Tuesday, November 25, 2014

At a Crossroads

A recent possible topic for conversation club here was "mid-life crisis." As basically all of my students are under 30 years old, they immediately groaned and asked why the heck we would talk about such a dreary, inapplicable topic. I thought about it for a second - teenagers are in crisis, people in their mid 20s are in crisis, people in their 30s have their "mid-life crisis," people in their 40s are in crisis about being truly old, and people in their 50s are in crisis about their children growing up and actually BEING old. People in their 60s are in crisis about retirement, and people in their 70s are probably in a state of crisis about medical care, but maybe at this point someone might be able to claim some sort of calm about their life. So question: Is there any point in life when someone is safely out of crisis mode?

We decided not to talk about any mid-life crisis.

Of course, not everyone is in crisis ALL THE TIME. Some people might actually be truly happy... like my boy Christian who lives in Russia and loves every second of it. But I will say that my life seems to resemble the performance of the US Federal Government - I conduct my business by moving from one crisis to another.

Again, another overwhelming generalization. But the last 2+ years have been one heck of a roller coaster ride, and at age 24 I'm still stuck between being a child and an adult. Depending on who you ask, it's perfectly normal to be either an adult or a child at this stage in your life. The Uzbek cooks in the nearby cafes think I should have a wife by now, while my older ex-pat friends think I could happily and correctly live as a party-bachelor for at least the next 20 years. Some say I should be building a career and making money; others say I should be traveling the world and have responsibility to no one except myself. You're in your 20s! Don't worry about the mortgage and the family and the retirement plan (let alone starting a family), until you're 30!

Anyway, recently I've been beginning to lean towards trying to be more responsible. Mostly in a professional sense. I've also come to realize I can at times personify a human wrecking ball (not to get too Miley Cyrus on you all here) with the capacity to do some serious damage on the personal level, often entirely inadvertently and with a complete absence of malice. But damage is damage, and I'm afraid I should grow up soon before I do something really destructive, and/or my luck runs out.

And so as I've lived in Novosibirsk, I have had some highly entertaining moments. I still get to feel like a star sometimes, and I meet all sorts of interesting people. I have a relatively high standard of living for a Siberian in terms of material things (but a far cry from the the most well-off here).

But I have grown lazy. I've actually started to grow a little gut. I'm still just as skinny everywhere else (in fact, maybe even skinnier, as my little running muscles have atrophied). My personal discipline is nonexistent. I can't resist even the mildest forms of temptation. I have few goals beyond coming home in the evening each day and being comfortable and warm. I teach almost every day, and don't have the time or the financial flexibility to travel or live as a tourist here.

Sure, I have dreams. I want to be fluent in Russian. I want to be the American ambassador to Russia. In my most dreamy hours I want to be an Olympian. But I also feel that I lack the will and determination to achieve my greatest dreams. My long term goals lack any short term stepping stones. Living here in my current capacity hasn't even helped me greatly improve my Russian skills, as I often converse in English. And finally, I've decided that this environment is not conducive to me living a healthy, fulfilling life.

All of this, and the blunt realization that economic and political stability seems to hang by a thread in Russia (as shown by the collapse of the ruble) have led me to the decision to return to America.

Yes, that's right. I'm coming home.

The time to request a Russian souvenir or trinket is now. Aunt Patty, I know you want a balalaika. You really go top shelf! I'll do what I can.

I leave Novosibirsk on December 25th to spend some time in Turkey and Greece with my cousin Colin. Should be a hell of a trip. I return to Moscow in January for a short time, and I will be back roaming New England by the end of January.

I'm doing this because I realized how I live in Russia doesn't really help me achieve any of my long term goals, and there isn't much of an alternative... at least not without going back to America first.

Many important decisions await in the near future, but my decision to return to America is final. I hope to go to Graduate school for International Diplomacy in Fall 2016. When I finish graduate school, I will be 27. I just might make it into the Foreign Service before I'm 30 after all.

What I do between January 2015 and Fall 2016 is still up in the air. But I'm interested in getting back into running form and living a healthier, more stable life.

I'd actually be interested in hearing from anyone with experience in career development what their recommendations would be. How important is it to have internship/work experience in international relations/policy/public diplomacy/government before applying to Graduate school in that field? Beyond the personal reasons for trying a career track before you go full bore, do graduate schools take that into strong consideration?

In the near future I will be given a choice between the financially secure and stable life which might hurt my future career prospects, or continuing to be financially irresponsible and wandering in order to pursue my desired career 100%.

So I have one last month in Russia. I'm sure it will be just as crazy as the last 13.

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