This story is the story of my self-discovery and empowerment. And the reason why I think I have something relevant to share on the topics I write about on this blog. Hope you will have the patience to read until the end and that you will find inspiration in my life story. As well as motivation to find what you enjoy, and to love yourself.
0-6 years old
Early childhood was an interesting period for me. I grew up with my grandma in the countryside, as she was also a kindergarten educator, and my parents preferred to leave her in charge of me. I learned to read and write by the age of 5. At 6 I enjoyed spending my evenings reading the astronomy books I found in my grandma library.
I remember clearly how I dreamed all my childhood of becoming an astronaut at NASA and studying at Oxford. I watched Stephen Hawking documentaries all day. Until I began having eye vision problems and the first part of the dream no longer was possible to become reality.
If there was one thing that was always on my mind during that time, that was music. And dancing. Rhythm was part of my life and the radio in my grandma’s house was my favorite object.
6-14 years old
When I started school, I moved permanently in the town with my parents. I was very responsible for my age, and I was put in charge to take care of my younger brother. I did almost everything alone, including going to a hospital when I broke my hand. What I remember clearly about this period, however, is the fact that being left-handed was seen as a disease. My parents forced me to write with my right hand instead of my left hand at home. While at school my teacher accepted me the way I was regardless of my dominant hand. In Romania, there was a general opinion that left-handedness was wrong, and this belief still persists among the older generation. Fortunately, people began to change and to accept the others around easier and take pride in diversity.
Then my father moved out because of work, while my mom, me and my brother remained in the same place. He came home in weekends and spend the days in bed watching TV. I was at school in the afternoon and my mom was at work in the morning. So, I never had any adult around. And the situation never changed. I had no one near me at any school graduation, or festivities. Also, I had to go everywhere alone and all other things that children typically do with the support of their parents.
In the 6th grade, I was forced by my parents to get a short haircut. The reason: to avoid sweating in summer (another myth that is common among older generations in my country). This led to jokes about my appearance from other children. Which in time turned into a very ugly bullying. Once, I remember how I was followed home by the other children who were throwing food at me.
I had received no help or support from any adult, especially my parents. The only solution I found after a year of crying daily was to throw away a diploma at the end of school year. My mother was so upset that I did not receive one (I never told her I received it and threw it away, and she never found out because parents were never there for me at school festivities), that she decided to move me to another school.
At the new school, I was so emotionally traumatized when I met my new colleagues. It took me one full month before I was able to talk to someone else besides answering questions about homework when I was asked.
By the end of this period, I was convinced I was worthless, my look was ugly, and I was fat. But I was smart and the first in my class with almost no efforts.
From this period, my favorite activities were the theatre play at end of school year. I was almost always playing the main role. We were playing on a real theatre stage in my small hometown. I loved being on stage, I loved dressing up and feeling like a princess, I loved receiving the applauses at the end. This is when I fell in love with theatre and fashion. A passion that follows me today too as I do not let any month pass without seeing a play.
Second favorite activity was sport. I went to swimming classes for four years. Being in water and floating are the most relaxing things I know. Also, my sports teacher thought I have some talent in volleyball. So, I was part of the school team for a few years.
14-18 years old
Adolescence for me was an emersion in fictional word through books. I was so traumatized by the lack of emotional support from my family and by the bullying I faced earlier that I became extremely shy and afraid of human interaction. Instead, I lived my adolescence in the school library, and novel characters were my best friends. I only had two-three friends outside of the fictional world.
But typical teenage problems began to appear. Becoming aware of my body and its weaknesses became an even bigger problem than social interaction. In high-school I was in a class with other 28 girls and only three boys. And teenage girls are usually very mean to each other. Add to this that my mother was against using any skincare or makeup products and she was convinced showering more than twice per week is bad for the skin and causes wrinkles. And that hair should be washed only once per week for it to be healthy. And that acne passes by itself, even when the outburst is really strong. The same type of opinions was shared on subjects such as sport, clothes, and foods.
