Alrighty folks, story time.
So as you may have ascertained from the name of this site, my name is Steph. But incase you wanted to know a bit more, here's some insight into who I am. I am: a fellow inhabitant of planet earth, vegan, 19, Chinese, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover, and a dreamer. I live in the beautiful city of Vancouver BC, and am a student of the University of Life - currently enrolled in the faculty of self growth.
I love to do weird things like document my life on social media through photos, videos and text (unapologetic plug: follow me on insta, youtube, and tumblr @happyandhealthy96). You can often find me making food, eating food, taking pictures of food, talking to a camera, AND EXPLORING THE WORLD. I love nothing more than adventuring and seeing what this beautiful planet has to offer and teach us. Oh I also love cycling, nature, beautiful kind people, genuine smiles, PB&J sandwiches, reading (NERDS UNITE) and Netflix. Oh do I love Netflix.
Now to get to my story... where to begin.
I remember being carefree, once, a very distant memory but a memory nonetheless. I remember hanging upside down, hair in my face, laughing at nothing in particular and being so irrevocably happy. I remember loving everything and everyone, and seeing everyday as an opportunity to visit more playgrounds and to maximize fun. But I also remember that feeling fading.
Having a black shroud thrown over my life the day I found myself under the kitchen table watching my parents as they engaged in violence and hate towards each other. That night shattered my world and rocked the foundation of my being. At my tender age, I had never known physical violence or emotional abuse, and the second I encountered it I knew it was wrong, and that I didn’t want to partake in that in my life.
Now fast forward through Elementary school, and most of high school, and this is who I am: a hard working, confident, bubbly outgoing perfectionist. Although my family was still broken and my parents still fought, I had become used to it, and adapted to it. My methods of coping never forced me to face the reality of it though; I just did my best to avoid the issue. I never talked about it with my parents, friends, teachers etc. I spent as much time out of the house as I could, and I basically just ignored the issue. It was like our family’s interactions were all weighed down by this ginormous family secret, the elephant in the room. From an outsiders perspective I had a perfect family and perfect life. And that was part of the problem. I felt compelled to uphold those standards and pressures that other people had placed on my life and me.
Now by Grade 11 I was beginning to grow weary. Weary of hiding the truth, weary of smiling when I was scared, weary of being certain when I was uncertain, and weary of feigning happiness when all I felt was empty. I couldn’t come to terms with the reality that I was living.
I couldn’t accept that I had been the victim of abuse, that my parent’s marriage was a disaster, that I hated my father, that I had no control in my life, and that I felt compelled to hide my struggles from the world.
And then one day, I came to terms with it, and it was just too much for me. My world came crashing down around me and my fragile self couldn’t withstand it.
I danced six days a week, maintained 95% average, volunteered, worked part time, involved in student council, school clubs, and had a social life (sort of). My friends thought I was superwomen, I thought I was superwomen, the world knew I couldn’t handle it, but I was stubborn and thought I knew better. I was obstinate and thought I was untouchable. I had stretched myself too thin for years, but never enough for me to snap.
Then one day I snapped and everything went ape shit. I lost control of everything I once had a handle on, and my ego couldn't survive that. So that day I decided to go on a quest for something I could channel all my fear, frustrations, and anger into. Eventually I found that in the comforts of controlling my food.
By then I had developed severe insomnia after countless nights listening to my parent’s fight, and that insomnia brought a depressed appetite. This meant that controlling what I ate was easy peasy. I had zero cravings and no desire for food, so it was a simple matter of deciding what I could and couldn’t eat, and then carrying that out. And slowly but surely, I began to loose weight, at first without me even realizing or intending it.
I had never had problems with my body in the past, but the more weight I lost the more I began to fixate over it. And through my refusal to own up to the demons in my mind, my body began to suffer and pay the price. And then before I knew it I was 40 pounds underweight, lifeless and a shell of the person I once was. I became that girl that I thought I’d never become.
That summer was the loneliest time of my life. I truly began to hate everything and everyone. I felt like the world had turned against me, and everyone was trying to take me down, and take away my control.
But I remember one day, when I had really hit rock bottom, and was teetering on the edge of my sanity and life, I truly looked at my reflection in the mirror. I finally saw who my family and friends saw when they looked at me: an underweight, unhappy, unenthused shell of a person. I remember thinking WTF? How did I let this happen to me? and it just all of a sudden hit me, how guilty I felt over letting myself spiral into the person I had become.
But, the moment I admitted that my best judgment and my best efforts to control my life had led me to this dark place, was the moment that I truly let go of my need for control and surrendered to life. I booked a doctors appointment, he told me to fatten myself up with fast food, I knew that was wrong and said “screw that.” I was done with abusing my body and done with temporary solutions. I wanted a permanent sustainable lifestyle, not a quick fix.
So, I did a furious amount of my own research, and BOOM stumbled across Forks Over Knives. The next day I was vegan, before even really knowing what vegan was (I thought I’d have to eat oatmeal and granola for the rest of my life). People thought I was crazy and I don’t blame them. They thought that I’d just lose more weight, and honestly I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to gain the 40 pounds I wanted to, but the message of lifelong sustainable health just resonated so deeply with me and it just felt so right. So I thought fuck it, I finally decided to start living my life for me, and not for what others thought or what I wanted them to think.
Over the course of a few months, I gained back the weight I had lost in a healthy manner, but what was more profound is I gained my incredible enthusiasm for life, and I gained back my happiness and health. And everyday I'm rediscovering the childish spirit I had back when I was hanging upside down as an irrevocably happy kid.
These past two years have been a journey of finding happiness and health.
A journey towards self-love and self-respect,
A journey of truly learning to be grateful for what I already have right now,
And a journey of forgiveness. Forgiving myself, forgiving those who have hurt me, but mostly forgiving my father.
I’ve realized that he, like everyone here on this planet, is a human being prone to making mistakes. And despite all the pain and hurt he’s caused me, he still, in his own warped way, loves me. I realized that the hatred I once had for my father stemmed from my hatred for myself. I had cut him out because if I’m to be honest, I saw too much of him reflected in myself and I didn’t like that. In fact I hated it and I was in denial of it for most of my teenage years. But the truth is, I am his daughter, and much of his fire burns deep in me as well.
But everyday I'm learning to channel that fire in productive gentler ways. I am in fact fighting fire with fire; it’s just that it’s a different kind of fire. It’s not the kind of fire that blazes a path for itself leaving only death and ruin behind. But the fire that warms frost bitten fingers, roasts (vegan) marshmallows, and illuminates the dark.
All the mistakes I’ve made have led me to where I am now, right now, typing this out. They’ve led me to my instagram account, my youtube channel, and my platform for helping inspire others to live a healthy and happy life.
I have no idea what I’ll do with my time here on this planet, I just know that I want to find and follow my bliss.
I know that life is precious and short.
I know that I have so much love in my life, and so much love to give.
I know that I don’t know most things in life, but I also know that the unpredictability of life is the beauty of life.
I know that eating and living a healthy vegan lifestyle is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
I know that the wind in my hair, sweat on my skin and sun on my back makes me feel alive.
I know that there’s nothing a hug from a friend can’t fix.
I know that happiness is best shared, and is a conscious choice.
I know that I choose happiness, always.
I know that I value and appreciate you for your support.
And I know that I love everything about this majestic, magical, mysterious thing called life.
Thank you for reading my story, and thank you for being a part of my story. My story is still unfinished and still writing itself…
I am currently living my story and I’ll be back to write it soon enough.
Follow my story as it's writing itself (in real time) through this nifty app called instagram @happyandhealthy96.