letter #017 | dear younger me: look how far you've come.

look how far you've come.

Letter #017

September 16, 2023

dear younger me,

Last Sunday marked the 3-year anniversary of my first business: Teach Me Ms. Amahni.

Teach Me Ms. Amahni is a private education company offering an exceptional experience of holistic mentorship and comprehensive academic support across all subjects, Spanish, and French from an educator who cares. (It took me 3 years just to come up with that, haha).

Over the last 3 years, my business has grown tremendously in impact, clientele, and its offerings. It has also allowed me to earn a living while working on my own terms. And it has given my life meaning and opportunities that I didn’t know were possible.

But it wasn’t always like that and I’m really not a fan of just hearing the “successful” part of a story and that’s it, so let’s rewind to about 3 years ago when I was first starting out...

in today's letter, we'll explore:

  • ups and downs of the last few years as a student, human, and new businessowner/entrepreneur
  • planting and watering your dreams
  • look how far you've come: a timeline of a few key events
  • appreciating the progress
  • notes on friendship & enoughness
  • dear future me
  • this week's ✨ glimmer gallery ✨
  • & more...

my 2nd time getting fired.

A few weeks before I graduated from college in December 2019, I was also fired from my commercial gym job a few days before my two-week notice was up. I was leaving anyway because I hated the way the company treated both me and its customers. Even though I was planning on leaving anyway, I still cried after getting fired.

At the time of my firing, I had already been applying for new positions. I had known since I was 13 that I wanted to be an educator. However, during this time, my self-esteem was profoundly low and I didn’t believe I was capable of being a good teacher. So, instead of applying for teaching positions, I applied to be a school secretary. To about 100 different schools.

In late February 2020, I had my strongest interview ever. I interviewed at a school in Orange County and had the whole panel of administrators laughing by the end of it (with me, not at me). I thought, for sure, my time of unemployment was about to come to an end. When the school principal personally called me to let me know they had gone ahead with someone else, he also told me that though they loved getting to know me and thought I was so great, they all believed I should be in front of kids and not behind a desk. I never forgot that.

A few weeks after that phone call, March 2020 came, and with that, the start of the pandemic, public school closures, and hiring freezes.

Today, I don’t even remember how I felt about all that, likely lost and disappointed. The main thing I remember from the next few weeks was buying my first iPhone with my stimulus check. Lol.

the planting of a seed.

A month later, in April 2020, I got the idea to start tutoring. And it was just tutoring. No company. No business. I had just felt like when kids were going to school in-person, there was a gap between the kids who understood what was going on and the kids who didn’t.

With so many kids and teachers being thrust into online education overnight, I figured that would only exacerbate and grow the gap, so I wanted to go in and help close it. I had been tutoring and student-teaching in schools around the world since I was 13, and had always loved it. I also felt like I wasn’t adding value to the world and wanted to again.

So, I shared my tutoring idea with my family and was immediately shut down. “California is a sue-happy state,” a family member told me, “if you give somebody COVID, they’ll sue you.” That was all it took to shut down my idea. And mind you, I wasn’t really concerned about getting sued. It was more so that I’d just had a seed of an idea that, having never tutored online, wasn’t sure how it’d even work, so that one line was enough for me to stop pursuing it.

But, the seed had been planted.

watering the dream.

Over the next few months, I helped create a virtual Bible study group with a few friends and my aunt.

During one meeting in late August 2020, I brought up the idea I’d had a few months before of starting to tutor kids again to help them with online school. My Bible study buddies (with whom I’m all still friends with) emphatically supported me.

That was all it took to encourage me to start bringing my idea to life. Over the next two weeks, I reached out for a LOT of pep talks every time I started getting down on myself that no one would want me working with their kids. That I wasn’t good enough to make a positive impact. That I didn’t have what it took to make it work.

The pep talks helped mute the noise long enough for me to figure out how to come up with a name, make a logo, design a website, get some flyers printed, and get myself on a local service provider site. I was scared out of my mind and, fortunately for me at the time, had no idea what I was getting myself into or how much work it would take to fully bring this idea to life.

On September 10th, 2020, I took a deep breath and pushed my little idea out into the world.

Within one month, I reached capacity and was fully booked with clients.

I’m grateful to share that since then, albeit with slower seasons mixed throughout, I have consistently had families to work with ever since.

