Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia
Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia

This was another trip of firsts: first 13 hour flight, first time being anywhere near the North Pole, first time to spend the majority of all 13 hours in darkness, first time to be around plane full of Russian speaking natives and visitors, and my first time to visit the largest country in the world. Russia.

I knew my nerves would eventually get to me. In the air thousands of miles above Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia, it never hit me. In fact, just an hour or less before we landed, I looked out the window. It was drawing towards evening local Moscow time.

I looked towards the ground and quickly glanced at the sky. It’s the moon. I also saw two other bright dots: Jupiter and Venus. I had forgotten this event was happening until that moment.

Before I knew it, it was time to land. 13 hours is much too long to stay seated in such a confined space, but I survived. Then came the rush.

We landed pretty quickly. My anxiety was very low; I was distracted by trying to gather all my stuff and pack up. It didn’t occur to me where I was.
Not yet.

All packed and following the crowd. We weren’t at a gate and we walked down the portable stairs to a bus. Five minutes later, we arrived at the next destination: customs.

As I walked off the bus and and looked around, frost in my breath and intrigue in my eyes, it finally hit me.

This is Russia.
I’m here.
Thousands of miles away from everyone and everything comfortable to me.
Except one new person.

We walked up to the customs stations, waiting for our turns to be inspected. Not knowing where everything was, what to expect, I wondered if the other side of these booths was my friend. I searched but saw no one. Nope, just baggage. One more wait, and one more path until I met her. Tanya.

With two bags on my shoulders and a suitcase handle in my hand, I quickly greeted her, nervous and anxious. Here is my accommodation, my lifeline, and my only personal contact for the next 11 nights. The greeting was initially awkward and a little weird. I was really nervous but trying to act as smooth as I can.

My first car ride into Russia was mentally blurry, with so many new sites, foreign characters and letters and a curiosity about what’s to come. With lots of silence, quiet awe and wonder, I looked around, made awkward small talk and generally took in what I could see.

So began my first night in Moscow, my first night in Russia, and the first night in a completely new, foreign and intriguing place.

I just got home about 10 minutes ago from a late night out of seeing the movie Juno and hanging out. I would have been here 15 minutes ago if it weren’t for a particular California Highway Patrolman.

The 210 freeway is notorious for speeders. It’s the closest interstate to my house and most desolate and safest freeway on which to speed. As you would know from me, I tend to go the speed of traffic as it’s much safer than going the speed limit. I learned that in defensive driving 9 years ago after getting my first ticket.

Upon exiting the freeway to drive to my house, the car directly behind me quickly sped up before I saw some flashing headlights followed by flashing car lights. It was the cops and they caught me!

I turned right at the light by the overpass and slowly tread by the curb until we both fit in a tiny space between the access road and entrance to a large outdoor garden center. Seconds later, two patrolmen came walking towards both sides of my car with flashlights shining into my car. By the time the patrolman rapped on my window, I had all my paperwork and license ready to hand him. So, I began to open my door to meet him outside.

“Just roll down the windows, sir”

Okay, whatever you say officer. I closed my door and rolled down my window.

May I help you?
“You were speeding. Did you have any alcohol tonight?”
No sir.
“Have you had any drugs or medications?”
No sir.
“I smell something that smells like coconut. What is that?”
I’m not sure what you’re smelling.

He proceeded to hold his dirty pointer finger out, pointing towards my chest. His hands needed to be washed and his fingernails had a little grime under his cuticle ends.

“I need you to follow my finger with your eyes and without moving your head. Do you understand?”
Yes sir.

His finger first went to the left a few inches, he held it there for a couple of seconds before slowly moving it along a plane to the right about eight inches. He held it still for a couple more seconds before moving it back to the left another eight inches. My eyes easily followed his fingers towards both sides, locked on his dirty grime under his fingernail nail plate end that was almost white.

“Sit right here, I’ll be back”

The patrolman went right back to his car and I decided to shut my engine off since he likely would take a while to check my clean record and determine whether I had any problems for him to write me up. From the way he asked those certain questions, I think he was trying to find a stupid person to admit something was the matter. I’m not stupid.

As I waited there and wondered what fate had in store for me, I resigned from any discomfort about getting a ticket and paying for it since what was done, was done. Sometimes things just happen and there’s nothing you can do to change the situation. I’ve been in a similar situation before with a New Mexico State Trooper and I walked in between our cars to plead my case. I was lucky enough to get a warning instead of a ticket from that New Mexican. Trying to remember which arguments won that situation, I racked my brain to come up with a few logical, defensive driving arguments that would help me in case this patrolman did want to write the ticket.

A couple of minutes later, a flashlight starts to make his way on my passenger side. Great, the other patrolman wants to see if he can find anything in my car to make me get out. I get another rap on my passenger window. I lean to the door, push the handle to open the door.

“Here you go. Drive safely.”

Bite me. You just wasted five minutes of my life.

For the first time ever, I wanna know what it feels like to spend Christmas away from my family.
For the first time ever, I don’t wanna feel obligated to spend Christmas like I always have.

If my college years were the time to make something of myself, my twenties are the time to live selfishly. I didn’t follow the path many of my peers and friends have. I spent the first 25 years of my life doing what was mostly expected of me without much debate or question. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized my twenties are quickly about to pass without me living a life I see myself living.

I say living “a life” instead of “the life” for a reason. I don’t see myself living one life, “the life”, doing something for the rest of my life. I see myself doing many things, living many lives and enjoying many passions and desires.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, I moved from my comfort zone to the front lines of my ambitions. I stepped out of that which I knew (everything in Texas, everyone I knew) to a place where nothing was familiar. All for a dream. All on a whim. All for everything and anything.

I had no real plans, no real decisions to make, nothing to push me in any certain direction except my degree, my passions and my desires. I was open to anything, hoping for everything, and expecting nothing. Now, treading the beginning of a new year, I realize I’m barely further than I was in 2004.

I decided after a couple of years of being here it was time to live like I was in my twenties. I’ve become more selfish, doing more things I want and pushing responsibility and obligation as far away as I can without it bringing me down. I’ve started to seek out social activities such as dating, something I’m still quite unfamiliar with and don’t know what it really feels like to be with someone I want.

I’ve resigned from security and comfort to pursue the untamed and out of reach. I don’t want a typical life; I want the extraordinary life. “The man” has no more control over me. Not right now. I’m living for me.

I spend my free time dreaming about a music career, a photojournalistic life, a performance to inspire, a production of success, a listing on a site. I see so much for me and I want it all.

2008 will test my will and force my hand.
2008 will reveal my discipline.
2008 will show my weaknesses.

I can afford to be young and stupid, to be twenty-something as long as I want but I need to push myself to live the lives I want to live. I hope I can push myself, turn away from distractions and stay motivated.

No regrets.