I met Nikolay in 2011. We worked on the same church staff together for about 4 years; I led worship, and he did all the stuff that nobody else wanted to do. You'd never know it from talking to him, though.
Nikolay is one of those people I have trouble describing because I'm not intelligent enough to find the proper words needed to help you understand who he is. I can think of so many random days at the office when a conversation about something pointless would quickly become a profound learning experience.
Nikolay can tell you the best stories you'll ever hear. You'll learn something from every one of them. He makes you think, and he challenges the things you say that he doesn't fully understand. He loves to laugh, learn, and love people. He's always shown genuine humility in every interaction I've ever had with him, including during times where he was working hard at jobs that most wouldn't even consider doing. I love all of these things about my friend, Nikolay.
But most of all? I love that he truly listens to people when they speak. He doesn't just hear them. He doesn't initiate conversation with the sole purpose of making it about himself. He doesn't boast.
He listens, he interacts, he teaches, he loves, and he serves.
Q: Summarize your life and who you are in a couple of sentences:
I’ve lived in places that have made it very easy for me to feel that what I see around me, what I experience, is somewhere in the edge of reality and fantasy. I like that feeling. But I am also conscious to not get into extreme mindsets. I believe in balance. A balance that is there to be tilted this or that way but a balance nevertheless.
Q: Where are you from, and how has it shaped you?
In an old American movie about the Great Depression a hobo was asked where he was from. His answer was “Do you see this dirt under my feet? Do you see where I’m standing? That is where I am from.” I like that answer a lot because the places I’ve lived are but memories - as soon as you leave a place it becomes a memory. And a memory, as science describes it, is stored as a slightly version of reality. In fact a memory is altered the very first time it is stored. Every time you retrieve it you store it back altered a little more. Over time the places you have been exist in one place only - your mind.
In other words - I like transitions, impressions, knowing that every moment is fleeting.
I was shaped by contrasts - tropical places vs. dark “communist” reality, books describing exotic places vs. a city that literally had 4 or 5 drab colors, seeing highly intellectual people living in very ascetic conditions vs. people with little to give to the world having power, influence, and affluence, noticing the superficiality of most people vs. knowing how easy it is to get into a deep and interesting discussion, having luck that is pretty much impossible to believe vs. overall underachievement in my own life, starving to the point of having hallucinations vs. intentionally gaining 50 lbs. In the course of 3 short months. That is why I have an eye for contrasts and a sense of humor that is based on associations that are obvious but missed by most people.
Q: Where do you currently live?
I currently live in McKinney, Texas, USA. The area is the very image of American suburbia - complete with clean, empty streets after 8:30AM and cars you have known for years but never even seen their owners. I call it “an intellectual desert”, but lately I’ve discovered that there are many suburbia residents that are dying for interaction just like I am. And that American suburbia in year 2017 does not mean white middle class Americans that have weekends off and barbecue as if in a TV commercial. It means everything else. If you can define it. But defining 2017 American suburbia is tricky - one exercise that lets you see that is asking yourself what is the yearly income that makes a person “middle class”. I’ve heard numbers ranging from $30K a year to $250K a year. Actually living in suburbia really opens one’s eyes to how America has changed the last 15 years.
Q: What do you do for a living?
I work a variety of jobs that could be labeled “contracting”. What is important to know is not the details about the jobs themselves, but the fact that all of them allow for a lot of flexibility, and more importantly, I am not in a forced contact with people that are not worth knowing. I guess age makes you understand the importance of not having toxic and empty people in your life. Just a few years ago I would not have understood that importance. Today, with a few people that I knew being gone forever and a few going through serious personal and medical issues, I can clearly say that a daily interaction with people that enrich your life must be the main priority in the job that you are doing.
Q: If money wasn’t an issue, what would you be doing?
Yes, from a house located on a tropical island, haha.
Q: What are some things that inspire/motivate you?
