Ode to my first car

My Toyota Rav4

I bought you when my world was turning sour

and I was crying nightly in my bed, lost and confused

you came as an escape from the pain and hot tears

and you brought me to a sleepy, wet city that washed away my frown

and replaced it with memories of joy, great coffee, and chasing the best running highs

in your interior I shed tears from job disappointments and rejection

and together we traveled to new heights: the majestic mountains of Oregon

and down to the coast

You took us to Cape Kwanda where I stood on a cliff above the ocean next to my new friends, embracing my new home

you and I found shelter in Portland, but not without a few scratches and scars

from friends who turned to foes, and when good health became illness

together we ventured to new places and sought out adventure

My Rav4, I shed tears of thanksgiving for your steadfastness

You held my dreams, hopes, my loves, and me for many tough miles

especially when I was too broken for anyone’s arms

you always opened yours up to me

strong independent woman

Remember that fateful night, when we collided? I was looking to get back at an on-again, off-again flame. You caught my eye in your sexy lifeguarding uniform. We struck a conversation and it all seemed effortless. Like the universe was conspiring for us to meet.

That night I remember looking at you in the car, and I told you you looked like Jessie McCartney with your big smile and your blue eyes. When we hugged that night, I felt electricity surge through me. I was so taken by you. I wanted to know everything about you. I wanted to spend every possible minute with you, but you also not a single one. You terrified me. You made me feel like I couldn’t control myself around you. You put me under a spell, and as much as I wanted to run, you made me stay.

With our persistent texting, I found that you and I are cut from the same cloth. Rebels at heart wanting to carve our own paths. With an incessant need to be the top of the top, the best of the best, and live beyond to our family obligations.

Our love affair was a mix of teenage lust, carefree living, and feeding off of feelings. But largely, it was a test of wills. You and I pulling each other for control, but eventually we pulled too hard, and the spell broke.

I was skittish and you were noncommittal. You were unsure and I was so sure. I knew you were it, and I was hoping you’d catch on.

One night, my friends caught you out with your ex, even when you were sending me sweet texts. I wasn’t your only interest. You had so many girls under your spell.

and it broke me. the walls I was lowering for your went up higher than before. So I dated your friends. I ignored your texts until you became desperate.

This back and forth tug of war continue into college. and you were always at the back of my head. One day I knew our stars would align again.

so we met 3 years ago at a cafe. At that time it was 7 years after our first kiss, my first kiss. 7 years after my life was forever changed, when I met love and saw how much it could hurt.

You sitting across from me, it seemed like everything changed and nothing.

You told me about your job, how so much had gone your way, how successful you had become. You were always the golden boy.

I told you about me. How lost and confused I had been, how I lost my health along the way. how I was just getting me back. It seemed that I had fallen from grace.

And just when an invitation for more was looming in the air, you pulled back. You told me that I was a strong independent woman. You told me I didn’t need a man.

But you weren’t telling me the full truth, just like before. I wanted you. I needed you. But you didn’t want someone independent. You didn’t want someone strong, someone who had battled in life. You didn’t want someone who knew your games, and who could outplayed you in some. You wanted someone to bend to your will.

And I wasn’t that girl. You were never going to choose me, to fight for me. Because I was too strong for you, and it made you scared. You wanted someone that centered their life around you. who gave you all of them. And I wanted to give you all of me.

I am a strong independent woman, but I also need love. You found yours and I hope I find mine soon. As magical as ours, but long lasting and fully true. A summer fling that burns into the winter.

seperation

How could you leave me at my lowest, at my darkest? I thought you were my keeper, but you turned your face to my tears and shut your ears to my whimpers of pain.

I told you I needed you. I told you that I didn’t have anyone else. But you chose to stay silent, you chose to stay away.

I didn’t know how to go on and I didn’t want to go on. I wanted me to end and I prayed for me to end. I whispered to you that I dreamed about the end.

You said I was selfish. You told me to think about the family, the fall out. You told me to not be stupid. You walked to where my pain couldn’t reach you. You minimized my pain.

