Tetyana Live

A dose of happy

What I Want to Say to My Divorced Parents


(c) mkshots.com

I grew up during reconstruction of a post-Soviet Union era. At that time, Ukraine became economically crippled; unemployment skyrocketed and savers lost all the money they accumulated at birth of a new currency. The shockwaves and stress spread through social channels and people found no other choice but work abroad. And so happened the collapse of a family unit.

Most of my peers like me became children of divorce. They grew up with grandparents while their parents were spread over thousands of miles apart. Sometimes, parents settled on illegal terms in foreign countries and were unable to visit home. It was a tough time.


As a kid, I didn’t quite understand what was going on at home and not much was explained to me other than the fact that we needed money to live and mom and dad were away working. So, I found happiness through activities and field trips with school friends. We worked on creative projects. We bonded on the streets until dark. Being children of divorce was so common, that no one talked about it. Those emotions were safely stashed deep into our memory boxes.

But a broken family bond leaves an impact, which for better or for worse gives us another perspective at life and the future. This impact helps shape our outlooks on our own relationships.


At first, I was disoriented, and then I felt a sense of acceptance. When I was a teenager, I was angry. And only when I began living alone and struggling financially, I understood my parents. Of course I couldn’t fully relate because I have no children. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to raise a family under so much pressure. What would I do in their shoes?

Adulthood and responsible independence made me realize how difficult life can be, and mostly – how incredibly complicated relationships are. They take patience, care, and so much time to nurture. Relationships are delicate flowers, sensitive to weather and the smallest of circumstances. Relationships can be careers in their own light – and to master them takes a lifetime and stealth. 


My parents will continue to be my role models. Not for jobs or lifestyles. Role models for happiness.

I wish my parents to be happy on their own terms. I don’t care if it’s with someone else or in a different country. I hope to be able to visit them for holidays, and see sincere smiles on their wrinkled faces. We are and will remain bonded by blood, which means that the state of our being is shared. Whether we are aware of it or not.

Morning Coffee: Everyone’s Happy Pill


I am not a US Marine. I don’t have any children. I am not Puerto Rican. I don’t live in central America. I don’t train employees. But Rube, the uplifter, the booster, the mover, the shaker, the guy who brought the Morning Coffee Project to life, and I – we vibe.

In reality, I haven’t seen him in person in maybe 10 or so years. We went to high school that was but culturally diverse, where being Hispanic and Ukrainian was rare. We didn’t hang out. We weren’t friends. We didn’t have the same crew. But we rap battled during lunch hour a few times, as much as I can remember.

Life went on.

Then I launched Tetyana Live. Rube launched the Morning Coffee Project. I got one of Morning Coffee shirts that spoke to me. He liked my blog article that spoke to him.


(c) the Morning Coffee Project

And over virtual home-made coffee, office coffee, and Whole Foods coffee cups, we interacted and shared ideas. But most of the time, we joked around. When I had a tough day, there went a Rube mirror selfie snapchat with a watermelon instead of his face, and a caption that read “*Beyonce voice* watermelon, watermellllllon”.

Here is a mind-screw, though. There’s t-shirts and coffee mugs on Morning Coffee. But Morning Coffee is not about t-shirts and mugs (hence, “the Project”). It’s about the people and their stories. It’s about YOU (yes, every ONE of you), and what you like to say, thoughts in that beautiful brain of yours, your aspirations, your hopes, your dreams. Morning Coffee tells the world about it. So, what’s your story?


Rube happily sits back in his chair, sky as his background, sky as his limit, and humbly says: “Many of you guys referred to Morning Coffee as a movement…”

That’s potent. Explain it…

“I hate scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing young kids fight each other. There’s so much negativity being pumped out into the universe, and…we think we don’t have a choice, but to accept it. I want to connect people through positivity. The older we get, the smaller our circles become… If I can make a place, where people can escape the negativity, cool.”


I totally get it.

I’ve been around negative people. People who hated the fact that I chose to live the life I want, the fact that I’m inspired, passionate, happy. I’ve been around bosses who unintentionally and intentionally brought me down. Sure, these moments made me stronger, helped me persevere, taught me some lessons. But they weren’t sustainable. They weren’t healthy.


(c) the Morning Coffee Project

Morning Coffee extracted the soul of our generation and constructed a community of people who support one another, who want to see each other succeed and have fun while they’re at it. When I thought no one knows or cares, I had a whole army behind me who already did. I found a medium that let me express myself. And so, thanks to its foundation in positivity, it makes me look back at yesterday, clean my slate, and take my talents to the next level.