This next part will detail a few highlights in chronological order of the last few years.

look how far you’ve come: a timeline of a few key events

  • March 4th, 2017: I am checked into the hospital on my 21st birthday for a manic episode while on study abroad in Africa.
  • 2017-2018: I take a year off of school to recover from my manic episode, work some part-time jobs, and find a medication that worked for me. This was one of the hardest years of my life and I was deeply depressed.
  • Aug 2019: I enroll in a community college to retake a class I failed during my last semester of undergrad.
  • Nov 2019: I get fired from my part-time gym job a few days before my two weeks is up.
  • Dec 2019: I complete and receive my Bachelor’s degree from Soka University of America.
  • Sep 2020: After submitting 98 job applications, receiving almost as many rejection emails and going to around 15 interviews, I start my first business, Teach Me Ms. Amahni, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Oct 2020: I was fully booked with students.
  • Nov 2020: I start each day (including weekends) at 4am to write invoices and lesson plans for my clients and my grandfather is driving me 100-200 miles per day to each of my sessions. (I was still afraid of driving at this time.)
  • Dec 2020: I start my second business, a web design and branding company called Cornerstone Web Design.
  • May 2021: My best friend Mitsu died.
  • Sep 2021: I receive approval to start a scholarship in honor of my best friend Mitsu on the 1-year anniversary of my business (which coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day).
  • Nov 2021: Working 15-18 hour days daily and still deeply battling grief, my depression reaches a dangerous low and I wondered how or if I would make it out the year alive. I knew I needed to start taking better care of myself, but lacked the confidence and direction to start.
  • Dec 2021: The day after my best friend’s birthday, I sign up for CoPilot, a remote coaching program.
  • Early-mid 2022: I exit long-term business and romantic relationships that were no longer healthy. Both were very difficult.
  • Nov 2022: My mental and physical health continue to suffer after months of inadequate rest and care. I am constantly in and out of doctor appointments from trying to diagnose and treat recurrent (likely stress-induced) illnesses. My weight has also increased significantly by this point and I experience a lot of daily pain in my body.
  • Jan 2023: I publish my first newsletter, Dear Younger Me, a weekly series of encouraging letters with reflections and explorations of life and its lessons.
  • Feb 2023: My first scholarship goes live for students to start applying to.
  • Mar 2023: I make it to 27, an age my best friend never got to see and I experience the best day of my life so far. I had never felt as loved as I did on March 4th, 2023.
  • June 2023: I fulfill a years-long dream by awarding my first annual scholarship, the Second Chances Scholarship, to a first-generation community college student.
  • June 2023: After completing a transformative six months of gratitude journaling at the suggestion of my CoPilot coach Devyn, I decide to try out six months of Bible App plans to learn more about the characters and context surrounding Scriptures (verses) I really liked.
  • July 2023: With the help of my former client turned business coach, I make changes to my business model that bring my work hours from around 15 hours a day almost every day to around 5-6 hours, 4-5 days a week.
  • August 2023: I secure my first paid speaking engagement.
  • September 2023: Teach Me Ms. Amahni makes it to 3 years, a milestone that 40% of new businesses never see. 🥺

appreciating the progress.

At the time of this writing:

  • I have had the privilege of working with more than 50 families over the last 3 years.
  • I have 40 5-star reviews on Google and several others across Yelp and other review sites.
  • I have worked with kids who’ve told me I saved their life and parents who still invite me to their kids’ birthday parties years and send me birthday and Christmas presents years after their child has graduated from tutoring.
  • I am currently in conversation to partner with schools and other places in the community to bring my services to those locations and train staff to work there.
  • I will more than likely be hiring my first employees by the end of the year.
  • The Bible study practice has been WAY more impactful than I imagined and I have since chosen to follow Christ.
  • My physical and spiritual health are in the best condition maybe…ever? and my mental health is not far behind them.

my why.

Without a doubt, there are still days that challenge me, but overall, I’m happy now. And the happiest and most at peace I've ever been.

My entire life has changed over the last three years. That one decision and one leap of faith I took while still scared out of my mind has given me freedoms, knowledge, and experiences I didn’t even know were possible, let alone possible for me.

These past three years have been some of the most challenging and intense of my whole life.

