How banal it is to miss the time you've never lived in.
Out of pure curiosity, I've just scribbled down a couple of Proficiency essays. Well, I seem to have kept my writing skill pretty honed, or so it seems.
Much as I love the language, there's only so much I can do with it.
I want to be a part-time writer or an editor. I used to have a side hustle that brought me some decent money. Then came February, 24th.
The town of N.
There's very little virtue in hard labor.
The charm of rustic life is something that I as a lifelong city dweller find hard to get accustomed to. Your life is reduced to your family's sustenance and survival.
A couple of days ago, I visited a small village 200 mi away from my city; my last name stems from the name of this place. Back in the day when my father was alive and we were still on speaking terms, he'd often tell me about a village that our ancestors might have been born in, the village our name might have originated from. Whether his stories were real or whether they were just a mere confabulation, I don't know. Still, I'd been feeling like exploring this place since my father's death in December.
A gravel road was winding and at times treacherous; the traffic was at best sparse. As the landscape became more mountainous, the air grew colder, and the sun became more obscured by clouds. Squeezing the road at both sides, a thick forest seemed to be intently watching the car as it bombed along. The lead colour of the clouds grew duller the closer we were to the village.
The chtonos dwells in this dismal realm.
Our arrival to N., a town twenty miles away from the village, coincided with a parade marking the proverbial V-Day. As such, the main road was cordoned off with police. I asked the officer for directions. What escaped my attention at that moment but thrusted itself into my mind later, on the night of this day, was how bad the teeth of the people we encountered were.
The village lay further northwards. It met us with its dilapidated Soviet-era bus stop sporting the letters of my last name. We left the car there and embarked on our exploration of the village.
As I'm writing about this place now, it seems so...nondescript. My mind fails to grasp something remarkable about it. Well, the truth is, it is nondescript. The right part of the village featured a row of old wooden houses so typical of the Russian village. Many were crooked; an even bigger number seemed completely abandoned. Only when our twenty-minutes' long foray was coming to its end did we spot a car moving in our direction, leaving clouds of dust billowing behind. However, we did notice, albeit occasionally, some specks of human presence and activity. A farmer not older than fifty years old building a shed adjacent to his house; a combine harvester and a tractor, ostensibly, properly looked-after. At the right end of the village there formidably stood a grain elevator whose monotonous hum could be heard from quite afar.
As we made our way into the left part of the village, it seemed to be bristling with activity. Three old women were sitting on the bench near one of the houses and chatting. Sheep were grazing on a vast field in the distance. Some boys, maybe, fifteen years old, were sitting on a bridge across a small rivulet, watching us with curiosity. There, city dwellers must be an uncommon sight. For God's sake, who'd willingly come to a place like this?
I greeted the grandmas and inquired into any whereabouts of my namesakes. With a sigh, they told me that there had been only two people in question and they had left the village a while ago. Our talk diverted to the topics any talk with grandmas from the village would eventually divert to: the young are living, nobody wants to fill the earth and put down the roots there. Everybody would rather uproot their existence and start it anew elsewhere in cities.
Unhospitable. Dejected. Empty.
The nation can't exist if its villages are dead.
The Bolsheviks eradicated the kulaks, the mainstay of former Russia. Those were prosperous peasants who owned large farms, had cattle and horses, and could hire some labor if need be or rent their land. Then came kolkhozes with their machine tractor stations and what not. Still, the system was largely unproductive and not half as efficient as it ought to have been. After the collapse of the USSR, the matters became even worse. With the advent of market economy, the village was left to its own devices, as was pretty much everyone else. Granted, during the relative prosperity of the 00s, the situation might have improved here and there, but it ultimately failed to resuscitate the village.
It must be admitted that some attempts were indeed made. The Law on the Far Eastern Hectare enacted six years ago gives one hectare (2.5 acres) of free land in the Russian Far East to Russian citizens and foreign nationals as long as they live there for five years. I don't really have any data that I would trust on that matter, so I cannot really pass my judgement on how well this project fared thus far. But wouldn't it be wise to extend this law on all Russian villages? For fuck's sake, we have plenty of land. The Urals, Siberia, elsewhere. Russia has plenty of land that remains uninhabited or unused. Why would we need all these affairs (you know what I'm talking about, but I have to self-censor myself) that make the whole world turn against us and hate us if we have that much land that we don't really tap into?
It's beyond my ken.
I've always wanted to live and prosper on my own land and take care of it. I want to see it thrive. I want my kids to be born here, and I want them to stay here.
And I will.
There's very little virtue in hard labor.
Perhaps. Or maybe not.
My life in Russia as of May 6th, 2022
One guy I follow on social networks advises that we, ordinary people, keep a diary during those challenging times. One day, these notes will be an invaluable cornucopia of stories giving insight into late Putinism. Or they won't.
Though it seems like there's not so much to be writing about, I'll try.
