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From your friendly editor: a goodbye and some unsolicited advice

by Natalia Antonova at 14/03/2014 16:56

In the Russian media, the season of change, some of it sad and sudden, continues. Now it is my turn to say my goodbye and announce my imminent departure from The Moscow News.

I also want to use this platform to give everyone who is reading this - particularly those of you interested both in Russia and the media - some unsolicited advice, as informed by nearly four years of my work here. Here goes:

1. If you want to work in the media, you have to be at least somewhat of a weirdo on the inside. You don't always have to display your inner weirdo and take him or her out for extended strolls in public, but the weirdo's presence is still necessary.

2.  If you want to work in the Russian media, you should also suspend your understanding of how time operates. Go ahead and assume that there may be no tomorrow. Or else, tomorrow will arrive like a clown car fueled up on mescaline.

3. Having said that, Russia is not unique with regard to unpredictability.

4.  In fact, it's best to dispense with all of that "scary, mystical kingdom of Russia" stuff, should you want to write anything original about the country. If originality isn't your thing, mentions of scary kingdoms and terrifying vistas should do, alongside the occasional reference to Putin's "steely gaze" and the Kremlin's "stony silence" on some important issue. Plenty of people will pat you on the back, even if they consider you predictable at best and a self-righteous blowhard at worst.

5. If you want to go to the other extreme, knock yourself out.  Tell everyone that Russia is Valinor, land of benevolent elves. Scream your head off at anyone who suggests otherwise - scream until everyone in the room has gone deaf. I'm not saying that kind of thing can't be rewarding in its own way. But like the other option, it has downsides.

6. If you write about Russia with any kind of nuance, you may confuse and anger many people. At first this will scare you, then it will infuriate you, then you'll get used to it.

7. Keep your eye on the line between skepticism and cynicism. When that line begins to blur, it's time for a vacation featuring a beach and cocktails with umbrellas.

8. For a journalist, being able to afford that beach and those cocktails can be somewhat challenging. This is when being in Russia will still come in handy, because nobody has fun like Russians do (no, really).

9. Being in love with one's work is regarded by many to just be an affectation of the smugly privileged. It frequently is just that. Yet love is the one thing that makes it all worthwhile in the end - the deadlines, the headaches, the tragic encounters between keyboards and cups of coffee, the repeated desire to pinch oneself, the pain of those pinches, and so on. Love is what you will have left when it seems as though you have nothing.

10. Everything ends, and it is in the nature of most endings to be sad. But think about it this way: In one sense, we are just a collection of atoms that is hurtling through space at great speed. Sometimes we are given the opportunity to hurtle gracefully, while surrounded by excellent company. That such things are possible in our universe should give you hope that life is not just random and cruel, but that it is also mysterious and wonderful. And while the appreciation of mystery and wonder can make you appear silly to people who will pretend to know better, who cares about them? No one in this world has ever achieved significant contentment or praise for taking herself too seriously.

Thank you.

The opinions stated in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the agency

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