I grew up in communist Romania. Most people who ask me where I'm from and I tell them Romania, they immediately say 2 things: Dracula and Nadia Comaneci. Both are legends in their own way. What most don't know is what life was like growing up there and then. I had a happy childhood by my memories. We didn't have TV, except for the 2 hours every night from 8pm to 10pm. Most programming was communist propaganda anyway and as a kid I didn't have any interest in watching it. That left me with lots of time to play outside with my friends. The most fun was when the mandatory lights out for 2 hours happened every night. We were told it was to save electricity. I know now it was to show us who was in control. During those times, we would go and play hide and seek in pitch dark. It was awesome! When we were done, we had to go home and do homework. I remember my parents had this small gas lamp with a mirror behind it. They would light it up so I can work on my lessons. I thought it was cool. One of my favorite memories was from my 6th birthday party. I had a few friends over and we were playing when someone across the street yelled, "They brought chicken!!" What that meant was that the grocery store across from my parents' apartment brought meat and they were selling it. All the parents and kids emptied the party and went and stood in line for the chickens. We could only buy one per person but you could exit the store and get back in line if you wanted more. They would sell very quickly. I remember everybody being so happy leaving the party because they had meat to take home now. I am telling this story because our food was rationed every month: staples like oil, sugar and butter was sold in certain quantities every month and one could not exceed them. All grocery stores were mostly empty so when the chickens arrived, it was indeed a celebration.

School was also different. We all wore uniforms, conformity being the norm. It didn't matter if your parents were doctors, accountants, chicken farmers or factory workers. We were all dressed the same, learning the same things and adhering to the same notions. I always had curly hair. These days people say how much they like my hair. But during those days it was a curse. I remember my first grade teacher asked me why my hair looked "wild". I told her it was naturally curly. She told me it wasn't acceptable and to use oil to straighten it out. Then she hit me with a book on the head so I wouldn't forget. However, the most important thing to remember was that we were all to be loyal to the communist party. One could not speak publicly against it or you could end up in jail. This is not an exaggeration. My parents used to listen to this dissident radio station from across the border. They would turn the volume very low so the neighbors wouldn't hear and they huddled around it. They used to tell me specifically not to tell anybody we were doing that. My education was mostly memorize and regurgitate communist propaganda.

 As much fun and I had with my friends growing up, one thing was sure. A foundation or beliefs and cultural norms was laid in those early years: authority came from outside of you and it was to be feared, respected and followed whether you liked and understood it or not. Telling the truth was dangerous. Speaking your mind could land you in jail. Sticking out and being yourself was undesirable. Beliefs were handed down from generation to generation and they were not to be questioned. And all would have probably worked for me if I didn't move to the land of the free when I was 18.

I was 12 years old when the revolution happened and the regime fell, changing our lives in ways we could not imagine. As I recall it now, for me it was both exciting and scary at the same time, my little mind not really comprehending what any of it meant, just hearing from the adults around me that everything will change. They seemed confused, scared, happy and hopeful. Things did change after that time, the most important for me being the opportunity to come to the United States on a swimming scholarship. I remember so clearly making this decision that I was going to embrace fully what this new experience would bring me. I felt so free and excited moving 5000 miles away from my family to be in America! Dream of a lifetime! What I was not prepared for was how much this move would challenge me and everything I knew to be true about myself and life. The people, circumstances, the American culture and its diversity challenged the very foundation of my own existence. My foundation was this: I do not control my life; authority lies outside of myself; I am a victim of my circumstances since I can't control them; being authentically myself is dangerous and undesirable; being liked and accepted is much more important; conformity is to be chosen over individuality; do what others want you to do and you will be safe; do not question any of  these beliefs or you something bad will happen to you; you will be alone. 

I resisted challenging them for a long time. The hardship came because my beliefs were at odds with the life around me. I was not prepared to change and I didn't know how. But all those ideas I gathered growing up in Romania, didn't work here. I constantly found myself in opposition with everything around me and my only resort was to try to fit them into my beliefs. I found myself at odds with my husband, my co-workers, people I interacted with and institutions. The more I tried to hang on to my beliefs, the more all these external factors challenged me. This lead me to make some very poor financial decisions in my personal life which put me at very awful odds with my mother. That was the turning point in my life. I was being forced to let go of everything: control, beliefs, ways of life, my past, everything. And it was not pretty, desirable or easy. It pretty much was a complete mess.

And it hit me like a ton of bricks: I either changed my life completely or I won't make it alive. This realization came to me when I was the least prepared for it but it was true nonetheless. My personal relationships were falling apart, my finances were in ruin, my relationship with my mom was at its worst and I felt as if everything I tried so hard to keep under control has escaped through my very fingers. I was so embarrassed that as someone who always seemed to have it together and under control, I was so out of control. I was scared, lost and I felt beyond help. All I knew was that I had to change. I didn't know how, it just had to happen.

It sounds dramatic, I know, but this is how it all began. Life deals you straight blows sometimes, especially if you don't get the subtle nudges and nuances. That was my wake up call. I was just shy of my 30th birthday. What followed was 9 years of hard spiritual work. I faced every ugly truth about myself, in all the ways in which I allowed myself to be vulnerable, shared every embarrassing and terrifying secret I ever held and felt emotionally, spiritually and mentally naked. It wasn't easy, pretty or comfortable. But it was necessary if I were to turn my life around. At that time, before my 30th birthday, I had what one would call either a breakdown or a spiritual awakening. I prefer the latter, it sounds better :-). I learned a lot in the last 9 years. I read a lot, met people who have gone through something similar, did the hard introspective work and made a decision with my heart and soul to help others who are going through something similar. I realized that we are here for so much more than we ever imagined. And I know that for me is just this: to be support, anchor, help, a safe and comfortable space, a flashlight, and a loving space for anyone going through something similar. I chose to be the very person I wish I had around 9 years ago. 

As a coach, I am best equipped to help those who are faced with the same challenge I had: letting go of the old beliefs that have worked in the past but are making life unworkable now. Consider that the best gift life can give you: making it so hard for you that you must let go in order to accept and embrace something bigger, better, kinder and more loving. Consider whatever ruin might find yourself in right now as the opportunity to lay a new foundation. The world around us is changing. There is no doubt about that. Take a look around you and observe how every old idea, social and cultural norm, all the "how things used to be" are changing radically and rapidly. There are countless examples in every area of our lives from politics, work and business ethics, gender roles and expectations, child rearing and environmental constraints. Everything is being challenged to adapt and grow into something new. My personal opinion is that we are being challenged to grow more into our own authentic, loving, kind selves that we have always been but somehow forgot about. The world is waiting for us to show up as truly ourselves.

So, if you are experiencing "a spiritual awakening", or you find yourself in new and uncharted territory in your life, give me a call and let's chat. You will find in me a safe, compassionate and understanding soul who gets you. You don't have to wait for those dramatic moments in life. Even if nobody else in your life gets what you are going through and how you are feeling, I do. I have been there and done that. So if you are ready to step into your most vulnerable, open, authentic and strong self, call me and let's journey together.