Inspiring and Diminishing Power of Opportunities
Surprisingly, I was a dancer. Sure, I did Ukrainian traditional dancing but my teacher balanced with French classical school, therefore my body still remembers the ‘rond de jambe’ and ‘grand plié’. However, instead of talking about getting flexible and healthy, I will describe the post-Soviet mindset of that time.
So here I am in the 7th grade, starting to get bored of ever similar dance practices but the teacher approaches me and says: “Denys! You are doing great! If you continue to improve, the N ensemble at the city university is going to accept you to their famous team [they are]. This would allow you to study for free [on scholarship] and reduce your parents’ pain.” That was an argument. Imagine yourself in my shoes (ballet slippers), at the age of 13, wondering about unsure future, listening to all this teacher pressure how only ‘economists and managers’ going to make good living [ha-ha]. In that situation, on the contrary, safe graduation with low influence of exams was a good sell, amazing opportunity. Though, a new hobby started to take over me.
Run, Denny, Run! I was one out of a little group in my class that actually liked attending Physical Education classes; thus, I adored any kind of sport and strived to try everything. In States, I managed to be involved in cross-country in fall, swimming in winter, and track and field in spring; the latter consisted of sprints, middle and long distance, hurdles, long jump, pole vaulting, and high jumps (yes, it’s a stupid idea to do all of those in one season). Nevertheless, the most advanced results I got during orienteering career. When I was 16, we won a few national championships and I became a Candidate for Master of Sport. Indeed, it secured me a place at specific department at local university and opportunity of being a young coach. I could practice as much as I wanted, meet with my sport folks around Ukraine and travel the world for various tournaments. For the second time in life, I was presented with a choice that would significantly influence my future path. Instead, I jumped to a different branch of the tree.
After FLEX program in America, my English got much better (still a lot to improve, but c’mon). No surprise I scored almost maximum on national independent test as well as I did with Geography (one of my favourites). Though, I did not meet expectations with my Ukrainian and World History exams, I was among top students (qualified for free tuition) when applying to universities across Ukraine. Never did I enter any of their venues. I was already accepted and granted a scholarship at international American college in Lithuania.
Psychology, you know, is tough. Is that a reason why the majority of students are females? I would hold it for my personal cognitive dissonance. I enjoyed being a valuable minority. In addition, people make you laugh inside when suspect in reading their minds. I loved the place, in particular the community and its values but… it was too good, too comfortable for me. And that is when I began to realize what was going on.
By that time I already had backpacked across Georgia for one week alone and hitchhiked in Baltics, Poland, and Russian state of Kaliningrad (hehe, almost imprisoned on the very day of referendum in Crimea; by the way, the Ukrainian flag was always with me). When I came back to the campus, suntanned in March, full of live energy in bright eyes, and with white teenage bristle on cheekbones, I tried to imagine getting a 4-year degree with access to Masters in partner universities across Europe and USA. I could not.
For some reason my passion to create, to live, to empower, to conquer new horizons did not fit in an A4 format CV page. Shortly after that, in spite of higher than average GPA, another scholarship and a bunch of great opportunities at my ‘alma mater’, I quit. If you draw a picture of lame assignment typed in Microsoft Office Word and how it is being erased by ‘Ctrl+A’, ‘backspace’, that is the exact feeling of refreshing beginning. Because sometimes you must to step back in order to see the full picture. Instead of classes, I now found lots of free time for well-round learning, from design to economics, to marketing, to entrepreneurship…
I did not go to South Korea for amazing exchange semester but I got a startup experience. I saw a small team working shoulder to shoulder in a tight room turning into a solid company in Ukraine in just 7 months…I could have a built a career there [I did], but again it forced me to settle, to chill down like lava after the volcano eruption. You know what happens with cooled lava next, right? I needed to move, to feel that blood circulates in veins not due to tequila shots on every Friday (and you are calling it fun? well…).
I had a girlfriend and we had planned an amazing world tour but this opportunity vanished as we broke up. Seems to be destructing. In fact, shortly after that I met an incredible woman that sets me on fire, motivates to break sky limits with only one look, and fills my life with sense with the lowest whisper (even being the bossy one :D).
I changed the place of living once again but you cannot run from yourself. Finally, my not very long but indeed massive juicy experience and months of thinking crystallized into a single idea: there is a dream and you must live for it.
All this time a seed of change was collecting evidence for it to grow. Why should I care about others, if I can be happy on my own? [Nobody can]. Why should I help other young people and empower them with opportunities, advance their skills and create a competition while I can be an incredible asshole and collect all awards? [Well, sounds totalitarian and boring] Why in a hell would this simple project grow into a big influential company and still be loveable by millions? [Let’s find out]. Then it started growing…
I felt like a child (the most precious feeling in our narcissist illusionary reality) running back and forth from the river carrying a bit of water for it in my hands. Then I found a bucket; later my 5-year old folks joined and we nurtured the weak but yet potentially powerful something. It grew faster, thicker, transformed in new shapes and blossomed for the first time. Our moms called us to dinner, but we didn’t want even an ice-cream. If you desire something as bad as to breathe under water, you will reach this dream. Or be remembered for fighting for it.
Above all metaphors, recently I rejected an incredible chance of going to Canadian-Ukrainian Parliamentary Programme (CUPP). I applied long time before, but now I sacrificed it in favor of World At Competition, the platform that would empower young people with opportunities worldwide.
When you know that something you are doing is right, you are happy no matter what. Our team does not have salaries nor great office [yet]. We work in our free time, sometimes making even more effort than at official workplaces [because usual understanding of job sucks]. Occasionally I have a beer or try to find ‘vinho branco’ (red wine in Portugal is too dry) but usually cook common pasta or rice.
I am thankful [destiny?] for all people I meet: amazing, boring, sleazy, psychos, normal averagish. I fully recognize the potential of my next opportunity to fill the vacancy in Berlin, work for a spectacularly interesting young company, and have possibility to travel the world while working there. However, happiness is in between of where we could have been and where we are. The way we perceive things influence our state of contentment a lot. So choose that only thing that denies logic and encourages you to wake up early in the morning, keeps in a state of excitement all day long and lets you forget about having a lunch break [accidently, of course].
I choose the dream. That is how a real life is lived. I live WAC through.
If this story is worth of sharing, do it. After all, the motto of our startup is “Share the Chance”