Morning coffee, the fresh light brew is dissipating into the dawn. I quit drinking coffee, but I enjoy the everlasting scent and rock with the Morning Coffee Project.

I am not a US Marine. I don’t have any children. I am not Puerto Rican. I don’t live in central America. I don’t train employees. I don’t know how he does it all. But Rube, Rube 24/7 (as he calls himself), the uplifter, the booster, the mover, the shaker, the guy who brought the Morning Coffee Project to life, and I – we vibe!

Stand Up for Your Rights

Guys, I’ve missed you all terribly, WOW. I am back, fully loaded.

Apparently, throughout my two-month absence, I’ve been receiving great training at life. In this post I will speak about standing up for rights, challenging the system. And my opposition was no one other than a great multi-billion company.


While traveling, I had a hardware failure on my new two-month old Macbook (which I took care of like my child). After lugging it around the world, I dropped it off at the Apple store in New York and upon its examination at the Genius Bar (who should have questioned the original defect), was advised to send the book for repair. I wasn’t happy, because I wanted to get back to WORK and write, write, write (lots of exciting things and projects coming my way).

But I obliged to wait a full week to receive my repaired product. Two weeks later, it was still out of my hands, in transit somewhere back to Apple facilities. When I complained about the abnormally long wait, the customer service decided to make my life even more miserable. Four hours into my phone calls while waiting in the SoHo store…They used flu medicine to treat pneumonia. When I had an emergency, they scheduled doctor visits. You get my point. I was treated like an idiot. Their proposal was this: I wait another three days before receiving a replacement.

Customer Service Meme

This time I woke up from sleep and said no. The store closed and I refused to go home until I was my demands were understood and met. I fought every single policy on the matter. I waited long enough. I already gave Apple a chance.

My position was simple: I fulfilled my part of the contract by paying for the product and taking good care of it, while the company did not fulfill its part by selling me a broken product.

I began thinking about this situation in a larger scope. Because Apple is just an institution, just like many other institutions around us: politics, media, religion, finance, etc. When such institutions get too big and too fat, their system jams. Their arteries get clogged and they fall sick. That’s just the way nature goes.

Apple draws its barriers (through policies) and functions within a framework to run efficiently and to service a large customer base. That’s logic and business as usual. Until it doesn’t function. And as consumers, particles of society, abiders, followers, we sometimes feel intimidated and powerless against large framed-up institutions (“What can a little person do with a mammoth?”). Instead of taking a step forward and standing up for our rights, we take a step back and play by their rules even when they have wronged us. That’s when they wave a bunch of policies in our faces and our cognitive abilities become impaired.

Policies Meme

Maybe to some, this all sounds so dramatic and exaggerated – like, who cares about your complaining? It’s not the end of the world. But I would challenge to think about it this way: when a pile of similar unresolved issues falls on our lap, we go home and feel severely fatigued. But don’t know why. And that’s how we live our lives. Can’t we be using that energy to go out there and live a wonderful life? Take up space? Enjoy ourselves? Do amazing things? 

But wait. It’s gets even worse when self disrespect rises on a collective level, when rights and interests of individuals are not represented by politics or corporations, when those individuals fail to practice awareness and passively refuse to demand what they are entitled to by the highest law.

Kidness Quote

My life journey taught me acceptance, patience, and stealth. And throughout that journey, specific situations taught me compassion and understanding for people. But there is a difference between empathy and self-sacrifice.

It’s not always a warm place around here. People aren’t always ready to fulfill their roles or count with my position. The flow runs forward and doesn’t stop for anyone. We are responsible for ourselves.


I fought for my rights with Apple and I won. And frankly, the inconvenience, lost time and energy without my instrument to write was a painful but necessary learning experience. Because hey, when that inspiration comes to me, and I have no way to capture it, I might just go crazy. Apple probably misunderstood the artist they were dealing with…and clearly underestimated her very sharp arsenal.

Apple Heart

My Success Arsenal: Top Picks

IMG_3026How do you define success? Success is a relative term, in my opinion. For some people, it’s a set amount of money in their savings account. For others, it’s a car of their dreams. For some, it’s a healthy, happy family.

I feel successful because my life experiences and my natural ability to learn from them molded me into a better person. By “better person” I mean one who follows certain values and uses each interaction as a step forward: to understand and respect instead of judge, to create instead of destroy, to uplift instead of bring down, to share instead of take away. I gauge my success by the way I handle repeating situations. For example, if a year ago I would lose my nerve while having a disagreement and say what comes to mind, can I this time, try to understand the basis for an attack, what drives it, and with that in mind, take the appropriate amount of time to solve it?