You built your life while watching mine crumble in the distance. You blamed me for the destruction. You told me to be more responsible.

I asked you for a lifeline. I asked you to help me keep my dreams alive. To live with you and continue working at my dream job. To catch my breath and stop the destruction.

But you chose not to help me, not to inconvenience yourself or your “friends”. You slammed the door right in my face.

Now you want to see me, but you call and I can’t answer. You are a stranger to me, not the sister I grew up with. You remained silent and now I am too.

You forgot me. and now I must forget you too.

Cinderelly, Cinderelly

Every girl has a favorite Disney princess growing up, and mine was Cinderella. Her story was so relatable. She was poor, worked so hard, and faced many misfortunes, but one day she was gifted new life in the form of love with a conveniently rich, handsome prince who swept her off her feet and they rode off into the sunset together.

I wanted this fairy tale ending so much. Growing up my family was so poor. My parents came to the states with very little, a few photo albums, an oriental rug that was hung up in the living room (how my parents fit this in our bags remains a mystery), high hopes, and five growing kids. With all of us and my parents working menial jobs, far below their expertise, my parents struggled to keep us fed and clothed. In 3rd grade I wore the same jeans to school for the whole year because they were the cool ones from K-Mart, instead of all the other ones from goodwill. Being poor leaves you feeling embarrassed of your lack. I dreamed of being able to shop for the coolest clothes, sketchers, and ordering everything I wanted from McDonald’s. Our duplex was so small that my brothers slept on the couches in the living room while my two sisters and I slept in one bed. We finally moved in a house when I was 10 to make room for my new little brother and sister. I remember proudly cleaning the backyard every weekend, even using the leaf blower to make sure everything was in tip-top shape in hopes that some organization would ease my dad’s yelling and keep his fists from my mom’s face. I would cry in my bunk bed asking God to give me a new father when my attempts failed. I dreamed of becoming like Cinderella and being rescued from all neglect, the poverty, my father’s oppressive anger, and seeing my mom’s health fade. Slowly, school became my prince charming; books and studying were safe heavens where I excelled and I was reward for my efforts. In high school, I blossomed into a charismatic and charming woman, and the attention I received filled this void of never feeling wanted. With college looming, it felt like I was so close to my escape from my father and his pain.

At UC Berkeley I could breath like I could never before, no one looming in the background waiting to criticize my every mistake. Failing no longer meant physical pain. College was tough, between working to pay my way through it, and nursing a broken heart, but I thrived. I loved being a part of it all: the rush, the discoveries, and the excitement to be part of something great, even if I was a tiny number at the university.

I graduated in 2014, and outside my small window of happiness in Portland 2016-2017. Life after college has been one disaster to the next, hitting rock bottom, and realizing that wasn’t rock bottom, and falling further down. I’ve come to see so much pain and suffering. Now, back at my parent’s house, I realized that fair tales don’t exist in real life and slowly all my happiness disappeared from my grasp, like Cinderella’s dress and carriage at midnight.

My first love chose someone else, breaking my heart in half. I’ve never known love as passionate as his since. My health has unraveled after a few traumatic job experiences, and now my mind’s been broken by a doctor’s careless prescription. I feel empty and spent. My sisters left in my time of need, and my friends have dwindled down to a handful. Now, I wake up to the realization that life can be a nightmare, and I won’t be Cinderella. Because at 28 I wake up to my father’s yells and I cry like I did when I was 8.

When you keep losing…

I feel stuck. Stuck in my misery, stuck in my sickness. These past few years have been one set back after another, which eventually ended up with me living back at my parent’s house, unable to work, unable to do much physically and mentally. All these ambitions and dreams inside of me withered, I feel like a ghost floating around. Though worst. I’m in the land of the living but I’m not living. I’m in this body that used to do so much, yet now is capable of so little. Small endeavors leave my head in pain and my body aching for sleep. Things that used to bring me comfort no longer do.

