Archive For The “Inner Thoughts” Category

The Question of Why: How I Got a Step Closer to My Life’s Purpose

The Question of Why: How I Got a Step Closer to My Life’s Purpose

Pairs Well With…Slight Changes in Course + Mind Benders + Deep thinking + Self Reflection

You know that feeling you get when you read something that doesn’t sit well with you, for whatever reason?  Maybe an article or an idiotic tweet, and it makes your blood boil? You’re fired up and your first instinct is to fire back, but instead, you eye roll to yourself, move on and perhaps think about it here and there throughout the course of the day.

But then there are times when what you read strikes a cord and forces you to think a lot – because somewhere deep down it hits home.  And you can’t stop thinking about it.  And you wish you’d never read it in the first place because somehow, it got you rethinking your actions.

Here, I’ll tell you what I mean. It all started in March back in Hanoi, Vietnam….

la long bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay Views


I had just landed from Ho Chi Minh City and was about to embark on my first big paid content assignment for a global client. This job was big time, as far as I was concerned, and though I feel like a storyteller extraordinaire most days, I was still a bit nervous.  The company was even paying for my round trip flight on their seaplane, and that isn’t cheap either.  I was starting to get this freelance thing down nicely if I do say so myself.


seaplane ha long bay vietnam travel

A rainy day return flight


Just when I thought I had my life all figured out…

I was in my cab catching up on my morning social medias. My scrolling came to a halt as I began reading this lengthy Instagram post. This excerpt, pulled from the larger message, is the part that got to me:

“The more ‘why’ questions you ask yourself, the more you move towards your real life project, which is what do I conceptually want to leave behind.”

First of all, this was a very mind bending question for 9 am and not being caffeinated. Secondly, what was this post even saying?  Why are people trying to make my life on the road harder than it already is?  I mean, isn’t it enough that I quit my job to figure out my life’s purpose, let alone this extra pressure? I reread the post a few times, and I started questioning myself, something maybe I don’t do often enough. I’m a “just do it” kinda gal.

And so, mainly because my cab ride was obscenely long, and I didn’t want to anticipate my death watching these crazy Hanoi drivers, I started the why exercise. (If you do try this, prepare for where it takes you. Just sayin’.)

I asked myself a multitude of questions:

  • Why am I here?
  • Why did I decide to travel for an entire year?
  • Why did this company fly me out to write for them?
  • Why didn’t I have coffee on the plane?
  • Why do I always gravitate to the non-traditional path of life?
  • Why is it raining today? I didn’t bring warm clothes. (Get back on track Carin…focus!)
  • Why isn’t wine more readily available in Asia? (Now, you’re becoming that Askhole kid from Home Alone! Pull it together.  You want these answers.)
  • Why do I feel I that my biggest success stories will come from running my own business?


(You’ll see from the questions in my head, there’s a theme song that pairs well with these type of thoughts. It’s called Circus Theme, and it’s the worst when one thought triggers a thinking spiral. Ya feel me?)

The list goes on and on. The most frustrating part was when I realized what was firing me up. Many of my answers were “I don’t knows,” and that’s not a good sign because you should always live with purpose. For me, it was an indicator that I had a lot to think about and many hours of goal setting and reflection ahead of me.  Another thing for the endless to-do list.

Pause. Fast forward.  A few months later, I finally had answers to those questions:

  • Why am I here? To build a business outside the confines of a cubicle.
  • Why did I decide to travel for an entire year? To fulfill my dream of living abroad, meet some amazing collaborators along the way, and maybe even test my own capabilities, both personally and professionally.
  • Why did this company fly me out to write for them? They see my talent – and if they do, others do, too.
  • Why do I always gravitate to the non-traditional path?  I refuse to settle for less than I want, even if it means busting ass day in and day out for the perfect work set up.  To me, traditional is boring.  Anyone can do it.  You can choose to reach high or you can choose to coast.
  • Why do I feel I that my biggest success stories will come from running my own business? Because when you invest in yourself, you tell the world that you believe in yourself. You believe in your talents, capabilities, creativity…all while leaving fear behind to continue making forward progress and writing the next chapter in your story.