(c) mkshots.com

(c) mkshots.com

Life experiences allowed me to learn about myself, challenge my thoughts and beliefs; they gave me many shots to redeem myself if it didn’t work out the first, the second, or the third time. I concluded that I love people, and even though there can be plenty of reasons not to, that kind of mentality would serve no justice for the good ones who have been and still are in my life.

I don’t think people ever stop growing. Success doesn’t happen overnight, either. What we see on the surface or fresh at the printer may not exactly lay out all the effort and input that went into the process. So, that said, here are my inputs for success that I would like to share with you:


Moving and Traveling: 

Although these were for the most part, out of my control, I think they were the first pieces of the puzzle that made me humble and adaptive. This is not to say that moving and traveling didn’t cause mental shocks, but at a young age I didn’t think so much about it. Instead, I took one step at a time in a new environment and became receptive to help from others. Sometimes, vulnerability is the best step towards personal growth and meaningful connections.


I’m very thankful for growing up without a computer. I also didn’t have TV during childhood and instead of watching movies, I read books. The love for reading still follows me today. My morning routine includes The Wall Street Journal, and DealBook from New York Times. Another must in my life is Dale Carnegie, particularly his “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” and “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.”


To be well-read and informed, in my opinion, is key for any successful conversation with people from different walks of life and tax brackets. Want to sound intelligent and be interesting at upscale dinner parties? Read and know what’s going on in the world. Formulate an opinion.

If you can’t afford to subscribe to newspapers, go on their websites, click on article links, copy and paste the titles into Google search and you will read the articles for free. I choose the topics I am most interested in.


It took me a long time to learn that routine is a good thing. I used to think it’s something that makes a person boring. To put it simply, let’s remember that our body becomes fit with a special routine and consistent diet and exercise. Same goes for our mental state. I think of it like a train in motion – any deviation and derailment can set a person behind.


Waking up early in the morning to read the news for 1 – 1 1/2 hours gives me the knowledge boost for the day to keep me relevant, and writing out a to-do list provides me with comfort and concrete things to look forward to, instead of worrying about what and when I need to accomplish something.

If you are like me, and dislike the idea of routine, try to incorporate one easy daily habit. It will set precedence for others. As the quote goes, being truly noble at life is the ability to master the little steps.

Choosing My Surroundings:

I am a faithful believer in the idea that I choose what I have. I also think that success is a product of positivity and requires these positive foundations to sustain it. Therefore, I choose with what and whom I surround myself. That includes people, news, entertainment, food, activities. After a long struggle with body health (I was an emotional eater) and chronic anxiety I began taking certain steps towards improvement. But it first required a change in the state of mind.


For example, health-wise, I came to the conclusion that proper, personalized diet isn’t restriction – it’s a healing process. It’s self-respect. It’s self-knowledge and understanding how my body responds to inputs. I thought about and analyzed my anxiety and ways to counter it. Yoga and fitness are tools that allow me to fix any emotional breakdowns and help me become stronger and more energetic. With these weapons in my arsenal, I can take over any task I set my mind on.

I began choosing the people I spend my time with. I grew zero tolerance to ones who I felt had a negative influence on me. But I also learned that people who hate, judge and are just overall unhappy – usually are dealing with lots of pressing issues. Sometimes, lending them a hand through a difficult period, just by listening and asking questions to help them compartmentalize their thoughts and next steps, opened up avenues for me to learn patience and wisdom.

(c) mkshots.com

(c) mkshots.com

California: 2 Girls, 6 Days. What Could Go Wrong?

FullSizeRender-9Well, not a whole lot.

Day 1: After not sleeping all night to be able to pack and get to my 6am flight with two layovers, I finally arrived and met with J at the San Diego airport. We Ubered our way to an Airbnb I had rented out last minute at Point Loma and walked through what it felt like an illogical structure of a condo with smelly carpeting just to realize how much we disliked it. We decided to take a walk.

Walking in SoCal is not like walking in NYC – there are roads that require cars, but who cares – we needed to get our thoughts together, navigate at least a couple feet of our neighborhood and try horrible Mexican food at the plaza. Was this trip doomed? Maybe, if it wasn’t for a Holiday Inn across the street, which had the last room available at the same price we paid for Airbnb. Back we go, this time trucking along the highway with twenty bags, but made it!

Day 2: Thank God for complimentary breakfast, even though I only ate apples and bananas after detecting chemicals on the nutritional label of instant oatmeal. My survival instincts signaled that I needed to make sure I have enough apples and bananas to last the rest of the trip, because who knows, at the rate things were going.

