Sunday, October 10, 2021

Taking the Next Step

Hello friends,
It's always a bit difficult to restart a conversation after a pause, isn't it? So let me jump right in, without a long introduction. We're old friends, after all. Thanks to blogging, you've known me for the past eight years. You've literally witnessed my little kid growing up. She was still in elementary school back in 2013 when I started this blog. This year, she graduated from school and started college. I'm often asked what she chose to study. Well, there is no simple answer to it. College education is very different here compared to mine back home in Russia in the 1990s. We had to choose our professional direction right away, and pretty much from day one, we knew what general field in which we'd be working once we graduate. Back then, I only wanted to study literature, so I chose philology. Pretty much all of my classes were related to this field, with some extras like Philosophy, Sociology, History and Economics. The rest was history of the Russian and world literature (mostly Western), modern European languages (German and Czech in my case), everything about modern Russian language and literature in depth, and ancient languages like Latin, old Russian and Old Slavic. Anya's classes at this point are pretty broad, some related to Arts and others to Science, and she doesn't have to choose her vocation till couple years later. Which is smart and generous for those who have many interests and not sure what to choose at 18. Which is, I believe, the majority.

It's pretty rare when kids at 18 know what they want to pursue for the rest of their life, and even more so - very often, we find new interests in life and want to launch a new career at 38, and at 48, and at 58. I'm glad that in modern society it is more and more common to redevelop the sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life at any given stage and age. So Justin and I as parents don't expect that our daughter has a clear plan for the future and has her vocation all figured out. At 48, I am still trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do. I might see some parts, but not the whole picture. But then, at 18, I thought I knew it, and I was fortunate to study what I loved. Though I never knew what work I wanted to do in the future. It unfolded naturally - I was just taking one step at a time, following my nose and not rejecting the opportunities life offered. This morning, I read an interesting quote by Sophia Joan Short, "If you weren't ready, you wouldn't have the opportunity." It reminded me of the old saying, attributed to Buddha, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." It rings true to me. 

When we are ready, all we need to do is to take the next step. 

There was a brief encounter with the academic world. I know I was intelligent enough for this type of work, but I wouldn't withstand the intrigues and intriguers. So at the end, I'm glad life took me another way. There was also a public school job opportunity. But honestly, teaching in general and public schools in particular never attracted me. But when I was offered a job in publishing before I even defended my thesis, that seemed perfect. I loved working with texts. It was a good position all around, good people and good pay, and I stayed there for several years. But I knew that I'd end up working for myself some day. 

My lovely and talented daughter, age 18.
 The first photo is from her blogpost in 2013 HERE
(still loving all the rainbow colors)


That day came when I moved to the US. When you find yourself in a completely new environment, where you know absolutely nothing about the surrounding world, and the world doesn't know about you either, the questions of who you are and what you want to do come up to the surface with new intensity. I've tried a few things, some related to my educational and cultural background, and others unrelated. I worked for others briefly, but realized that I work better on my own, collaborating with a few people who are creative and likeminded. Those are extremely rare to find, and I am so fortunate that these people are my closest family and true soulmates. I love coming up with my own ideas and working on them. But I value all the experiences I've been gathering over the years working for and with other people, because they taught me a lot. And even though I am still in the process of figuring out all the pieces of who I am, some pieces I've found. Some of them weren't surprising to find, like my native language and creative writing. They just always were there since I can remember myself. Others surprised me, to say the least, like leadership when I founded a whole new community and school. And like teaching. I just was so sure that I'd never teach in my life, that it's just not me at all. Until one day, I couldn't say that it wasn't me any more. Ever since then, I work with students and enjoy it. Knowing everything I know about bilingualism from raising my own daughter and helping my students, I wanted to come up with fun and unique materials. So I called up my brother one day with the idea of making our own animation. And we started working on Russian for Beginners cartoon series, some of which are now available on my YouTube channel:

Did any of us, my brother Andrei or my husband Justin or even myself knew that we'd be creating our own books and cartoons? Nope. They didn't teach that at our universities. Yet it was the next step to take, and we did and continue taking these next steps. So no, I would never expect my daughter or anyone else at 18 to know who they are and choose once and forever what they want to do. It's very cool if you find yourself, as they say, when you are young. But it's equally cool to find pieces of who you are throughout your life. It's difficult, but rewarding. I'd love to find more "pieces" of me, no matter when, and even if it happens at 68 or at 88, I'd be thrilled. Finding these precious pieces of myself reminds me of creating a beautiful garden. It includes everything, from planning and researching to working in the soil and planting. And later enjoying both our and nature's work, admiring, beholding, meditating. No matter how many times I visit a garden and during what season, there is always something new to discover. Nature is amazing, and while it repeats its cycles, it never fully repeats itself. There is always a place for wonder. And for wander. 

That sunny 85 F day at the end of September, Justin and I decided to do just that, to wonder and wander in a garden. Bellevue Botanical Garden is one of our favorite places for a stroll. I shared photos from it a couple of years back (check out my old post HERE). They had an amazing extended dahlia display that year which, unfortunately, was much smaller this year, but sill quite beautiful. As an amateur gardener I pay attention to what plants local gardeners use each season and what different ways flower beds are arranged.  I love these series of photographs Justin took - the evening light playing with petals tenderly. Justin was definitely on fire, as were many photographers and models: young girls, expecting mothers and whole families...

The cotton dress became a strong favorite during late Summer / early Fall days, so pleasant and easy to wear. I styled it with my old red sandals, embroidered thrifted bag and red beads which are made of some kind of seeds I believe. I'm loving this dress so much - I'm going to take it into Fall, just by adding boots and a coat or cardigan. And then, who knows, we might take another stroll in a garden and take you with us again. So we can wonder and wander together, and talk more about life and finding who we are.

