A Bottle and a Brush: A Guest Blog by Raelyn McKay

“I’m handing in my notice,” I told my husband. I had had enough.

For 12 years in various roles as an administrative assistant, I had answered phones, taken messages, filed reports, made coffee, booked meeting rooms, planned events, taken minutes, recorded action items, coded invoices, entered data, tracked packages, booked flights and answered questions like “Is this the FINAL FINAL draft or is there a more final final draft than this final one?” and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I was good at my job. I received multiple commendations from clients and managers and I still have the letters of reference to prove it. And I loved parts of it; building spreadsheets and managing databases gives me a particular thrill. You want to publish a document and it CAN’T have any errors? Lemme at it. And if you want to host a four-day conference in a hotel with a swanky banquet at the end, I can make it happen. But for the most part, I wasn’t happy. So, not really having a plan, but with my hubby’s support, I resigned.

Before I had resigned, when I hadn’t been staying late at the office to meet deadlines, I was at home, playing with nail polish.

I. Love. Nail polish.



I love the colours, the names, the collections. I love how it self-levels and dries to a high-gloss shine. I love how it flows in the bottle when you roll it. I even love the smell.


I love how it makes you feel when you wear it. How it starts conversations between strangers when someone notices your gorgeous colour. I love how the tiniest daisy takes a nice pedicure to OMG! HOW BEAUTIFUL! It’s hard to have a bad day when you’re wearing rainbows on your hands. Painting nails relaxes me and clears my head. It was my stress reliever. And, working an unfulfilling job, I needed a lot of stress relief.


“Don’t even apply for another admin job,” my husband said. “Take the summer and figure out what you really want to be.”



I sat at my nail desk and as I polished my nails again for the third time that week, I looked at my strengths; database management. Event planning. Maybe I’d take a course at SAIT or MRU? They had programs for those things. I made appointments and met with advisors and went to info sessions. Hm. Maybe. June turned into July. And August was around the corner. End of the summer. Time to make a decision. Oooh, I love the shimmer in this shade. Maybe I’ll add a rhinestone to this design. Yes. Much better.


My godson’s birthday was approaching and my aunt invited me to visit her for the party. “Can you paint Minions on my nails when you come visit?” Yes, of course I could; “But I won’t trim your nails or do your cuticles. I don’t know how to do those things,” I said. I wasn’t a trained technician and I didn’t want to hurt her.


As we were sitting at her kitchen table and I was painting the little googly eyes and the overalls, she said, “You should do this for a living.”


I laughed. Yeah, as if. As if I could go from being an Administrative Professional to painting nails. Pfft. No way. You don’t just do that. Not at 34 years old.

I travelled back home and sat, once again, painting my nails and fretting over what I should do about a job. And then I heard my aunt’s voice; “You should do this for a living.”


And I thought to myself; if I could just sit and play with nail polish all day, I would be the happiest person in the world. So I got to googling. What kinds of jobs were out there for nail technicians?


At the time, there weren’t many positions open for “just” nail technicians. Most places wanted professionals who could also do waxing and tinting and facials. So, I decided I’d just take the plunge and learn it all – Esthetics! Within two weeks I had secured student financing and enrolled in a program and I have never looked back.


Thanks to the amazing instruction I received (Thanks, Audrey!), I fell in love with skin science and the beauty industry in general. After I graduated and landed in a job, I truly loved every single day working in the spa.


I had traded ringing telephones and sitting in front of a screen for soothing music and facial massage by candle light. My deadlines weren’t weekly or monthly anymore; now they were hourly – finish this pedicure so you can start your facial on time.


At the end of the day, I went home energized – sometimes with Hungarian Moor Mud under my nails from giving a body wrap; or baby powder on my clothes from waxing; or swatches of nail polish on my thumbs for clients who couldn’t choose a polish without seeing it on a nail… And though my body was tired, I was ready to do it all again the next day! Even when the mountain of towels grew taller and appointments got mixed up and co-workers were sick and we had to scramble to make it work, I reminded myself:

A bad day at the spa is better than a good day at the office.

That has become my mantra. And it’s true every single day.


My passion for the trade grew and fuelled me to be better and better. And I grew a loyal clientele. In time, I was honored with a Lead Esthetician role, where I could coach and lead others in the spa and we actually won awards in the industry. It was a dream.


Now, as an instructor at Delmar, I’m teaching others about esthetics and how to be successful in the industry. I’m sharing my passion for nail polish and skin science and customer care with the next generation of people just like me – who decided to follow their dreams and make a living just doing what they love! The instructors and staff here continue to inspire me. Every day we strive to elevate our students to greatness.


To those of you who are wondering if it’s really possible to make it, I say that YES IT IS! It was scary at first to go from being the person behind the reception desk with all the answers to the rookie who knew practically nothing. But it was absolutely the best thing I could have done. Summon the courage, take the plunge and do the thing!







Raelyn McKay is an internationally certified Esthetician and Beauty Therapist. She is the full time theory instructor for our Professional Esthetics program. 

no gimmicks. just great education



6 thoughts on “A Bottle and a Brush: A Guest Blog by Raelyn McKay

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