My life story? Yes, I realize a lot of you may be laughing at the title and thinking, “Wait, but, you’re only 21, what could you possibly have to say?” This story is not me trying to preach my life wisdom or anything like that. This is to give my blog a backbone, a base, to show people where I come from and how I became who I am today, at this point in my life. I also want to tell my story because I want to shatter the belief that just because a person may seem like they are happy or are living the “perfect” life, it does not mean that they actually feel that way. I am here to show people that everyone struggles with something. I use to think that so many people around me had everything figured out and that I was the only one that was messed up and dysfunctional. Oh, how wrong I was. However, before I get off track, here is my little story.
As many people know, or can tell from my name, I was not born in the U.S. I was born in a small, but beautiful country nestled between Finland and Latvia. My father was born in Saaremaa and my mother was born in Petseri. Petseri use to be a part of Estonia, but after WWII, Russia decided to keep it as part of theirs. Saaremaa is the biggest island in Estonia located off the coast off Western Estonia. I, however, was born in Tallinn, the capital on December 13th, 1994. Sadly, I do not remember much from my younger years and can’t truly tell the difference between what is a memory or just a photo that I feel is a memory. My parents divorced before I was 5 and as sad as that sounds, it was for the best. My real father was not the best father or husband to my mother. So, things were better off that way. My mother got encouraged to apply for the Green Card Lottery by a friend which is a lottery that is offered in countries where immigration to the U.S is very low. It was just her first time and she actually won. She received 2 permanent residence cards, Green Cards, allowing us to live in the U.S. My mom had a few connections in the U.S and decided to go first and leave me at home with my grandmother. My mom came back before my 5th birthday and took me with her. I do not remember my exact feelings as I flew across kilometers of land and water, but at age 5, I can only imagine how terrifying it was. We moved in with my mom’s boyfriend at the time, which ended up being a disaster. Luckily, my mom knew someone else that came one day when her boyfriend was not home. We packed our things in his car and he took us to his house. Now, I can say I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and this man, today, is my wonderful stepdad. Who, in reality, I refrain from calling “step” dad because he raised me with my mom from when I was a little blonde 5 year old to the 21 year old I am now. My mom and I like to say that he “saved” us because in a way he did. I do not tell him enough, but I love him so much for that and for everything he has done for me and my mother. I remember my mother telling me that when we first moved to the U.S, I hardly ate a thing. I only ate hard-boiled eggs and toast. I think it was the fact that we had moved and it was all internalized fear of the new and unknown. I did get better of course and over time, both my mom and I, got use to the typical “American” lifestyle. When you come from a place of home cooked meals and quality and enter a world of freezer meals and packaged “food” it is very strange at first, but after a while, it sucks you in. My mom and I did not know any better and my dad at the time, was living like a typical American. I remember eating Hamburger Helper for dinner and consuming soda like water. However, I remember growing up a very happy and talkative child. I had a wonderful childhood and loved going to school, talking with people, drawing, singing, dancing, everything. I would even, at restaurants, turn around and talk to the people behind us. My mother had my little brother when I was 7 years old and I love that little guy more than he knows. I had NO fears or low self-confidence. Period. You may be thinking about language amongst all this. Well, when my mother and I moved to the U.S, she persisted that we kept speaking in Estonian, but being stubborn at the time and having the desire to “fit” in with everyone, I refused. I wanted nothing more than to be like everyone else. I did not want to be that girl with a huge accent. Looking back now, I regret it with all my heart. Time passed and I grew up and at this point I was really getting into dancing. I had done many other things like modeling and acting, but dancing really stuck with me. I remember I would always dance in the store aisles when we went grocery shopping. In fact, I still do.