Dress - Eloquii
Accessories - vintage, thrifted or custom-made

Photos by Justin

Catch me on Instagram HERE 

My brother and I create beautiful and meaningful tales. 
Our books (The Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2018, London UK) 
are available in Russian and English at the US libraries HERE

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purchase online from anywhere in the world - America, Europe, Australia!

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Here is our garden walk on my YouTube channel (in Russian):


  1. It's good to see you, Natalia, and old friends will always be able to resume the conversation, even after the longest of pauses. First of all, congratulations to your lovely daughter Anya's graduations! I'm glad to hear she's got time on her side to find out what she really wants to do in life. You are right that not many youngsters know at 18, I certainly did, and the choices I did have to make at that time did not turn out to be my path in life. I've discovered new pieces of me all through my 60 years on this earth. If we didn't continue to take the next step, life would be very stagnant indeed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, all those wonderful floral delights and that gorgeous dress! Lots of love xxx

    1. Thank you, Ann! It's good to hear a friendly voice. Though, with you we've never really stopped a conversation thanks to IG and FB. :) I thoroughly enjoy seeing your colorful daily outfits and bits of your life! We had a great day in the garden, and I've got an inspiration for a new post. Glad you stopped by. Much love, my friend!

  2. Lovely to see you again. I would have probably never went to University if the company I worked for hadn't went under...but I did study what I wanted and have no regrets. It's wonderful to see you and Anya again. Beautiful

    1. It's an interesting point, Ivana! Sometimes we are eager to follow a certain path and do everything we can to "get there"... while other times, it seems pretty random, but we follow it because something is calling us, and both ways work. Thank you for kind words! Much love!

    2. Sorry my message was cut in half because I had a call while I was typing on my cellphone. Both ways can work. In our present times, I think we always have to know how to adapt and make changes. In one way it is good because our career paths are not as rigid and limited as they once were but it can also be stressful because you constantly have something to figure out and you don't have a feeling you can relax. I changed too many jobs in my life to count. I developed interest in the academic field later in life and then I had to sort of abandon all that...but no regrets. Life is full of surprises and that can be as wonderful as it can be hard. Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Hello Natalia , lovely to see you again my friend. The gardens are really beautiful , I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful photos. Where has the time gone , seeing Anya again as a little girl and now as a young woman making her own way in the world. I couldn't agree more very few of us really know where life will lead us at an early age or later on for that matter , sometimes it simply happens out of the blue . Sending best wishes. xx

    1. Thank you, Jill! It's good to be back in Bloglandia! But I also enjoy seeing your IG posts and stay connected. :)
      I agree with you, later in life we also find surprising creative outlets, such as style blogging for so many of us. Even though it seemed a natural step because most of us always loved style, writing and/or photography. But it all came together only at a certain point of our lives! And I am curious what else each of us will explore...
      Much love, dear friend!

  4. its not suprising to me that you compared a humans professional and intellectuel life with a garden - a garden (i learned a lot about in the last 10 years) is never completely finished, there is always a change - some plants grow to big, others disapear, the micro climate changes.... you have to work on the soil, cut back, plant new.
    like in our life - the environment changes, we change too - so we have to adjust. and we want something new from time to time - a new colour in flowers, a new gardening style if you will....
    anya has the best parents ever - leaving her to find her way on her own - but supporting every step with love. and a school system that gives the youngsters room for experimenting - which i do find gorgeous. here in germany the education system is much more strict - producing specialists in a very short time at a very young age - searching, experimenting people are not wanted..... just little, perfectly functioning parts of a system.....
    love justin´s flower portraits and you look lovely in the pretty dress - nice to see you again!

    1. Thank you, Beate! Garden is a wonderful metaphor for life, such as improvisation as well. There are "bones", "a skeleton" or "a frame" that we follow, and the rest is up to us to create. You've created a gorgeous garden from point zero, and you've created your own path in business before... And that is what I appreciate about life, creating something that has never existed before, like a text, a book, an event, a group, a learning tool, and so on... when you look at life this way, yes - it's never "finished" and we're never "finished." :)

      A college system here seems rather progressive for a child who grew up in the USSR. I know things are changing there as well. I hope in Germany it won't always stay the old way. People aren't machines which can be programmed...

      Much love to you!

  5. So many years. Our children are grown up. Congratulations to Anya. 🌺🌸🥳 and to you.. 🥂
    Sarah is married yet. I can‘t believe.
    Much love Tina

    1. Dear Tina, how fast children grow! WOW, I had no idea Sarah got married - congratulations! New stage of life for her and you, my dear.
      Much love to you!

  6. It's lovely to see a post from you pop up in my feed, Natalia! I can't get over what a beautiful, talented and stylish young woman Anya has become although with you as her mother it's hardly surprising.
    It is difficult to start a conversation again after a long pause so well done on pressing the publish button.
    Your dress is fabulous, in those spicy shades I love on you and your garden is utterly magical, I love seing the same plants growing in your garden that flourish in mine, an ocean away! xxx

  7. Oh, dear Natalia, so happy to see you here again. Was already in fear sth might have happened to you. Great your daughter will be able to decide what and when to do. I love that here are so many chances for young people to reach their own aims, too. I just counted 20 and more to decide for one way and profession. To observe the way of my daughters: the 2 went so different ways and both reached what they wanted. I myself don t like people tell me what is the right way to get skills, to reach aims, to live, to do my daily work. I don t want to be taught by some people how to live, how to think and to decide. None of them is better than the others...But it seems to me that many of them feel in this way. - Your dress ist great, love it with those fall colours. They match so fabulous with your person! Love, Sunni

    1. Thank you, dear Sunni! It's great when people find what they are looking for, be it education, profession and anything else in life. I am so happy that your daughters did find a way to reach their dreams!