I ended up with extra weight that I was too self-aware off even though I was of normal weighted. Plus acne marks and red discoloration on my face. This provided the other girls in the class with joking opportunities related to my look.
Geography and other hobbies
This situation made me focus my attention on schoolwork as a distraction from what was hurting me emotionally. And this is how I ended up going to Geography competitions. I found escape in those and proof that I may not be worthless. When I was 17 I represented my country at the International Geography Olympiad which was held in Japan. And I won a gold medal. When I was 18 I repeated the performance, this time in Poland. I was good at something, but I still had zero self-confidence.
At 17, I was the first person in my family to ever get on a plane and cross the border. I was on Japanese news on tv when Crown Prince Akishino gave me my medal. And I was the first in my family to be interviewed by all major television channels in my country when I returned from the Olympiads.
Also, during high-school I began developing my creativity. I found some free creative writing classes for students and even managed to get some of my creations published by winning some competitions. I began assembling origami pieces and selling them at school fairs. Also, I bought myself a professional DSLR camera and took a strong interest in photography.
At 18 I was financially independent. All the awards from Geography competitions, money from origami selling and scholarships provided me with an income equal to my mother’s.
This was the time I finally left home and broke off the relationship with my parents.
Volunteering and learning to have fun
My first time away from home for a longer period was as an AIESEC volunteer. I volunteered internationally, by promoting cultural awareness in schools in the Czech Republic. It was amazing to be in a place where nobody knew you, but still everyone wanted to know you. And being part of an international team (we were 7 volunteers from Romania, Ukraine, Singapore, Japan, Philippines, India, and Brazil) in a foreign country outside of the capital (so finding English speakers was a struggle), were life-changing, inspiring, and motivational. It gave me a strong dose of self-confidence and finally made me break the cycle of shyness and introverting.
Upon my return I did the unimaginable from my parents’ point of view. I dyed my hair for the first time and started wearing makeup. And I went to a major electronic music festival with one of my friends in a city located in the other corner of the country. The freedom of traveling, dancing, and expressing my personality through my appearance was an amazing feeling. I was feeling complete happiness for the first time while standing in the front row at Untold festival, with my hair and makeup done, and listening to Avicii’s “Waiting for love” live. This was the first year I went to a major festival and 2020 was the only year when I skipped this activity.
Soon after, I got my first job as a translator from English to Romanian for a science magazine targeting teenagers called “Terra Magazin”. I started university, by enrolling in two separate ones at the same time (yes, the Romanian education systems allowed me to do this) and finishing both with the highest GPA. Thus, I became both a geographer and an economist. I did some internships in PR, CSR, and international relations as well as in the Romanian Parliament. I was still completely independent financially because of the scholarships I received in both universities.
Having a high IQ, a very good memory, and logical thinking (I am a MENSA member, so I know for sure my IQ is higher than 132, although I do not know the exact value), as well as a strong general knowledge from the years spent among the books in high school, helped a lot with my studies and allowed me to still have plenty of free time.
My self-confidence slowly grew even more as I went out more, meet more people and started to work on my “defects”. I bought my first makeup and skincare products. I started jogging in the morning. And I went clubbing and dancing once per week and joined a student association. It was a period of trial and error in the process of self-discovering.
Unfortunately, the people that guided me through this process were not the best ones I could have had. I entered a toxic relationship while still not knowing my self-worth, and this kept my confidence at a low level for a long time. My roommate and university dorm neighbors exaggerated with the use of alcohol much too often and I was taking them as model, participating as often as time allowed me in their parties too. When I finally had enough of this lifestyle, it took a psychologist a whole two years to get me on my feet regarding self-awareness and self-confidence levels.
I also need to mention that the first thing I did after getting away from my parents’ home was to dye my hair red. It represented me, as I was like a fire igniting from inside that needed to explode and share its light outside of the shell it was confined to.
