Just like the walls I’ve built up, I can tear down…
Everyone always asks me, how does it feel? “How does it feel to know you’ve made it?” Honestly, I would be lying if I said it was amazing. I was miserable for a long time. It’s as if everything was crashing down on me. A wave kept going over me & as I kept grasping for air trying to swim, I was sinking deeper & deeper. Hit with another wave, I was drowning on the inside. It’s as if this was my journey to getting to where I am now. It’s like when you wish for something for so long and you put it on a pedestal & you work so hard just to get there & when you do, it’s not what you thought it would be. That’s exactly how it feels.
The pain & the agony, I was miserable.
Let me explain…
From the beginning, I shared my journey to how it all started. For anyone who has followed me, knows my story. For anyone who doesn’t, my journey has lead me to my own self-destruction & unhappiness. I remember being so hopeful, so full of ambition, so full of heart and feeling unstoppable. I never imagined it would be this hard. Let me start off by saying that, I am truly grateful for all the opportunities given to me but I also know how hard I’ve worked to be given these opportunities.
I opened a salon at a young age of 26 & this was something I had accomplished but what I didn’t realize was, I was naive in business. Everyone sees my salon as my success story but what they don’t see is the struggle & sacrifice. Growing up, I never came from a business background. I didn’t have any experience in opening a business or running a business or let alone being a boss & managing a team. All of this was so new to me, I had no one to guide me & show me what needed to be done or how to protect myself. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been screwed in business over again & again. To the point where I’m so tired of it. I’ve become such a broken person through this process & journey that I’ve been on. I literally pour my heart & soul into everything I do. I never get any breaks & I’m constantly fighting for everything I believe in. I’ve been taught to do everything with dignity, integrity & respect. Even though I’ve been devastated & having a difficult time, it hasn’t changed my core values of who I am as a person. I’ve built a reputation for myself & a business that no one can take away from me.
The countless hours…
I was working from my home basement, it was difficult because it was so personal. Working from home & separating work & my personal life wasn’t easy. Clients always asked me, “Working from home must be nice, Why would you leave?” I remember it happened on a day where I was working on a client, all I could hear was fighting & things being thrown. I couldn’t stand it anymore, I couldn’t focus on what I needed to do. I couldn’t work in an environment where I was hurting, it was too close to home (literally). I was so upset by it all & that’s the first memory of me going into counselling, that’s when I knew I couldn’t work from home anymore.
So I finally decided, I would rent space outside of home. I felt so much gratitude to the people who shared their space. They supported me & we became almost I would say, friends even family. I worked a lot but I was more happy to be in a space where I felt in control. It was going well for a few months but then things took a turn for the worst. I started feeling brainwashed & trapped by these people. I thought they were my friends but instead they had such negative energy. I felt stuck that I started having these negative thoughts & perception. At that point, I had already hired my first assistant Olivia. If you read my past blogs, you would know how I felt during those long tiring hours of being absoultley alone in my own shadow. Working day in & day out just to prove to myself that I could make it one day. When she came, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Back to the story, things started to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t feel that same genuine authentic feeling when I first started renting the space. I knew something was happening, that’s when I had asked Olivia if she wanted to stay with them or for us to leave & find a salon space more suitable for us. We made the decision to leave & that’s when it all started…
I won’t go into all the details but it was a very traumatizing experience. I remember getting the call, they threatened me on the phone. I was so scared, I hang up the phone after 20 minutes. I cried hysterically on the floor for 30 minutes straight after that call. I couldn’t believe what was said to me, my body was in shock & I was in so much pain. All I could remember doing was calling my admin, Olivia & my boyfriend to tell them what had happened. Shortly after, I then called my cousin crying for help. Later that night her & my boyfriend came to pack up all my stuff that night & just like that, we left. They threatened me with legal action. That’s when I knew, business is business. People don’t really care about you. It’s the idea of how they can use you & take advantage of you & when they don’t get what they want, in their perspective.
We try to fill this empty void we feel inside
We had no where to go & at the time I was booked up 3-6+ months with clients. I was grieving, I felt like I was falling apart. To move from home to find a space to rent where I felt safe, only to feel more unsafe & uncertain. I was so desperate to find a temporary place to rent that I searched on kijiji & craigslist. I knew I had to find a place for us to go temporarily, we had to move on. I found a place in Yorkville, Toronto where we decided to rent for a month before I determined if it was worth it for us to buy the salon & takeover the lease. No one knew this at the time but it seemed as if we were moving to bigger & better things. During the month renting, it was evident that it was very shady & odd behaviour. I knew we were being used & being taken advantage of. He wasn’t selling his salon, he was trying to buy us in & I realized this wasn’t going to work out. I started looking for places to rent on our own.
That’s when in August 2015, I had found the perfect place to lease. I drove by when driving from Yorkville after feeling sick. I got out of the car & looked into the windows. I remember feeling like this is the space. This is the space where we can open the salon. I felt so hopeful. I fell in love with the building at first sight. I gazed inside trying to gauge how much space was inside for a salon. I also saw the backyard space & knew this was the space I really wanted to be in. After having my boyfriend call, they finally got back to us. I was so thrilled, I felt like there was hope.
September 2015 – We signed the lease & got the keys in October. We went back to my home basement to work for 3+ months during the renovations at this time. We would work all day until the end of the night. During this process, I worked on clients & would leave to check on renovations. I was paying for rent at the same time, so I was constantly stressed & anxious. I was also looking for more to add to our team so I had a lot on my mind. Olivia had never questioned me or my intentions, even at our lowest points together. She never left my side even after all of this. She stayed consistent & was supportive through the challenges. My team kept my pieces together as I felt the heaviness & burden I was carrying to keep it all together.
