Can I do it?

The last few days I’ve been listening to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech on Youtube on repeat. It is strangely soothing to know that even the greats have had their times of being broke, miserable, doubtful. The first half of Bulgakov’s “Diary of Master and Margarita” (essentially a collection of his letters and diaries) is filled with entries about how much money he owes to whom, living on potatoes, struggling to pay for his room (room, mind you, not an apartment). Even Picasso admitted to having been broke numerous times in his conversations with Brassaï. Yet he continued, refusing to succumb to the safety of a ‘second career’.

Will I have the nerve, the courage to follow this path? Can I take the uncertainty, the ups and downs, the humiliation of perhaps having to borrow money, after the relative complacency by the meagre yet steady monthly paycheck so far? If the payment comes through as it should, I’m set for another month. But what if it doesn’t?

Fear is one of our most basic instincts as humans. It is vital for our survival. Nevertheless we should be guided by something higher than our lowest, darkest feelings; motivated by a quest towards rather than escape from. Fear seems to be everywhere these days, all-pervasive like nano-fog, penetrating what we read, what we consume, what we feel, what we breathe. I remember, it started with the Charlie Hebdo shootings two years ago. It is as if dark clouds started to gather after that, covering the sky little by little, blocking out the sun, so the world we live in now is perpetually overcast, the air humid and stagnant, waiting for the thunderstorm…

But enough of this. We might be in the gutter, but let us rather look at the stars. Last year I translated this little poem by Ilya Selvinsky (with the help of both original Russian and translated Estonian version) – it is also about expectation, albeit a more hopeful kind.

From the cycle “Alisa” – Etude 10

There are five million people in Moscow,
and you are among them. Hello!
Square. Park. Street. Boulevard.
Perhaps was it you? No.

So many post offices, pharmacies,
and people are everywhere…
There are five million people in Moscow.
How do I find you there?

Chance, you are always like brother to me,
please help me! Just one more time!
Stratenka. Trubnaja. Pushkin. Arbat.
The streets are passing me by.

I mutter magic words under my breath,
some old and forgotten lore.
Cast her out, Moscow, cast her to me
like the sea casts amber ashore!

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