Writing, words, and phrases that used to bring me so much joy and happiness escapes me. Nothing seems to click or work. I keep losing. And wasting my time watching tv. I don’t want to spend time in this world. I want to spend time outside of it. Outside of myself and my dreams that are hallow, my brain that is malfunctioning, and my body that can’t cope with the trauma. I want to stop disappointing my little sister, and I want to stop punishing my friends and family for not being there the way I exactly need it. I want to escape the suffering. I want to feel alive again, I want to feel like my old self, I want my brain to recover and heal.

I wish I could go back to that fatal day and take it all back. Change my actions and take a different course. I want to un-know all the pain and torment. I want to go back to the days where I was thriving and my future was bright and beautiful.

A few of my favorite things…

Recovering from trauma is a long, hard, and more often non-linear road to well-being. Family, close community, and God keep me going forward, but some days seem hard and impossible to overcome. Lately, there are a few things that make my days a little bit lighter.

SKIN

I’m a huge clear skin fanatic. Since I had bad acne in college, I’ve been on the search for ways to get the flawless complexion I’ve always dreamed of.

  • EMU OIL – this is non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) oil does wonders for your skin! It’s light and I use it almost every day. I use it to take off my make-up in the evenings. Just massage the oil onto your skin, wait 20-30 minutes, and wipe if off with a wet towel (lukewarm water) . If my skin is feeling dry (usually a rare thing since I usually battle with more oily skin), I put it on in the mornings, or after a bentonite clay mask.
  • Ocean Water- I’ve been using this as a face wash, either as a way to clean off emu oil at night or as a refreshing way to wash my face in the morning. Whenever I use it, I wake up with clearer and brighter skin.
  • CLEAR SKIN FOREVER BOOK- I bought this book on a whim, but it’s been such a great resource in helping me find the best diet & skincare routines (pretty much none) to get the skin I’ve always wanted. And I can have dairy again. Hallelujah!! The book also explains very thoroughly what is good or bad for you and the science behind the why. (link: https://www.clearskinforever.net)

General Health

  • Daily journal of symptoms- I noticed I was getting increasingly worse head pain this summer. I started keeping a journal about my head pain and anything else that I believe can help or hinder me: digestion, foods, emotional stress, supplements I was trying out, and sleep. I’ve also compared my symptoms to where I am in my cycle, and it’s been so enlightening to see how the two correspond.
  • My Flo app- I haven’t jumped on the cycle tracking until now. This app costs $2, but it’s been a huge help in sorting out my symptoms and helping me see where I need help to balance out my hormones.
  • Running & Sauna- on particular bad head pain days where all I want to do is curl up and cry, I try to take a short 2 mile run with my dog instead & sit in the sauna for about 1 hour. Both get my blood flowing and subside the pain for at least a short time.

Life

  • Thursday nights with Natalie- my sister Natalie and I block out Thursday evenings for each other. Whether we go out to East Sacramento to explore, kick around a soccer ball, or cook & watch Thursday night football, this consistent block in our schedules makes it easy to anticipate our weekly sister date, and easier to plan around our other obligations. Plus consistency is key.
  • OUR NEW KITTY- I initially named him Leo after Leo Tolstoy, but my family ended up calling him Demka; Demka has become a more fitting name due to his white coloring and black tail. He has the most rambunctious personality, even tries to fight my older cat, Mishka. Natalie got him at one of her cross country meets, and he’s been a joy.
  • Write a poem- My best friend Katy gave me the one of my favorite gifts this past birthday, a journal that lets you write a poem based on a word or phrase. For example, I’ve written poems about fall, trees, and my first love. It’s a great way to be creative at the end of my day and reflect on past memories.
  • Watching my dad with Demka- My dad treats him like a child. He will watch the kitty play outside and bring him back to the front yard in case he wonders too far. When he’s laying down on the couch watching tv, the kitty will often lay with him and fall asleep in his arms. It’s so nice to see my dad nurturing for my cats, and makes me dream of him one day caring for my kids in this gentle manner.
  • Dressing up & going out- because of my trauma I’ve lose much of the life I cherished. I lost my dream job, friends that proved to be fair-weather friends, my independence, financial freedom, and a sense of safety inside myself and in this world. Because of the trauma, I struggle between heavy sadness that plunges me into darkness to heart racing anxiety. Something that I used to do before my trauma was to get dressed up and go out around town- either to a cute cafe or a drink with friends. I put on clothes that make me feel good, red lipstick and go out when I’m feeling stuck in my trauma. I’ve organized monthly wine nights with friends. It slowly brings me to my old self, cultivates my community, and slowly pushes me back to my old self.
  • Peak brain exercising app- My brain trauma has impacted my old capabilities and in some ways my overall intelligence. To regain my previous strengths and rewire my mind, I play the brain exercises daily in the morning. I’ve noticed an improvement in many areas in the 1.5 weeks I’ve had the app. (link: https://www.peak.net/)