Prices are soaring, as is the case pretty much everywhere. The government issued an act obliging exporters to sell foreign currency revenue, with the view of keeping the ruble afloat. It seems to be working for the time being, yet there are some caveats. Looks like we're having two kinds of exchange rates, something we haven't seen before. You can buy dollars or euros or whatever on the stock exchange, but you can't withdraw this money from an ATM. If you need cash, you'll have to go to a bank office, and (what a surprise) they'll charge you like 30-40% more. In other words, you can buy $1 for 65 RUB on the stock exchange, but should you need cash, you'll have to pay 100 RUB.
I haven't been laid off, and I still enjoy my salary and my benefits. I'm actively looking for side hustles, yet nothing seems to have sprung up yet. I've been dabbling in SQL and Python. I don't enjoy coding, but at least it gives me some food for thought.
As I was driving home from work, I was thinking about programming languages and foreign languages. Perhaps, I should brush up my very rusty German, but - what for?
Too many "what fors" have been plaguing my mind since I turned 26 or so. Now I'm approaching 30.
Buying a flat in a panel building wasn't the best option. I know, hindsight is 20/20. I'm annoyed with my neighbors who are driving me mad with their music resonating with and reflecting off the walls of my bedroom, with their barking dog scratching the floor. For fuck's sake, I can even hear their tap water running. There seems to be little I can do about it. Insulation is expensive af and won't be as effective as I need it to be. I'm looking forward to buying and rebuilding my own house with a small allotment.
Last week, my wife and me went to a wapiti farm 200 mi away. It was quite an adventure. The place brought me the tranquility and serenity I'd been craving for.
Some rumors have been circulating. Some people say that mass mobilization may be imminent (I hope I won't be charged with "spreading fake news" or shit). Well, there's only one man who knows for sure. Either way, I wasn't drafted into the army back when I was 18. Exempted on health grounds. In Russia, you may be drafted until you are 28; only in the event of a full-scale war will the army reserve (that I'm nonetheless a part of) be called upon.
Life still goes on, however little sense of it I can make.
Tomorrow is never promised.
I appreciate my life, my family, my health, my job, my pets, my experiences, my voice, my home.
I feel like I'm struggling without actually moving anywhere.
Perhaps, finding a data analyst/software developer job should not be the be-all-and-end-all.
Were it that simple, every person with a modicum of brain would be writing code.
I feel like I've been torturing myself with all these courses simply because my wife kept on nagging at me. Yep, some concepts genuinely intrigue me and spark my interest, but as soon as I delve just deeper, I can't but feel overwhelmed.
Guess it's going to take way more time and perseverance on my part than I thought.
So be it.
What's the point of it all, then
I found myself in the city I spend a couple of months three years ago. I was supervising a field test of water treatment products at a local power plant. I managed to retain this challenging customer.
It's been three years. I witnessed a salary increase back then; there were some annual increases thereafter.
I was promoted half a year ago.
I'm turning 29 in a couple of weeks.
The pay leaves a bit to be desired; at least, sometimes it takes only ten fingers to count my monthly workload. Besides, nobody's meddling with the way I do things or tracking my time or what not.
I don't want to continue this line of work, nor does it seem like it's going to be immutable. The ongoing situation is bound to make everything go haywire.
Is this comfort I couldn't have dreamt of hampering my development?
This is not to say that I just waste my time and idle it all away. I'm actively trying to learn new things; I'm still dabbling in data science; I had a couple of job interviews. Yes, I failed, but the offers seem to have been trickling in. Perhaps, I'm on the right track.
With the ongoing situation, it's better than nothing.
I never planned to live in a totalitarian state waging "a special operation" against a neighboring country, ffs.
i d l e n e s s
Anything worth writing about?
I have just realized
I spent so much time
Striving upwards, all the while drowning in mediocrity,
Encumbered with vestiges of former ambition,
Vertiginously devoid of regret,
Bauhaus in my head.
Is reminiscence my second nature?
Introspection, loftily and haughtily casting its glance
Across the unfortunate nearby.
Words slip out of memory.
I stopped reading,
I stopped writing.
I stopped dreaming big
A long time ago.
Or so it seems.
Now, just mere existence,
Magnified to a lifelong proportion.
With nothing better to be looking forward to.
Being written, this casual note
Nosedives into the caverns of my psyche.
Writing as a therapy?
The only thing that seems to be being sold these days are courses.
If only I started an expensive refresher on casuistry!
Would've been a someone.
Why don't you stop your verbal diarrhea, Mr.Verbosity?
Written elsewhere, best left not written at all.
God stood me up
And I don't know why
Lights are on
But nobody's home
Rings a bell when you're turning 29 in less than a month, and everything you've tried to build thus far seems to be losing its meaning and purpose. Sometimes I feel like giving up on myself, but I keep fighting this uphill battle. Whatever else is there to be done?