I really hope people did not read my last entry and get the impression that Ukrainian society had broken my enthusiasm. The fact is, the pleasure pursuit rife in Ukrainian society and throughout Kyiv has yielded a summer unquestionably better and more informative than any in recent memory. Enjoy this entry for the explanation why.
First, as luck often has it with me, I was immediately spoiled with excellent and accommodating friends and acquaintances. You know who you are and I won’t dare try to list everyone who meant something as it’d be a futile endeavor. Yet, what fun are places without people and Kyiv was immeasurably joyful. I appreciate the chance that I got to know you all.
Second, I’ve written a bit about the Ukrainian spin on ‘carpe diem’ as a sort of ‘life is short so why not seize any and every moment with reckless abandon.’ This has really reinvigorated me with a sense that after a professionally-focused first year of graduate school, I must remember I am too young not to enjoy life. In other words, the hedonism that reverberates through the Kyiv nightlife probably does lead to what some may view as unhealthy bouts of all-night binging. But I am convinced this lifestyle is also a fantastic elixir for creating new friends, leaving indelible memories (generally) and staving off a later mid-life crisis founded upon “what if” questions.
This attitude is of course not just about the nights. This summer I’ve felt, much more often than in the past year, times where I was living in a consciousness of the moment: that feeling where bolts of adrenaline shoot through your body due to the sheer delight of being alive. For me, normally such moments normally happen spontaneously walking on a street forcing out a gargantuan smile or outstretched arms or even a small jump…basically something that scares nearby people. But sometimes they are less spontaneous-like when deciding to zip-line the Dnieper river.
Third, Kyiv afforded a great deal of laughs, amazing moments and previously unfathomable anecdotes in a rapidly short time. Some of those stories would make this blog blush, some are forever stuck in the moment. But-in a condensed form-I’ll always remember waking up in Goldiloch’s situation, being invited to a dacha by a street vendor’s instrument-playing friend after our random vodka party and picnic, arriving to a happening club at 4:45 am which prompted the guards to ask if we climbed the fence to get in, around the same time showing up at the ‘DRC’s Embassy’, getting a ride to an individual breakfast in a Lexus, learning the word resurrection in Russian thanks to Google Translate, and much more.
Finally, this summer was exceptionally informative in different ways. For instance, it was informative of how much I still don’t know. That’s nice because a proverb I put faith in is that ignorance is bliss. Certainly at times I’ve been the joyful fool unaware of what’s going on/being said. Only on my last day was the rare instance where I was able to help someone with directions-and I did that just by saying, “McDonalds” and outstretching my hand.
But it was also informative by blessing away ignorance-I know it forced me to see things differently about myself and of course Ukraine. Sure, that may not be as rosy as the whole ignorance is bliss theory, but knowing more about the world and how it works is a wonderful burden to have. After all, the knowledge and ability to share it is one way how the world improves itself (or so I humbly believe).
Earlier this summer, I was given a difficult choice and ended up foregoing an opportunity for a different internship that would have prolonged my stay in Kyiv by several months. The choice was perhaps made easier by the fact that I know I ought to come back.
As my friend Roman said, “this summer was my resurrection.” That’s a really loaded sentence that takes a lot to unpack-but it is just as true for him as it is for me and it hints at something larger.
Ukraine is a perfect place to return if I ever I need a vitamin for hedonism. Sure, like anywhere in the world, there are definitely things that can bother you. But, something in the air makes you feel truly alive. Something makes you want to seize the day in as spartan and unforgiving a fashion as you can.
In doing so, you leave an imprint on yourself that cannot help but teach you about what kind of person you are.
I’d been recommended to watch one film for a while and plan on finally doing so soon (I was a bit busy this summer). From what I know, it is the story of a boy trying to learn the history of his family, mixed with offbeat humor and some self-discovery in a quirky country (surprise surprise, it’s Ukraine). After my experience in Ukraine and how I feel now, the title makes perfect sense to me: Everything is Illuminated.