Aha! or Oh, the places you’ll go.

Deep down, I always knew I had a calling.  Writing, the media, and television always held a special place in my heart.  But when the time came for me to choose my major in college, and subsequent path in life, I chose Business Administration.  Why?  Because I am a coward.  I was afraid of failure, and thought that everyone has crazy dreams, and these sort of thoughts were absurd.  I was supposed to get a “useful” degree, get married, and have children.  If I did okay, I would have a house, a car, and be able to afford one summer vacation every year.

Oprah Winfrey often talks about having an “Aha!” moment.  This is when you suddenly realize something new, and things click into place.  Oprah, or as I like to call her, the Greatest Woman Ever, did a segment on her OWN network (no pun intended), she discussed with a guest how you know that you are on the right path, and are being true to yourself.  The answer was painfully simple:  You don’t feel like you are betraying yourself.

I had a hard time admitting to myself, let alone speaking it out loud, but I had a quiet voice within that would nag at me Will you regret this? I would stubbornly reply I can’t be irrational and go into journalism! To which the voice would say But why not? I would end the conversation there. But the thought would always resurface.

One night I was having a conversation with my dear friend Katie, who over the years has become both my guru and therapist, in her college dorm room.  She was in her first semester at college, a fact she deplored and I was envious of.  Now I realize she hated it because it wasn’t her destiny, and her inner-voice was trying to tell her that. (She is now a photographer who is starting a program at the New York Film Academy in September).  I recall sitting on my blow-up mattress and looking up at Katie, who was perched on her bed with string lights hanging around her.  Even though I was at college studying business administration, I called out, “I wish I was studying journalism instead, Katie!” I’ll never forget what she said next, speaking the words of my inner voice out loud: “Why can’t you?”

There was my “Aha!” moment.

“Isn’t it crazy,” Katie continued, “That if we really, truly want to, we can do anything?”

Really…we can, can’t we?

And from that moment, something within me shifted.

The next morning, at a Hilton Hotel in Cullowhee, NC, I told Katie that I would apply to transfer into a communication/journalism program.  I was still nervous.  “What if I change my mind and regret it, Brenda?” I asked Katie’s mom.  “Then you’ll just move on to something else,” Brenda replied calmly.  Who said we have to do one thing for ever and ever?  I tried out business administration, and learned that writing and speaking fit me better than accounting and business. Maybe in the process of attaining my bachelors degree, I will learn something else about myself. At least for now I know I am not betraying myself.  Ultimately, everything does happen for a reason, and God has guided me to this place and time so that I would be on the path I am supposed to be on.

And whatever may come, and however things might change, I will always know to simply trust my inner voice.  Demand the truth from yourself.  You never know to what great places it will lead you to.

Much love,

my_signatue

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You do not complete me. I complete myself.

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I come from a society that has a deep-rooted belief that a woman’s number one priority in life is to get married and wholeheartedly serve her husband and children.  She is defined as a woman by her ability to get married, and stay in a marriage where the husband is happy. It is assumed that if he is happy, that has to mean that she is happy as well.  In school, my fellow female classmates either discussed their current plans for marriage, or dreams about meeting an amazing guy to whom she would be a dedicated and loyal wife.  There were very few girls who said that they wanted to get a college degree first, so they wouldn’t have to rely on their husband for financial support, and cases of girls saying they didn’t want to get married at all were unheard of.

Weddings are just about always an extravagant affair, with music, fireworks, and romantic slideshows.  But most girls never wonder what follows afterwards…Usually, they assume, it is eternal bliss.  However if you ask women like my mother, who has decades more life experience then my past classmates and I have, she would tell you that in most cases (not all), what follows is a mundane life with everyday problems, where your obligations include running a household, and being the perfect wife for your arrogant and controlling husband.  The belief that these girls are forced or coerced to get married and serve the husband is absolutely not true.  They are often more than willing and happy to be dutifully wives and mothers.  It takes many years before they realize that their husbands never gave them the happiness they were searching for.