I was dancing with one ballet school at the time and after a while, we decided I needed something more. I was not dancing that many times a week and so, we found another school that was in the city. This became one of the best parts of life. I switched to Kansas City Ballet at about age 11 and at first, it terrified me. It was much more advanced than what I was use to and I knew absolutely nobody. However, time passed, at it grew to be a place that I still hold dear to my heart. My life consisted of school and dance. I was there almost everyday and when I got older, I was there even longer. As high school approached, I started becoming quite the “round” girl. I was by no means, fat, but I was putting on extra pounds and eating horribly. As a dancer, it was not ideal, but at first, it didn’t bother me at all. I loved myself at the time and freshman year in high school was so much fun. I remember so many heavy metal/indiepop concerts and fun gatherings with friends. However, people in the dance world started to notice my weight changes. At the ballet school, we a level system. There were 7 levels and ideally, you wanted to reach the highest level by the time you graduated. I kept being held back in the same level for 3 years and in the 3rd year, it got frustrating and disappointing. I also stopped getting parts in productions which also hurt. My family and I decided to go to the director of my ballet school at the time and ask what the problem was and what I could do to improve. We discussed many things, but it felt like there was an elephant in the room. My mother casually decided to bring up my body shape and see if that had anything to do with it and it’s like the hiding elephant became visible. It became apparent that my weight was starting to interrupt different parts of my life. That was the first time that my mind truly began to focus on my weight and health. I later auditioned for a summer school and after the audition was over, the teacher pulled me aside and said, “So, you have been accepted, but we recommend that you lose some weight if you plan to attend our program this summer.” I had never heard such words directed at me in my entire life and that is when I realized I needed to do something. While you might think this is where my story gets sad, it doesn’t.
I slowly started watching what I ate, but not in a bad way. I was still eating plenty, but simply cutting out all the junk I was consuming including chicken nuggets, soda, and so on. Slowly, but surely, my health did a complete flip. At the time, my family was also making a conscious effort to eat better and that is when we made a switch to mostly organic produce, more whole foods, no fast food, more cooking, and turning our health around. We had watched a documentary called, “Food Inc.” and that was probably the turning point for our family. I was very skeptical about all of it and it’s so funny thinking that and seeing how I am now. However, I got use to it and in fact, fell in love. We started getting our milk and eggs straight from a farm, starting growing so many beautiful vegetables, and our health changed for the better. I starting losing weight, losing my acne, my allergies, and my family and I stopped getting sick so often. I felt SO good on the inside and out I couldn’t believe it. People in my life started to notice and it made me so proud. I had fallen in love with dancing all over again and stopped getting injuries. My dancing even improved. It was a miracle. Now, while all these changes were going on, I was in a wonderful relationship. It was in high school, sure, but it was everything a girl could dream of. It was my first real meaningful relationship and I couldn’t have been happier. My health was glowing, my love life was beaming, my grades in school went from horrible to almost perfect scores, and my dancing was nothing short of magic. However, while all this was going on, I lost sense of myself. I pushed away a lot of people in my life to be with my boyfriend at the time. When we were together, it was just us, we weren’t our own individual people, or at least, I wasn’t. I was caught up in a fairytale, but sadly that took me a long time to figure out. We had been together for almost 2 years and out of nowhere, he broke it off. If I could describe the pain in words, I would. My entire world fell apart within seconds and that is an understatement. When you devote your life to one person, including your identity, and they leave, what are you left with? This all sounds dramatic, but remember that I was a completely different person at the time. I was just going into my senior year in high school, my final year. I was going in alone. I had pushed away all my friends. I blame myself entirely for that and as devastating as this all was a the time, I am finally at a point in my life where I can say that I am glad it happened. In fact, I wouldn’t want to go back and undo anything. I am the way I am because of my past. However, back to the story, I remember the rest of the summer going by really slowly and painfully. I did regain some sort of strength and was able to reattach broken friendships in my life. In regards to my health at the time, this is when I remember that my body confidence began to shift again. I remember going away one summer, after my senior year, to a dance school in New Mexico. It was a place I had gone to for 2 summers already and it was a place of comfort. I got food poisoning and couldn’t eat for a couple days and due to that my weight dropped rapidly. It was then that I noticed quickly I could drop weight without eating. Then, things fell apart one after another…
