- I am sick of school. Absolutely sick of it. It's a good thing I only have 2 weeks left.
- I officially finished my second semester English course today, in the form of an 8-page final.
- Oh, and I HATE work. I told myself I wouldn't quit until I received my visa invitation, which, by the way, is late. A few weeks ago I called them, asking when the damn thing would be ready, and they said 7-10 days. More than this time has elapsed. ARGH.
- I am exhausted. I have taken a 3-4 hour after-school nap every single day this week.
- I could really go for some квас (kvas) right now. Mmm, a nice cold glass of fermented bread.
- In general, I want nothing more than to be back in Russia. I miss it so much.
- I haven't studied for my Arizona Government exam tomorrow. It's too bullshitty for my taste.
- I am currently obsessed with shopping (ut-oh), but need to wait until I go to DC and then Russia, because there will be better things to buy there.
Yeah, I know you don't care about this. And I don't care about you not caring. I wouldn't care if I were you, either.
I'd like my life to be beautiful and comfortably feminine. I'd like to wake up from rose-colored sheets, in a cozy bedroom that smells better than a candle. And wouldn't it be loverly to look in the mirror and think, "Oh my, that girl is very pretty!" I could put on pearl earings and pin a vintage brooch to my breast. wrapped in silent elegance
And I think that I should like to have pouty pink lips, big brown eyes lined with green or gold, skin like beige velvet..
You could arrive sometime around 7 pm. I'd put on my best slip and we'd drink wine at some scenely joint. That one evening, we'd let our fingers slide together like two interlocking pieces of a puzzle. take me somewhere we can be alone
Sitting on a cold bench under the shivering black sky, you'd touch my face like we lived in a Disney movie and I was your princess. I know, this is old news. But what the hell.
I fucking hate so many aspects of the way our society functions. Corrupt politics, sure, but the issue that affects me most is the media and the way it's shaping the modern teenaged girl to hate her body, (I know this, because I'm one of them).
I think it's obvious that the supermodel ideal cannot be realistically attained, (most of us lack the pouty lips, long, lean legs, and childlike doe-eyes necessary to make it in that occupation), however, the word on the street is that supermodels are très passé, in fact, it's the stars of Hollywood that really capture our hearts. Apparently actresses portray a more realistic body type. Let's see, I can think of THREE girls in Hollywood who could even be considered 'average' by medical standards (you see, we as teenagers now have a drastically different definition of what is average weight, which is much lower than physically healthy). These celebrities like Liv Tyler & Drew Barrymore admitted to being told by casting agents that they were too fat for the role.
Even the popular teen magazines that endorse loving your body the way it is recognize that the new focus on 'health' (aka weight-loss) needs to be addressed in their publications' content. Thus we see the influx of exercise plans advertised on the front page, such as, "flatten your abs in 2 weeks!" Perhaps articles like these are beneficial in supplementing those who are already active, but for girls like me it just makes us feel guilty for not exercising enough, (and in my own experience, this does not make me want to go out for a brisk run as much as it makes me fall deeper into my hole of sluggishness). I imagine for girls who are worse off than me, this feeling of hopelessness is only magnified.
Even if we did these exercises and followed these restrictive diets, 90% of us probably wouldn't even be able to achieve the slender arms, taut abdominals, and unblemished, smiling faces of the 16 year old models as they reach down, barbells in hand, for their third repetition of standing side-crunches, (an easy way to tone your obliques while strengthening your upper abs!). Oh my god!
Fuck the learning environment and all those teachers who tell me I won't be desirable to colleges unless I smother myself in AP next year. Taking four right now, I've become the most rigid little beauty- I drive myself to tears on a regular basis because I don't want to end up another aimless high school graduate attending a local community/state college. From an early age I was told that I was smarter than that, and although I teeter in the top 3% of my class, I wish more than anything that my future wasn't dictated by this percentage. I no longer crave the top schools that will guarantee me the most academic prestige, I want to live and pursue what I am most passionate about. When I had nothing else to dedicate myself to I could lust over straight A's and Harvard, and judging by my rigorous schedule you'd think I'm still like that. The teachers don't understand that I have so much ambition that's getting lost in the AP classes I take.
I don't want to be a brainiac-- I have more sense than most 20 year olds.