Storytelling is a talent of mine, and it’s something you’ll continue to see me do more of, both for myself and for others.  In regards to content…well, the good stuff leaves a lasting impression and causes you to think more deeply.  So, the person who created this post got his job done (and his point across) well.  So much so that I devoted a considerable amount of time thinking about it.

So, what’s on YOUR mind?  As always, feel free to drop me a line.  You know I love hearing from you while I’m on the road.

seaplane ha long bay vietnam carin

Ready for takeoff: My first seaplane experience

At 35, I Still Eat Cake For Breakfast

At 35, I Still Eat Cake For Breakfast

Pairs Well With…”Act as young as you feel.  You’re not getting older, you’re getting more entitled to be your fabulous self.” – Gwen Stefani

I love birthdays. If I have to get specific, my birthday. Growing up, we had a tradition in my house that you got to eat cake for breakfast on your birthday.  At 35, I still eat cake for breakfast.

Cake for Carin's Birthday

Today is my birthday, a birthday that I’ve not so positively anticipated over the last few years. I have fallen short of society’s expectations of me to have a husband and pop out a few kids. At times, I’ve felt anxious, stressed, judged and sometimes even flawed because I haven’t met what American culture deems as successful for a mid-thirties woman. And by successful, I specifically mean the marriage and kids bit.

Despite a booming career, deep social circles and a worldly background, much of what people seem to fixate on is why, “at my age” with “all I’ve got going on for me,” I am unmarried and without children. It’s hard for me to believe that people may be so narrow-minded that they think there’s only one path to happiness. But you know what they say, you can’t fix stupid.


A Pit Stop For A Piece Of Humble Pie

A Pit Stop For A Piece Of Humble Pie

Pairs Well With…”Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins 

“There is no us.  There is no them.  There is just a we.”  – J. Lee

What would you do if you lost everything?  Could you handle it?  Would it break you? Maybe you didn’t have a lot to begin with, but tomorrow you wake up and find yourself homeless, living on the streets with nothing more than shreds of dignity – if you’re even that lucky.

Life has an interesting way of unfolding.  Everything can turn on just one twist of unforeseen fate, and change the trajectory of life.  For whatever reason, some of us dig out, others of us can’t.  And more often than not, we look at someone living on the street with pitiful glances, if we even acknowledge their presence at all, without regard to how they fell into their circumstance.  As if they chose to be there.  Maybe yes, maybe no, but what remains constant is that they are still there and, like us, they are human too.

February 2015, my first trip to Rio, was my first real glimpse into such an eye-opening and deep level of poverty.  It both rocked and unnerved me.  I hadn’t seen anything like it, and maybe that’s because for so long, I tried not to.  Entire families camped out looking for food, or any other handout to help them get by.  I would offer up my leftovers in an attempt to keep hearts beating and stomachs full for at least one more night.

I reflected on Rio as I headed into my first volunteer shift at Kuala Lumpur‘s Pit Stop Cafe, a community cafe working to find solutions to urban hunger and poverty by marshaling volunteers and repurposing food.  They are truly a one of a kind model.  (America, take note.)

The owner, Joyce, shares a story similar to mine: Woman gets fed up with Corporate America. Woman quits her job. Woman works to find something more meaningful and fulfilling.  Through her change of course, Joyce founded Pit Stop Cafe, which costs $6-8k monthly to operate and offers warm meals daily to 200-260 urban working poor or homeless people.

Earlier in the week, in a presentation to my Remote Year group, Joyce shared learnings around her community work, what it means to be in need and how the less fortunate are viewed.  What she shared was interesting, and in some cases, jaw-dropping:

THE CITY OF KUALA LUMPUR CHOOSES NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE (or report) ANY HOMELESS POPULATION. Turning a blind eye much?  When you don’t report issues, you don’t have to acknowledge them.  And because you don’t acknowledge them, they aren’t “real” – and the government doesn’t have to spend dollars on “non-existent” economic issues. Typical case of ignorance is bliss.

(I was curious to learn more about this issue and stumbled upon an interesting article which accuses the city of rounding up homeless people and dumping them (yes, dumping them) outside city limits. W.O.W.  I’m not sure what is worse, throwing money at a problem or throwing people away.)

