Late last year, my husband and I were looking for a new space. Our landlord had more than doubled the rent to our Gansevoort location when it was time to renew our lease (even though he’s already sitting on two empty spaces in the building). When it comes to Manhattan real estate and landlords, all logic simply fails me. The daunting task of building another location led me to hear this nagging voice in my head that said, “What do you really want? What will make your life happy?”
I contemplated a new life path; was I brave enough to even ponder the possibility of another chapter in my professional life? This nagging thought refused to surrender. When I turned 40 years old last year, slowly and meditatively, I realized I needed to shepherd my true self.
One thing was crystal clear in my personal life—I’m incredibly blessed and happy. All the years of seeking and learning about myself have been the best self-investments I have ever made and I hope to continuously evolve as a better person on this earth. However, there was a big question mark when it came to my professional life.
A few years ago, my webmaster suggested adding a Facebook platform. Naturally, I went into it kicking and screaming. Naively (or middle-agedly), I simply wanted to stay a traditionalist—whatever happened to the human-to-human connection? At first, I demurely ignored Facebook until my webmaster insisted that we use it for our upcoming events. Soon, our wall became peppered with fan questions and comments. A light bulb lit in my analog brain—can this dreadful, ever-so-trendy social network give me the same spectrum and relationship as my live clients? I started to answer comments and posting about all things in life, but primarily about our nail polishes.
My personality started coming through just as strongly in the virtual world as it did with my “live” clients and I simply fell in love with our virtual community. They are so passionate about our nail polishes and I started to have a blast. They make me want to mix more colors; through their enthusiasm and support, I feel I have found my true calling. If I can deliver happiness in a nail polish bottle worldwide, what more can a person achieve in a lifetime? My soul-searching was over and I learned that it is a wide, wide world out there just within my reach.
My posse at the lounge is fiercely loyal to us and I’ve been labeled their “life coach.” As soon as I pick their colors for them, it becomes a “week in review” where the conversation turns to all things in life. For the past 14 years, I have been a part of their first dates with future husbands, mended their broken hearts, given recipes for Thanksgiving dinners, recommended where to eat, vacation, buy—the list is endless. My posse is a surrogate family to my husband and me.
But, there is always the inevitable fact: we are in a service business. Let’s face it, not everyone is well-mannered and nice. Some of those energies can be toxic, even on the phone, and I already know before some start their services that I will become the recipient of their bad day and unhappiness. Don’t forget, everyone is too “important” and too “fabulous.” We have to master the politics of so and so cannot be booked with so and so at the same time. They can’t be seen in the same room, it may lead to aggressive bitchery and sometimes even mild violence.
As I spend more time with our virtual community, I cherish the solitude that accompanies the staccato taps of my typing. It almost feels like gentle raindrops hitting the windows; it relaxes me and puts me in a calm trance. Occasionally, I receive ranting emails, but then there is that beautiful option of the delete button.
I’ve been leading a hectic double life between our lounge “live” clients and our website “virtual” clients. These two worlds rarely collide, since both parties have different expectations from me. Also, I’ve been in the service industry a long time. My first summer job was at a Carvel ice cream shop when I was 15 years old. Against my mother wishes, I lied about my age and skipped the dreadful music camp she had planned. This job was my first taste of sweet financial independence from my delusional mother who wanted to dress me in Laura Ashley dresses and the dictum of “customer is always right” was forever engraved in me. Ever since that summer, I have continuously worked and supported myself through school by waiting on tables and selling hand-blown pottery. I have never calculated the numbers until now, but give or take, I have been in the service industry now for the past 26 years!
I have never experienced the Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five work schedule, nor have I ever had a quiet office space. It will be nice to feel normal. It would be heavenly to pack our insane number of orders with a proper table and have the option to sit and pack without the interruptions and distractions of running a service business. There are so many projects that I would like to pursue without working seven days a week. My husband and I have never had Saturdays and Sundays free for the past 14 years. My Saturdays were always filed with rehearsals and music activities in my childhood. I want to own my own Saturdays at the tender age of 41.
So, in the end, I choose happiness and our quality of life. My husband and I are gracefully retiring from our salon. Our last day of service will be June 25th. There have been many tears and heavy sighs, but please don’t think this is good-bye. I will continue to share my life with you through Ji’s blog, Twitter, and Instagram. I also have a plan “B” option for my salon clients and our staff so they can continue meeting with each other (alas, I won’t be involved).
It has been a pleasure serving your hands and feet all these years! And I’ll continue to see you online!
Lots of love from bottom of my heart!