Just wait 'till I'm living comfortably and fabulously without America's twisted priorities. I have a plan, I trust myself, and that's more powerful than any test score. Sexy Dreams
I’m walking with Charlize Theron at an International Film Festival in Cape Town.
“I’m so glad to be back home,” she says, “it seems like no one understands my accent wherever else I go.”
She grabs me by the hand.
“I read your LiveJournal,” she continues, hushed.
“I thought, maybe I could be the one to show you what it’s like with a girl.”
“I have some time before I have to go on stage. I know a place…”
Suddenly I feel my body pressed against hers, hands flickering each way, she kisses my lips I kiss hers.
I open my eyes and we are in a small, wooden confessional box. Charlize has transformed into a middle-aged man with coke-bottle glasses, a grey five o’clock shadow, and messy hair.
I give him a long, passionate kiss goodbye, and I discretely exit the box and go off to find Cyril.
I wake up at 10.53 AM in an empty apartment with the computer on. I look out the window and there is fresh snow. I write. Russia is Russia
No matter what the map says, Russia is not Europe. Russia is Russia, and whether that is a good or bad thing, I do not know. For many natives, this is a country synonymous with misery, poverty, and instability. Once strong and then destroyed, much of Russia’s social infrastructure has only been haphazardly rebuilt, and for this reason quality of life severely lags behind that of Western European nations.
I am not writing this because I am anti-Russian, however my opinions towards this country have changed and continue to evolve the longer I live here. It’s not as though I previously overlooked the facts; I’ve known them all along, and hell, this isn’t about the facts, anyway. This is about experience and maturity and the ability to view the world objectively, which is what I am doing. If I offend any Russian patriots, I apologize, because I love your country, too. I just don’t like some of the things going on (e.g. extreme racism and xenophobia, as well as other untreated social ills I will not discuss).
Ok, I admit it, I am a bit of a liberal. Nonetheless, I find it interesting that many of the Russians I have met, regardless of their political stance, would like to or have already immigrated to different countries.
My first Russian-love, who had been trying to convince me the whole time of my error in coming here.
A very smart boy, globally-involved, and vehemently pro-America. He once told me that [practically] all of the intelligent and worthwhile people in Russia leave at some point or another.
While not entirely true, this trend is becoming more and more recognizable to me. At least half of the Russians on my friends-list are living abroad already, and more importantly, my current love, Cyril, also wants to leave.
Tо Norway. I completely understand, as I, too, am developing an extreme but distant fondness towards Scandinavia. Of course, before making any judgements I will need to go there and see this “social-paradise” for myself!
At any rate, for the time being, I do enjoy living in Russia. Inside of me I feel a deep appreciation for this country’s historically rich culture, as well as for the language, which I continue to learn. However, life for me here isn’t always the Bohemian fairytale I make it out to be, and hell, as an American, I’ve got it easy. Regardless, I will at least stay here for university, because while living in Russia is not a complete nightmare, I know that like for many others, a better life probably awaits me elsewhere. Tumultuous Three Months
In the beginning, it was that can't-eat, can't-sleep kind of love that made me absolutely crumble. But he was scared; scared I'd leave him in a week, get bored. He told me he came into people's lives when they needed it most and pitched him once the waters were calm. He said he was tired of being that stepping-stone to the bigger and better fortunes of others. The whole three months we dated he said I'd find someone better. He wanted me to be happy. I thought he was absurd, how could I ever find someone better?
He warned me that the novelty of any relationship's beginning wears off quickly. Maybe it was true; I gained back the ten
pounds lost during the first week I met him as my appetite returned with a vengeance. But he was still there, and I still loved him. I loved him even more as the Prozac withdrawls made my life feel bleak and joyless.
He spent the last two nights at my house. Monday, he was exhausted and collapsed on my bed at 9 pm. I joined him some hours
later, and had an unfufilling sleep. I woke up at 4 am and struggled to fall back asleep for another hour and a half. So I slept on the floor.
The next night I was already sick of him; I wanted to study Russian, do my homework, be alone. As I cracked open the pages of From Nyet to Da he looked at me with tired eyes.
"Come to bed," he cooed.
I felt guilty because I was ignoring him, but all I could think was,
"No, I don't want to be lazy and tired. I'm motivated. I don't want to be like you."