I slowly stopped liking what I saw in the mirror and started being more critical of how I looked. It didn’t happen drastically, but throughout a year, this is where I developed my depression and my eating disorder. At first, I just cut out desserts, but over time I became a calorie freak. As time passed, I got worse and worse. If we fast forward to my 2nd semester of freshman year in college, I was barely alive. I had gotten accepted to UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and planned on getting my BFA in Dance. However, my eating disorder kept eating me alive. I was so fixated on looking small and petite, it’s like I wanted to vanish completely. During this time though, I had no idea that I needed help. I started losing my emotions and feeling numb. I was dancing all day, barely eating, and going to the gym in between classes. Just typing that right now makes my hands shake. I was a glass vase waiting to brake and I had no idea. My parents kept trying to understand and help me, but I refused. I remember so many lonely nights awake, my stomach churning, crying, because I was so hungry and in pain, but the thought of eating made me feel like I was weak. Eating was a weakness to me and ignoring my hunger was strength. How messed up is that? In February 2014, I finally gave in and said I needed help. I went to my professors and told them. They agreed and I put in medical leave so, I could go to treatment. I went to an Eating Disorder Treatment Hospital in Oklahoma for 3 months. I was in intensive care for 1 month to simply bring my body back to a living state. I was under 100 pounds, my heart rate was below 40 beats per minute, my hair was falling out, and my period was gone. I wasn’t even allowed to walk for a few weeks and was given a wheelchair. I remember crying myself to sleep because I was so terrified and confused, but I knew I needed help. I wanted to get better. Time passed again and throughout my stay, I had a treatment team and met so many wonderful girls that were going through the same thing. If any of you are reading this, I did not forget any of you. You are still in my heart each day and I wish you health and happiness. The days were filled therapy sessions and group classes. Also, proper meals, snacks, constant blood tests, and so on. To this day, I don’t even flinch when I get blood drawn. I think it scares some people, but after giving blood several times a week for 3 months, you REALLY get use to it.
After 3 months, I was ready to go home. It was terrifying being at home again, a place where I was so sick, but I eased back into home life. The rest of the summer went by and I stuck pretty well to keeping the weight and keeping my thoughts positive. However, I started getting into a deep exercise addition again and became obsessed with HIIT training and other high intensity programs. I was aware of my disorder now and knew it was wrong, but I wasn’t in a good place still. I went back to university, but only part-time and not dancing. I also found a job that became one of the best things in my life. I began working at a tea store really close to my university and in the city. The people I worked with became my second family and if you all are reading this, I love you dearly. I got to work with wonderful people and share my love of tea with others. I made so many wonderful connections with people and everyone I worked with taught me so much. Thanks to my boss for teaching me that mistakes are okay and how to be a little more tough in life. During my time there, I went back full time again and this time a dance major again. I figured I needed to see if it truly was the path for me or not. At first, it was okay going back, but after a while, I realized that it was a very negative environment. It took going away to realize that the environment I was dancing in, was toxic to me. There was so much competition, negative body comments, and drama. Also, the idea of getting a grade on my dancing seemed ridiculous to me.
I started looking into other schools and other possible majors. I felt really bad not wanting to dance anymore in school and felt like I had to especially to make my parents happy. I thought they would be disappointed in me, but to my surprise they were very supportive. They just wanted me happy. I looked into English Literature and Writing because that was always a passion of mine, but I always pushed away thinking that I HAD to dance. I wanted to go to Colorado, one of my favorite states, but the thought of paying over $40,000 a year was insane. I was so confused and unhappy with what to do with my life. I hated those in my life that had a direct path of where they wanted to go and here I was with nothing. I had it all planned out in high school and then everything just came apart at the seams. It was also during this time where I got into my yoga practice. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I kept at it and it became one of the most valued things to me. At first, it was all about the poses, but it took me some time to realize that yoga is so much MORE than the poses. It is a mind harmonizer. A soul nourisher. It all may sound silly, but trust me I did not see it that way at first. It took me almost a year to feel it completely.
I was in the car one day with my mom and out of no where she said, “What if you go back home? Back to Estonia? Go to Tartu University, the same university that I graduated from?” I looked at her like she was crazy. Go WHERE? Across the globe? However, I kept thinking it over and it kept making more and more sense. Nothing was working for me here, except my job, so why not go back to my roots? Find myself there. I did research and found out that there was a scholarship that was perfect for me. It was for Estonians that were born in Estonia, but have lived outside Estonia for over 5 years. Well, that was definitely me. The scholarship included a stipend, tickets and trips home, and enrollment into a year long intensive Estonian Language course. I thought this was the perfect opportunity and applied. I spent hours crafting the perfect paper and magically, I got the scholarship. Just like that, I found out I would be moving 5,000 miles away back to where I first opened my little eyes.