Off we go back to the airport for car rental. My license is 4 years expired, and none of us had a credit card, so we were directed to a shady Mexican hut that was kind enough to accept debit and cash. All this meant was that we could finally drive to the beach, and that’s what we did.


Pacific Beach… I don’t think my words can do justice to this place, but it’s truly magical therapy. And that evening, we checked out the Gaslamp District, wrapping up the day with some pressed juice cocktails.

Day 3: I pushed my trail hiking agenda to J, with a sweet caveat that there’s a beach right on the canyon of Torrey Pines State Reserve in La Jolla. To me, it was heaven on Earth because I was getting my exercise, breathing fresh West Coast forest air, watching the Pacific Ocean move swiftly and weaving itself into the horizon. And then we went swimming in all of that glorious water.


We reserved the evening to drive to LA but our car didn’t like the idea so it decided to die. So here we were in the parking lot, frantically dealing with stress in the middle of nowhere – one smoking, one eating, Mexican guys on speaker phone, fussing over the fact that we don’t know what the hell is going on and need to get to LA tonight. They decided to send a guy to swap the car, but in the meantime, we got a battery jump from two guys from Belarus and drove back to the shop.

It was a hurricane – I wore a hoodie with an FBI logo that I got in DC and while I was showcasing it inside, J made certain that the owner not only gave us a day’s discount, and a new car, but also made him sit inside the old one and agree that it smells like cat’s litter. What’s up with all these carpeted establishments in San Diego?


It was all fun and games but in reality, we were drained and hungry. We arrived to LA late into the evening, all to learn that it was special Olympics, and reasonably-priced hotels were booked. As an example, one place available under $150/night could have been a chicken shack in Bangladesh. I was too scared to even see the bathroom, or even touch a doorknob. So thankfully, as we fled the scene and drove the wrong way into another shady downtown LA neighborhood, we randomly ventured into a place for the night. A safety feature was: a police officer in the lobby and French tourists in a suite next to ours.

Day 4 & 5: was dedicated to Hollywood, Universal Studios, Walk of Fame, and some nightlife in downtown LA. We stayed the night in Burbank, and the following day drove down to Santa Monica (not recommended unless you approve of Coney Island), back to West Hollywood for sushi (good), Beverly Hills (highly recommended), some bars off Hollywood (not recommended), and an all-nighter drive back to San Diego.


Day 6: 6:04am according to the iPhone is the sunrise on Pacific Beach and we wanted to meet it. Through the cloudy sky, we sort of gauged it, and then went to iHop for food and a quick nap. We napped on the beach, burned in the sun and at night, drove to the middle of nowhere, more specifically, 45 minutes away from Tijuana to a parking lot that housed a real Mexican salsa club. Think great and not-so-great karaoke, live musicians, and then major dance floor action, more fun than anything I’ve seen in NYC or LA. Ever. Yes, there were sombreros.


Worry-Free California Dreaming

IMG_1990New York has seen it all, I think. This city has such a high concentration of people who are good at something, that it can either act as a motivational mechanism or a killer of self-esteem. I’m not sure if there is an in-between.

And thus, no matter how wonderful life is, there are days when my self-esteem is down, when I feel helpless, frustrated, as if my goals are so far out of reach. Often times I ask myself: how do I get back on the positive track and lose the mental baggage?

I learned my lesson while flying to California just last week.

After a 2-month-long transition from analyst to blogger, and a 10 year gap between New York and California, I decided to break my fast and travel.

My trip consisted of two layovers – New York-DC-Phoenix-San Diego, first flight taking place at 6am (so no sleep that night). Pretty much a traveler’s worst nightmare, right? Almost. I was quite frustrated but at some point I decided to peer out of my little window as I approached Arizona.


There I was – right over the Chihuahuan Desert that stretches through the scorchy Southwest.

Desert hills with cracked earth, sporadic brush – that is all expected. But in the midst of all that, there was a large lake, without a soul nor a sailboat in sight. I stared at it, because it was so surreal. How did it manage to exist? How is it possible that in the heart of unimaginable heat lies a beautiful lake like this? Is this a mirage? A man-made phenomenon?

IMG_2298And while admiring that serene lake in the middle of the desert, I thought about my own water supply in the mean heat of New York, my perseverance in a city that accepts and validates zero tears. And how sometimes, no matter what, it feels like a good reason to vent, cry, complain.