But I didn't say that. I layed down beside him, under the condition that once he was asleep I would retreat to the living room and read.
"You don't need me anymore, do you?" he asked.
Sometimes I didn't even want him.
It was our differences that ultimately brought us down. He wanted a girl that could share his love for pop culture, video games, and besides that,
"You're too antisocial," he said.
I'll wear the title proudly. My personal quests for knowledge and creativity are important to me, and moreover require solitude. We're different.
He treats his friends to coffee and burritos every day after school, they play games at his house and then leave. I have two best friends, one of which the only time I see is during our AP History and English classes. The other, I am lucky enough to spend my workdays with.
That's another thing. I work. I'm saving up money to study in Russia this summer; he's an heir to the General Mills cereal fortune and flexes his consumerist muscle whenever he can. It's not his fault but it made us different.
These have been the most tumultuous three months of my life, full of jealousy, depression, stress. But I'd like to think now that I'm getting better. My drive is back, I've reformulated a vision for the future, and I'm almost happy. This is the way I was when I first met him.
"I feel like I've served my time with you," he muttered remorsefully.
It's true. He was a flicker of three months, and in these past few days we both realized that my life had reverted to the way it was before I met him. And I was happy with that. He was a stepping stone.
"I just don't want to be forgotten," he told me.
"God, how could I forget you, Philip?"
I turned into him, and we held each other for the rest of the night, one last time. Sex & Dishwashing
Starting Saturday I return to my 7-day work week.
But I'm sick of washing dishes, scrubbing toilet bowls, being the last one in the restaurant and having to walk home drenched in water. It's degrading, it's disgusting, it's low-paying.
I'm knee-deep in everyone else's grime and I can't stand it anymore.
I'm not necessarily complaining, merely the work of a dishwasher is not for me. Even when I'm not at scrubbing away, I can't help but feel repulsive and unfeminine. If this was Hinduism, I would be casted as one of the "Untouchables."
That brings me to my next point.. At this moment, I view sex as something that only belongs in the movies. Well, I suppose I will allow supermodels and rock stars to have sex. But me? No, never… I am an Untouchable. At work, a man tried to shake my hand, but I pulled it away cautiously.
"Hey, you don't know where this thing's been."
Well, at least I can say for sure that it hasn't been doing anything inappropriate. Masturbation is out of the question, because right now I can't bear to place myself in any sort of sexual situation, not even fantasy.
Sometimes I have to ask myself if I'm even a girl anymore. I don't wear make up, I dress myself in the most disgusting clothes available because I know they'll just get grosser at work, I have hideous dark brown roots, and my physique is certainly less than stellar… I could go on and ON. I'm about to go crazy here. I'm not sure if I have ever felt so physically undesireable in my entire life. It's true, maybe I have no one to impress on this contintent, but that doesn't mean I should stop impressing myself.
… But let's be honest here, could you ever imagine yourself sleeping with a dishwasher?
I am so through with this. All of this. I hate all of the choices I have made and I realize that coming to Russia was the biggest mistake of my life. I wish I could turn back now, but I can't. University is starting, and if I want to transfer to anywhere in the States I need to at least finish my second semester.
At this moment I can confidently say that I truly do hate my life. I am looking for a room to rent somewhere, but there seems to be nothing available. And I can't afford a full apartment, let alone one that is actually in the city. Oh, and the SPbGU dorms are overbooked. Absolutely no space.
I've screwed myself over in so many ways, it's not even funny. Right now I wish I could just be an average American college student, no, an unaverage American college student, studying at NYU, prancing around in the Village with my fags and partying it up Shortbus-style on the weekends. Oh.. and of course, the academics. Lately I've been drooling over one professor from NYU's Slavic Studies program who has conducted some great research on gender and sexuality studies in the former USSR.
Anyway, I do like adventure and I do like Russia and the culture associated with it, but the conditions I am facing right now are just ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is they could have been prevented.
This is all my fault. First Draft
If you are of anti-Russian sentiment, this does not apply to you.
If you are interested in learning where my fascination with Russia came from, read this essay.
Given the hundreds of pages I've already written, the tears I've expelled, the impassioned states of hope and hopelessness
that have taunted me- I honestly thought that by now, I'd have a better answer for you.
