My life is nothing like I imagined it to be. Exactly 3 years ago I was planning to continue living in Poland and to become a translator. Meanwhile, I moved to Chicago, got married, and started a website with traditional recipes. I hope my story, while sad at times, will be interesting and maybe even inspiring.
Writing is something I am no stranger to. I post on my blog almost every day but I rarely talk about my problems. I’ve been reading Hanna’s blog and I am so impressed with her efforts to empower all women. I love how true to herself and open she is when talking about the issues she believes in. Encouraged by her and all the other strong women around me, I decided to tell you about my journey and a few things I learned.
First, let’s move back in time to the spring of 2013. It was right before I graduated from the University of Gdansk in Poland, where I majored in applied linguistics, specializing in English and German translation. I was young, strong, and ready to take the world by storm. I had a very specific plan for what I wanted my life to look like. Little did I know, soon my world would be turned upside down.
I graduated from college in July of 2013 and got into a great master’s program to become an English teacher. So far so good. Not long after my graduation, I started having terrible dizziness spells. There were days when I was falling over and couldn’t hold my balance. I spent a week in a hospital with doctors running countless tests. Nobody could diagnose the problem or help me.
It felt like all my plans were ruined—like nothing I believed in mattered. Over the next few months, I tried to stay positive and act bravely in front of my friends but in reality, I was depressed. That was about to change, though.
I didn’t end up going to graduate school because of the frequent dizziness attacks but decided to move to Chicago instead. One of my mom’s sisters knew about my situation and invited me to stay with her.
I was so sick of being sick and struggling to fix a no longer working relationship—I needed a fresh start. Even though I had so much support from my friends and family, I wanted to get away and start over. Fortunately, this perfect opportunity presented itself.
My dizziness got better to the point that I almost forgot about it. Soon after moving, I got my confidence back and started dating again. I met my future husband Chris on a cold February morning and he swept me off my feet.
He was so incredibly charming, smart, educated, hilarious, handsome, and kind. After our first (11-hour long) date, he dropped me off and we talked on the phone every day since.
After a few more dates, I had a gut feeling that he was the one. I fell for him and hoped he felt the same way. Thankfully, he did and almost a year later we were engaged. A few months later, we had a beautiful, traditional 3-day wedding in Poland. We both worked and renovated our first apartment together. I was feeling better. We were strong together. I felt like I could do anything. But life isn’t that easy, is it?
My dizziness came back. Five doctors and, what seemed to be, a thousand tests later I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease.
I remember that day vividly. I remember the doctor telling me that I would gradually lose my hearing, that the dizzy spells would likely get worse, and that there was not much they could do to help.
Because I wasn’t able to show up to work, I was fired. Two days later, I had the worst dizziness attack yet. I fell and injured myself very badly. I passed out, broke my nose, cracked my head open, and got 14 stitches above my eyebrow. In the next weeks, I was paralyzed with fear. I was afraid to move or get out by myself. I was depressed and didn’t feel like I could do anything. I still have days when I feel like that.
While recovering at home, I got the idea to start a culinary blog. I always loved cooking and had so many amazing traditional family recipes I wanted to share.
Suddenly, I had a reason to get up and do things. I was inspired and excited. I started cooking and taking pictures.
Finally, I watched several Youtube tutorials and started a website. I called it EasternEuropeanRecipes.com and decided to include not only Polish but also Ukrainian (where my husband’s family is from) and other recipes.
My website ended up doing pretty well in a relatively short period of time. The results made me extremely happy and encouraged me to post more. I get a lot of positive feedback from people who never tried any Eastern European food before, as well as people of Eastern European descent for whom my recipes brought back childhood memories, which are priceless.
Everybody deals with different problems and life is never fully controllable or exactly what we dream of. Instead, the best thing to do is just to make the most out of what you get.
In Polish we have a saying, “Nie ma tego złego, co by na dobre nie wyszło,” meaning “there isn’t a bad situation that doesn’t have a silver lining.” I like to think that’s true. If it weren’t for my disease, I would never have moved to America, met my husband, or started my website.
Once I got dizzy while walking down the street and nobody helped me because they thought I was drunk. All of us get judgmental. Sometimes I am guilty of secretly judging or comparing myself to other people on social media and thinking that they have it better. The truth is, you don’t know their story and their life may be very different than what you think.
The bottom line is: Whenever you are facing some problems, try to take it one step at a time and find something positive in every situation, even if it is an everyday struggle. Treat yourself and others with respect and remember: you are never alone.
Photos by Barbara Rzepnicka