A Love Letter to Cambridge and Boston

For the last six months, I feel like I found my place in life. It took me 13 years, or 6 years, depending on where one starts counting. I fell in Love with Cambridge and Boston. They became one place I call Home. I jog or walk across three bridges between the two cities several times a week. Every time, I slow down and hold my breath for the moment not to end. Standing on a bridge across the elegant Charles River, surrounded by the endless blue color of the river merging with the sky, enveloped by the cold air, I feel and savor the moment with all my six senses — I can hear it, smell, see, touch, taste, and relate to the moment with my proprioception. Each moment is real, vivid, and beautiful.

I had a lucrative offer from Silicon Valley to move and work there. I have a choice of going to work in Moscow and New York. But, I would not go to either long-term these days.

The road to here was exhausting, full of losses and sacrifices. Only a handful of dear people stayed with me all the way through. To them, I am immensely grateful.

While here, at Home, I have found quiet Loves (plural for Love).

I love that my teen daughter (my niece who became my daughter) and I can walk to Boston Common any time of the day and night and not feel like we will be attacked. We walk and discuss all kinds of subjects and I enjoy the company of the capable, thinking human being next to me. With less driving, we have gotten the time to get to know each other better. I love that she is thriving here. She is turning 18 in a few days and I treasure the moments we have together before she opens up her wings and flies out to look for her place in life. I love her. My son, and now her brother, adores her.

I love that I can walk to the Boston Museum of Science, the MIT Museum, and the MIT Trains Club with my fast growing 6 yo son. Trains are a big part of his life. He can name all the stations on the metro lines here — he loves each one of them. I love taking him to swim at the Y, and soon – to play basketball there. I love that his school has children whose parents came from 150+ countries and that he has a neighbor friend from Ethiopia. I love that he is growing on the beautiful Charles River with the red and green line trains passing by at high speed. I love him.

I love MassChallenge (MC). For me, from a double landlocked country, walking around MC and seeing beautiful ships and inhaling the ocean air has been like living a dream. I love that the MC founders and the MC team treat everyone among the startup tenants as grown-ups. There is no hand-holding, unless one asks for hand-holding; there is no “you should do this, go there, listen to us.” There is no professing, no schooling, only opportunities for learning and connecting. Everyone on the MC team is unique, professional, and respectful. Respect and Thinking Big are the two values pursued with precision here. I am thrilled that MC is branching out to Israel and London. More people will have a chance to experience MC. At MC, there is a poster with a quote from one of the MC graduates: “There is something great about finding your tribe, you know?” I do know. MC and the people at MC have been the world for me.

I love working with my startup clients. They are making the world a better place relentlessly, day after day. I get to be part of this. Every day is a like a sprint within a several-years-long marathon; tough to keep both sprinting and marathoning at the same time.  I love the challenges they bring and their expectation that I have or will find answers. I look forward to new challenges we will keep solving together.

I am grateful to Scott Kirsner and the 15 People Shaping Boston’s Tech Scene. The tech scene in Boston is exhilarating and yet, there is a place for balance in life. I am grateful to everyone who has been contributing to this place to make it what it is.

I love that I can get everywhere by walking. Soon, I may exchange my (tired) vehicle for a ZBoard. Thank you, ViralGains, for letting me ride your ZBoard at MC! This makes my day when days are tough.

I love that I can walk to and participate in various events at MIT and Harvard and get exposed to thought leadership on all kinds of subjects. I believe in thought leadership and sharing experiences. I love walking to meetups at Cambridge Innovation Center (a home for over 500 startups), Microsoft NERD Center, and Google Cambridge office and being part of teams building robots, discussing the “quantified-self”, bitcoin as a platform, developments in education, and the trends in the world at large. I started building simple robots, with no particular end purpose, rather for meditation. Robotics has a tangible place in the Boston and Cambridge area. I often feel I am living in the unequally distributed future.

There are very few places in the world where you can overhear a conversation: “Bilinguals, soon, will be drone worthy just because they can learn various points of view in more than one language.” “What makes you believe drones are being made by monolinguals?” “It is not who makes them, but who gives orders that matters.”

I love the more academic and less marketing approach to matters, practiced in this area with high higher-education density. People here engage intellectually and take a long view; I love Home for this.

Yes, there is a lot that I do not love. I do not love getting up at 6:45am every weekday to take my son to school; this is way too early. In my opinion, his right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to be at school by 7:45am. I do not love the cold weather and the (often dirty) snow. I’ve been coughing for a month because every time it seems to be getting better, I inhale the freezing air and the cough returns all over again. But, these “not loves” pale in comparison with the loves I found.

These days, I cry for Ukraine in my heart. I wish for all foreign media and troops with their own agenda (Russia, EU, USA) to leave Ukraine alone and let Ukrainians figure things out, for everyone to offer genuine help and not loud opinions. More than ever, I am aware of how thin the peace layer really is… And how important it is for everyone to add to peace and not to take from it. I am aware there are other crises in the world, but because of where I am from, the crisis in Ukraine is closer to my heart.

I do not feel ashamed or guilty for finding and enjoying my love to my Home while there are crises in the world. I have incurred irrecoverable losses on my way. The home I was born in, Uzbekistan, USSR, was split to 15 pieces before I came to an age to have any impact. That home has been dead for 20+ years. RIP, USSR. Uzbekistan was warm and graceful to me. We remain friends for ever. I tried Russia for home, but we did not embrace each other. I visited Israel on a heritage trip. I spent some time in Spain to get to know her and to learn Spanish. Neither country felt like home. Maybe I was too young and did not stick for long enough. I will never know for sure and I am ok with this.

In the US, it has never been easy, but we have “grown on each other”. Here, one can be an American Russian, American Irish, American Jew, American Russian Jew. You do not have to choose like you have to in other places. In the post USSR countries, one can’t be a Ukrainian Jew or a Ukrainian Russian or Russian Ukrainian. There, one has to choose to be either or. The appreciation for this subtlety came after many years of searching for my identity after the identity I was born and raised with, within one night, was killed or died because it was terminally ill.

Along the way on my travels, my mother left this world prematurely before getting to see my beautiful capable children and our newly found Home. I lost dear family members and friends. After every loss, I got up, brushed off, cleaned up, and kept going.  For long, I was thinking of myself as a citizen of the world. I felt proud to have been exposed to many countries, cultures, and religions. But, that pride had no solid foundation; it did not have roots to grow. By not committing to a place I felt free. I felt I can’t be hurt again by the forces I had no control of. At some point, it got tiring and too costly, personally and financially, to keep being a nomad. I found Cambridge, MA 6 years ago.  Only recently, I finally was able to anchor here.

My kids and I hold hands and say thanks at every dinner. We express appreciation for having each other, for food on the table, for peaceful sky above our heads. It is not a religious ritual; it is rather a reminder to acknowledge all the privileges we have gotten. More so, we remind ourselves about the responsibilities these privileges come with.

My daughter often suggests that I should run for a mayor of Cambridge. She has a valid point. I love my Home and want it to continue to prosper along with everyone else who wants to do well. Instead of politics, for now, I choose to continue focusing on technology. Technology has as much power to help the world become a better place as does politics.

Why did I write this? Because I believe in the power of love letters.

Thank you, Cambridge and Boston, for welcoming me and my kids and becoming our Home.

With love,
Natasha

new_charlesBG

Picture credit: http://world.std.com/~jwpowell/charlesbridges.html

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