I came to Canada at the age of 4 with my grandfather to meet my parents for the first time. I was raised by my loving aunt and uncle while my parents went to establish themselves in Canada. I realize it sounds strange in western culture especially in this day and age. However, back then in China it wasn't uncommon to leave your kids with a relative or even be completely raised by them. I think deep down my parents knew they weren't ready to take care of a baby and feared they couldn't do it alone in Canada.
They settled in St. John's Newfoundland, not exactly a bustling metropolitan city and we were likely only one of two Asian families in the entire city, heck probably on the whole "rock" as they called it. I learned English while being babysat by the TV since my parents were busy trying to get established. Being an only child on top of learning a new culture, a new language, and feeling like I never quite fit into this foreign place meant loneliness was an emotion I often felt but couldn't explain at my young age.
Because of this, I've never been a person that's good at being alone. I envy my introvert husband that can spend weeks on end feeling absolutely content alone in our house. Whereas I feel the most alive when I'm around people chatting and feeling connected. Anything beyond 2 days of not seeing another human would drive me completely insane.
At my previous job, I loved going out for drinks after work with colleagues or chatting over a coffee break. I went from having meetings all day, coffee break chatter, and lunch with colleagues every day to sitting in my office or studio alone for10-12 hours a day. While deeply engrossed in work, I would waiver from feeling like a genius to feeling like a complete idiot constantly 20 times a day. Self-doubt and loneliness hovered like a lingering cloud, not only was it physically isolating but mentally as well.
I had been prepared to work hard and dedicate the long hours needed to get this business off the ground. I had studied business strategy, had a business plan and I was ready to hit the ground running. However, there wasn't a course in my MBA called " The mental battle of fighting your demons while feeling completely isolated", trust me, I would have been the first to sign up.
Loneliness is my demon, and I believe every entrepreneur will feel it's grip since no one can shoulder the burdens of self-doubt and pressures of running a business for you. Now, I treasure every interaction I have. Every "hello, how are you" is met with a sincere smile, even if it is just a nicety from the cashier. Research shows that the tiny interactions from strangers each day greatly contribute to our overall happiness. So after 3 years of my head down to the computer, I realized I needed a change. I moved into a co-working space and left my studio and home office. With this change, I've increased the number of those "hello's" in a day and made great friendships. My husband commented on how I seemed much "lighter" and seemed much more like myself. If you read my previous posts, you know I believe in making sure I enjoy the journey rather than have it just about reaching the top.
To win the mental battles and persevere through the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship, I know I need a healthy mind and body. So now my new weekday routine is a 45 min walk to my co-working office, making sure I break at lunch for a 30-minute workout and trying my best to fit in a short meditation throughout the day. I can't say I succeeded at all of this every day, but I try my best so I don't lose sight of the journey or fall into the all too familiar trap of loneliness. So tell me, what demons are you fighting and what changes can you make to win your battles?