Friday, August 1, 2014

The Return

Here I am again at JFK. Heading to Russia. Again.

Sometimes I feel silly writing this blog because I write what I’m thinking at the time and then my actions reveal an entirely different outcome than I profess in my words. Words are only words, and feelings are fleeting. But this is what I am thinking and feeling now, July 31st, 2014, as an American man going on 24, returning to Siberia for a second time.

I may be going back to the same city that I just spent the better part of 10 months living in, but everything feels different.

I’m a year older. I’m a year more “experienced,” and I now exist between two worlds – America and Russia.

Sure, it’s only $800 and a day away, but it’s so much more than that. The people I know, the influences I receive, the cultural biases and perspectives, are all entirely different, and don’t interact with one another.

I’m glad I came home for a month. It got me to remember a lot of things. I realized I forgot who I was before I left for Russia. And, honestly, I realized I like who I was before I left for Russia more than the person I have become.

Again, this could just be the negative opinions I got from most of my friends and family about going back to Russia, and passing up all of my opportunities in America for the time-being. I’m very malleable, and other peoples’ opinions mean a lot to me. Probably too much.

Many of my closest have asked me why I am going back. I’ve actually had a hard time answering. Sometimes it feels like I’m going back just because I said I would. And it doesn’t feel like the right decision. It doesn’t always feel right in my heart.

And as I sit now in JFK, I’m afraid. I’m nervous about going to Russia again. Perhaps more afraid than the first time. But I’m also excited. Being there will change my point of view again, and it won’t seem so scary. But at the moment I am afraid. I’m afraid I forgot something important, I’m afraid that things might not go as planned, but mostly I’m afraid of losing myself.

Living in a foreign country (well, really anywhere where you surround yourself with new people, influences, and stimuli) can (drum roll please!) change you. Duh, right? Well, It really can. And not necessarily for the better.

And mostly I realized after a few weeks at home that I didn’t accomplish my goals in Russia, because I forgot what they were. I got distracted by girls and booze and money. The danger of being an opportunistic drifter is that, as I’ve written here before, your dreams can be subverted by someone else. You start fulfilling someone else’s goals and dreams. I went to Russia to have experiences, and experiences I did indeed have! But as I sit now in the airport, I feel as hollow as can be.

I almost feel like I’m going back to Novosibirsk to make things right. But will it actually happen? Or will I forget it all again?

My goal going into last year was to have experiences. That ended up taking me down a pretty dark path. 
 
Here are my goals for this year. 1) Perfect Russian, 2) Live disciplined, 2) Save money, 3) Run – Get in shape.

The thing is, “enjoying your life” is all well and good. Especially when you are set financially and so is everyone in your family. When you’ve already secured your own future and those of whom you love.
 
I can enjoy my life in the short term, but it’s at the cost of long term stress and failure. Having to borrow from your family because you spent all of your money isn’t fun.
I can’t respect myself unless I accomplish something. Drinking and partying are so fleeting.

Some may say that living a life of good honest work is “old fashioned” or “slavery.” I say that’s crap. Unless you are going to play financial games or cheat other people out of their money, you have to do some work. And work can be very enjoyable, if it helps you pursue your own goals.

So my goal now in Novosibirsk is to live disciplined – focus on my tasks, especially learning Russian, and prepare to further my career. My college friend Chris Salvi once posted a status about how the great movers of the world – Ghandi, MLK, Nelson Mandela, etc – didn’t live their lives according to “bucket lists” and buzzfeed. It struck a chord.

I’ve always wanted to be someone important but always stop short of actually fully committing to the things that would earn me importance. I guess I stop short because I’m not totally sure of myself, because I want to put off the responsibility and “I’m still young.” No, I’m not old. But I can’t live my whole life thinking I’m young enough to avoid responsibilities. For a 23 year old to live in a bubble of adolescence is not a normal thing. Sure, in our modern day society you can get away with it, but a 23 year old man should be achieving! He should be a mover of society. He should be a leader, he should be earning, he should be learning. He is in the prime of his life and he should be using it to the betterment of himself and those he cares about (and those strangers he’ll never meet).

These are things I’ve always wanted to do, but I always forget.

So can I live in Siberia my way? Time will tell. As much willpower as I have, I get distracted. Without a support group, I fail to do the things that I actually like to do. Like run.

How many times have I written about running here? I’ve been going through a running crisis for the past two years. The problem is I love running – I love the community, I love the activity, I’m great at it and it’s probably my greatest strength. I’ve had more success running than anything else I’ve done, and it has brought me prosperity and popularity.

Importantly, it gives structure to my life. It makes me feel better: physically and emotionally. It leads to healthy decisions. Being truly successful involves being responsible. But I poured a lot of time and energy and money into it for a long time and wanted to try other things. I've seen the other side - it's not worth it for me.

I do feel like I was more dedicated, more responsible, and altogether more successful when I was 17. But when I was younger I was fueled by utmost confidence in myself as well as anger and bile. I had a huge chip on my shoulder and I was great at funneling negative energy into productive, positive results. But I was bad at doing new things. I refused to listen to anyone. I had a narrow world-view and thought I knew everything – although I knew basically nothing, having lived in a Northern New England bubble.

Now I know more. But, perhaps because of that, my confidence has shrunk. I also haven’t had any clarity.

Here’s my clarity now: I’m going to do what I like to do to accomplish MY goals. I’m not going to forget my goals, and I’m not going to do something I don’t like, don’t want to do, or don’t know how to do to achieve them. I need to fall back on my strengths, instead of challenging myself on my weaknesses. I don’t owe anyone anything, and any decision I make should help me accomplish my goals in a responsible, reasoned way.

For this reason I am going again to Novosibirsk. And for this reason I may be back in America soon. I imagine this time I will stay in Russia for anywhere from 4 -10 months – probably closer to the latter at this point – but I may stay abroad for as long as 2.5 years (I can’t imagine that now though). I’m keeping things flexible.

So this time I will run, I will sleep, I will eat better, I will live on a schedule. This is not a big Russian vacation. I will become fluent in Russian, and I will earn my own respect again.

I feel good about this trip, overall. The question remains – will anything change? Or will I continue to fall into the same traps? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. Честно говоря, удивлена, что решил вернуться. Надеюсь, это не навредит тебе ни пока ты будешь в России, ни когда вернешься в США. В любом случае, успехов в достижении твоих целей :)

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