The hardest part about leaving, other than family and friends, was my job. My job had became my entire heart and leaving was terrible. It was a lot of tears, but before I knew it, I was on a plane with my mom, like we were 15 years ago. It was surreal and still is sometimes, that I now how a life here when just a year ago, I didn’t know what to do. It’s not like things magically fell together when I moved here, in fact, they were very stressful and terrifying. Imagine coming to a unknown country and not understanding a word, or a sign, and knowing nobody. However, classes started and I was lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people. Connections with people are very important to me now ever since I learned that pushing people away is not the answer. My classmates are so kind, my roommate the first semester was the best I could have asked for, this is to you Liza, and I also grew close to my little oddball artist, Eerika, this is for you. My teachers are wonderful and each day I realize that moving here was the best decision I could have made for myself. However, if we back track a little, I met someone my very first day in Tartu and almost 9 months later, he is the most wonderful man I could have asked for to have in my life. Ever since my long relationship in high school, I lost all hope and my trust issues went all over the place. My relationships after that were a wreak and I simply couldn’t be happy with anyone. I think a large part was that I wasn’t at a good place in my life, but I did not know that at the time, I just thought I would never find anyone. I didn’t realize that I needed to stop LOOKING for someone and when the time came, someone would come along. I had no intention of meeting anyone when I moved here, I just wanted to figure my life out. However, after a walk and cup of coffee, he became the warmth in my heart. I owe a lot to him and while I know now that I am my own person, I enjoy being “us.”
Fast forward to now, I am ALMOST done with my Intensive Course and plan on studying English Language and Literature here in Tartu next year. I would love to tell you all that my life is perfect, that I am not stressed, that my body image is wonderful, but I can’t. However, I am in the best position of my life that I have ever been. My health is the best it has ever been. Thanks to eating well and an almost daily yoga practice, I have the most physical strength than I have ever had and it feels amazing. While I still struggle on a daily basis, it is manageable. I have more better days than bad and I care much more about my health than 2 years ago. I still have anxiety issues and get breakdowns, but I am able to pick myself up and keep going. I have amazing people in my life and without them, I would not be where I am. I stress every day about where I should be in my life, what I should do, am I doing things right, but I remind myself that this is MY path. Not yours. Everyone has a different way of getting to where they want to be and this is mine. I might be on a little dirt path right now, but I’ll be a bigger road some time soon. I have dreams and goals like anyone, I want my own Wellness/Health Center where I can help others in multiple ways whether it be through good food, talking, or yoga. I want to really reconnect with my Estonian roots and never leave those roots behind again. I plan on deepening my yoga practice and healing myself from the inside out.
I know I left out lots of details, but this, in short, is my life so far. I am a 21 year aspiring yogi, coffee/tea addict, veggie obsessed traveler that is finding her way in life. This story is for everyone that has touched me in my life and for all those that I can inspire to keep going. I want to be walking proof that things can and do get better, you just have to keep going and letting growth in. You have to find what makes you smile, what makes your life beam, find that and DO it. I also want to prove that impossible is nothing. Think doing something is impossible? Tell me that I would moving to Estonia about 2 years ago and I would have laughed at you.
To everyone reading this, whatever you are struggling with, if it’s with how you look? I know you think the perfect body exists, I use to, but it doesn’t. Learn to love what you’ve got. While I don’t like what I see sometimes, I love what my body can do for me and how it can still keep going even after the crap I put it through. I say ditch your scale and get a better mirror. Listen to how you feel NOT look. If you’re struggling with figuring out what to do with your life? I am STILL trying to figure that out and I have met so many people that are still figuring their life out, too. It may seem like everyone around you has it figured out, but they don’t. I think people are taught to figure things out way to fast in their lives, slow down, and take your time. Finally, to everyone, you are not alone. You are surrounded by people who are in the same place as you. Now, go turn on some music, eat some nourishing food, and enjoy this crazy, but beautiful thing we call..life.