Return to Russia, Episode 1: Time Stands Still


The wallpaper in the little Subway restaurant was the only thing other than this digital clock on the wall of a bank outside the window that I could look at. Sure, there was a television blaring in the restaurant as well as a feast for the eyes when it came to people watching, but I kept my gaze focused altenately between the clock that moved way too slowly and the wallpaper that didn’t move much slower.

Now that I think of it, the fact that I was using an establishment named “Subway” as a 7-hour waiting room is pretty ironic. How did it get here? Well, the journey began 15 hours earlier when I left my house in Texas with my bags all packed to make a trip back to Russia – the place, up until 15 months ago, I called home. Two flights and one commuter train later, I was at the Leningradsky Train Station in the middle of Moscow with a  big suitcase, a backpack and my small purse in tow.

I arrived at the train station not knowing what time I would leave for St. Petersburg. I knew that there were many trains leaving throughout the day, but expected to either buy my ticket and make a mad-dash for the train or have an hour or two to waste. The options popped up on the kiosk screen…. there were two of them…. 19:30 and 19:45. As I looked at the clock through my jet-lag induced time-vertigo I did the quick math. I had 7 hours to wait. Really? Maybe I should have stayed at the airport and tried to catch a flight. I know transportation in Russia, though, and I quickly reminded myself of the wisdom in my original plan. Yes, I would have to wait for hours, but the flights leaving from the particular airport where I had landed were much more expensive than a train ticket. My confidence rose. I chose the 19:30 train. My confidence fell.

The price of the train ticket popped up on the screen. It was more than $200. I might have been able to buy a plane ticket leaving sooner than this for less money. Who knows? Not me. Obviously, not me. The confidence I had in my knowledge of how things work here was beginning to crack.

(Cue the harp music and the ripply screen effects to go back in time.)

16 months ago I knew I was moving back to the US. Tears welled up in my eyes as I left my last meeting of the leadership meeting for the team on which I had served for about 6 years. The cause of these tears could be summed up in one word…. “Irrelevance.” It’s a common fear for those who are no longer influential. Maybe they are elderly and just aren’t up with the times. Maybe they are being sidelined in their jobs. Maybe they just aren’t in the “in” crowd. The opposite is “cutting edge.” With each step I could feel my “edge” getting duller. Ouch.

It’s a natural part of leaving, of transition, of change. It was time for me to become relevant somewhere else. Something has to die for something else to be born.

As I anticipated this return to the Motherland of Russia, I expected to experience in technicolor the reality of my irrelevance. I didn’t expect that to come in the form of staring at a a clock and fighting the sleep siren of jetlag in a restaurant for 7 hours. 

On the other hand, it’s amazing how many crazy things you can observe around you while staring at inanimate objects. There will be stories to follow. Oh, will there be stories!



  1. so glad you’re risking such an emotional roller coaster to come back! You are SO relevant in my life!

    1. Thank you for reading so faithfully…and commenting! I love your feedback and your own blog!

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