Life Retrospective

The Last Post of 2019

My life has been a journey of becoming a Someone. Someone smart, important, successful and hopefully, someone good. Trying to do well in school, getting a degree, emigrating to Canada, going back to college, getting a job, starting a business, finding a partner, getting a house – all the things I was doing to prepare myself for a better life. 

But where does this prep work end and the life begins? – you ask. 

One day you may be sitting in your kitchen, melancholically stirring your morning coffee, bored out of your mind, and thinking – this must be IT. The life IS happening now. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. 

I got good at doing. But I’ve never been good at BEING. 2018 flew by like a hurricane. Now, as all the major emergencies were behind and the business got a hell lot more stable – I felt a weird, unexplainable void deep inside. 

– Did you go through any major changes in the past year? – asked my therapist 

– Mmm… I sold my condo, bought a house, went on a 1,5 months road trip, moved in with my partner, did the renos and now we have 3 random people living with us… 

– Interesting. Did you say you weren’t sure why you feel more anxious lately?

I started doing therapy. For the first time in my life I got to pay someone to listen to my problems. Month after month I was telling my life story to a stranger, trying to find the roots of my insecurities and face the deepest fears of my childhood.  Most of us arrive at adulthood slightly broken and some try fix it on our own by consuming all sorts of self-help content. Therapy is neither cheap, nor sexy but it makes the process a lot faster. 

I learned that exercises are crucial for the mental well-being (surprise!). I learned that feelings aren’t all that real and I don’t have to act on them even if it feels right. I started to see my parents as ordinary humans with their normal human flaws rather than authoritative adults and to love and accept them in a new grown-up way. I started learning self-compassion and ways to motivate myself with kindness.

I like to think that started learning to live this life. 

Back to Self 

When setting goals I would always break them down into categories – career, personal, travel and etc. The one that’s been neglected the most is health. I’ve been meaning to pull those wisdom teeth for the last 12 years, I never got to fix my face after I burnt it in Bolivia 5 years ago. Neither have I ever had a good skin – as an acne-prone teenager I was a lot more motivated to learn photoshop than to read ‘all that girly stuff’.

This year I finally got to tackle that backlog too. I figured that learning about skin types and following the right routine actually works. I found that dental services are expensive in Canada but not worth waiting for 12 more years. I learned that my sunburn is, in fact, a hormonal skin condition that would never go away and I’m subscribed to sunscreen for life now. 

Relationship life 

Last year we moved in with a bang – from Black Rock City through California and right into a new home. This year – we’ve been learning to live together. I like to imagine our union as a big cute fluffy creature – two pairs or eyes, two pairs of arms, four legs, twice as much cultural baggage, double the language database – stronger, smarter and more productive than each of us, but just a little clumsy at times. 

This year we took a journey back to my home town – Irkutsk, Siberia – a dot by the big lake in the middle of boundless Asia – a notorious place where people used to be sent for good. 

According to 23&me at least a quarter of my family had been hanging out in the area since Genghis Khan times or so. Before the Russians, Siberia used to be the outskirts of Mongol empire; in the time of tsars they exiled political prisoners there; Bolsheviks had their own ways to move people down the country building the big bright communist future. I don’t know the whole story but seems like my ancestors weren’t that great at making life choices… I mean, how else would they all end up in such a cold and remote place? Although… look at me – I could’t have moved to Australia, instead…   

I haven’t seen my parents, my brother and my cousins for almost 5 years. I mention my cousins because they have always been very important people to me, we grew up closely together. They are largely responsible for the kind of person I grew up… like… they taught me most of the swear words and dirty jokes I know. But when I was with them – I felt invincible. Going back home with Jordan was very emotional.

Mom is not on this pic, she stayed home but was there with us in spirit

Coming back to a place of your youth is a real journey down the memory lane – every alley has a story to tell. It’s a look back at my younger self and a one of a kind experience when you can share it with a person you love. 

