As a little girl, I used to have my cake and eat it, too. I was learning to play the piano, speak English and dance. A homely, diligent girl, thought my parents. Gotcha! – thought I and always joined my friends whenever they climbed trees or jumped over the kindergarten fence. I knew, or rather sensed, that once I found something exciting, I had to cling to it. I remember often coming home bruised and covered in mud, in jeans torn on the knees. One summer evening I recall especially vividly: a half-sleeping village, our dilapidated country house, grandmother reading a gossip newspaper, grandad in front of the TV watching Russian football team lose yet again and 7-year-old me, brushing burs from tangled hair and trying to mend a broken bicycle wheel. That day my older friends dared me to ride a bike to a neighboring town. There was no particular motive to it, except for seeking adventures for our never-resting bums. Still, a tiny daredevil inside me could not take my weak conscientious ‘no' for an answer, so I went. The trip cost me four hours, a crazy runaway from a rabid dog, a painful fall over the handlebar straight into the bur bushes and grandad's strict scolding. The following day, however, I was a local hero, to whom all the boys up to twelve (which was, well, cool) brought candy and ice cream. In hindsight, the satisfaction was worth the trouble. I always bet on black. I am eager to act recklessly without so much as a hint of a reward. At middle school, I caught a common disease called extreme romantic light-headedness. A straight-A student juggling various clubs, circles and class activities, I suddenly felt an insurmountable urge to skip classes and fall in love with some reckless and dangerous six-grader. At a celebration of yet another faceless accomplishment of our even more faceless school, I threw a crumpled piece of paper with ‘I love you' scribbled on it in my horrific handwriting in the middle of a crowd of boys. Why did I do this? No idea. I was neither rebellious nor stupid. Imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks later my classmate, an unfortunate catcher of the note, came forward and confessed to loving me back! That hit me like a truck, but like a pink one delivering flowers or Teddy bears. Unexpectedly, we got along quite well and went out for three years. He was my first romance and is my sweetest teenage memory. I always bet on black. I lack judgement and tend to rush headlong in whatever venture is up. When it comes to choosing our occupation, hardly ever are we devoid of doubt or reservation. That was exactly the case with me. Although passionately in love with my piano, I could not imagine giving up literature or physics. Apparently, it all got mixed up in my head or aliens fiddled with my brains, because somehow I decided to major in economics. Perhaps, I did not know what my vocation was, or maybe it was fate. I, however, would attribute it to Irony, all-pervasive goddess of bad decisions and embarrassing memories. Anyway, I needed to choose a university. Which one would a sane and sensible person opt for? Right, the one farthest from home, with worst dormitories, most expensive campus and rudest students. Oh, wait, my bad, that's just what I have chosen! Frankly, it is not as bad as it sounds, except for yes, it is. However, I have taken up my music practice again, met some amazingly creative and energetic people and undoubtedly toughened up for what life has in store. Moscow, where I live and study now, is supposed to be a city of prospects and possibilities, or so I am told. For one, I am ready to explore all of them and seize my chances. I always bet on black. I make spontaneous decisions without properly weighing all sides to the matter. When I met the love of my life, my initial reaction was fear and self-consciousness. He was older, smarter, funnier – cutting to the chase, out of my league. Between two options - settling for someone else or setting out on a journey of personal development - I chose neither and treated the situation as a challenge. My inner controversial self craved for acknowledgement of its existence, so I caved and made a move. By a happy coincidence, this man was keen on riddles and brainteasers, which helped him tolerate the nuisance of… well, me. This way, out of stubbornness and maybe just a pinch of sheer stupidity, I have found a companion in life and a mind as bizarre and curious as my own. I always bet on black. As Tennessee Williams put it, ‘Luck is believing that you are lucky'. To some extent it is true, and I am proud that the way I have navigated through life is mine, if not good or decent. I have always been keen on marking my own path, and I take joy in reminiscing of how I embarrassed myself or made stupid mistakes along the way. After all, it truly is marvelous that each turn we take on the road leads us to who we are. As for me, by far I have only learnt one thing for sure. I will always bet on black.
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