I got my master’s degree and started my PhD in Geography. But studying was not my focus anymore. I was the focus of my attention, with the goal of creating a set of life principles and values to guide me. I continued my interest in fashion, skincare, and beauty. And I started going to acupuncture and working on the space and the people around me.
In this period, I finally got a healthy relationship, a healthy daily routine for me and my body, a healthy mental state.
And I started working as a teacher. Why? Because I thought I will have lots of free time during vacations for my other passions. Reality? The money was so little that I could not leave the town. I was so tired that vacations were spent at home in bed. And I had so much to work that I had almost no free weekend during school year. The co-workers were mostly mean, selfish, and unhelpful. I could find no friend at work unless I was willing to stop speaking my mind out. And I am a very direct person. I also speak my mind most of the time.
Most of the children were so disinterested in learning and so insolent, that I found myself struggling with explaining them why learning new information and going to school are important instead of teaching Geography. Some of the parents (fortunately a minority) were so convinced they know better how I should do my job and contacted me at any hour of the day or night, regardless of the day of the week, to tell me how I should evaluate the children who are not learning anything. In their opinion all that matters is that children need high grades in order to get to the best university outside of the country when finishing high school.
Once, I even got a text at 1am from a parent asking me to help her daughter build her self-confidence by letting her do my make-up. The lesson this parent was trying to teach was that everyone has something to learn from everyone. But this request was out of place and definitely not appropriate (the request and the time it was sent).
Being a teacher had its benefits too. I discovered that I finally had a strong personality that was no longer influenceable. I could not break my values and give a 10 for a student that deserved a 6 just because there was a lot of external pressure to do so, including from the school principal. Also, I could not accept being told how to do my job by someone with no expertise in this field, even though some of my colleagues did so. And most of all, when I began to receive insults and began having anxiety attacks, I quit. Not because I couldn’t do the job, but because I had to put my wellbeing first.
But I am stubborn and ambitious, so I had to leave “in style”. And this was after having my own students participating in the Geography Olympiad. One won a bronze medal at the European Geography Olympiad. While 12 others participated this month in the district phase of this year’s competition. Working for Olympiad with those children is my last activity as a teacher, as I no longer have classes. It will end with me in the highest position possible: as a member of the National Geography Olympiad board that will take place in April in my hometown. I feel like this is the perfect way to end the geography related cycle of my life.
This period was also the one filled with travels. I went to Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Austria, Poland, and Bulgaria. And I lived for two months in Santiago de Compostela, Spain and one month in Bamberg, Germany. I tried to experience different lifestyles and life perspectives, while challenging myself in places where I knew nobody else. It was a great learning and self-discovery journey.
Currently, I am trying to change my profession, with a six-month deadline to finish my PhD and find a monthly source of income more in accordance with my own values and feelings. I no longer let toxic people around me. I have more reasonable, yet strong expectations from myself. And I have a much healthier lifestyle, with sport, yoga, acupuncture, and healthy eating (I am currently a vegetarian) an important part of my days.
Blogging and raising a cat
This blog is a result of my free time and of my repressed creativity that is coming back to life. I was writing a lot while I was teenager, I read even more, I built origami, I painted, I was listening to music and dancing all day long. Those were my favorite activities as a teenager and young adult and the activities I found the most pleasure in. And this is what I want to bring to surface this year. And I got myself a cat. Something I was not allowed before. And this was probably the best acquisition of my life.
All my past experiences represent the base of my lifestyle blog category. All the body shaming and bullying made me self-aware of my weight and represented the base for my interest in healthy eating, which is the second category of this blog. Skincare and makeup, together named here beauty, is the section closest to my heart, as I always see my skin as a canvas that needs to be prepared and painted in order to create the best tableau possible, a view I had for the last 9 years.
I hope you will find motivation in my story to be yourself. To find what you love and represents you and to bring this to reality. You are strong. And you are worthy. And you are amazing. Let yourself shine.