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Turning 24

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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.

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