Life Retrospective

The Bright Side of 2018

Or Don’t Forget to Fasten Your Seat Beeeelt…. 

I wanted to write an honest post about 2018, about success and emotional turbulence, hopes and unmet expectations, pleasant surprises, minor disappointments and big support of my friends.
But if I write it as is, would I want to publish it online? Or would anyone even want to read it? And how honest can you be when talking about yourself anyways? Better I let my judgements go and share the parts I want to remember… So, here’s the bright side of 2018.
If you still want to read it, I warn you – it’s going to be long.
The best metaphor for 2018 would be riding a rollercoaster with no seatbelt, barely holding, screaming, trying not to fall off and praying for making it back to the ground in one piece.
It started with a plan. An actual plan. Me and Jordan spent good 2 months in the end of 2017 ‘planning 2 years of our life’. Why 2, you ask? It simply made sense. After sweating for a week in Black Rock desert we realized that we like each other enough to start thinking about the future together. Planning the entire life felt too unrealistic while planning one year seemed too short-sighted… 2 years was a good middle ground.
So, we compared our values, wrote down all things we wanted to accomplish, problems to solve, places to travel to, projects to work on and put everything on good old Trello (can’t say enough about versatility of this tool).
I wanted to optimize my life for flexibility – to free more of my time to do art and travel. It meant drawing more, building a portfolio, minimizing expenses, setting up a low maintenance process for Oddbee, moving to a more peaceful place, getting a driving license, may be buying a trailer, visiting my family in Siberia;  it also had a few nice-to-haves, like scoring a movie deal and building a six-pack. I was convinced that I should be doing art. I remembered what I wanted to be when I was a kid, I made a chart of my past decisions, I tracked all choices that moved me further away from art, I promised myself to not do it again.
So, in January 2018, I dived right in. After a few sleepless nights, and with help of my right-hand and all-tech-things go-to-person Yulia I launched I set up accounts on popular online sites that sell artists merchandise, like society6, redbubble, and treadless artist shop. Dundas Square came out of nowhere with a pleasant ego boost of putting one of my illustrations up on the main square. Hell yeah! I even took a watercolour class with wonderful Ksenia Sapunkova, promised her to do my homework, posted a few lazy updated on Instagram and successfully got distracted.
 In February together with Jordan and Katie Perconti we threw the first Blueberry Art Jam – an immersive house party where our friends got to make masks, draw a mural, make stop-motion animation, get their photos professionally taken by Muda, do aerial figure drawing and enjoy life accordion by Tongi. That was great!
 Then life slowed down. Drawing, cooking, sleeping in, avoiding crowds and going for long walks on Scarborough Bluffs made up my February and March. It seemed like the winter would never end. I started complaining that nothing was happening.
I spent evenings hovering over numerous spreadsheets, consulting with my friends in finance, trying to solve the ‘moving to a quieter place’ puzzle. Some people would tell you to sell, others not to sell, but in the end you’d always hear something like – ok, nobody really knows – do what you feel like. So I did and put my ex “best place in the whole fucking universe” to the market.
What took 2 months to decide, took 2 days to sell. I got lucky, the market for condos just went up, so I got much better deal then expected. Final Instagram shot and I’m out of beloved downtown!
Then both of us got into a long and painful house hunting journey. Those who have heard at least something about Toronto housing market will understand. Here’s my favourite memory: us writing a cover letter to bid on a house! A COVER LETTER to buy a house, can you believe?! It was a beautiful suburban artist’s home with a river and gorgeous magnolia tree on the backyard being sold by a 90+ widow whose wife had just passed away. We loved it. We made the decision to put an offer (my first house offer!). And soon after realized there were 8 other offers on it. There was no way I could compete on the price… so we wrote a letter about how much we wanted it. It was cute, but it didn’t fly. Oh well, we tried.
I started a new habit this year – proper budgeting. I made actual spreadsheets for business and personal expenses. First time since I quit my real job I knew exactly how much money I have in and out, how much I spend on restaurants, online subscriptions and uber rides. Moreover I see how much money I have in the pipeline. For a creative person running a spreadsheet sounds like a nightmare. It’s tedious, yes, but in the end It made me feel more in control, secure, and FREE. It gave me the freedom to say No to projects I don’t want to take.
Meanwhile the work picked up. Crypto industry was booming, work was coming our way from old clients, friends, friends of friends and former colleagues. Things got very busy very quickly. Instead of getting an office again and hiring in-house designers, this time I tried something different – I started hiring people from Behance and Dribble, people I had never seen or had connections with, just based on their portfolio and trust. A lot of trust. It was scary – what if they don’t perform, what if they disappear right before the deadline… During 4 years in business I had enough bad experiences with local designers, what to expect from oversees freelancers? But project after project – it proved to be working. I learned that when you pick people truly dedicated to their craft, treat them well, keep your word, pay on time and trust them – the magic happens – they WANT to work with you and do their best. Freelancers are often senior specialists who built their skills working for big name agencies and then went on their own. For many it’s not a need, it’s a choice. I decided to continue building the business on freelances. I wrote our first manifesto – we work, because we like it, not because we have to and we do it on our own terms.