Thank you for reading this long and extensive list of some of my favorite things. And for being along for the ride to my journey to wellness.

Purpose from evil & suffering

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” Genesis 50:20

A short note on suffering.

I don’t believe the cliche that “everything happens for a reason”. This saying is frequently thrown out, but it’s attempts to comfort become trivial in the wake of real tragedy: my mother’s cancer, my father’s abuse, my struggle with jobs, the sexual assault I endured, & the brain trauma I faced last year. It cannot adequately explain the increasing violence, mass shootings, suicides, illnesses, or natural disasters we see around the world today & throughout human history. It cannot explain the gut wrenching feeling we have when our world shatters in front of us, and we are helpless to stop it.

I cannot explain all the background on suffering or fully explain how the Christian view of suffering is expressed in the Bible, but I can offer my view & how it’s changed throughout my traumas. First off, my view has largely been shaped by Philip Yancey’s book, Where is God When it Hurts. This book offered timeless truths in the face of suffering.

{exert from Yancey’s book below}

“Is God somehow responsible for the suffering of this world? In this indirect way, yes. But giving a child a pair of ice skates, knowing that he may fall, is a very different matter from knocking him down on the ice.”
― Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?

“The first step in helping a suffering person is to acknowledge that the pain is valid, and worthy of a sympathetic response.”
― Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?


“We feel pain as an outrage; Jesus did too, which is why he performed miracles of healing. In Gethsemane, he did not pray, “Thank you for this opportunity to suffer,” but rather pled desperately for an escape. And yet he was willing to undergo suffering in service of a higher goal. In the end he left the hard questions (“if there be any other way . . .”) to the will of the Father, and trusted that God could use even the outrage of his death for good.”
― Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?

Just like Joseph’s time as a slave & imprisoned due to his brother’s evil actions, we are often hurled into unfortunate circumstances due to another’s sins, natural forces, or our own sins. However, the Bible’s story about Joseph & Job show us that God can transform us in our pain & suffering to be wiser & stronger, even when it makes no sense.

If you are going through a season of suffering, please let your community know, because we are called to bare each other’s burdens. Feel free to message me about your circumstance, and I will pray for you if I cannot do something else. My prayer and hope for myself, & anyone going through suffering, is that we trust that God can transform unspeakable tragedy into good for ourselves & others. Only He can make beauty out of ashes.

