Growing up, I always wanted to be older. There’s a favourite photo of mine — I am 5; standing in the center of an old sports center in Podolsk (a tiny criminal city on the outskirts of Moscow); wearing my father’s black shades; holding my father’s black briefcase; pretty much looking like a bad kid cosplay on 90s gangster movies (or my father).
When I look at this photo, I see a yearning to grow up, to be taken seriously, to be able to DO stuff, to belong. This yearning lasted all the way into my teenage years (false deep voice, brooding gaze, long overcoat) and then, later, into my early twenties.
When all my friends went out to college and got drunk on most days of the week, I had serious relationships and ‘projects’. I worked and paid the bills and set goals and looked down on those who didn’t. When people asked me about my age, I lied. I took pride in that I stopped hanging out with people my age. I gave unsolicited advice and wrote books and blog posts on how to live. I was 21.
Most of my friends and heroes were in their 30s and 40s and I, being only 21, failed to notice that most of what they talked about still didn’t apply to me. I didn’t want to face the truth: that being 21, even if more emotionally mature than most people my age, I was still, well, 21.
Other people, I realised only recently, also had shit in their lives that taught them something. These people also had divorce or bankruptcy or death in their families — they just didn’t put it on their flag or yelled it from the roof.
It seems now that in a desperate attempt to look older than I was, I made the common mistake of youth, which is: I took myself — and everything that happened to me — too fucking seriously. Everything was personal back then, nothing was easy. Things were either black or white, people were either dickheads or ‘mentors’.
I don’t want to give you an impression that I am judging myself because I am not.
Rather, I am looking back at these moments with a soft smile — the one you give a person when you know arguing is useless and that some lessons simply require long stretches of time to be absorbed. I cherish those moments because that was also me and I am grateful to have been different because it allows me to reflect and be someone else today. So many people end up stuck in old…