Hi all! The week since my last post has been a whirlwind: last Friday we flew to New York to spend the weekend with Rob’s family and attend our nephew’s christening, then came back to Washington on Monday just in time to celebrate my birthday the following day. The big 3-0 has finally caught up with me, and what’s a better way to celebrate it than with a giant vegan chocolate birthday cake?! You know how milestone birthdays have a tendency to stress us out because we assess our lives and what we’ve achieved so far? Well, I’m glad to admit that I enjoyed my 30th birthday way more than the previous couple ones. And I’m not just saying this because I want you to think that I’m oh so perfect (spoiler alert: I’m not), but because I embraced everything that happened to me in my 20s as a pretty crazy whirlwind of ups and downs that taught me SO MUCH! I’m in a way better place now than when I was turning 20, I’m in better physical shape, and I have better judgment because of everything my life has taught me.
Speaking of life… today I’d like to share with you a few things about my life from long before I started this blog. In case you’ve ever wondered who the girl behind Vegan Runner Eats truly is, here are the events of my life that shaped me into the person I am today:
The Story of My Life, Summed Up in 10 Steps
1. I was born in Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia that used to be a part of the USSR. I got to witness the last years of that empire as a child, and have memories of seeing endless empty shelves in grocery stores, food rationing coupons, and yet truly believe to this day that I had a happy childhood.
2. In those days, a lot of families in the USSR had a small patch of land outside of the city limit where it was customary to grow various fruits and vegetables to make up for the food shortage caused by the frivolous government policies. My family grew a variety of vegetables and fruit, and enjoyed the rich harvest of apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, nectarines, strawberries and grapes produced by a few fruit trees we had. The fruit alone tasted so delicious that to this day I haven’t found any fruit (be it organic, non-GMO, etc.) in any country I’ve lived since that tasted even remotely as rich and flavorful as what we used to grow.
3. When I was 13, my family moved to Russia. Even though we spoke the same language, Russian people in the area we moved to (3 hours outside of Moscow) seemed very foreign to me. My social awkwardness didn’t make things easier: I was never good at making friends, so for the first few years I basically spent all my free time by myself, doing lots of reading, drawing and daydreaming.
4. Once high school was up, I was debating between journalism and foreign languages as my college major. The choice eventually fell on foreign languages. During my college years, I studied English, German and French, but I never got enough practice in the latter two languages. English is the only language (besides Russian, of course) that I speak fluently.
5. Once I hit my twenties, I became anxious to make a change in the direction my life was going. I knew it would be hard for me as a graduate of a provincial college to find a job doing what I loved (which at the time came down to just using my language abilities). So at 21, I made a leap and moved to the United States, all by myself. My family still lives in Russia to this day. Six years passed until I saw my parents again.
6. I was full of naïve dreams at 21, but soon had to find out that ‘making it’ in the USA was not easy. Especially if you couldn’t convince the immigration services that you would be a great addition to the population of this country. For the first four years, I lived in Florida, working minimum-wage jobs, flipping burgers, cleaning condos, and sleeping on a couch in my friends’ living room.
7. I met so many people during my nine years of living in the USA and witnessed so many stories, from dramatic to hilarious, that it would be enough to fill a big book. One thing I learned for sure is that life’s toughest moments happen for a reason, often as a blessing in disguise. If it wasn’t for all the hardships, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
8. I met my husband Rob online in 2010. He lived in Alabama almost a three-hour drive away from my town in Florida, and for the first 4.5 months of our relationship he would drive the distance to see me every weekend. Eventually I realized that there wasn’t much keeping me in Florida, so I moved to Alabama to be with him. We got married on September 8, 2012.
9. Living in Alabama presented certain challenges to me as an immigrant. Alabama had passed its own immigration laws that put people like me under a lot of restrictions. Once my driver’s license from Florida expired, I was unable to get a new one in Alabama. For three years, I couldn’t drive a car or find a job. Thankfully, this was a huge opportunity for personal growth – I developed an interest in running and racing marathons and half-marathons, read a lot, started making sock monkeys and selling them on Etsy, and eventually, in May 2013…
10. …In May 2013, I decided to go vegan/plant-based after reading multiple books and watching documentaries like Forks Over Knives. I had thoughts about it before but thought it would be too hard in social situations. Since making the switch I learned that social situations may be hard at times, but every bit worth the effort when it comes to the difference my food choices make for my own health, lives of other living creatures, and the wellbeing of the environment.
The rest is history – I started this blog in July of 2013, ran my first marathon (second overall) as a vegan, and then in April of 2014, Rob and I made a cross-country leap and moved from Alabama to Washington state, which brought lots of positive changes to our lives. I am finally able to drive a car again (the laws in Washington are way more accepting of immigrants), I found a job, and as I’m turning 30 this week, I couldn’t be more grateful to my life for giving me the opportunity – and the strength – to successfully go through all the hardships of my 20s and come out on top!
The biggest lesson I’ve learned: don’t be afraid to live to the beat of your own drum. If everybody around you lives in a place that makes them miserable, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay there too – just get up and go. If you want to run a marathon but can’t find a training partner because nobody you know is interested in running – train by yourself. If you want to go vegan but don’t know another vegan person in your circle of friends, your town, your state – that’s fine, just go for it! And don’t listen to naysayers while you’re making your move! It’s your life, so you get to make your own rules and live by them, even if nobody else is willing to go there with you. (Of course, the rules you make still have to be in line with the laws of your state and country 🙂 )
Another lesson – when life gives you chocolate cake for your 30th birthday, dig right in! The recipe for this cake comes from Susan Voisin’s FatFreeVegan.com blog over here. It’s not oil- or fat-free and may not be the healthiest thing you’ll eat all day, but on a milestone birthday like this, who cares?!
Question for you: What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned so far? Please share below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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