28 Lessons for 28 years

  1. Buy yourself flowers, they can brighten up the saddest days & moments, & can ease your suffering.
  2. Be realistic with yourself of what you can accomplish in your current circumstance. Do not create extra stress on yourself with unrealistic expectations, especially if you’ve gone through a recent traumatizing or stressful situation. Knowing your limits will eventually help you overcome them, & lead to more current happiness.
  3. Usually, less is more.
  4. Bold lipstick can make you feel more confident, even on the most daunting days.
  5. Do something/anything, instead of being paralyzed by doubt & overthinking. Take that less than perfect job, go on that date with someone you can’t completely see yourself with, or volunteer. It might lead to eye-opening conversations, or even your dream job/guy/city, etc.
  6. Sometimes moving someplace completely new is the answer. A fresh start, but your problems, hurts, & insecurities will follow you. Take time to make peace with your past, but take advantage of a new beginning.
  7. More stuff, money, dates, or more doing will not mask underlying anxiety. Examine what’s underneath your anxiety, and boldly face it. Ask God to help you overcome it, and seek the wise counsel of friends & books.
  8. Not all thoughts are worth paying attention to, sometimes they are junk thoughts. Try not to engage with them & move onto something else.
  9. Take time for solitude, like a walk with your best friend or a furry pal. Look around your scenery and find something beautiful in that moment.
  10. Suffering eventually ends.
  11. Constraints often bred the most creativity.
  12.  Do not let your pride get in the way of telling that person how you feel about them, even if it leads to rejection, at least you will not have any regrets.
  13. Routine it key, it helps you thrive. Create order out of your chaos, even if the most you can do is make your bed in the morning & doing the same thing before bedtime. Routine is especially important for individuals who’ve recently been through trauma or extreme stress.
  14. Buy plants & learn to care for them. They’ll clean your air & the greenery will help you feel more relaxed at home.  
  15. Be realistic of what you do and do not need.
  16. Find something that helps you relax in the evenings- whether it’s making soap, running, cooking, working on a puzzle, or taking a hot bath.
  17. Learn to ask good questions. A good conversationalist is an understated quality.
  18. Create weekly or monthly rituals with your favorite friends or individuals, like monthly wine nights, or weekly cooking nights followed by a tv show. Commit to your community & the most important people in your life.
  19. Examine ways you are self-sabotaging yourself, either by keeping a journal or scheduling time monthly to examine your life choices, mindsets, & biases.  
  20. Build up a support group now, not when tragedy or trauma strikes.
  21. Learn something new, a new sport or painting or language, even if you’ll look silly or bad. It will challenge your brain, and give you new found confidence in yourself.
  22. Celebrate small wins, because big wins are few & far between. Most of life is found in the small moments.
  23. It’s ok to let people go. You cannot force a relationship when either party is not ready for that commitment, or hasn’t fully healed from previous hurts.
  24. Focus on 3s. Three things you can accomplish or add to your routine, it will clarify your focus & simplify your life without making you feel overwhelmed.
  25. Big tragedies or traumas are usually out of your control. Try not to beat yourself up about what happened, but find someone you trust- a friend, a pastor, or a therapist, to talk to. You cannot act like nothing happened, it will hinder opportunities for growth.
  26. When your present circumstance is painful, take time to think about happy moments or accomplishments from the past. It might give you the confidence to continue forward.
  27. Clutter breeds chaos. Simplify your stuff, it’ll help you concentrate, & help you feel less stressed.
  28. If social media is cultivating more jealousy & comparison in yourself, or even anxiety, give yourself a break from it, or disconnect completely. It might lead to greater freedom than you thought possible. The people that care for you most will find ways to connect with you.

turning 24

year 23. This past year I can tell you that I learned to budget money, improved my excel skills, traveled to new places, logged more running miles, got to know some incredible people- though that wouldn’t be a lie, I think that the bigger truth I learned this year was how to be weak. How to lean on people. And how to just live.

The thing is- this year was probably the worst year of my life. I’m not a person who says this lightly. I have not had it easy growing up. But this year was beyond the things I had experienced before. I can blame it on a multitude of things. Circumstances: Bosses. Economy. Heartbreaks. Roommates. Deadlines. But I think the underlying thing was that my illusion of happiness was broken.

To fully understand how I got to this year, I need to tell you a little story from my high school days. My senior year I was given a project. My English teacher challenged us to create a visual representation of our fatal flaw. Our core characteristic which most influences our actions, thoughts & fears.

I remember bringing a picture to class. Nike sneakers placed at the bottom of a hill. The photo was in black and white. No one was wearing the sneakers. It was suppose to give a ghostly impression of life’s uphill battles.