I worried, and the lake just sat there, like it was supposed to – evaporating or not evaporating, like a happy, fat Buddha. It housed sea life, it let people swim in it, drink it, sail it. Or it did nothing. Or it was just pretty.


What I realized was that: the moment I start overanalyzing about why, how, when and where, the moment I compare myself to other people, or live by their codes, I violate my own existence within the realm.

So I let my heart guide me, I stopped asking myself for my intentions or reasons – to just be and to do what I am good at. Everything else will fall in place.


The Money Report: My Own Financial Freedom


(c) VisualWanderlust.com

I briefly mentioned about finances in my previous posts, but think it’s a good topic to discuss in more detail because most people, I found, didn’t really understand the idea of how I am living without of a stable-paying job.

Throughout my life, I read lots of interesting literature about financial success. Some familiar themes include “achieve financial freedom,” “live your dreams,” “never step foot in the office again,” “automatic millionaire,” etc. Even the titles of these books are just hilarious. It’s like seeing a really great headline in your Facebook newsfeed, clicking on the link, getting bombarded by a bunch of advertisements that shut down your iOS/Android browser and then when you finally read that article, you just feel disappointed and robbed of your time.

People are very attracted to stories that start with: “Lose 10 Lbs in One Week!” “Make Millions of Dollars Without Doing Anything!” “Mad Hair Loss? Grow Your Hair in One Day!” “Get Your Boyfriend to Marry You in 2 Hours,” and the list goes on.


People love that crap. And really, all of that is a false advertising to get you to spend money.

$10 isn’t a lot for you to throw out? It surely might not be, but brands who run on overnight-life-improvement headlines count on the NUMBER of people who actually fall for their them. And they make it affordable enough that you don’t feel bad when you actually spend that money.


But we are smarter than that, no?

Ok, back to money. When I first began working on Wall Street, I knew one thing: I have an opportunity to make a great salary. How should I handle it?

While my friends in the same industry were taking amazing trips, shopping, eating at upscale restaurants, attending $200/month gyms…


…I was in the office, saving every penny, cooking, running by the promenade, and going to a donation-based yoga studio. I was also sleeping in my living room which has no window, so that I could save money on Manhattan rent. There. I just told you my dirty secret. My life didn’t sound so fabulous in the end, did it? It didn’t and it wasn’t.

Logically, once a person achieves better-paying opportunities, he or she would want to step up their lifestyle. He or she will want to “live better,” now that there are means to buy better furniture, wear better quality clothing, get stuff that makes life more convenient, easier, more enjoyable.


This is exactly the point at which young people take the first step into what some might call a “rat race.” I don’t think it’s so much as keeping up with the Joneses, like it is with the natural need to EXPERIENCE better things. This is where it becomes tricky. It is a NATURAL and normal feeling to develop further. So, people end up taking out loans. They buy expensive things, homes, cars, luxury items, etc. They get really excited.


What did I do? I kept living the way I lived a few months before I entered my career. I DID NOT downgrade my lifestyle after college when I began working a well-paying job. I simply KEPT it CONSISTENT. Think of it like choosing to buy an upgraded phone. It’s not like you really need it, but it’s just considered “better” and you want to stay “relevant.” When everyone was buying iPhone 5S, I held on to my iPhone 4S. Just a tad longer. Not painfully longer, but just a little bit.


So why didn’t I upgrade my lifestyle once I began having the means?

One reason was practical.

I knew that I won’t physically have the time do be in a “nice apartment in Midtown” – and instead, I will be busy working late nights (10-11pm). I knew that ordering out or going to restaurants will cause me to gain weight (I became less mobile at a desk job, and felt weary about the additives in restaurant food that might cause me to feel an energy drain.) I knew that buying flattering clothing, to me, was much better than buying expensive clothing. Who was I out to impress? As long as my body was in shape, I was happy with everything I dressed it into.

Another reason was rational. I was at a volatile point in my life! I was switching to a different stage in life…and I KNEW that success takes time, so I stopped the need to rush it in such a soft stage. I knew that someday, I will need a good lump of money. And it’s always nice to have a cushion that me sleep at night. That no matter what happens, I will be fine in the finances department and can focus on more important things.

I hoarded money. I sacrificed short term, short-lasting satisfaction, with a LONG TERM goal that I knew will bring more convenience, happiness, and stress-relief.


Finally, I stopped obsessing over money. I got busy developing myself as a finance professional and mature person. I read a lot of news, articles, learned job skills, new strategies, networked, hung out with my team, learned about people, learned in-depth economics. I focused on things that were interesting to me. I made it a point to see my friends on the weekends. Sometimes it was as simple as walking around on the beach and drinking tea together. It was less alcohol and more sober connection.

