Not Everyone Can Be A Winner

I wanted to start by talking about this American Dream. But forget it - you get enough of this talk from the current election. But it got me thinking: the US has a very strong culture of winning. Trophies and constant races leave little space for those who feel comfortable without a pedestal. What does this culture leave those folks with?

I am probably the least competitive person you will ever meet. I don't care about Pokemon Go or any other game for that matter. I am not good at sports (granted very few opportunities were provided while I was growing up). It always feels like I had this comfy place inside of me and I like it. It resembles the rocking chair on my porch - it is there and I enjoy it. But for some reason when I got to the States many situations and people keep trying to make me feel bad for 'not wanting more'.

I understand the point of the American Dream, I do. And I do believe in it in some way. That said, I don't want to be a millionaire, I don't want to be the first woman president, I don't want to participate in the Olympics, or Eurovision for that matter. My inner peace allows me to put on my about-to-fall-apart Converse, open my door, step outside, and place my behind on my rocking chair. What do I do next you ask? Well, I enjoy. I don't rush and I don't think about money. I don't want to be the first at things. I want to sit in my rocking chair.

Of course I am not a flower child and I do not throw caution to the wind: I work, I pay my bills, and I budget. I work out (liar) but I don't want to compete. I blog but I am not trying to make my writing a business. I am not careless - I am centered. Or I want to believe I am. Is a capability of true and pure self-discovery really possible for simple humans? We might be just delirious. Everyone loves play-pretend.

Last time we visited Texas Andrew had to pack up his childhood room due to his parents’ moving. While sharing tiny pieces of memorabilia was so touching and so honest there was something that kept bugging me. Participation trophies and recognition ribbons were the things that got me thinking (just to clarify: my husband has a lot of 1st place ribbons and trophies as well. And no, he didn't make me write this, he is just a badass like that). Not everyone can be a winner. Not everyone will be a loser. So why is it so important to get something out of a race, a competition, or whathaveyou? Why is it so important to be recognized for ... what exactly? For taking your time? 'Cause of course an 11 year old has so much on his social calendar . The part of 'having fun' and 'enjoying yourself' got mixed up with 'recognition trophies'. And unfortunately, the trophies won. In this scenario we didn't just lose 'fun' - we lost ourselves. I am making attempts at finding me. Do you want me to feel bad about it?

This world is so fast-paced, especially in such a developed country like the US. Compared to my family's childhood stories I have no right to complain, but for the sake of this post I will a little. Growing up in Ukraine, when I needed a new shirt I had two options: black or white. And with a choice of those options came a recognition that half of my class will be wearing the same shirt. In the US you walk into a department store and how many options do you see? 100? 150? Give that shirt a quick Etsy search and you got 100 more. You end up taking 3 hours from your day to figure one which shirt will be the best for you. There goes your time in a rocking chair, your ‘me’ time, your precious minutes of discovering your place in this Universe. Or you know, an extra episode of Stranger Things.

Participation trophies do make one feel included, but isn't it better just to feel loved?

Americans vs. Ukrainians: Adulting

I joke around saying that I treasure my 15 year old emo kid inside and feed her Green Day and Thirty Seconds to Mars regularly. I also talk how my planner is bombarded with stickers here, giving you a chance to realize that in my eyes age doesn't really represent a thing. Who knows when this whole 'adulting' thing actually happens. There are days I feel like it hasn't arrived yet and days when I feel 100 years old. Since it is clearly bothering me - let's talk about it. 

When I walked into my West Orange High School back in Florida many emotions rolled over me: homesickness, confusion, and self-doubt along with confidence and fear. There was one thing that got my attention and was a little hard to shake off: teenagers (my age and older) had backpacks with cartoon characters on them. Being influenced by romantic comedies and American sitcoms my made-up stereotype of boys and girls dating by being rebellious and free was overwritten by some girl's Dora the Explorer backpack in my face. That didn't add up! My Ukrainian peers were trying so hard to 'hide' their childhoodness (like an unwanted pimple) by wearing their mother's heels, picking up clothes that made them look older, putting on makeup to hide that wrinkle-less skin while hugging their teddy bear before bed cause they couldn't fall asleep without it. In the US girls showed up with their 'childhood' attributes for everyone to see. You can understand that my mind was blown just a tiny bit. 