There’s a fighter jet down my memory lane

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well my parents could communicate with Jordan, provided they only know 2-3 words in each others’ language. Especially my dad, especially when the conversation was about airplanes (he used to be an aircraft engineer).

I’m extremely grateful for having Jordan in my life, for his support and patience. Every day I get to know him a little better and appreciate more. We grew up on the opposite sides of the world and look at it from different perspectives, but in the end, living between two cultures broadens our minds, makes us less judgemental and stronger as a couple. Not to mention, it’s also more fun! 

Working less is more

I’ve been a workaholic most of my adult life. I had love/hate relationship with my work – sometimes it gave me comfort, sometimes – anxiety, but it always kept me alive. If I didn’t know what to do – I worked. It always seemed like a good idea.  I worked to get better. I wanted to be the best designer, create the most beautiful projects, win awards, speak at conferences…   

I don’t care about being the best anymore. I know I’m good, and still get better with every new project. I trained myself to work any time and from anywhere – from the comfort of my home to a lobby of a random office building, my tools are always with me. If I leave home, I take a laptop, If I go out  – I have my phone, If I’m in a place with no reception (hallelujah!) – I still have my brain and a sketchbook… There’s no escape. There were always enough reasons to work and not enough not to. 

That’s where I started backing up. Working more hours doesn’t make me a better specialist anymore or richer in the long run. On the contrary, it takes away from the creativity. To produce something truly unique – you need a space. Not a sleek co-working with a private desk and a fancy coffee machine kind of space, but a decent chunk of time when you can unplug, explore and experiment without the time or money pressure. 

Instead of pulling al-nighters I now always work with a team. I can’t afford to be the only designer on a project anymore because the steaks got higher – I need my head clear to oversee everything we work on and focus on a bigger picture. I wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much without Yulia, Tania and the rest of my dispersed team that kicks ass, literally around the clock, in Bali, Siberia, Ukraine and Toronto. 

I try to take all my weekends off and leave some week days free of meetings or deadlines. I got pickier about projects we take, using ‘how awesome can we make it’ as a guiding principle. If the project sounds like a drag or the budget simply won’t let us do the magic – I don’t take it. 

Overall, 2019 wasn’t high on achievements score but it was a lot deeper in the quality of experiences and relationships.  

  • With Oddbee we launched a number of good web and branding projects (and even updated our portfolio).
  • I got into biking. Discovering the city from the new perspective made me like Toronto again. 
  • With Natasha, Katrina and a lot of support from Station Bar & Kitchen we revived Draw By Night. It was a great to see sooo many familiar faces and meet new friends!  Thanks to Matthew Potter, Jesse Teran, Tanya Casole-Gouveia, Natta Summerky and all the volunteers for bringing it back!
  • Got good at cooking. I found new passion in hosting occasional dinners with close friends. 
  • Started thinking of longer terms projects, like moving my family to a better place and my brother’s  future.
  • Oh, and carved 14 pumpkins: 

  Next year I’m hoping for:

  • Better planning of my leisure time, more intentional social life
  • Building a bigger, more integrated team
  • More consistency in personal creative endeavours. Like a well-known designer Radim Malinic, whom I got a pleasure to meet in Amsterdam a while back, said in his book – you gotta treat your own projects same as your client projects if you want them done. Having launched a few personal projects, each with a fair deal of pain – I can’t agree more. 
  • More solo time. Now as we are always together I crave more personal time when I can hide, read a book, write, or worst case watch that embarrassing celebrity gossip video that I’d never admit I’ve seen.
  • My LCBO budget to never exceed my fitness budget.
Signing the holiday cards

So, cheers to that and Happy 2020!

2 replies on “The Last Post of 2019”

Hello Katerina! Your namesake and my wife sent me this link. I enjoyed it very much! It’s a beautiful reflection. Happy New Year to you and Jordan!

Thanks Artem! I want to say Happy New Year to you too, but i’m about a month late 🙂 Have a good rest of the year!

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