One of the things I love about the internet is the way it compresses a world bigger than most of us have ever had the opportunity to know. All of a sudden, I have friends zig-zagging across the US, in Canada, England, Germany, Sweden–and now, Siberia.
Yes, Siberia. Read on…
Jenny was kind enough to ask me about my “Made It Moment.” The concern I have can be formulated thus: what was I attempting to MAKE? True enough, in today’s hyper-rational, hyper-tense, hyper-fast world each one of us finds his or her own motivation for moving ahead.
The phrase ‘making it’ has the smell of progress, the taste of achievement, the sweet victory of success. But why this compulsion to victory? And how does one measure success? While these questions are not easily answered, and while they underlie my own curious turns in life, I shall simply try to understand what ‘Making It’ now means for me.
I thought I had made it when I got my first article published in a referreed international philosophical journal back in the early 80s. I thought I had made it when I received my first college teaching appointment. I thought I had made it when a respected university press published my first book a few years later. I thought I had made it when I became a successful management consultant making ungodly sums of money. I thought I had made it too many times to recount. Unfortunately the premise was always the same: that I needed to keep moving forward and make something of myself, remain focused on some future event that really does not exist.
After living a few quite different lives – as academic, author, businessman, consultant, music producer, professor and more – I have come to an odd conclusion. Making it, becoming successful, advancing in the spectacle, is not what matters. Or let me rephrase that; working to become somebody is antithetical to life. To focus on the future, on achievement, is to lose the present moment. Time is not like a river stretching out before us. We are not objective observers standing on the shore, watching some past go by, or waiting for a future event to arrive. We are under the spell of a great spectacle, my friends. And the organ grinder keeps shape-shifting with every new technology and promise they place before us.
I stopped trying to achieve anything years ago, and I know I am happy. I am living now in Western Siberia (Russia) with my wife and young child. Instead of participating in the menagerie, I just accept who I am and what I can do everyday. I write, I listen to music, I cook, I clean, I take care of my son, and very often I do nothing at all, especially when the temperature drops to minus 20 or minus 30 Celsius.
If you read one book this year, let me humbly recommend my philosophical memoir, The Recovery of Ecstasy: Notebooks From Siberia. It has won no awards, and has modest sales; but it will make you rethink your entire life and what you are trying to make of it. Then, you can write to me and tell me if “you’ve made it.” I send you all my warmest wishes.
Sandy Krolick graduated with a B.A. in the History of Culture from Hobart College in New York, has a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s Committee on General Studies in Humanities, and a Doctorate in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
After an early life spent in both music and driving a taxi, then a ten-year career in academia, he spent the next twenty years in the executive ranks of several American firms, including Ernst & Young LLP, General Electric, and Computer Sciences Corporation.
Sandy has spent years traveling the world, including parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. Retiring from business at the age of fifty, he recently returned to the USA with his wife Anna, after living and teaching for several years in the central Siberian Steppe, at the foot of the Altai mountains in Barnaul, Russia.