breaks my heart.  Fair warning, I’m going to do a little venting here but please read it knowing that I would still fight to the death for any one of them…

With the four siblings who initially took me in, there is a lot of anger, raised voices and unfair/unfounded accusations whenever they are upset about something they perceive that I have done wrong.  Very rarely have I actually done anything wrong but because English is hard our communication is not always the greatest and what they see or hear is filtered through their cultural background and not usually interpreted correctly in regards to me because I have an entirely different cultural background that they don’t comprehend most of the time.

One example is that any time I speak softly to a customer (or to the other white girl nail tech we had for 6 weeks) they automatically assume I am saying bad things about them.  Soooooo not true!  It’s a salon, you overhear a lot of conversations and most the time people are just telling me things they don’t want everyone to hear and repeat.  Occasionally I’m explaining to a customer (or the new, white girl nail tech) the beliefs and superstitions of my Vietnamese family – things like why they don’t let customers put their purses on the floor, why they offer food to Buddha, why they just did something that doesn’t make sense…  The rest of the time I’m telling them something personal about my life that I don’t want everyone to hear and repeat.  I know so many people’s secrets about their boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends, children, parents, finances, jobs, you name it and trust me, not everything should be spoken loudly and some things I hear shouldn’t be spoken at all.  But I NEVER speak badly of my Vietnamese family and it hurts my heart that they would even think I would do such a thing.

Another example, they have accused me of trying to get bigger tips by taking my time with my “favorite” customers and going too quickly with the “shop” customers (walk-ins and other employee’s normal customers who couldn’t get their usual nail tech that day).  Also not true.  A great many of “my” customers are elderly and have thick toenails, tons of dead skin, cuticles with a Napoleon complex that are trying to conquer the entire toenail and calluses that could remain undamaged from everything short of a nuclear bomb.  They. Just. @#!&* Take. Longer.  And because I’m really good with the aging and very kind and patient with those who have dementia I have a lot of women who bring me their mothers and a whole slew of retired ladies who send me their husbands and then give me good tips because I am so gracious to their loved one.  I have a soft spot for the elderly, what can I say?  I don’t take longer because I’m trying to get bigger tips, I do it because it needs to be done and because I take the time to do it well people come back and request me.  It’s not about the money but I’ve been yelled at four times now for it and they refuse to accept my explanation that some people’s feet take longer, they keep telling me to stop trying to get bigger tips by taking more time.

Also, their view of how to treat The Boss seems to be much closer to The Boss is The King.  Therefore trying to bring clarity to a situation, by explaining something, is usually seen as disrespectful because I’m correcting The Boss.  So how the hell do I communicate about anything if I’m not allowed to speak and if they won’t listen to what I do manage to say?

One final vent for today…  I keep – entirely on accident – running into cultural landmines.  The first one I did they thought was funny, I gave daisies to one of the girls for her birthday, only to find out that daisies are used to pray to Buddha for the dead at the temple so they’re the equivalent of funeral flowers.  Oops! My bad!  But then I hit a couple that they got upset over, told me about and quickly cooled down because they acknowledge that I didn’t know what it was I did.  This last one, however, was a doozy!  I had a problem with my service ticket not matching the book we wrote all of our charges down in.  I had written $47.50 on my ticket and they wrote $35 in the book.  I had always been told the purpose of the book and the tickets was to make sure everything was correct and if I had a question that I should just ask them.  So I did.  Except the one guy I needed to ask was sitting with most of the other guys from the shop and they all got involved.  Once they thought they understood what I was saying I wasn’t allowed to say another word and in the end I was told the book was right and to stop worrying about it.  I went and double-checked the book and it was not right so – in the only expression of frustration I’ve displayed in the entire time I’ve been there – I tossed my ticket book into the little alcove where they were kept.  Now I did not throw it, I did not slam it down on the desk, the ticket book is probably two inches by six inches and I was holding it by one end.  All I did was toss it so that it spun around a time or two before it landed and as I tossed it I said “It’s still not right” and went to sit down, accepting the fact that I was shorted $12 on that service.  The youngest girl in the shop, one of their daughters, goes outside and tells the oldest brother that I threw the ticket book and all the guys come boiling back into the shop and I get this huge lecture – in front of customers – about why did I throw the ticket book?  Why was I making such a big deal about $5?  How could I treat them this way after they had been so nice to me?  How could I be so rude after they had taken me in and treated me like family?  Why was I so disrespectful after they spent so much money on me by taking me out to dinner, buying me coffees all the time and even paying for me to go to Las Vegas with them?  O.M.G.  I was in complete and utter shock, I knew I had done a cultural no-no but couldn’t figure out why tossing my ticket book had such an effect on them.  I apologized over and over again to no avail.  Two days later we had an hour-and-a-half meeting after work where they explained that to throw down your ticket book is a huge insult and sign of disrespect in their culture.  Apparently it’s like quitting and demanding your wages all at the same time in the most angry way possible.  I apologized yet again but this time was not given any grace for not knowing what I did was wrong in their culture – it was still completely my fault and I had to be punished for it – although the guy who lectured me in front of the customers did apologize for not taking it into the back room, apparently that was the only thing he was at fault for…

That meeting, by the way, was when we lost the new white girl tech who had been hanging on by a thread for the entire six weeks she’d been with us.  She’d been wanting to quit from the get-go because their teaching style is so fierce and their expectations were far too high for someone who just came out of beauty school but I kept talking her into staying until that day.  The way they were so angry and yelling at me because of that incident was too much for her.  She started to cry and they asked her why she was crying and she said it was because they were being so mean to me and then they got angry with her, saying they weren’t being mean to me, they love me like family and were treating me as such.  Huh.  Lucky me to be loved like that…  But in the end she left work that day and never came back.

Truth be told, that day I wanted to leave too.

I think that was when I realized that as much as I love these people, it’s time to move on.  It’s time to go forward with my own life, to build a world for myself and not just live in theirs.  To begin reaching for the stars and trying to see some of my dreams become reality.  And in that moment I made the decision to go back to beauty school and get my full-on cosmetology license followed immediately by my instructors license.  That way I will have the knowledge necessary to open a learning salon where the newly licensed beauty professional can come and work for a year or two in order to gain the speed and quality of service necessary to secure a good job in a professional salon – or even open their own shop.

Just a little FYI for you – right now, when you graduate nail school you have to find a salon owner who is willing to put up with your mistakes and tolerate your learning curve knowing you might lose many of their customers in the process.  It’s not an easy thing to do, trust me – I’ve been there, and when you do finally get a job you’re not allowed to work on very many customers.  So the owner turns down customer after customer while you sit there twiddling your thumbs because you’re not good enough…

Seriously, it’s hard for the newly licensed to succeed in the nail industry!  Which is why I wanted to open a learning nail salon – but the more I think about it the more I want to make it available to every newly licensed beauty professional; those licensed in cosmetology, esthetics and nail techs.  Therefore, I need a cosmetology and teaching license of my own so that I can be a mentor to every group and I am going back to school to get those licenses and then I will pursue opening a learning salon.

Life is just one bold adventure after another and all I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, who knows where I’ll end up?  But it will be a good place, of that I’m sure!

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