Thoughts

Dreams and the Day Job

For those in that position…

Does everyone, as a child, imagine what they will be like when they grow up? What they will look like as a working person, doing something? Or even not only as a child, but at different times. So often “Who do I want to be?” equals “What do I want to do?” Which is naturaI, because also through doing you become more of your own person.

Plus, how else does it work?

(Or you do things for a while and then realize you don’t really know anything, nor will you know EVERYTHING FOREVER AND RIGHT NOW, but you know enough for this moment and that’s fine.)

In your mind, especially in your teens, when you’re not a kid anymore, but also not an adult with some quantity of experiences and years allowing you to look back, gain perspective, you end up planning it all out in your head. This is the dream, this is what I can do to get there, here’s the research. Sometimes it’s more a list of questions than a plan, in varying internal tones of seriousness or worry. You might set yourself time frames, because not only are you extremely eager and ready, as you think, to get where you want, you also want to get out of wherever you are now.

Through various circumstances relating to the practicalities of life, geography, relocation, money, concentrating on an education and those first part-time jobs, just to name a few factors, and work, work, work to know as much as possible about what sets what YOU want to do apart, that time plan, those earlier images might be somewhat different in reality.

But are they? OK, maybe getting that degree took longer, but you wanted it and you had a lot of support while you were at it. Maybe you met your best friend during those few years. Maybe that first internship that wasn’t directly connected to writing, in the beginning, was the first foray into working in a medium that would turn out to accompany you for the next four years in various (very educational) internships before you landed the day job. Maybe you learned a lot of other things (the workings of an office universe) before that first internship led to a lengthy translating and writing stint in two languages you originally didn’t expect to work in, or even imagine you’d have fun with. Maybe that other assignment at that next job that friends don’t believe you about when you tell them now taught you how to concentrate on getting the job done correctly no matter the subject matter.

Having a day job and being a creative person have been two elements perfectly capable of combination for centuries, even if it’s sometimes a challenge. It doesn’t hurt the dream to have a framework of stability and it certainly helps it grow. I’d say it even feeds it and there are so many conclusions, discussions, thoughts, ideas I may not have arrived at for those joyful creative hours otherwise. All of that makes what I create more relatable, at least to me, which is where it all starts anyway. In turn, the creativity feeds the day job and prevents me from taking myself too seriously, or helps during difficult moments, by just mentally stepping away and thinking for a moment, “This could be good for a story or a blog post.” Whatever it is doesn’t always end up in a story or blog post. Sometimes it ends up on a spoon tucked into an evening bowl of ice cream, but that’s not so bad, either.

So maybe the packaging is different, but the contents are the same. There isn’t just one way to do things anymore.

Or, as my mother says, don’t overanalyze and go for it.

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Thoughts

If All the Clichés about Russia and Siberia Were True…

…then I guess this is what my memoir would read like.

It was dark most of the time growing up. Winters started in September and lasted well into May, though that’s actually just a lie we tell foreigners since they seem to think individual seasons have a beginning and an end. Weirdos. In reality, it’s winter all the time.

The snow just piles up year after year, but it’s good that there’s so much of it, because then we can go outside, fill up our buckets and basins with it, or, if you’re lucky, maybe a baby tub currently not in use. It’s a group job, as well as a nice occasion to bond with neighbors (if there are any around) and family members. Though I wish Uncle Vanya wouldn’t come with. One ear of his shapka is dangling by a thread and you can smell the Stolichnaya on his breath when he lets out that laugh of his. Only the best for Uncle Vanya. One time he fell into the tub of snow he’d just filled, face first. We got him out, but had to dump out all the snow and start afresh.

The snow is really clean, because we live in the forest. There’s just forest everywhere. I mean, just taiga, to be completely honest. So there’s plenty of space for everyone, but that’s why you might not have neighbors, at least not nearby. We found ours entirely by chance, and then marked the trees on the way with our pocket knives, so we would be able to navigate the path and visit each other. Walking is possible, but skiing is best.

I got sidetracked. We collect the snow for water. Depending on how warm it is in the house that my parents built before I was born, it’ll either melt quickly by itself or we dump it all in the enormous cauldron in the kitchen. We have running water, but it needs to be used sparingly. The pipes burst every now and again, but that’s OK, because there’s always enough snow.

The town isn’t far away and we can go there for supplies, but we really prefer the forest. The few hours of daylight are sufficient for jaunts into the outside world or errands, and the rest of the time we eat, read, stream stuff and sleep. Yes, we do have internet, who do you think we are, cavemen? How would we get stuff delivered, otherwise? As to how the postman finds us, his problem. Never asked.

In the evenings we often sit by candlelight at the table after dinner, singing Russian folk songs. Kalinka always gets me going and then everyone starts dancing (we have a big family), so we go to bed after 2 in the morning, though it doesn’t matter, because it’s already been dark for 12 hours before that. Thankfully, Uncle Vanya is forbidden from coming over to dinner and my parents still haven’t told me why.

