Lorraine Cohen from the Powerfull Living had invited me almost a month ago to participate in a meme called What Gives You Courage. I’m happy to finally participate. It’s a wonderful thought-provoking topic I would encourage everyone to give a try.
Lorraine, thank you for giving me a chance to recall once again one of the most glorious periods of my life so far.
What’s the bravest thing you ever did that you’re most proud of?
The bravest thing I’ve done in my life was, undoubtedly, moving to Ireland.
I had a dream of moving to an English speaking country. It seemed like fun. The idea was different from anything I had done up to that point in my life, and so one day I set my mind on finding a job and moving to either Ireland or UK. I was 20.
It took me around half a year to send 600+ emails to various employment agencies. The very first phone interview made me realise just how much room for improvement I had with my English. The most disappointing thing was the bad quality of connection. On a few phone calls the connection was constantly dropping, and I couldn’t hear properly what I had been told. Having asked to repeat the same question a few times in a row, I usually gave the interviewer enough information to hang up. They must have thought I didn’t speak English at all.
Still, this must have been one of the most exciting times for me. I worked like crazy during daytime, spent all my evenings and usually some of my nights studying Unix and all the topics relevant to the positions I was applying for, and greatly enjoyed this major boost in expanding my knowledge.
I played with wording the highlights of my career, and spent time talking myself through my own CV. My best friend Vitalik helped me create it. Although it was relatively easy for us to compose it, we never thought it could be so hard to read it out loud or answer relevant questions. Having found my jobs through friends and people who already knew my strongest areas, I never needed to go through a formal interviewing process even in Russian, let alone in English over a phone.
The funny thing was my salary. Kyrgyzstan isn’t one of the richest countries in the world, and I was quite young, so my salary at the time was a rather decent $100 a month. A month! This meant that every time someone asked me about my annual salary and I gave them a solid figure of $1200, they thought I had no basic knowledge of English and couldn’t answer even simple questions properly. Having clarified a few times that it was the correct figure for my annual, not monthly, pay, and never hearing back from interviewers, I had finally learned my lesson: from that moment on, my official salary was reported to anyone as a reasonable $25k.
I loved talking to new people and challenging myself to new interviews. Some of the questions were new, so I had to learn new things to be able to answer them next time around. Other Unix-related topics proved to be in an urgent need of being refreshed in my mind, which I did too. My rusty English got substantially better over that period – it felt great to see improvements in almost every area of my personal development.
By the end of my 6-month-long job hunting season, I had got 2 major companies interested in me. I flew to Dublin to see one of them, and was immediately charmed by the friendliness of Irish people and the amazing work environment of my future company – Sun Microsystems. I spent 2 days in Dublin and flew back home with a certainty to sign the contract.
It was believed that my work permit and relevant visa would take at least half a year, and so my life back in Kyrgyzstan settled down for a while – the major battle was won, and I could relax a bit. I was in the middle of young but strong relationship with my future wife, and I was really happy.
When all the employment papers came back just a few weeks later, leaving me only two months to wrap up and fly over to Dublin, it was a shock to everyone, myself included.
The best thing which happened to me within the space of those two months was the fact that I got married. We were hoping for a truly magnificent ceremony mid-summer, but with no time left we settled on having a humble family ceremony. I can’t think of anything else I could have done to become even happier in my last weeks home.
On March 8th, 2001 I have flown to Ireland and that’s how it all started. It was the first time in my life I had really lived alone, and I guess I never realized what it meant. It was only upon my arrival to Dublin that I felt alone and even a bit scared. On top of everything, I couldn’t understand much of what I had been told – apparently my English (which I had been rather proud of) was a bit rustier than I thought ;)
It took me more than a year to get into the zone of comfortable speaking the language, and I still learn something new everyday. It took me more than 3 years to understand what being a good team player means.
I owe everything in my professional growth to Damien Farnham, he was the one who recognized my potential from the day one, and literally spent years working with me and patiently pointing me in the right directions. I had to learn everything from scratch, because cultural differences meant I could apply very little of my previous experience. Once again, these were the thrilling times of tremendous self-growth. These were challenging times too, and many times I felt like giving everything up and flying back home.
Now, when I look back at all these years, I clearly see every lesson my life had for me. I could not have skipped these lessons even if I left. They had to be gone through and learned the hard way. They made me the man I am.
What gave you courage to be brave then, that continues to give you courage today?
Men are rather competitive in their nature. I didn’t have much courage when I started towards my dream of moving abroad. The thing is, I saw no need for any courage: it was a great challenge for me, and I was willing to try my best to reach the goal. I didn’t know it would be so hard to start afresh in a different country. I only envisioned positive sides of living abroad, and naturally this was only half of the story.
Sometimes I wonder if I would ever go the whole way though, had I known how much it would take for us to settle in Ireland. It wasn’t terribly hard, but there were challenges we never thought of – personally and professionally, both myself and my wife had to go through a major rework of ourselves. We’ve grown so much that sometimes we smile thinking of how different we were in our first years here. The only reason we pulled through was being together. Being there for each other when each of us needed it most.
What gives me courage today? I think there’s still not much courage in my life. It’s an ever-growing interest in life and my competitiveness which push me forward. I enjoy living in Ireland, and now that we have our lovely daughter with us it’s really not about me or my courage anymore. It’s about doing whatever necessary to make this little girl the happiest one on the planet.
When I drive home and pick Liza up from her creche, she always smiles and runs to me as quickly as she can. And every time she hugs me I’m close to tears because I miss her so much during my day. No matter how hard my days are, seeing the sincere smile of a loving daughter gives me all the strength I need to achieve new goals and overcome any obstacles on my way.
I think I have grown a lot personally over the past few years, and with every year I recognize love more and more as being the most important reason for everything in my life. Love. To love and to be loved. That’s my courage and motivation. That’s my reason and my way to live and to be happy.