Opened in January 2016 – Lisa Dinh Hair Studio
Despite all the backlash & set-backs, I had opened & created a space for us to call home. It was difficult for us in the beginning. We had to learn to adjust in a new space. It was especially challenging for me to adjust & all of a sudden going from a freelance stylist to a boss, salon owner & manage our new team. It was all so new to me, I’ve never managed before or own a business. I realized quickly that this process would not be easy. I got hurt in the process. It was hard to manage not only my emotions but others. I felt like I didn’t fully understand what I was signing myself up for until I was actually in it. That’s when our first assistant had left & it was time for me to rebuild our team stronger than ever. From that moment, I knew that it’s all about perspective. Everyone has their own perspective on things. You can’t change someones mindset or opinions when their viewpoint is their own. I wanted to find genuine, hard working individuals who knew my struggle. To understand what it took for me to get here & what I had to endure & sacrifice. In order to understand from my point of view, my story.
I was struggling to keep it all together. I kept asking myself, is this all worth it? I felt so much pressure. I felt the agony & the misery. To everyone, I was doing well but in reality, I was trying to cope with it all. I didn’t know how to deal with managing stress, anxiety & depression. I didn’t know how to run my business properly. It kept getting bigger than myself. The salon was becoming so busy that it was overwhelming. I couldn’t do it on my own. I was already getting help but I felt like it wasn’t enough. Sometimes, I even felt like I wasn’t enough. I had to be this role model for everyone but for myself, I wasn’t happy. I felt defeated, I was ready to give it all up…
I felt like I was falling apart, I just wanted this nightmare to be over.
For the past 10+ months, I’ve been trying to buy & purchase our salon space. I opened Lisa Dinh Hair Studio in January 2016, within 6 months I decided that I wanted to buy the property. I went through hell negotiating to try to get our space. Going back & fourth for months, trying to get loans, I tried everything I could & even got my family involved. In October 2016, the deal was so close to closing. All he had to do was sign but he said he had a change of heart. My family was left devastated as we were left with interest onto of being upset over this whole ordeal. To me, it meant I finally had a place that was mine. I didn’t have to deal with anyones terms or being under anyones control. I could have the peace of mind that I am working towards something that was for me & for my family. We were dragged in the mud for months, as I kept it in the back of my mind. It was all I could think about.
It completely broke me, I felt devastated. I was crying in my car when I got the news. I kept telling myself it would be okay but deep down inside I knew, I was broken by all of this. It took everything left inside of me to keep going.
Then I got the news, I received the call that he’s decided to list the building for sale. What did that mean to me? I could potentially lose everything I’ve worked so hard to build. All the blood, sweat & tears that I put into this space. All the money, time & stress, I was about to lose it all… If someone wanted to buy the property & wanted the building vacant. That would mean, we would be terminated & have no where to go. I didn’t have a back up plan. As my heart started to break into pieces & the agony of losing everything I worked so hard for sank in, all I could remember was calling my parents & telling them we’re about to lose everything. I spent the entire month completely stressed out of my mind, waiting anxiously & becoming this paranoid business owner. Imagine, working your whole life saving to open a business and pour your heart & soul into it for it to be just taken away? That’s how I felt. In that very moment, I felt like I was losing control.
As I put my last & final offer in, I realized that it’s all or nothing. This is it & if it didn’t happen then it wasn’t meant to be ours. Either whoever purchases the property keeps our lease & holds the building as an investment property. Or worst case scenario, wants to buy the building & to have it vacant. Which leaves us, to start all over again… Just the thought of starting all over again is stressful & leaves me feeling heartbroken. Just like the walls my dad helped build up, I wanted to tear it all down. Tear down everything we put into the place, tear down every part of what I helped create at the expense of us & the property being worth more. I was completely devastated. I put everything on the line, I had risked it all at this point.
This was the pinnacle moment in my life, I had worked all these years for this moment. To own the building meant to own the salon. To own the salon meant all the hard work wasn’t for nothing. I would have a property that was for me & my family. It couldn’t be taken away from me. I’ve sacrificed so much at this point, for the end goal. Then I got the call, “he signed.”
I didn’t know how to respond or react. I couldn’t believe it, the fight was finally over (or so I thought). I’ve waited almost my entire life for this. I waited my entire career for this. I was completely burned out but had the support of my family & loved ones. They believed in me & my dreams. They believed in me so much to put so much on the line, including our house & investing everything in me. They saw how much agony I was in, it was like torture. Instead of letting it break me, it built me.
“She overcame everything that was meant to destroy her.”
Days when I’m feeling completely defeated, I feel so drained. I feel exhausted physically & mentally. It’s like everything I’ve built, I can just end it all. When I feel the pressure, I feel it tremendously. To the point where I suffer & ask myself if this is all worth it. If being this unhappy is worth it.
I told myself just suffer a few more years, just a few more years of working like this so that my parents wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. To work & become successful so that they could retire at peace. If that would cost me my happiness at the expense of theirs, I would do it.
How does the story end?
To be continued…
The one thing that has remain the same, I didn’t give up. After all adversity, I never gave up even when I wanted to. Driven with a bigger purpose & goal in mind. Never giving up, I had the strength to keep going… The secret to success in my career & in life. With love always – Lisa
The chapters to my life
Keep going – 2016 (The cost of my ambition)
My Autobiography – 2015 (From the beginning)
My Journey – 2015 (My journey to becoming a hairstylist)
My diary – 2014 (My journey to overcoming depression & anxiety)