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I have had the time and space over these past five weeks to catch up with people with whom I do not have the time or space to catch up regularly. And so many of those people have been female friends I have made at different points in my life. And some I have known for years and years, and some I have known for months, and some I have met here in Tbilisi. And all of them have led me to discover anew, and more richly, what I have long known, which is this:
Female friendship, you are a joy.
You get a bad reputation, female friendship. People dismiss you as petty and superficial. But what they are actually dismissing is the cheap imitation of you. Because your true self, female friendship, is anything but. You are, like the women of whom you consist, deep and strong and beautiful.
This is not to say that male friendship is not also very dear, or that I do not cherish my male friends. It is! And I do! But it is to say that female friendship offers something unique and powerful and supportive and, it should also be said, tremendously fun.
Over the course of this break, I have spoken with female friends near and far about graduate school futures and new jobs; about plans for summer and how they got through the winter; about heartbreak and self-love. And I have been there for them, and they have been there for me. And I am better for it. And I am lucky for it.
There was this movie that I had to watch in my fourth year Russian class back in my last year of undergrad. I no longer remember the title, but it had “women” or “woman” in it, and it was about a mother and her two grown daughters and how they were getting through perestroika. And after we watched it this guy in the class commented that the movie wasn’t actually about women. How could it be, he said, when they mostly talked to one another about men. And I told him that he didn’t get it. They talk about their relationships with men, I said, but the most important relationship they have is with one another.
I am not trying to say here, female friendship, that you are the most important relationship that I have. But what I am saying is that you are a very important one. And that I don’t tell you enough how glad I am to know you.
So thank you, female friendship.
(And thank you, female friends.)
I took myself out to the jazz café that my Georgian teacher recommended again this evening, to have a glass of wine and eat good food and listen to jazz. I have been there four times: alone, in the first week (I could not find it by myself and a Georgian man graciously showed me the way and told me that I have a pretty name); with my friend’s boyfriend; with the two girls from my program (we ran into my friend’s boyfriend in the café); and tonight, alone, but not in the same way I was that first week.
I cleaned my sinks today. My kitchen and bathroom sink. I always forget to do that. I clean my dishes, and the toilet, and the floor, but not the sinks. And I didn’t realise how dirty they were until I made them clean. And I didn’t realise how easy they would be to clean until I did just that.
A fun thing to do from time to time, when you have the time, is to think of the things that once bothered you or made you feel small or scared or sad or mad. And to think of how they don’t, not anymore, and of what you have done between then and now. And of how what once seemed like everything - everything! - to you is now something you laugh at on an evening out by yourself in a café, listening to jazz you have heard before as if for the very first time.
I presented my research on Russian and Georgian Soviet dissidence at a lecture series run by a friend of one of my professors at Oxford this evening. And, at the risk of sounding cocky, I think I did quite well. I made my case. I held my own. I was well received. (Save the one woman who told me I needed more sources because I refused to say that national Georgian dissidence wasn’t true dissidence because it wasn’t about human rights. Which - ma’am, that refusal is BASED on my sources. But I smiled and thanked her for her recommendation.)
I spoke about Russian and Georgian Soviet dissidence for an hour. People asked me for my opinion on this subject and I gave it to them.
And I gave it to them based on the work I have done. Because it is that work that allows me to have an opinion on the subject.
Last year I went to a conference in Berlin for “young experts on Eastern Europe.” And I thought that that was funny. That it has been that easy to be called an expert.
But it’s not that it’s that easy. It’s that it’s that simple. To become an expert in something is simple: Pick a topic in which you are very interested and commit to yourself to it. Take it seriously but do not take yourself seriously, because you can always be more of an expert, because your topic is bigger than you are. Work until you know your shit and then keep working. To keep working is a joy and a privilege.
So keep working. Keep working. Keep working.
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