When I was a kid, a clear road lay ahead of me: finish school, receive a higher education and work. Finish school, because it is necessary to enter college; get a higher education, because you need it for "proper" jobs, and work, because that was the way my mother, father and grandparents all lived.
When I was a kid, people had higher objectives in their lives, something to live for. The air was saturated with the knowledge of it back then, during the last decade of the Soviet Union. My mother also had a larger goal in her life. It was because of this goal that she helped recover idle lands* when she was a student, it was because of this goal that she was a komsomolka then a member of the Communist party. It was also in part because of this goal that she was on both my brother's and mine parents' committees when we were at school.
When I was an adolescent, I did what I was supposed to do: graduated from high school, entered college in a field that appealed to me, graduated with a grade just below the one that would have made my diploma "with honours", and started working at the same science institution where I had prepared the final project for my college program.
When I was an adolescent, I realized that I, myself, did not have a higher goal in my life, but the lack did not bother me, for surely, the goal was going to reveal itself once I started working and did not need to study all the time anymore.
When I was a young adult, a fresh college graduate, and a new worker, I approached my older colleagues and asked what their goal was, what they were doing at work "in a larger sense", toward what they were employing their efforts.
I failed to express myself in a way that would have made myself understood. An my colleagues, most of whom were my parents' age and older, and for whom having a higher purpose was as natural as breathing, failed to understand my problem.
I floundered. I did not see the higher goal behind the smaller tasks and problems my co-workers where occupying themselves with in these times of the cholera when the State was and is not interested in supporting fundamental science.
I floundered; I tried working on the still smaller tasks set to me, but without the backbone of the higher goal that I'd deluded myself I would miraculously acquire "later", these tasks did not engage me.
Outside interests and hobbies flourished: I became fluent in French and continued nourishing my English and started going abroad for events of interest. Yet at work, I felt like a misfit. Forever dragging my feet, disrespecting the deadlines, I behaved like a spoiled child, using my quick mind to only do enough work for my discontent not to be obvious. I started missing a day here and there, and nobody reacted, because not clocking in and out every day is not sanctioned here so long as you are pulling your weight.
I fell deeper into depression, and eventually missed 6 weeks straight at work and was nearly fired. A colleague from another work group prevented that from happening: he vouched for me and said he would make sure I work properly.
My memory of work-related events in the two years that followed is fragmented. I was out of sorts; I had to force myself to get into work every single day because there was still no rigid control over me (for which I was also grateful). I felt that the dark cloud inside of which I had lived for months before and during the not-going-to-work-at-all episode was still close, still within my mental eyesight and arm's reach, still just a few steps away.
I do not know how and when this situation changed. It probably happened when on a whim, I accepted two tasks unrelated to my everyday duties. One was translating articles into English both for my immediate colleagues and for other physicists, and the other, helping organize a big event our department is responsible for, the annual Zvenigorod Conference on Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion.
Both tasks are finite, tangible, and give me the satisfaction of knowing I do something immediately useful. They also help my self-esteem by making me visible, at work. I am the person who does these concrete and obvious things, and not the grasshopper among ants anymore.
As and adult, I am a jack of several trades. I can do well enough in them, but I do not consider my patchwork skill set particularly marketable at the moment. I work, I get by, and I am slowly rebuilding myself.
As an adult, I do not have a higher goal. I have small, visible ones that I set, and reach, and move past without fanfare.
*Recovery of idle and fallow lands in Kazakhstan, Siberia, and Volga and Ural regions in 1955–1965 was a massive endeavour devoted to increasing grain production in Soviet Union. For the first few years, these lands did produce much higher than average crops of grain, but then they fell largely to disuse, because the work on infrastructure and protecting the new agricultural lands from extreme weather phenomena in those regions not characteristic of other, traditional, agricultural lands was not done properly.
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Music:Philip Quast - I Was Here