And so, while I was developing myself and enjoying time with my favorite people, money was just coming in. So effortlessly.

So then, this happened. I reaped what was interesting to me at work, I learned enough of what I wanted, I brushed up on my analytical skills, I learned what I liked and disliked in my career. A day came that I felt ready to move on in my life. There, I felt, were some rough edges that I needed to polish. And so, I was financially, mentally, physically READY to leave my job.

And just like that, I created space in my life. I had the time to do things that I craved: writing, reading, thinking, communicating. And then happened this platform, Tetyana Live.


We, as a society, have better access to information than previous generations. In general, we are weaning off McDonalds and GMO-grown food because we are just more sophisticated. We are so much smarter than falling for primitive advertisements or letting FINANCIAL FREEDOM GURUS dictate how happy WE can be if we buy their book and follow their success model. Success means different things to different people!

But they all share one aspect: no success happens overnight.

I worked damn hard. (I loved it, but I worked damn hard.) What I put in is what was put out for me in return. I was rewarded for NON-microwaved and disciplined efforts.

If I can offer some unsolicited advice to you, here it goes:

If you want to live the life you always dreamt of, call your grandma, grandpa, parents, or your mentors and ask them WHAT THEY LEARNED IN THEIR LIFETIME. At the right time with these gemstones of wisdom, your life will take a drastic turn, and you too, will be ready to start a new and incredible chapter.

Why I Chose a Profession That Pays Me Nothing

Photo: VisualWanderlust.com

Photo: VisualWanderlust.com

Ever since I started being active on the blog, people began asking me very valid questions about my life choices. So, it took it upon myself to review them and give honest answers in this post. I think by far, the most relevant question was: why in the world would you leave a Wall Street job with enormous growth opportunities to blog that pays you nothing?

As I self-reflected and continued to write blog posts, I felt an incredible sense of freedom. It’s such a childhood throwback – the ability to make my own choices and spend time in the countryside where all the world was my stage. This is how I feel about Tetyana Live – it is my platform to be who I am without being micromanaged or told that the themes I want to talk about do not align with someone’s agenda.

I write from the heart. If I don’t feel like writing all week, I won’t. But my goal is for every material I share with you to be genuine and rich with enthusiasm and positivity. And it makes me ridiculously happy when I receive feedback from friends and even strangers (gasp!) who say that my blog posts give them a proper mood lift. I live for these kinds of moments.


Part two about the whole fiasco, though, is the MONEY. No matter how I slice it, I have to live somehow, right? Those who know me personally also know that I worked as investment analyst in a New York bank that paid me very well and taught me lots of wonderful things.

But I love freedom more. I love freedom so much, that I am willing to write on the blog and just be damn happy. And then to wake up in the morning and read all the wonderful comments from you, my friends.


How about striving for “bigger and better” things? Did I become complacent? Did I give up on my dreams?

What does bigger and better mean? Let’s try to understand…

Shot #1: Luxury Items?

I own a few expensive bags and shoes. Having worked for luxury fashion brands, I’ve learned how “exquisite” the stuff really is. Your shoes were probably still made in China, even though they don’t say it, and your belt buckle will eventually fall off. Trust me, I was the girl you would call to complain about your exquisite luxury pieces.


And to top that off, having gone through business school, I’ve learned wonderful techniques that brands use to sell their stuff, to create illusions of human hierarchies and photoshop models to make everyone else feel like that kind of beauty and success isn’t attainable. That there are people-aliens and freaks of nature who are just so incredibly beautiful thanks to plastic surgery. No judgement passed, as long as people do what makes them happy. And keep it honest.

Or should I keep a day job so that I could stuff my face with all kinds of restaurant food and check in on Instagram about it? I have eaten in wonderful places. I have also eaten in awful places. But I’ll tell you something – no one, and I mean, no one on this planet cooks as good as my grandmother. Love is what makes her food taste so delicious.


Should I keep a day job so that I could attend celebrity gyms and get trained by renowned individuals? Or I can just get my face out of the fridge and take my $25 yoga mat and work out in a donation studio that inspires me just as much as it makes me sweat. Where I don’t have to wear see-through $150 Lululemon pants that make me feel uncomfortable just because everyone else is doing it. I’ve done the latter, too.

I can proudly say, that my experiences, self-reflection, and curiosity to try different things gave me the confidence to say yes or no to ANYTHING. I became very clear about what I wanted.