At the risk of seeming blind-sided, I cannot imagine myself anywhere else but in St. Petersburg. Having only spent 6 weeks of
my summer there, I can hardly classify myself as an expert, however to say that I love and relate to the city is an
understatement. What I feel is more of a deep, unfaltering connection, something undeniably clear in my eyes, but
inexplicable to others. As Tatyana Tolstaya states, "Logical categories are inapplicable to the soul." True to this
statement, it is perhaps important to note that my interest in Russia began in a dream.
I was 15; it was a summer night preceding my study abroad trip to France. Insomnia had hit me full-force, and I spent large
parts of my evenings studying French grammar. Somewhere between le subjunctive and le passé antérieur, I fell asleep. What
was then portrayed to me was neither a dazzling image of the Eiffel Tower, nor anything else resembling the "City of Lights."
I saw myself in an airport, grey and outdated. I was in Russia.
Only a year later, standing alone and bewildered in the Pulkovo-2 baggage claim would I realize the power of my dreams �" and
the magnitude of what I had just undertaken. My luggage was lost, my pant legs saturated in muddy rainwater, and flight
delays had caused me to arrive one day late, unannounced and unexpected at my Host Mother's apartment.
Cracking open the door, Natasha's tiny blue eyes peered at me.
"It's Aimee, the American."
"Oh," she upheld, "come in. I thought you were supposed to arrive yesterday. I made you all this food; I will need to heat it
Thus began my exposure to the dualities of the Russian character. Natasha, on one hand, possessed a calm indifference towards
the greater inconveniences and misfortunes of life, yet remained staunchly opposed to what I would classify as mundane. My
spontaneous arrival was more than acceptable, she said, although she could not tolerate the way I slurped soup.
In Russia, the feeling that you cannot control the conditions and circumstances of your own life is still eminent. The
bureaucracy, above all, struck me as inefficient and corrupt. Everything from obtaining drivers licenses to mailing packages
and extending one's visa is operated on a system of bribes. Poverty looms around every corner, sharply contrasting with the
elite crop of designer stores lining St. Petersburg's main artery, Nevskij Prospekt.
Everyone acknowledges that such a gap in wealth is unfair, but so is everything else in Russian life. Natasha frequently
hinted at her economic shortcomings, which prompted me to ask her if she would perhaps prefer living somewhere else. Being
Jewish, her daughter had already immigrated to Israel 10 years prior, and I wondered if Natasha had planned to do the same.
"No," she told me plainly, "my life will be bad anywhere: in Russia, in Israel, all bad."
"And in the U.S.?" I proposed.
"Maybe a little better, but still bad," she shrugged.
While full of pessimism, I strongly admired the simple and honest demeanor in which Natasha expressed herself. Theorized by
professors and romanticized by Tolstaya herself, the enigmatic "Russian Soul" has always interested me, and seemingly
correlated to Natasha's peculiar love of suffering. I asked her one evening what she thought of this, only to have the topic
"It's just a myth," she said, and with that the conversation was over.
Although Natasha and I spoke no further of such profundity, an internal dialogue had been sparked in me, one inspired by the
everyday teachings of Russian life. In six week's time, I had already mastered the art of elbowing my way through subway
crowds, taken to eating heartily - not out of hunger, but politeness, and perhaps most importantly, I had fallen in love with
a Russian. Whereas Natasha had spoken too succinctly, unwilling to justify the fundamental whys and hows of her homeland,
Artyom spared no detail in my "education." It is from him that I learned the true nature of Russian life, and love.
Now, to explain to you the hardships of a long-distance relationship would be the utmost waste, cliché, sin I could ever
commit. I am not the first girl to have her heart torn in two, nor the first to leave someone behind. If anything, Artyom
taught me that in the face of adversity, one must be tough and tolerant. To live through changes as tumultuous as in Russia,
a nation of bitter extremes from North to South, East to West; where xenophobia is the subject of an 11-year civil war, and
corruption a common practice �" one must endure suffering, even come to enjoy it.