There were times I was fortunate to even make it home safely because I’d fall asleep while driving on the freeway from being so tired. Times I bawled my eyes out after having to part ways with certain kids and clients. Times my naïveté and kindness were taken advantage of by others. Times I got hung up on after telling someone my rates. Times I failed or had to withdraw from all my classes because I couldn’t keep up with school, taking care of myself, and running my business all at once. And countless times I strongly considered just giving up and “getting a regular job.”

After the first few months of working with my students, they became my reason to keep going and figure it out when times got harder than hard—which was often. I felt like my kids needed me and that I couldn’t let them down or not be there for them just because things were hard for me.

Having that ‘why’ saved me and my business on more than one occasion.

Today, things look a lot different than they did when I first started. My days still begin pretty early, but that’s by choice now. I work fewer hours. I have designated meeting days and 4 main workdays with my students that are 6 hours max, but usually less.

I take mental health days when I need to and time off to relax and restore multiple times a year. I have systems in place now to automate a lot of the things I spent hours doing manually in the beginning.

Today, I have a life I am so grateful to call my own and I know now that there are no limits beyond the ones we create for ourselves.

My sense of self-efficacy (my belief in myself to complete a task or achieve a goal) is greater than it’s ever been and my confidence has grown with it.

I am deeply grateful for the life I get to live now.

continue asking yourself:
what if it works out?

If I could leave you with one thing from today’s letter, it’d have nothing really to do with “milestones” and “accomplishments” and everything to do with just staying around and taking that leap of faith that you know could change your life.

Continue asking yourself, “what if it works out?” and use that as your guide.

There is no limit to how beautiful life can get.

How loved you can feel.

And how much joy.

notes on friendship & enoughness.

There are many days I wish I could call my best friend up and tell him all the ways that my life has changed for the better since we last talked almost 2.5 years ago. I say things out loud sometimes as though I were speaking to him knowing I probably won’t hear a reply back in his voice for quite some time.

I wish I could show him how far I’ve walked with his spirit and memory tucked into my heart.

Though I still miss him every day, I know he would want me to be telling others the things I wish I could tell him. So that’s what I plan to do.

If there were one thing I could go back and tell him, it’d be that he is loved and he is held and he is cared for without need for qualifiers such as being successful enough, confident enough, smart or handsome enough, stable enough, and onwards.

He was enough in every form of who he was.

And you are too.

For years, I remember feeling like I couldn’t want for certain things until I was _____ enough. I couldn’t want to feel loved, supported, safe, soulfully nourished, happy enough, until whatever accomplishment or weight loss or external “success” I had completed.

I am still unlearning the belief that the beautiful experiences life has to offer are withheld from me until I reach a certain “level” of healing or success.

It simply isn’t true.

I am worthy, capable, and deserving of beautiful experiences now.

We all are.

Sometimes it’s really difficult for me to look back and be proud of myself for how far I’ve come because I feel like I have so much further “to go.”

At times, it’s still very hard for me to feel like I’m enough as I am and still feel proud of myself for reaching milestones that are meaningful to ME, regardless if society celebrates them or not.

I think a large part of “getting older” includes unlearning what we were told would make us happy and fulfilled and redefining those terms for ourselves.

It takes a lot of time, intention, and courage to confront others’ expectations and say I am choosing to define what a good life, success, and progress is for myself.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone we should be trying to impress but our much younger and much older selves…

I don’t know what the future holds, but I sincerely feel now that the best has just begun.

As for younger me, I would just hug her tightly, look her in her eyes, and say, “Look how far you’ve come.”

dear future me...

This is a new section to share exciting upcoming dates & events.

September 10th, 2023 marked the 3 year anniversary of my first business, Teach Me Ms. Amahni. 🎉

On September 25th, 2023 at 11am PST, I will be doing my first speaking engagement about my journey as a full-time student and entrepreneur/business owner. I’ll be sharing a lot of the mistakes I’ve made along my journey and what I've learned to do instead.

If you’d like to attend this free virtual event, please register here.

✨ the glimmer gallery. ✨

The glimmer gallery is a weekly collection of moments that made the good times better and the harder times bearable.

Have any thoughts about this letter? Did anything resonate with you?

Just reply to this email to let me know. It makes my day to hear from you and I respond to every message.

Dear Reader,

Hi. I hope you've been well. I hope you know your presence here really means a lot to me. I hope you have a nice week ahead and that you experienced unexpected delight. If you do, I'd love to hear about it.

Take good care.

With love,

Amahni E. Yarber


PO Box 814, Chino Hills, CA 91709
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