I’ve yet to meet a polar bear. I thought I saw one once when Sasha and I, the neighbors’ son, wandered off somewhere, but it was hard to tell because of all the snow. We did hear some growling and ran off fast. Well, Sasha ran off, then he discovered I wasn’t running with him, because I was wearing my high-heeled boots and red miniskirt, so I was kind of prancing after him. He did come back to help me, tried to carry me on his back, even, but then he said I was too heavy and that I should lay off the potato pies. The next day I threw the matryoshka he gave me for my birthday out the window when he came by. It him him on the forehead. He kept bleating outside, “But come on, nuuuu, shto, davai, kotik…”

He can bleat all he wants, I’m already looking for a middle-aged American millionaire online. Sasha is shouting something about a (Siberian) tiger outside, but I’m too busy.

 

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Hamburg

Random Struggles in German

Even after many years of living here, I have a list of words and phrases I still need to look up. That’s actually fine by me. First of all, I’m not a computer. Second, learning a language never really stops, because it’s a process and languages are living things. Wouldn’t it be boring if you just knew all there was to know? Third, it creates interesting conversations. Fourth, it gets me my regular dose of laughing. So off we go…

Fordern and fördern – one means “to demand” and the other means “to support” or “to sponsor”. I routinely forget which is which and sometimes end up using the wrong one in a sentence. Neat trick: at the same time it’s easy for me to remember that Förderung means “sponsorship” etc., so I can make the appropriate conclusion if I catch myself in time. Otherwise I just opt for a synonym or still do that thing where my voice kind of sinks, I don’t finish my sentence and expectantly look at my (usually) native German-speaking conversation partner.

Schnurren and schnüren – well, the first only has one meaning, “to purr”, and the other one means “to tie”. Sometimes I’ll use the first one, but pronounce it like the second, and then I’ll forget the ü when I’m talking about shoelaces (a subject that pops up more often than you’d expect), which, incidentally, in German are called Schnürsenkel. They might also lose an ü when I’m trying to kindly tell someone their laces got untied, and I spend 5 seconds remembering whether the plural gets an n at the end or not. The answer is no. By the way, a friend of mine once offered a lovely solution, and since she’s German, I tucked away the phrase she used with total confidence. “Oh,” she said, pointing at my undone shoelace, “deine Schleife ist auf.” This translates as “Your ribbon came undone.” Wonderful.

Tablett and Tablette – the first one means “tray” and the second one means “pill”. The second one was easy to remember, because the Russian word is very similar, not to mention the English one. But these are also the reasons the first one confused me at first. At the same time, the article of Tablett stuck in my memory from the first time I heard the word. Go figure.

Schnacken – this is northern German, which means I was hearing it very soon after arriving in Hamburg. Another example of how far the textbooks in class can take you before you have to dive in for real, whereupon the lessons start all over again. Was this the German pronunciation and adaptation of “snacking”? Nope, it means “to chat”, but it’s also used in a work context between colleagues who either know each other or assignments they are expected to work on together well.

Two examples which showcase my inventions basically influenced by translating English from my head into my German speech.

Relativ neulich was “pretty recently”, but it’s not used. Just neulich or vor Kurzem. Noted. I’d gotten away with it for a couple of years, though. So either no one noticed, or they were all patient and polite, not wanting to offend me, waiting it out, taking their time, analyzing what I’d said and making lists…

Ein ernstes Stück Fleisch – this innocent literal translation of “A serious piece of meat” while describing a fantastic hamburger (yeeeesss) dinner caused a lot of mirth and became a, dare I say, beloved quote. Ein ernstes Stück Kuchen (cake), ein ernstes Stück Käse (cheese). You name it, it works.

 

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Seen/Heard/Read

Disney Wisdom That Will Set You for Life

I mean, really, what else do you need?

The Lion King

The basics.

Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

Simba: But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?

Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.

Aladdin

Things to know.

Jafar in disguise: You’ve heard of the golden rule, haven’t you? The one who has the gold, makes the rules (add disgusting wheezing laugh).

Bambi

Manners.

Thumper: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.

Sleeping Beauty

Skillfully telling your family you met someone.

Prince Philip: I said I met the girl I was going to marry. I don’t know who she was, a peasant girl, I suppose.

(Shortened quote follows)

King Hubert: You’re a prince, and you’re going to marry a princess!

Prince Philip: Now, Father, you’re living in the past. This is the 14th century. Nowadays –

King Hubert: Nowadays I’m still the king, and I command you to come to your senses –

Prince Philip: And marry the girl I love.

King Hubert: Exactly!

The Little Mermaid

Understanding teenagers (because at some point we’ll all need to).

Sebastian: Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you.

Pocahontas

How to make friends and share hobbies.

John Smith: Pocahontas, that tree is talking to me…

Pocahontas: And you should talk back!

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