It was this exact sentiment that I saw eternalized in Natasha's eyes, a mélange of fear and trust, will and apathy; a wealth
of feeling and sensitivity to make up for the logic that she generally lacked. Remarkably, it was neither she, nor Artyom to
introduce such feelings to me �" they had been in fact been planted long prior to this, in one night's dream. A dream �" the
word seems just as foolish to me now as it did 800 words ago, although I read further and take comfort that Tolstaya
describes it as one of life's "most important" things. I can also take comfort in where this dream has taken me: to Russia
and back, to great friends, unforgettable love, to tears and desperation, then acceptance and perseverance all over again. It
has taken me to an early high school graduation, financial self-sufficiency, and to this very college application. Perhaps
more importantly, though, I now realize that despite others' disinclinations to believe, the Russian Soul exists. If
anywhere, it exists inside of me. Sponsors European Me
With the reelection of Bush I find myself in dire need to escape Les USA. As I am selfish, I almost hope that Bush will enter his second term with some dreadful blow to society as we know it- giving my parents a substantial worry for my immediate future. As timpanis crash in the background, Mother and Father look at each other and proclaim, in anguish,
"She… She must go to Russia… now!"
Five years later I find myself hunched over my desk, intermittently glancing out the frosty-cornered window overlooking Novgoradskaya Ulitsa. I'm distracted by the call of my lover, Andrei (or is that Sergei, Alexei, Ivan…?), who asks me if I want lenten plokhlebka for dinner, or perhaps we could dine out at our favorite Soviet-chich café, Politburo?
After a bitter argument involving smashed bottles of vodka and trays of caviar violently slung onto the walls, Andrei and I break up. Devastated, I pack my things and board train #118 from the Varshavsky Station. The next morning I wake up in Poland but arrange a transfer to Paris the next day.
And so the saga of my European life continues- I hop from the chicest apartment in St. Petersburg to les quartiers pauvres de Paris, the red rooves of Prague to my Best Friend's flat in London. Somewhere along the way I fall in love with the cooperative policies of EU citizenship, the preserved buildings more ancient than America itself, and the numerous deep-eyed specimens that haunt my bed at night. And I never come back. English-Only
Sometimes when I think of where else I could be right now, and what else I could be doing, I want to laugh and cry and bang my head against the wall, all at the same time.
Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever had any talents besides music. Music, which I devoted the first half of my life to, being called a 13-year-old jazz prodigy and then eventually giving it all up before I graduated high school. It’s actually rather painful to recall. Not that I miss the competition and feuds between us young musicians, nor the 6-8 hour-a-day practices and drills, nor my lips that would split open and bleed into my mouthpiece from being overworked. Yes, this was the stress that made trumpet no longer fun for me.
I do miss, however, the extreme rush and embarrassment of performing improv solos in front of hundreds of people, recording studios, having crushes on the cute senior boys in our bands, and of course, I miss being the best at something.
No, really. I was good. Fucking good. I was offered a music scholarship at the local university by the time I was 12, but insisted that I would go to Julliard instead. I can’t even count the numerous all-city and all-state honor bands I participated in, (and was first chair). I still blush when I hear myself play a solo on the first CD our jazz group produced. The years are fuzzy, but I believe I was 11.
I felt like I was destined for greatness. I would continue my path to stardom and eventually be first chair in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. I’d be a professional musician like my Dad; I’d be famous and rich and doing something I loved.
It could have happened, who knows? Either way, by the time I was 14 I was already experiencing some kind of adolescent-professional crisis, and decided that music was not the path for me. Regardless I still continued to play piano at home and trumpet in school, eventually becoming the marching band’s drum major (conductor) my Junior year. Then something even more profound happened: I went to Russia.
After that it was Russia, all Russia. Only Russia. I quit the band so that I could work 37 hours a week as a dishwasher. For Russia. I sold my trumpet on Ebay so that I could buy my plane tickets to St. Petersburg.
And here I am now. In Russia. No instruments in sight. I should be studying for the State Russian exam now, but something doesn’t feel right.
Oh yes, that’s it - I know I’m not talented in Russian, or anything else that I busy myself with, for that matter.
Oh well. The past is the past, and the future is.. not what I expected it to be. It’s pretty pathetic to think that as a preteen I was more successful than I am now, but then again, at 17 I suppose I still have a few more years of youth left in me. A few more years to fuck up and learn the hard way, living in one of the most tarnished and beautiful countries in the world, Russia. This is what’s called enjoying my experience for what it’s worth. Life isn’t perfect here, but in the end, it’s gotta pay off somehow - otherwise my name’s not Aimee Rae Friedland, directionless child-prodigy!