Many of you are probably surprised that I started this blog now, after Ukraine, rather than during… The irony isn’t beyond me. You won’t be surprised to find that I actually wrote quite a bit while I was there, but a lot of it was personal, and honestly, from an outside perspective, would draw a negative view about the country itself…
Not to say there aren’t things I viscerally despised about Ukraine. Anyone who knew me well, knew I was constantly frustrated – mentality of Ukrainian people consumed the biggest part of that. Most days I felt like shaking every person who was within walking distance of me and going “Look at what you have!”.
Regardless, I didn’t want to paint the country, as a whole, in a bad light. Maybe, as time passes, I’ll throw a couple of my notions up here.
Now that I’ve left, looking back on the millions of scattered memories, it wasn’t just the personal part, or grievances, that kept me from sharing more of my experience of world… More had to due with the fact of my own mentality while living there, was completely lopsided. I wish I was better at articulating this thought, but I’ve always firmly believed that a city/country can absolutely shape your personality. Maybe, this view isn’t a huge shock to anyone, but I think it runs deeper than just those you associate yourself with in said places you’ve lived or the broader idea of being ‘away from home’, but even more relation to particular details – why you’re there, what/who you’ve left behind (comforts), how far you’ve moved, and even down to the nitty gritty details of your surroundings, like the architecture of the buildings, or predominate religion in the region. For example, I’ve always found myself more comfortable in a place, when not landlocked. These things absolutely shape you.
The personality of Ukrainian people, and their culture/society, didn’t help either. Here I was, coming from the Northwestern part of the United States, where you smile or say good morning to every single person you see on the sidewalk or trail (ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration), and then discussing your day with the random barista at the coffee shop you just happened to stumble into. Being in Ukraine, I was stripped of this completely. Smiling in public was looked upon as being mentally deranged, and small talk to the random barista is met like an investigation, apparently.
In the past 9 years of my life, I’ve traveled around quite a bit. After taking off for Siebel in the fall of 2010, it had occurred to me, that was the first real time I had lived outside of Oregon, and literally the first time I’d been outside of the US. While I had felt completely unnerved by the detachment of leaving a place I had resided for 21 years of my life, there was a part of me that felt a chain loosen, like an blinker inside my mind went off, informing me that there was life outside of Oregon (Ha ha just kidding, there isn’t.), and the US.
There’s a passage in the book, ‘The Honey Trail’, by Grace Pundyk, that I’ve always clung too. Grace references the ‘Bedouin’, these Arab travelers, who believe that when a person travels to another place, it takes 4 months for their soul to finally catch up with them. While you’re still ‘yourself’, a part of you is missing, incomplete. Interestingly enough, what do they believe brings your soul over to wherever you are? Honeybees. The ancients always believed honeybees and souls were one in the same. Anytime I stumble across a honeybee, randomly, there’s an odd comfort associated with its presence.
How does the above relate to writing? I always felt this way while residing in Ukraine – like a part of me was disassociated with my self, or another mentality had taken over. Possibly it was because of returning home every 6 months, or maybe because of the distance, or maybe there’s no correlation with any of that at all. One large reason may be because of why I came to Ukraine in the first place – completely because of a job. Like a lot of folks, I distinctly have a ‘job’ personality, versus my regular personality. More focused, more stressed, more perfectionist.
While it might be a bit dramatic, the societal personality I spoke of above, broke me in more ways than I may be able to understand. I was always trying to fight and resist the temptation of just dissolving into this low-trust way of life. It was absolutely exhausting. Reflecting back on it now, this personality definitely shaped how I was there, whether I wanted it to or not. It’s still with me, and now I’m trying to fight it off.
Whatever the apt combination was, I felt that I never could find a voice for writing, unless it was in regards to frustrations or doubts – never about small successes, or the numerous experiments. I honestly felt like I was doing myself a disservice by being more vocal about the things I accomplished, which seems a bit silly, looking back on it now. While I’ve always believed in constantly being better (something I’ll write about in a later post), I spun this meaning in a negative light, rather than a positive one. There was so much more focus on getting it right, that maybe I had put too much stock in regards to bringing Pravda to absolute perfection – accomplishments were more met with ‘not good enough’ in reality, rather than a pat on my own back. Even now, I looked back with everything that happened, and wish I could change numerous details here and there… Now, I’ll use those points to (hopefully) focus on the future.
A fond memory of mine relates kindly with this subject. I was speaking with a Ukrainian friend of mine once about my vacation to the states over one summer. While I was trying to find the perfect words to explain my stay, he had found them for me. He began to explain to me that every time I came back to Ukraine from vacation, I always seemed a bit lost – not in the sense like I was seeking direction, but like I had just woken up from a deep sleep. His apt analysis continued, with the fact, that when I’m back home (in the US), it must feel like Ukraine is some strange dream I’m having, or a memory you can’t quite remember perfectly. My friend had taken my jumbled thoughts and formed them into succinct words for me. A man of wisdom, that one.
Thinking back on this moment in time, makes me realize that I’m still processing the past few years… There’s a hell of a lot that happened, and just reminiscing on it makes it feel like I’m viewing it through a thin veil.
We’ve come to odd place in time, where you get to decide how the world sees you, outweighing the other way around. There’s this strive for perfection displayed on all aspects of the life, not just social media and the internet… But I didn’t become a decent brewer by making no mistakes. My hope, is that writing more, will shed some skin of the past, while focusing on the successes, and absolutely, the failures… People need to experience all sides. Don’t forget the curious boredom in-between.
Good lord, I just hope this doesn’t turn into some angsty LiveJournal.