It’s been more than two months since I’ve been back in the U.S., and already some of my other Russia ETAs have returned for round two. I’ve moved from California to Cambridge, and am in my second week at my master’s program. I meant to write this post a long time ago, but time slips by, so better now than never.
Rereading my last post, I can vividly remember the anxiety and the sadness that I felt in June when I was leaving. My departure seemed sudden – strange after 10 carefully counted months – and also excruciatingly final. Unlike leaving home for college, or leaving college for the world, I had this feeling that I was leaving a place that I could never return to. Not just, of course, a physical place, but a particular emotional landscape unique to this time in my life. More than a place that I could never return to, but a place that would no longer exist.
Now, just a few months later, I can see that leaving wasn’t really the end, because there’s never an end to anything, only beginnings. Last weekend I realized that it had been exactly a year since I moved to Voronezh. Any commentary I have to give on that fact is inevitably cliched: I can’t believe how fast the time went, or how much I feel like I’ve grown as a person, or how different everything turned out from what I expected. And yet it’s true. At each temporal signpost I see my former self as if reflected in one of those parallel infinite mirrors. As the reflections span through the past to the present, each reflection is more representative of the real Molly, the present-tense Molly. Whatever I was doing last year on September 7 (apparently documenting the contents of my fridge in the hostel and probably scrambling to make some sort of syllabus and course plan) has made it much easier for me to do whatever I’m doing today (going to classes, learning Ukrainian, appreciating the uniformity of the sidewalks as I scurry through the rain). And with each reflection that’s closer to the surfaces, I become more confident and sure that whatever I’m doing is, quite simply, right for me.
All of this is my round-about way of saying that even though the last year of teaching English in Voronezh had more than its share of challenges, it was worth it.
One last thing, before I end this (my 100th post!) and abandon my blog to the wastelands of the internet. At some point during the Russian winter I reread one of my favorite novels, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s one of the most beautiful and sad books ever, if you haven’t read it, you should. But one passage really stuck out to me. It describes the situation of one of the protagonists when she finds herself in a country that is not her own.
“Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood. In Prague she was dependent on Tomas only when it came to the heart; here she was dependent on him for everything.”
Well, at least the first sentence, I think, is an incredibly accurate description of what it’s like to live by yourself abroad. Except that today you can live abroad and still have that safety net, even if those people are 8 or 11 hours away from you. So thank you to all of you who supported me last year, I really would not have been able to do everything without knowing that all of you were cheering me on.
So there’s nothing more to say, except, I’m sure I’ll be back to Russia someday..