When one is stuck in the middle of two cultures it sometimes gets difficult to differentiate and define what is actually right for you. It seems that in America parents help their kids pack up their lives and send them off to college so suddenly. American youth has to go from colorful Simba socks to dorm life with a roommate they have never seen before, underage drinking, rowdy neighbors, and 'you can't talk your way out of it' papers. According to collegeatlas.org, "70% of Americans will study at a 4-year college, but less than 2/3 will graduate." LESS THAN 2/3! In my humble (but come on, we all think we are special) opinion: is it in the US culture to baby children until a certain point and then cut the metaphorical umbilical cord fast and without looking back? Is it customary to release them into the world they were not prepared for? Does it make kids tougher? It does. Those 2/3 of the 70%. Those are the champs. What about the rest though?

Do Ukrainian parents baby their kids waaaay too much and for way too long? Hell yes. Children live at home while attending university or come home every weekend (exhibit A, aka me). I am friends with people who never left their parents' side (literally. Same house since the day they arrived on this planet). When I tried googling college drop out rates in Ukraine I didn't find any. Unfortunately, there is another problem Ukrainian children are faced with: being under their parents' wing for so long their folks are usually the ones who decide what is good for them. Only a few of my Ukrainian friends are actually using their degrees in 'real life' (hm, exhibit A, aka still me).

So where is that golden grey area or the silver middle, or whathaveyou? Everyone wants his child to succeed (hopefully). It just goes to show how different we all are in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong when it comes to your life. I do sound like a leader of a cult quite often but here it is again: the beauty of being an expat is that you can zoom out and see at least two cultures, figure out what you like and don't like, and copy and paste different parts to your own story. Maybe that is the moment of adulting. At least for an immigrant.

Ukrainians and Their Personal Bubble

Coming from the country where personal space is non-existent, I learned how to live in a 1-bedroom apartment with my mom and grandma. I took it up a notch in college, where I shared a studio apartment with 3 other girls (that's a whole lot of hair, mind you). After moving to the capital, I had to share a tiny 1 bedroom apartment with a married couple (no worries, I had my own tiny room while they were occupying the living room). All in all: do not talk to me about how great you are at conflict resolution 'cause I can tell you right now you ain't seen nothing yet. 

Living with zero freedom of movement and actions can be tough. I was saving myself by taking long walks around my apartment buildings, by reading a ton, and training my body to think that I am alone. The worst part of it all - not a lot of people understood my hunger for personal space

I worked out a few little tricks when I had to deal with people breathing down my neck (literally). When you have to stand in line for something - Ukrainians are usually so close to you, you can smell what they had for lunch a few hours ago. Might also be because of the poor dental hygiene but hey, that would be a whole other post. So, here are a few tricks if you find yourself in a culture that is frivolous with their personal bubble: 

1. Wear a backpack. This will make the person behind you to be at least one step apart. The tiny problem with this hack is that you might get your stuff stolen from your backpack.. but hey, at least you can breathe and feel free!

2. Talking loudly on the phone will not do the trick - not in Eastern Europe at least. So, you can either make yourself cough (painful, I know) or you can pretend you are a metronome and shift your weight front to back, thus clearing a bit of a space for yourself.  

3. You can take a step to the side and break the line yet still save your spot. Be mature about it. I rarely was. 

I moved to the States and everything changed. I have the space I need for just simply staying sane. I cherish my bubble. My husband suggested we look into a Tiny House movement. Guess what I said to that? 
 
*I wrote this a few months ago for one of the bigger blogs out there. The admins decided to go with something different that time but I still wanted to share this quick read with the world. Hope you enjoyed it!* 

t-shit: Passive Juice Motel

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