MAKE SURE YOUR IMPACT IS, IN FACT, IMPACTFUL.  While we have the best of intentions, we don’t always know what someone needs – unless we ask.  When was the last time you asked someone on the street what they needed, or better yet, what they wanted?  Most people approach the homeless as a one-size fits all, “you’ll take what you’re given” type mentality.  How helpful is having a size ten pair of shoes for a size seven foot?  Or a goose down jacket in Kuala Lumpur when it’s above 80 degrees the majority of the year. At Pit Stop Cafe, diners are asked what meal they want from the options available. By asking someone what they want, you allow them to feel as though they are in control and have a choice.  It’s how we build people up again.

THOSE IN NEED ARE OFTEN LOOKING FOR A HAND UP, NOT A HAND OUT.   The majority of our lives are spent trying to be better and do better.  To do so doesn’t always come easy, and it isn’t always a solo effort.  Many people don’t enjoy asking for help when they need it, especially when it’s someone they don’t know, but when you’re playing the survival game, it can become necessary.  Help where you can, and allow someone else to rise up.

DON’T ALLOW ANYONE TO BECOME INVISIBLE.  By acknowledging a person’s presence, you make them visible.  Everyone wants to be seen.  Just because someone is down on their luck doesn’t mean they should be counted out.  Each person has a story.  Take the time to hear it.

HOMELESSNESS IS NOT A PITY PARTY.  But it is about respect and treating a human being as a fellow human being.

Before my volunteer shift, Joyce was gracious enough to spend some time talking to me one-on-one about her career moves, new business, and worldly opinions.  I loved hearing about the vision and foundation on which Pit Stop Cafe was founded:

“When you look, or when you think about something called a pit stop,…a pit stop is a place for you to refuel. To refill yourself.  To change your tires.  And we wanted something like that but in the human context for people to uplift or upgrade themselves.  You couple that with our tagline, “Love all. Feed all”…Love is not just that between a husband and wife or whatever. It’s an encompassing thing. Compassion is part of the love thing as well.  So when you show compassion, you show love.  And that’s what we wanted.

But feed all…people think you just feed the stomach.  You do not just feed the stomach.  You feed your heart.  You feed your soul.  You feed your mind. You can fill your stomach all you want and, in some ways, I think that is what is wrong with the world sometimes.  All you are thinking about is feeding your wallet, feeding your stomach….Where’s your heart?  Where’s your soul?  How do you feed your heart?  How do you feed your soul?

How do you make yourself happy?”

I kept thinking about Joyce’s words throughout my shift and felt internally conflicted about the impact I thought I was making.  By the end of the shift, I decided to try a new approach: joining one of the gentlemen that I served just a bit earlier.  I asked if he minded that I join him.  After exchanging names and proper greetings, we dove into a more personalized conversation: our backgrounds, how we each got to be at Pit Stop Cafe that day, and past and present professions.  We shared a common bond over the love of reading and discussed our favorite books.  I couldn’t tell you the exact reason I approached the man, other than he had a kind smile and great spirit.  I suppose I wanted him to know that he is important and worth talking to, not that he needed my validation by any means.  Maybe I felt at that moment that he needed to be seen.

Upon leaving Pit Stop, I felt an intense wave of emotion and quickly stepped outside.  I don’t know that it was this particular volunteer shift that triggered me so much as it was realizing how engulfed I am my goals and needs to see anyone else’s.  I took my moment and let the tears slowly stream down my face, while I took a few deep breaths.  How selfish of me to be crying when these people have more challenging circumstances than I do. I circled around the idea that if we’re all operating independently, no changes will be implemented and no impact will be made to better the world.

Why do we let things get so bad in the first place?

As you ponder, I leave you with this: next time it’s too cold in the house or the food isn’t cooked to your perfection, or there’s not enough hot water for a shower, remember the person out on the streets.  Check your privilege, and remember, there is someone out there who is asking for nothing more from you than to be noticed.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Joyce Lee, owner of Pit Stop Cafe.

It’s My Job & I’ll Quit If I Want To

It’s My Job & I’ll Quit If I Want To

Pairs Well With… “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi


What will you do for a job while on Remote Year?” asked…everyone. While I was still in the throes of determining my job, I knew immediately what I was not going to do anymore – anything that doesn’t make me happy or feed my soul. Ya feel me?