My future six-pack was itching. At City Moguls NY party I was lucky to win a free 3 moths gym membership – perfect timing! No more excuses. I started with enthusiasm and gradually dropped by the month two. Just in time when Natta got me into another fitness undertaking – a line-dancing project called ‘Le Grand Continental’.  Translated from French is means 3 month of intense classes ending in a massive performance on Nathan Philips Square with 200 other amateur dancers. Show aside, for me it meant 3 months of  free workout. I went to auditions – and got accepted! This time I didn’t miss a single class. I had gone through the whole training and danced first 3 performances just to bail on the last one. Hard to explain… It was pouring rain, I was getting sick, I was emotionally exhausted, I just bailed. I cried and went home. Not proud of myself, don’t like to remember that day. I learned that I don’t like to be a small part of big group, I don’t like amateur shows. Not proud of this either… People say the show was good.
The trip to Siberia fell through. On top of everything else, my Russian passport was delayed. Luckily my super smart sister got herself intro a German exchange program. So right after my dance fiasco-success, I went to the airport and the next day I was in Dresden hugging my most favourite person in the world!
After Dresden was London. The London, UK. My mom’s cousin ran away there from Siberia when she was just in her late teens. I like calling her aunt, in fact she is a year younger. We were closer as kids but haven’t been in touch since she left.
Tania started her path as most immigrants – doing odd jobs here and there, working on a farm, learning English. Today she is nominated for the future CFO of the year award, working as a VP of finance at a promising English startup.
We walked and talked around London, remembering the past, the family and really-really enjoying getting to know each other again. “When I was a kid my mom would always use  you as an example, you were always better, smarter and more outgoing…” “And so did my mom…” she said and we both laughed.
Mid July, we finally find a house that looks promising! One little nuance – I’m still in London. Jordan goes to see it and sends me videos. I think I like it, but hesitate, I don’t want to put an offer on a house I haven’t seen. We decide that if it doesn’t sell we buy it. A week later I come back to find out that it’s sold. Oh well. We keep looking.
The summer goes by in work and preparations for Burning Man trip. A cool adventurous couple from Montreal – Alex and Polina decide to join us. The guys are accomplished photographers and Live Journal junkies in the past who now run an escape game business. The plan is to drive from Toronto to Nevada via so-called northern route – Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho to the final destination – Black Rock desert.
Planning, shopping, car-fixing, costume-making… Almost ready to go… And guess what?! The house comes back on the Market! With no further hesitation we go see it together and put an offer the next day. Then there was boring and painful back-n-forth between agents, mortgage brokers and lawyers and finally I sign the deal! We book the closing for the end of September and take off to Nevada.
We passed Michigan and Illinois, In Wisconsin we learned a silly song about Yon Yonson, South Dakota surprised by a beautiful canyon (Bad Lands) and weird museums. On the photo below my six-pack is especially obvious.
Yosemite deserves more than a day and a few words, it IS really as awesome as they say!
Burning Man happened as well. I learned that after two times it loses its novelty. The first was weird and overwhelming, the second was already familiar, but still new and mostly incredible. The third was a little lazy and almost too comfortable. People say it’s a different experience every year, it changes with you and every time brings something new and unexpected but nothing will beat that first wow when you suddenly discover that THIS place exists!
Is travelling with a trailer a good idea? Who knows. Watching American cartoons as a kid I thought it’d be fantastic! Imagine, you carry your own house anywhere you go! We wanted to give it a try and after the festival borrowed our friend’s camper.
From Reno to San Francisco and down Highway 1 we went, this time – with no plan.
I got very lucky to be in Reno for the biggest Hot Air Ballon festival.
In Vanderberg we witnessed the last launch of Delta 2
In Monterey visited the longest drive-through attraction – 17-miles road
Then there were many beaches and parks, an abandoned railroad, star-watching on a roof of the jeep, a surf town Santa Cruz and infamous arches of Santa Barbara. I wish I had more than one life.
Living in a trailer is good, travelling with it through the city is not. $100-200 a night for a spot in RV park, outside of the city?! Thanks you, and no, thank you.
No, actually thanks you, good old Walmart, for your parking lots!
In September, of all times, I got swamped with work. Not a good problem to have when you have beautiful California at your fingertips but you spend most of your time in a trailer, glued to the laptop screen. My days started at 7am and ended when emails stopped coming in. But then I got to open the door and see the most beautiful sunsets on the ocean, and every 2-3 days in different place.
Back September 24. September 28 – we get the house keys! Traditional stock photo from a real estate ad – snap – we made it!
October/November/December – renovations hell. We wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much and as fast without the help of our loyal friends – Galia, Josh, Dre, Vadim, Ksyusha and others. I knew nothing about renos, to be frank, I knew nothing about houses. I learned what the furnace is just because they told me I need to replace one and it’s gonna cost me some 10K.
People were helping us with advice, giving us furniture, driving places, doing floors, assembling kitchen cabinets, painting, hanging picture frames, you name it…
December 31 – renos are almost done, a shiny red beetle waiting outside for our first ride, newly acquired G2 in my pocket. AirBnB is paying the house bills for this month. Company books are in a better shape then ever and and I feel unreasonably ADULT. I’m thinking that I didn’t get any closer to being an artist, I didn’t visit my family, and no, I still don’t have a six-pack.
And the last confession: this year has been sometimes hard on the relationship, because when you are riding at x10 speed with no seatbelt, you tend to forget that the person sitting next to you is also on the same ride.
There are things I’m not proud of this year, and many things that I should be proud of. The one I’m grateful for the most it that we made it through it together in one piece – as a couple.
2018 feels like an all-you-can-eat buffet for experiences. We are looking back at it, amazed how many things we’ve done and looking forward to stability in 2019.
Happy New Year!

1 reply on “The Bright Side of 2018”

Well done!! You should be proud!! Congratulations !! Thanks for sharing your experiences & trials & tribulations, you will aspire to your readers!! I really enjoyed it. Happy New Year 🥳!!

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