I’ve learned this:

Successful life to ME is internal power and energy, which is nurtured by creativity, freedom to create, and obviously, happiness. And what do you know – I am currently reaping all of those benefits from writing on this blog.


And guess what! I have wonderful projects coming up that I CANNOT wait to share with you all! Life is amazing. I decided to not let fear of being broke, fear of being less than someone else, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and just about any other fears dictate my choices.

I’ve found what’s important to me and I feel incredible. It’s the kind of shit philosophers write in their books and life coaches stand on stages for….giving people a ray of hope that they too, can be happy. Look, I’m living it.

***Special THANKS to Morning Coffee Tees for giving me yet another outlet to express myself. You guys rock! And where would I be without Visual Wanderlust? Well, I guess at home, when she’s at work. ***

Being an Immigrant in America

(c) Taras Shpyrka photo

(c) Taras Shpyrka photo

I have been living in America for the entire second half of my life. I remember being driven in the car after I landed in Newark in 2002, expecting rollercoasters and sky lights but instead, seeing broken buildings and woody highways. We drove for a while, 8 hours to be exact. When I arrived to our home in upstate New York, my stepmother greeted me with my favorite Ukrainian cabbage soup. Not sure if I was tired, but it tasted weird, so I shoved my bowl aside and turned in for the night.

I started school late because I had to wait for my green card to come in the mail. Every morning I would see kids waiting on the sidewalk with their straight-from-the-shower hair to be picked up by a yellow bus. My stepmother and I spent our afternoons going on walks at the park with my baby brother in the stroller. We would feed squirrels. I saw boys playing sports, and thought it was weird how they attacked each other for a deformed-looking football.

Every day I sat on our driveway and wrote letters to my friends and family in Ukraine. I told them  about everything I had experienced – from squirrels, to crazy football, to the yellow bus. I told them how I finally went to school and had to get a picture ID for free lunch and I didn’t smile because I thought it was a passport photo. I told them that I couldn’t understand anything anyone said to me and that maybe people thought I was slow, that I couldn’t open my locker most of the time, and that no one understood why I call myself Tanya when my real name is Tetyana or why I don’t shave my legs. But mostly, I wrote that I really wanted to go back home. America was fun, just for a few months.


As a yet-to-be-teenager, I dealt with my homesickness by crying at night and reading books in English. I didn’t understand a word, but I read. My English class “daily” write-ups consisted of me writing about horses – all kinds of horses and how much I loved them – and I would volunteer to share with the class. I took Spanish. I loved Spanish. I made friends – we had food fights in the cafeteria, and they took me to play basketball and trick-or-treating with them. We made team t-shirts for volleyball tournaments, took pictures with disposable cameras and I finally understood what Spirit Week was (I even tried out for the cheerleading team but showed up to the tryouts in jeans – still a tad weird). I babysat my little brother after school and on weekends. My letters and phone calls to friends and family in Ukraine became scarce and I didn’t go back to visit.


I changed schools, got a car and worked two jobs, fought with my parents, plotted to run away, had boyfriends, gained a lot of weight, and took belly-dancing classes. Then I moved to NYC for college and to learn life. I had no clue what I wanted but everything was expensive and I was curious and naive. My soon-to-become best friend taught me how to dress and encouraged me to go back to college a year after I dropped out. This was year 2010.


That same time, my childhood love found me on Facebook and wrote me a message. As a kid, I was obsessed with this boy but of course, the move to America and the ultimate inability to visit Ukraine forced me to block all of our memories and feelings.

So, at 20 years old I was more rational, yet equally as emotional. I started unblocking my childhood memories with this childhood boy. Then I listened to music from way back when. Then I called him – he was getting married. Then I called my mom. I started talking to her every few weeks and she said that she missed me. Then I got a Ukrainian tattoo on my ankle. I found a better-paying job, saved money, got my US citizenship and flew to Ukraine. It was scary and strange. Ukrainians’ sense of humor was different. I just translated everything I wanted to say from English to Ukrainian and all I could talk about was America. I didn’t go out past 5pm because there was no street lights in the winter and my hometown had a crime alert. I felt desperate to go back to New York, to my college women’s club, my entertainment and my friends.


In a year, I went back to Ukraine just for the checkmark. I fell in love with a Ukrainian guy and made new friends. People thought I was cool, driven and aggressive. But they would always beat me at card games. I called all of my elementary school friends and we met. We all kind of looked the same with the exception of a few who cut their hair. We talked about the old times and then we created new times. We drank alcohol. And I started coming home every few months.


