The post title should be in all caps and followed by a bajillion exclamation points.
I was chosen as one of ten students to go to Russia for two weeks at the beginning of July with American University’s Initiative for Russian Culture program. I am overwhelmingly happy, overjoyed, and excited. I have long dreamed of an opportunity like this and I cannot believe that it is finally my time to participate in something this amazing. I feel lucky- blessed- and extremely grateful. But I know you all read my blog for the full details. SO without further ado…
Some days, I swear to God, I’m afraid to let myself just be happy. When things are going right and there is literally nothing wrong in my life- I still find a way to be stressed- I’m always convinced there’s something I’m not doing or that I’m forgetting something. Like the universe made a mistake in allowing me a moment of peace or allowing things in my life to just work out. It’s like I have it ingrained in my brain that I have to be struggling. If I don’t feel like I’m working hard- than I’m doing something wrong. Puritan work ethic, much? Is my New England showing or what? Enjoying the fruits of my labor isn’t something that comes easy to me.
In all seriousness though- I don’t know if it’s because I’m a realist and just expect something bad to happen when things are good. I don’t know if its because I have always worked so hard for everything. I don’t know if its because of all the bad things I’ve gone through. I don’t know if its because I never feel like my work is good enough and I just want to do more. I don’t know if its something that has come about inside of me because of how I was brought up. I don’t know if its because I don’t feel like I deserve to be happy. I think it’s a combination of all of those things.
Plus I’m the oldest of four. I have strong maternal instincts. I live to take care of others. My natural tendencies shouldn’t surprise me.
I also have this George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life Reference for you all) complex about me. I tend to put others before myself and their happiness over my own. I just want to take care of everything I possibly can on my end (plan and organize) so that everyone else can live better and easier. I never want to be the person holding anyone else up. When I let others down or forget something important, the amount of guilt I feel is insurmountable. I tend to be the girl who holds back from doing the things she really wants to do because of the other people in her life. I never want to rock the boat or do anything outside of the norm because as long as my life is stable and reliable and secure, than everyone else’s lives can be more stable, reliable, and secure.
But, then like George Bailey, I get overwhelmed from time to time and curse the world. Slight resentment builds up and I grow sad/angry that I’m not living MY life the way I want to. I always come back down to Earth and am reminded of how important I am in the lives of others and how much love there is around me, but it doesn’t change the fact that I constantly feel as if I’m the one who needs to sacrifice things that she wants for other people’s happiness.
SO when good things come my way- it’s almost like I refuse to believe they’re happening to me. It’s so hard for me to just accept the good and celebrate whatever it is I’m experiencing. My weight loss is the perfect example of that. Instead of praising myself for all my hard work and truly enjoying the benefits that being healthier has brought in to my life, I’m hard on myself and tell myself that I can somehow do better- that what I did wasn’t enough. Or I feel guilty for being happy for myself or proud of myself. I feel guilty for celebrating the goodness in my life.
But there are moments where I realize… I am living the life I imagined. And it didn’t happen because of pure luck or chance- it happened because I worked my ass off.
I had one of these moments on Saturday while I was sitting at the Lincoln Memorial. I was thinking of me years ago and what I wanted out of life when I was a high school senior and how I have become the person I wanted to be and accomplished the things I dreamed of. I’m a young twenty-something living out on her own in the city, a college graduate, a historian, employed, filled with love, fit, healthy, balanced and someone who finds time for the things she’s passionate about.
Why don’t I celebrate my life and everything I have more often? I deserve everything good in my world. Nothing came easy to me- absolutely nothing. It’s cliche, but true- good things come to those who work hard.
It is this giant bundle of thoughts that leads me to announce proudly: this summer I will be traveling to Russia for two weeks.
I applied for the program on a whim- assuming they wouldn’t even consider me as an alumna and not a full-time undergrad or graduate student. But I still applied because of how badly I wanted it.
Those of you who know me know that there are very few things I love more than Russia. When I was a senior in high school, I remember telling people I was going to take Russian in college. study Russian history, and ultimately go to Russia.