This picture captured my fatal flaw because I am always running towards my goal. My destination. And though you can see me striving for my dreams, the person of daily living was a ghost. I was always living in the future. The future was where the happy and perfect Yuliya existed. My greatest fear was that I would never experience the present because my happiness depended on getting to that perfect person in the future. The future Yuliya who was the devote Christian, fit & skinny, with the perfect corporate job living in San Francisco. I would finally be good enough for my dad when I had all of those things. I would finally be good enough for God. I would finally get that perfect boyfriend & be good enough for love.

I have always been on the road to get to that perfect person so that I could finally be happy. And loved unconditionally. Isn’t it ironic that I was finally going to get unconditional love when I became this perfect person even though unconditional love is “as you are” love?

At age 23 I had all the prospects of my criteria for happiness: I just moved to SF to work at a prestigious financial services company, I had undeniable chemistry with my cute Texan co-worker, and the consistent coastal weather meant that I could always work out. Fit, happy, successful, & taken Yuliya was just within my grasp.

That was going to be the year of happy. The year that I finally got everything I wanted and I was going to be accepted by my Dad, God, and all of my friends. And myself. I was finally going to love myself.

However, the pursuit of all of those things turned out to be the worst. The job turned out to be soul sucking, the city hallow, and the boy hurtful. And on top of that I felt the biggest distance from God. I felt utterly alone. Drowning in a sea of sadness.

When I felt like I couldn’t escape all my sadness, I asked to be transferred to Seattle, a city I have always thought of moving to, in order to get a fresh start. That would be the solution for all the hurt I was feeling.

When that didn’t go through, I pretty much at the bottom of any bottom I had ever been to, or felt. I would cry everyday. Driving to work, lunch hours, bathroom breaks, on my way home, and falling asleep. Always crying.

I was weak. My spirit was down. I was depressed. I did not have any hope for anything good.

That’s when I decided to quit. I needed to make a change in my life and my job was the start. So I put in my 2 weeks notice at the disappointment of my partners and at the envy of my colleagues. I took a leap of faith for happiness. And for myself. I took that first step towards happiness by moving back with my parents. Seems backwards, crazy, & stupid.

What would possibly make me leave a prestigious firm & San Francisco for unemployment & being roommates with my 12 year old sister in middle of nowhere Sacramento? In my heart though, I knew that if I hadn’t made that decision, I would lose myself & my faith.

Fast forward 3 months after I left my job- I still don’t have any definitive plans. I know that I want to move out of California, but I don’t know what company or what city I will be in next. And my life is still a mess. There are days where I feel so stuck in my circumstances, where I question my decisions, and where I feel a sea of doubt overwhelming my soul.

But I am stronger for making the decision I did. And I know that choosing my relationship with God over my career, a boyfriend, and wealth was the right decision. And I discovered that God is the only one who can give me happiness, peace, unconditional love, grace, and acceptance. The things my soul aches for.

23 was not the year of happiness, the year of soul aching misery and depression, it was daily struggles with all consuming tears, hospital visits for anxiety & health problems due to stress, but it was also the year that I leaned on others’ strength. Where I stripped away all the walls, or rather God knocked them down in order for me to be built back up in His love and grace. Being vulnerable was hard. It was hard to feel weak in front of people- friends, co-workers, siblings, my mom. It was hard to tell them that I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t strong enough, and that I needed their help to get through it. But without this difficult year, I wouldn’t be able to understand life as well. I wouldn’t understand what leaning on other people means, or what courage looks like, or what truly loving life feels like. 23 may have not been what I imagined for myself, but I think in some ways it was exactly what I needed.

Because in year 23, God re-defined my view of happiness, love, friendship, strength, and weakness. And for that I am thankful. God has great things in store for me. I believe that. And I believe that life is always messy and imperfect, but God has given me understanding to find the beauty in the mess. And love of the everyday journey.

