I became a mother of two at a young age. I was in my early 20’s when I had my son, Keyoki and my daughter Kenzie. At the age of 26, I became a single mother. I was getting out of a toxic relationship that was severely affecting my mental health, and moved back into my mom’s house. I had a 5-year-old, a 2-year-old, a big suitcase full of clothes, a bag full of toys and no idea on what to do next.
This was a new beginning of a chapter in my life; I was confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t own a car, so I had to take the city bus to drop Keyoki off at school everyday, then take the metro to work. To make matters worse, I’d come back to my mom’s house after an exhausting day just to sleep on the floor. I constantly thought I had made the worst decision of my life. I was lost.
My older sister came just in time and offered a room for rent. She and my brother-in-law helped me find a dealership to finance a 2014 Honda Fit. My life slowly started to make a little bit more sense, but I still didn't have any goals, nor a plan as I continued trying to find myself while working full time.
One day, the kids and I were watching Chopped on the Food Network and Keyoki said, “Mom! You should be on that show, you would beat everyone and win $10,000!” I loved to cook and was very good at it. I turned to my cousin's wife, Jennifer, for assistance regarding the possibility of enrolling in culinary school. She recommended Le Cordon Bleu and helped guide me to registering and applying for financial aid.
But I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to enroll in college. I was extremely stressed, overwhelmed and busy. I worked full time, attended school full time, made sure I was at the kid’s school plays, award ceremonies, teacher conferences, I assisted them with homework, I made sure Keyoki was at all his baseball practices and games.. I had a hectic roster. My busy schedule didn’t stop there, once I graduated from Culinary school, I started working in the kitchen 12-13 hours a day, 6 days a week. That is when I realized that the restaurant life was not fit for a single mother of two. Time was passing by fast and I did not want to miss out on creating memories and watching my kids grow up.
I decided to quit my culinary career and go back to school.
Summer of 2017, I walked into the counseling office at Long Beach Community College ready to make a fresh start. I handed her my transcripts and she said, “I am so sorry that these trade schools do not tell you that your classes are not credited. Your associate degree is just a piece of paper my dear. You have to start over.” My heart was beating so fast, my stomach turned, and I started to cry. Everything that I had been through and all the work I put in was for a damn piece of paper! I called my boyfriend to vent, and he calmly said, “You are not starting over, you are continuing what you have started.” He was right, I enrolled and continued on the next phase of my life.
This part of my life was not easy, although I had goals, a plan, an amazing supportive teammate, life seemed to have found a way to challenge my fortitude and strength. During the last semester at Long Beach City College, ready to submit my transfer papers, I lost my little brother due to a horrific car accident. My little brother and I were very close. He was such a caring and positive person. I could not believe that something so tragic had happened and lost faith in everything. I became depressed. I wasn’t able to focus on my classes or my job. It was an unbearable pain. I was in traumatic denial and was continuously asking myself “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It was not easy to get back up after such a painful tragedy. But I soon realized I had come this far and worked too hard to give up now. I had two young children counting on me, so I toughened up and finished my fall semester. I knew that is what my brother would've wanted. All of my hard work paid off when I received an acceptance letter to the University of California San Diego to major in Psychology. It was a great achievement! I couldn’t believe it, I actually did it!
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic in Spring 2020 I was not able to celebrate my achievements because of 'stay at home' orders and social distancing. However, during this pandemic it gave me time to study the art of plant-based diets to help with my depression and anxiety. It has helped tremendously! Although I started this plant-based diet for my mental well-being, I became inspired by the challenge of creating delicious vegan food. I tapped into my culinary background by utilizing my skills and inspiration from my Cambodian background to create delicious and amazing recipes.
I am currently working on sharing my wonderful recipes with people who suffer from depression and anxiety, or who have experienced hard times, or lost a loved one. I would love to help others who would like to eat healthier but do not know where/how to start. I am currently blogging my plant-based journey on my Instagram and hope to get my YouTube going soon. My plant-based journey means more than just being healthy, it has helped me as a whole person, both mentally and physically. There is a meaningful thought behind every recipe. It is how I look back at everything I have been through. It is a way for me to reflect. I am thankful for all the wonderful people who have supported me and has helped take care of me and my children during this journey of mine.
I wouldn’t change anything about my past because it has made me who I am today; fearless and resilient. Never give up. You will find happiness and most importantly, purpose.
- Meeta May