An eagerness to educate myself on Russian culture, language, and history became the backdrop of my college years. Whether it was getting lost in the life stories my Russian language professor would tell, standing awe-inspired in local Russian Orthodox churches, listening to Russian musicians at the Russian Cultural Center, watching films at the Russian Embassy, trying to absorb every word spoken by my Russian history professors, being mesmerized by exhibits at the Hillwood Estate, or my interactions with scholars, diplomats, politicians, and everyday Russians that I was lucky enough to meet along my journeys- I found myself fascinated by Russian peoples and obsessed with wanting to understand what it meant to be Russian.
While I studied Russian language and history and culture- I never got the chance to actually go to Russia. I had to constantly be working while I was in college and just couldn’t afford the abroad experience. I did my best to “see the world” on a budget and had truly wonderful experiences while at American, but there is only so much a fund-less girl can do. I feel like I missed out on amazing opportunities for learning and growth in college because of money. So when this two-week trip presented itself and there were options to make it financially affordable- I decided to finally try and seize what I have wanted for years.
I poured my heart and soul into the application. I can’t even explain to you how much this trip is going to mean to me. I’ve only left the East Coast as far as Chicago- I’ve never left the country- and as I’ve stated- studying Russian culture and history is one of my greatest passions. Words cannot describe how happy I am when I am immersed in any and all things Russian.
Apparently my passion and good intentions struck a chord with the professors reviewing my application and I was chosen as one of the ten students to attend this trip. And because American University is an amazing place with dedicated professors (and a killer Russian studies program), the financial side of the trip is being handled in a way that I can manage on my post-college grad life budget.
No- it’s not the most financially responsible decision. I’m going to have to take time off from work and I’m going to be spending not a TON of money- but a significant amount. BUT this is a once and a lifetime opportunity. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and I don’t think all the puzzle pieces of this trip would have fallen together like they have if I wasn’t meant to go.
Since graduating in May, my thirst to learn about Russia has proved to be unquenchable. While I love my current full-time job, it has nothing to do with Russia. I’ve been feeling a disconnect with my scholarly self and a desire to reconnect to my love of Russian culture. I felt it was finally my time to do everything in my power to make a journey of this magnitude possible. After all the hard work I’ve put into my life, I feel as though I deserve to explore this part of the world that I have devoted years of my life to studying, researching, and obsessing over.
Because really, all the research I’ve done in the U.S. will never compare to setting my eyes on Russian material culture and being able to contextualize everything I’ve studied. This opportunity to experience the country with all five senses is one I will cherish for the rest of my life. The educational value of this trip is nothing short of amazing, but the chance to grow my connection to Russia and the possibility of endless cultural exchanges that would further my love of the country, is truly priceless.
On an intrinsic level, this trip would make me happy. Oh man… the smile that would be plastered across my face and the lightness I would feel in my heart throughout every moment of this trip? Holy crap.
Perhaps others applied for this trip because of how it will help them on their path to becoming acclaimed Russian historians, diplomats, or cultural ambassadors. I may be an anomaly, but I just saw this trip as a way to broaden my world perspective, educate myself further, better understand Russian culture, and fulfill a long held dream of mine to experience everything Russia has to offer.
Today I will submit my passport application at lunch time and I will anxiously await it’s arrival so that I can get my visa to go to Russia. I literally never thought I would be typing that sentence. Tears of actual joy keep happening periodically. Which is especially awkward when I’m at my desk at work. But I don’t even care.
The Russian Orthodox Icon gifted to me while I was writing my senior thesis and that now hangs in my kitchen means that much more to me.
GUYS- I’M SO HAPPY. And I’m letting myself shout it from the rooftops!
I’M GOING TO RUSSIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mental health, happiness, and embracing the good in life are all important things. Hard work pays off and this whole saga I’m sharing with you is only proof of this. It is also proof that you should always try to attain what you want from the world- you might just get everything you wanted.
Keep it wicked healthy xoxo