Tell me about yourself

My name is Yuliya Chekmareva and I want to give you a real answer to this question. Or I will try my hardest. I have been asked this question a lot in the past few months. No people aren’t interested in knowing all the intricacies of my soul, all the scars on my heart. They want the perfectly tied together, Yuliya, who will add immense value to a company. Not that Yuliya that is desperate to be hired. It’s the interview question that I have perfected after countless interview preparations. The one I can answer in my sleep without a breath of hesitation.

Today, I want to give my best shot at a real answer. Why? Cause my little sister  is a genius who consistently challenges me to be true to myself. Whether that’s in life pursuits or through writing.

Who am I? I’m a woman that has fought a lot of battle and overcome some hard, dark things. And life has broken me down to tears countless times. And I have given up so many times. I have asked God~Why? And received silence. And wondered if He abandoned me.

I am also a person that believe in kindness. Not the polite, let me open the door for you & ask you how your doing {but only wanting the generic, “well”, answer}. The kind of kindness that desires to know the battles your fighting, your fears, your goals and passions, and the simple things that make you smile. I want to know your story and appreciate life’s fragility through our interaction. So then maybe I can give a little bit of my story to you. I crave that bond with all the people I meet. Whether it’s my grocer, barista, cashier, friend, co-worker, or random person I end up talking with.

I am a person who craves adventure, but also the comfort of familiarity. I feel like a walking contradiction most of the time. I crave safety and comfort. The hands of my father wrapped around me when I finally quit my soul-sucking, depressing job. But I don’t have that. I take chances and risks, and I hate planning. I am a person who makes do with what life hands me. And tries to make the best of things. I seek to be a better person and bring light & hope into others lives.

I love kids. Silly faces, dance parties, and playing tag. You can find me at the kids table at Thanksgiving. I want to inspire my younger cousins to pursue their dreams. To step away from the pressures of our Russian, super-strict up brings, and realize their full potential. I want them to know themselves and know God outside of the constraining rules & judgement that we all grew up around. I dream of having a family and loving my kids fully. I want to inspire my future daughters to cross boundaries, and teach my sons to respect women. I try to live in the moment and not be waiting around for certain milestones or goals. I am excited to meet the man of my dreams, the one that will love me as me, and I can love him fully. But I try not to put to much weight on that. Right now, I am happy to pursing the things that make me happy.

The most important thing about me is that I believe in the good. I believe that God created good things, but bad things are part of life. But I willingly try to understand and obey God. I’m far from perfect and I try to share my struggles with people because I never want someone to think that I am better than them. I am not. We are all God’s children. All created to be loved and to be love by the Creator. I will always need to be saved, but I consciously choose to seek God through all of life’s struggles and praise him even when it’s the hardest thing. My faith has been challenged in the past year and life handed me some tough cards, but I have the best people in my life. My older sister, Marina, who supports me and my dreams. She is my hero. And I am so excited to see her building up a great organization. She has had it tougher than anyone I know, but genuinely loves people. Besides my mom, she is the most sacrificial person I know. In her, I see Jesus reaching out and loving people. Through her supportive hugs that break down your guard and the broken pieces of your heart flow out in tears. Hugs unlike any other. She also makes me feel strong. She reminds me that I am capable of doing the things I set my mind too. My younger sister, Angelina.. Linchik.. she’s my partner in crime. She reminds me that it’s ok to have needs, and pretty things, and feelings. She challenges me to be myself and not conform. And Natasha, who lets me be myself. Who has wiped away my tears countless times. And even though she is young age-wise, she carries maturity in her soul. She has seen the bad, and is able to smile and make you feel like everything will be ok. That it is worth it. And then my brother, Eddy. He is hard to connect with, especially as a teenager. But when he comes to cuddle with me for a few minutes, or when we talk after his track practice, and I get a glimpse into his world, it makes me so thankful for him.

So, this is me. I am a person that is trying to navigate through life as best I can. I have a lot to figure out, But I know that there is a lot of good in life. And I will continue to hold on to this through all of the hard, bad, & ugly.