An older professional who loses his or her job in Moscow will have one hell of a time finding another one. The endless throng of Marketing Professionals, HR Animals, IT Programmers, and Start-Up Dreamers care only about finding a path into the skulls of the YOUNG. Old-timers are ignored, tacitly invited to simply die off. The concept of Human Resources in Moscow is not about retraining, retooling, and reestablishing older people into meaningful positions or even second careers. The fine tradition of the babushka notwithstanding, in Russia there is a definite stigma to being perceived as "old". Even my wife is clamoring for her 31-year old daughter to get married and start a family. Maybe this old-timey obsession is starting to fade in modern Russia -- at least in the Business Center that is Moscow -- but it remains in the back of a mother's mind when she sees her daughter still sitting on the shelf as the years pass.
I have just celebrated my 68th birthday
out here in the country in Bliznatsi. There are a lot of old people in this village, but somehow they do not look like fossils or the blight on the planet that they often resemble in that fast spastic blast known as The Big City. True, a lot of them here seem one part human, one part mud, and one part stone -- not necessarily the quaint and picturesque personification of a Constable painting of rural paradise. But neither do they seem weak, pathetic or overwhelmed. Not many of them are what you would call anorexic -- in fact quite a few have expanded into more or less shapeless masses, and their wind-hardened faces often seem featureless, as if God simply got bored while adding a mouth, nose, and eyes to His wonderful creations in this locale and just said the hell with and left the job unfinished. Yet there is a ruddiness to these heads and bodies. They don't look sad at all; rather, they seem beyond caring what they look like, just as farm animals don't seem concerned about cosmetic effect either..
This is infrared Eric)
I wonder how long I will last. When I return to Moscow, everything will shift into high gear again, and I will be pushing the envelope seven days a week, from early morning until late at night. Morning coffee and midnight beer will serve to motivate me through from one day to the next. I am aware that the pace I set is asking for trouble, and yet I cannot stop. I am driven. And, strangely, I love it, even when exhausted. In part, it is a game to see how far I can drive myself, how much I can accomplish, how much I can earn. Though I am married to a much-loved wife who lives full-time here in Bulgaria while I am off galavanting around Moscow, I remain pleasure driven, forever infatuated with one passing fancy or the other. I need deadlines and pressure; I crave the rush of doing (or trying to do) the impossible. I hunger for recognition and fame. I press forward at all times like someone who is afraid to take a step backward, frightened of falling into the void, like a cosmonaut who steps out of the capsule, loses his grip and goes floating off into outer space. Forever. To die alone out in the middle of that Forever. I am a vampire. I drink the blood of my many students and colleagues to swell myself with red energy. And I know that, especially at my age, I am one heart attack or hemorrhage from a sudden game's-end. But I do it anyway. My terror is my fuel. How many of you, I wonder, feel this way?
As I was walking in the fields with Casper, Poppy, and Bobby this morning, I thought about all this, and I asked myself what, if anything valid, I have actually learned after all these frenetic years. I am a man, and I think like one, so here is what I have learned as a man:
1. Be free, whatever it takes, but don't confuse it with whim-driven self-indulgence or selfishness. Freedom has responsibilities. Yet nobody is going to die for you, so don't let anybody live your life for you. Live it for yourself.
2. Learn a marketable trade or skill. I was lucky. The world needed English and that was the one thing I had to offer. Have as many hobbies as you like, but don't waste your time with bullshit hoping it will pay the rent.
3. It really and truly IS more rewarding (and more fun) to give rather than receive. So try to make other people HAPPY instead of grabbing everything for yourself. So love yourself, but try to find something or someone that you love MORE than you love yourself. It will keep you alive.
4. Don't be a quitter. If you have decided to do something, DO it, finish the job, and don't wimp out. Time will pass whether you like it or not, and what will you have to show for it?.
5. Don't feel sorry for yourself. Get rid of all self-pity. Like the Nike ad says, "Just do it." Get off your ass and just do it.
6. NEVER lose your sense of humor and always look for people who have one. You can laugh your way through this absurdity we call the world, and you will stay healthy. And remember that your sense of humor does not have to be Politically Correct.
7. (very important) Develop a good Shit-Detector. The world is always trying to sell you shit and it comes in many forms and flavors. Sharpen your nostrils and learn to pick up the scent.
8. Love women with unbridled passion, but don't let them rule you. Don't let them destroy you. There are many women (an 11-year-old Italian boy told me that once when I was grieving about a lost love.) The boy was spot on.
9. Be honest with yourself. Even if you lie to everyone else, please be honest with yourself. If you realize that you are a piece of shit, change it.
10. At least once in your life, get a dog. That way you will die knowing for sure that in life you had a least one true friend.