Dear daughter,

You are now six years old. You are sitting on the floor next to me, listening to endless Russian skazki and drawing exquisite sketches of princesses. The remoteness and solitude of the place we live in trigger a unique combo of sadness and self-reflection. I will use the second as my main ingredient and the first as a grain of salt. I believe this to be a perfect recipe for a healthy piece of motherly life advice that I want to share.

Today I want to tell you about the importance of daring.

When I was a six-year old, brown-eyed girl, I became a dreamer. One fact that played into this head-in-the-clouds mindset was being a sickly child and having to stay home for days on end while my engineer mother, a single parent and a sole bread winner, was working. The other one was the many books she bought me. Dreaming was both exciting and, most importantly, safe. It required a minimal effort - I learned to read at the age of three.

My mother valued safety. She was fiercely protective of her only late child that God gave her after many years of dating and a huge disappointment in fellows. She made my safety the main purpose of her life and tried really hard to surround me with coziness, stability and comfort — the things she herself never had as a child or young adult. Filled with the smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns and jam, our two-room apartment was my safe haven, the many books lining our shelves — my ticket to safe trips to the outside world.

Mom preferred to do stuff for me because it was faster and easier for her, a single working mother who had a lot on her plate and only so many hours in a day. “I will cook, I will clean, and you go read, your job is to learn”, — she would tell me. When I was twelve, I went to a summer camp and was the only twelve-year old girl who didn’t know how to wash her hair. You get the gist.

I was a good student. I grew accustomed to being the best at some subjects, especially, English. But internally I was terrified of trying new things because I could fail. Or get hurt.

Years went by. I turned sixteen and suddenly dared to travel downtown with a friend of mine to participate in a language competition held by the American Council of Teachers of Russian language. The huge room was filled with snobby kids from “specialized” cool schools who looked down our noses at us. It was a rare occasion when my passion for the language helped me push through my shyness and fear of failure. I won and spent a wonderful year in the USA.

But when it came to the high-school exit exam, the fear of failure overcame my desire to try and stay.

I went back to Russia and started medical school. While everyone else managed to find time and relax and party a little, I was generally skeptical of the behavior my fellow young and properly reckless students would engage in. I considered myself a cool, level-headed person. Looking back, I see how inappropriately boring my weekends were. I never took a chance on anything, I would stick to safe activities with safe people. Times were tumultuous in Russia, and I prided myself on staying in my room and out of trouble, or walking the usual safe route.

When it came to taking a chance on a new job that required frequent travelling, I thought of how it would affect the convenient life routine I had built up and a wave of fear washed through me. Although I realized it was the opportunity that would never again present itself, I rejected the offer and stayed in my hometown.

As a married woman, I only traveled to a handful of countries that were safe and only chose the five-star hotels that offered protection, not unlike my old two-room apartment. Dangerous sightseeing was out of the question.

Life has taken us to a remote place in a small country. Your Dad, knowing what a safety freak I am, made sure we live in a very protected area. It is the epitome of safe. Three-level protection, expensive cars and little or no neighbors. Sometimes it feels like a padded cell.

All my life, I have been voluntarily confining myself to safe cells. And I regret this now. I feel like I have been sticking to a rather bland diet. Good for you but nothing to remember when your teeth fall out.

My dear daughter, I marvel at how independent and strong-willed you are at six. I am so glad you didn’t take after me in that department. You already you know what you want. “I want to learn how to saw and play the guitar. Mommy, find me a teacher!” — you say.

You pack your own things, butter your sandwiches, tie your shoe laces and protest strongly when I try to help with brushing your hair. I back off, happy. You dare to jump into a cold lake and ride a zipline at an adventure park.

From the bottom of my heart I wish you to retain these qualities and let them, among others, guide you.

Years will fly by and you will turn into a beautiful young woman. Enjoy life. Explore the world, and not only through books and Internet. See it with your own eyes, feel it, smell it, taste it. Take last-minute travel offers, prefer going out and traveling with friends to sitting at home and inside your comfort zone. Take an adventurous job offer. Meet new people.

Use a grain of sensibility and safety, of course. But don’t overdo it with these condiments.

Of course, I am still young and have all the opportunities of daring more. And, inspired by you, I will probably start my late journey to daring with a zipline and jumping into a cold lake at an adventure park…Because, young or not, we are running out of time.

Love you always,


July 11, 2022 15:15

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