Before you assume that this story only relates to the girls I went to high school with in Russia, I urge you to stop and reconsider.  When I started college in 2013 in America, I quickly realized that the same idea is replicated in the minds of American girls as well.  It seems that in the world in general, young girls seem to think that in order to be a happy and complete individual, they must, absolutely must, meet a guy, fall in love, and have a relationship.  That is their priority in life.  I listened in on my conversations of friends and acquaintances alike, in which their sole problem was their significant other, or lack of thereof, and their inability to cope with being single. I can write thousands of words recounting the cringing tales of how young girls I personally knew allowed themselves to be treated inferior by guys, and who were unable to walk away knowing that they deserve better.  What angered me more than watching young girls, who had their whole lives ahead of them and who carried the ability within to accomplish amazing things, was that they were absolutely fine with settling for an average (or below-average) life, as long as an average (or below-average) man was in it.

I wish I could shout from rooftops for all women in this world to hear DO NOT SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING A PARTNER, SPEND YOUR ENERGY ON FINDING YOURSELF.

Oprah Winfrey, on a 2005 segment of her show, recounted the popular 90’s film Jerry McGuire, in which the line, “You complete me” melted the hearts of girls all around the world.  To this, Oprah said, “You have to complete yourself.”

Dr. Robin Smith added, “Part of it is being able to develop you into a human being who is rich enough and broad enough that no one is necessary for your existence.  They add to your life, but they aren’t your life.”

When I was 17 years old, I thought the only road to happiness was to fall in love and get married.  Many young girls believe this as well, because it is what we are taught to believe.  Music, movies, books, and quotes all revolve around one thing…love.  While I would never denounce the greatness of love, rather it is because of my utmost respect for it that I urge you should find yourself and love yourself before you seek love from someone else.  You should come go into a relationship with enough confidence, self-respect, and a base to fall back on (education, money, etc.) so that the only thing you need is a pure and honest kind of love, and if it is not given to you or you cannot reciprocate it, you have the power in you to simply walk away.  And you walk away knowing that you deserve better, and that that something better is out there for you.  Most importantly, it is far better to be alone, than to be with someone who doesn’t add value to your life.

You are an individual.  When you meet someone your intuition tells you is the one, remember that they are not there to complete you, but rather to add to your greatness.

I hope you have a happy, happy day.

Much love,

my_signatue

Lessons from a Sunday morning.

Three weeks ago, I was sleeping over at Katie’s house after a concert.  I’ve been blessed enough to belong to two families — my own and Katie’s.  I love waking up on Sundays to a family morning.  Sundays are simple — no one has to work, and most weekend plans are completed on Saturday.  So on Sunday you wake up, and you can be slow in eating breakfast and watching television.  Sundays, seemingly the most uninteresting days of the week, are the ones we will remember as dear to our hearts forty years down the road.  Because we won’t recall the concerts or the parties with as much fondness as we will recall spending a simple day with the ones we love most.  You should treasure your Sundays!  Wake up every Sunday, and look into the face of the people you love, and have deep conversations with them, and drink coffee, and sit on the coach, and watch random shows, but most importantly just spend some simple, quiet, quality time with your families.

This Sunday, I was having a family morning with Katie and Brenda.  I woke up to find Brenda watching a Sunday morning news show, one of which had Benjamin Scheuer as a guest.  She was drinking coffee (or maybe it was tea?) on her side of the couch, and the sun was fresh and bright — the kind that comes out early in the spring and lasts until late summer.  I had oatmeal for breakfast with green tea, and later on Brenda and I made guacamole with only one avocado (we made up for that lack of avocados with tomatoes) for Katie and two of her other friends to have with their scrambled eggs.  It’s very important to remember the small details!  Years later when you look back to these days, the details will matter to you.  Anyway, Brenda was watching Benjamin Scheuer on a show which had an older man as the host.  Fascinated by his story, from getting over the death of his father to surviving cancer, she made us listen to his upbeat folk songs.  That Sunday morning, we listened to two that really struck a chord with us.  I wanted to share them with you.

Weather The Storm, by Benjamin Scheuer

The Lion, by Benjamin Scheuer

“I always show my teeth when I am smiling, I only say I love you when I’m sure!

Inside my gentle claws, I’ve got some devastating claws…!”

No matter what you are going through in life, I hope these songs will put a smile on your face.  I know that they do just that for me, if only because they make me think of Brenda, guacamole, and that Sunday morning in early Spring.  Thank you, Benjamin Scheuer, for sharing your strength with us.

Much Love,

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