Potential. Seeing that I can be here one day and over there tomorrow. That statement pertains mainly to learning. The process of learning, seeing and feeling the discrete movement forward is very exciting to me. Apparently my main strength is “learning”, but it is just logical to expect that a great learner will also be a great teacher because he intimately knows the fine points of learning. I like to think I make a great, naturally talented teacher. If nothing else, I can get out from under any situation in front of a class so that is at least a great way to pretend you are a good teacher, haha.
One interesting result of learning is a predictable improvement of one’s focus, memory, and ability to grasp and process new information. A couple of years ago I pretty much stumbled on a very effective way to do those things through learning in a specific way. I can clearly say that I invented a methodology for improvement of certain functions of the brain as well as one’s abilities to interact socially. The process takes between 25 and 35 days and it is very simple to implement. I now firmly believe that traditional schooling does more harm than good as far as learning abilities and self confidence is concerned.
Another area that inspires me is the search for optimal physical well being through weightlifting. Weightlifting is usually seen as means to become stronger and more powerful. The therapeutic effects of weightlifting are known, but popular notions alter the focus toward useless goals. The previous 3 sentences sound pretty hollow, but my own experience is interesting - in the last 2 years I have been able to completely eliminate lower back pain that I’ve had for more than 20 years through the use of self thought and self prescribed use of certain basic exercises. At the age of 48, I am in the best physical shape of my life - both power and functionality wise. The interesting part is that there are parallels between my therapeutic weightlifting experience and the “method for improving certain brain functions” that I mentioned above. The common part has to do with very focused and smooth progressive learning.
Something important that I can not miss saying here is Nature. To me, Nature is indeed the source of all things human. I believe that without Nature, something that makes us human and having a soul as we know these two things will be lost forever. I like to look at plants and trees and in the eyes of a dog. In such moments, I find melodies, conversations, remarks, thoughts. I hope that does not sound macabre, but one day I hope to feed the roots of a very tall and very big tree. I find that beautiful.
Q: What frustrations/struggles do you find yourself dealing with regularly?
That is easy to answer. I struggle with small mindedness. My best guess is that my upbringing did not contain realistic high hopes. It contained abstract high hopes like world peace, love between brotherly nations, futuristic material well being for everybody on Earth. All of that makes for a good childhood, but a person does not stay a child forever. A person needs realistic goals that are also high. That teaches positivism, and of course, a desire to achieve more. Small time considerations are resolved by default. Which is not the case if you were raised with negativism, curbed enthusiasm about practical things, and jokes about your own limitations that were really meant to ease the frustrations.
Q: What are some of your goals for the next 10 years?
Goals for the next 10 years? We live in America as we have never known it. I wish we could have have goals for the next 10 years that we believed in without a doubt. What we could have though is hope. Hope for the next 10 years. So I will answer that question.
My hope is that the subtle thin thread that I feel connecting me to God is always there.
I apologize if you expected me to mention things like savings plans, trips, children, saving the world, helping my neighbor. Some of these things I will do anyway. Some of them I am weird about and don’t really care for.
Q: Tell me about some of your favorite things and why? (art, books, music, activities, etc.)
Silence is my favorite thing.
There is silence and stillness in certain kinds of music that I like. Two examples are Harold Budd and Estas Tonne. Both of these men have and are leaving deep impressions in modern music without searching popularity or great financial success. Harold Budd is considered the father of ambient music but that is a misnomer because his compositions are well beyond popular music. Estas Tonne is a virtuoso guitarist of the kind that improvises for hours creating intricately woven tapestries of sounds that seem premeditated, yet they are a result of what he calls “the wave” - letting yourself live.
Q: Life motto?
If you want, you can.
Most of the time we have a hard time actually wanting to do something. Once we want we can. We can do anything.
That is what my grandmother told me and she was right, so right.
Q: Anything you want to promote or advertise?
My own blog: https://caminoreal1975.wordpress.com