I finally learned how to speak Ukrainian like a normal person. I began to tune out angry bus drivers and buy dairy from old village ladies. I stopped being afraid of gypsies. I stopped laughing at how Ukrainians dance and did it myself. I surprised my mom for her birthday. I went to the Ukrainian revolution and lived in the tent with thirty men and three women for two weeks, fighting for democracy and making everyone sandwiches. I was told that I need to stop being so masculine, learn how to be a woman and let men carry my luggage and pay for my coffee. I did. I learned and learned. I appreciated how amazing Ukraine was – how wholesome, strong, hopeful and beautiful the people were – and how they were like me – in search for happiness, for freedom, for creativity, for love, for self-development and for all positive things under the sun.

I realized that being Ukrainian is exotic. I learned that the Ukrainian culture is full of warmth and that no matter how poor the people are, they will take care of you when you’re in their home. (Just make sure you take off your shoes at the door.) Ukrainian people have cats not because they feel depressed but because they think it accessorizes their house and that cats are just part of life. I learned that a Ukrainian Cossack leader, Pylyp Orlyk, established a Constitution which pre-dated the American one. And that my sister wants me to take her bike-riding again and make selfies on the iPhone. And that no one cooks as good as my grandmother.


I realized that my polarized identity drove me crazy for 12 years. But my identity – part Ukrainian and part American made me more intelligent, confident, experienced, interesting, balanced, happy, healthy, unbreakable. It gave me the ability to connect with just about anyone on this planet.

And that is such an enormous power.


Paying for my Expensive Mistakes

(c) Taras Shpyrka Photography

I wanted to share a very personal story based on an event that occurred to me this past weekend. The reason why I decided to write about it is because it really solidified some of the ideas that I have been discussing here on the blog.

At the end of May, my father asked me to help him book travel tickets for two family members. During this time I was going through quite a patchy transition – I was finishing up time at work, dealing with personal situations, and of course, worrying about future decisions. My mood was not at its best and I responded to his request with irritation. So, I continued to delay responses. One day I got myself together, booked the travel arrangements and closed the case.


It turns out, that flight dates were all booked wrong. A whole lot wrong – they were paid to take place in June, instead of July. Good luck to me to try and recover international air tickets a month later, for 2 family members (one being on a tourist Visa, visiting the country for the very first time), purchased on a different name, on a different credit card. The airlines probably love me at this point. I had to re-book new tickets and come up with a fat sum of money to cover my father’s initial losses (let’s say a few thousand dollars).


At the first glance, this doesn’t seem like a striking revelation: didn’t double check, and someone took my money. That’s what happens when you’re not careful, no surprises. But I think that the lessons are very profound during these moments.

The reality is that I held a long-time vendetta against these two family members. This was an opportunity for me to make right with them, to learn to love them, forgive and move on once they arrive from their trip. Maybe there was “unfinished business” and family affairs planned for us, to fix something, to re-connect and re-build…and I tried to stop that natural process? Instead, I carelessly bought the tickets so that my father can finally stop bugging me.

On the surface, I was just me being negligent… but the real challenge was figuring out why I felt that way. And so I did. I learned that I didn’t care much about buying the tickets because I didn’t care about the people whom they were for. As a matter of fact, I was irritated that they’re even showing up. And that’s messed up.


What did I take away from this experience? Life is my school. I learned that if I approach tasks with negativity, irritation, anger, negligence or any equivalent attitude, I will have to deal with consequences of equal weight; immediately or later. If I am planning to do something just “to get it done”, I might as well not do it at all. Just as the old expression goes: “garbage in, garbage out.”


People cause their own suffering by treating other humans, things, tasks with negativity (carelessness, anger, hatred, irritation, despise, resentment, jealousy, etc). They become upset with the world, other people, or “God” for life’s problems and their unhappiness.


As intelligent as people are, they have yet to learn that suffering is a result of their own thoughts and actions. Much can be transferred onto their future children, who seem too innocent to have been at fault.

How do we treat others? Are we saying and thinking negative things about people? Are we holding grudges and resentment towards anyone? Are we complaining about people or obstacles? Are we abusing our bodies? Are we polluting our planet? Are we hauling ourselves to a job that we hate so much just to get a paycheck? If this is the purpose that we ascribe to all these aspects in our life, what kind of results are we expecting in return?



1. I do everything with love and care. If I don’t feel good, I won’t do it. I will go out there and make myself feel better first.

2. I have the right to make mistakes.

3. I take responsibility for my mistakes and figure out a way to fix them.

4. Everything that happens is a valuable learning opportunity.

5. Health takes precedence.

6. ***My family is my blood, no matter what. Making right with them is making right with myself.***


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