True story.

What she said…


LIFE TRUTH #1: It is just as important to know what you DO NOT want to do as it is the things you DO.

I just threw the biggest Hail Mary of the last ten years by quitting my job in search of something “more me.”  It had escaped me that I had also pulled this stunt ten years ago during a status with my boss.  During that conversation, the words “I think I’m going to resign from this job,” flew out of my mouth before my mind even had a chance to register them. He looked at me with confusion and asked, “Do you want to rescind that statement?” to which I replied, “Mmm…(3-2-1) No, thanks,” as if I were merely turning down a cookie.  “I guess it flew out of there for a reason. I’ll stick with it,” I continued.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that my hand-eye coordination is superior to my mind-mouth connection, clearly.  Oh, and if history does, in fact, repeat itself, I’ve got a couple more career changes ahead before retirement.

Little did I know at the time, this “decision-making method” of mine would land me my dream job in Event Marketing…then Entertainment Marketing…and then down a path of creating and owning a few brands of my own.

LIFE TRUTH #2: You won’t find out anything new about yourself if you keep doing the same shit.

Over the last fifteen years, I busted my ass and built a successful marketing career for myself. The higher I stood on the corporate ladder, the more I felt burned out from the wear and tear of Corporate America. It is all I’ve ever known.

The demands of last minute requests causing me to rearrange personal commitments and pressures to outshine favorite colleagues for advancement opportunities got to me.  But it was the vicious “spin, twirl, repeat” cycle of the “meeting about the meeting” where teams tried to align in “real time” (and hit a word count for the day) and would “circle back” on action items by EOD.  Are you kidding me?!

All of it, little by little, began to feel like I was selling my soul for a good paycheck and excellent benefits. Because that’s what we’re “supposed” to do, right? Or so I thought…

I needed a break from the life I was leading. Actually, settling for.

So, I quit.

And figured out my plan and my new job.

LIFE TRUTH #3: Take a chance on yourself. If you won’t take a chance on you, why should anyone else?

Once I got accepted into Remote Year, I spent endless hours writing proposals, applying for jobs, setting meetings and selling my skills. Since then, I have been crushing 12-14 hour days, six days a week, for the last couple of months, and have faced more rejection in this window of time than I have in my life.  However, every morning I woke up with optimism and new-found hope that I would receive word of good news in my inbox.

One by one, I was served up these delicately phrased rejections letters, each stating a different version of the same thing: “Thanks, but no thanks.” The job interviews I had even led to rejection letters, most of which said, “We’d love to hire you when you’re back. Please keep in touch.”

Ugh. Ugh. And ugh.


When you get another job rejection letter...

Another rejection letter? You’ve GOT to be kidding me!


I quickly learned that despite having a breadth of experience, excellent background and an extensive list of accomplishments, I was going to need a new plan.  By the end of last month, I had heard it all. More often than not, I was either over qualified or an exciting, promising candidate but would be abroad. If nothing else, I could make money writing an e-course called “50 Shades of Saying No.”

But I knew I could create a new path for myself, but it was going to be a bit harder than I intended.  Lucky for me, I like a good challenge.

LIFE TRUTH #4: Quit fighting what isn’t working, and pay attention to the path you are traveling.  All paths lead to something.

There are three key things I know about myself:

  • When I stand still long enough and remain patient, the answer I’m seeking is always in front of me. Sometimes I just choose not to see it.
  • I always land on my feet, right where I’m supposed to be.
  • When it seems like I lack direction, I’m being forced to figure it out. (Spoiler alert: I figure it out every time.)


Finally, I threw my hands up and said, “F*ck it. I’m going to work for myself and create opportunities for myself.”  Now, that’s what’s up!

That, my friends, is precisely what I’ve begun to do.

LIFE TRUTH #5: The only thing that remains consistent in this life is change.

What you are doing today doesn’t always need to be done again tomorrow. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s right for you. And because you are good at doing something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it.

If you do the things you love, success will find you. You may just discover you’ve been standing in your own way and limiting your success. This is YOUR life. Design it in a way that appeals to YOU.



Go Top
Page generated in 1.307 seconds. Stats plugin by