When we’re faced with a constant and unrelenting barrage of pain and suffering, uncertainty and big, enormous problems for which there is never an easy or comforting solution, it’s not uncommon to begin to feel apathetic.
That apathy mostly manifests itself as disbelief and disregard.
In the face of crisis, and without sensing that they’re gaining any traction toward a solution, people begin to drop off. They devise alternative beliefs, and come up with every fathomable reason to dismiss someone else’s truth, replacing it with a narrative that is a bit less harsh, and a lot easier for their heads and their hearts to handle.
The truth is, when we are overloaded with so much negativity, we can all start to become used to its presence. It seems to neutralize itself and normalize as a steady constant that we are vaguely aware of but still not immediately alarmed by.
Maybe you have felt this lately.
Maybe you will feel this as the weeks and months press on.
If you do, you need to know that apathy is really a response to overwhelm. The overwhelm is absolutely understandable — but friends, the apathy can’t be.
This past week carried an unspeakable weight for a lot of us, myself included.
To the Asian American/Pacific Islander community, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. To the victims and their families of the senseless act of hate and violence that occurred in Boulder, Colorado earlier this week, to a community I love so much and one that has made me feel so welcomed, my heart is shattered for you.
I’ve sat with this overwhelming amount of sadness, anger, and fear over the last few days. As I tried to carry out my normal routine of going for my morning runs, grabbing coffee, making dinner with my boyfriend and trying to find joy in the smallest of moments, I felt a surge of guilt; I was clouded, lost in a fog.
I looked around me and wondered how people could go back to living their lives so effortlessly.
But then I realized something.
It’s not that they don’t care about what’s happening in the world around them, it’s not that they’re indifferent to other people’s suffering, but that eventually, they hit their saturation point for their own discomfort, and from there, they set up mental walls that help them regain a sense of peace.
This is, ultimately, just a coping mechanism. A form of self-preservation, if you will.
I guess what we all have to learn is how to strike a balance: how to at once keep our heart and mind open while not becoming completely consumed and overwhelmed.
When we first start to become aware of the fault lines within society, our instinct can be to insist that they aren’t so bad, until, of course, we recognize that they are and ultimately feel helpless. We pour every ounce of our already waning mental and emotional energy into devising and acting on a solution only to realize that this is so much bigger than you, than me, than any of us — it would make the most sense just to give up.
Except it doesn’t.
If you ever start to feel apathetic about what is happening in the world, please know, you are not too small to have made a difference. We are not irredeemable. Change that sticks is slow, and steady, and takes time. You do not have to be sidelined by suffering to still acknowledge it exists.
And I hope that you do.
I hope we all do.
I hope that you aren’t lulled back to sleep by the next trend, the next problem, the next crisis.
I hope that you keep your feet on the ground, which is far more important than keeping your finger on the pulse of social media, appearing to be one way without translating it into something real.
I hope that you never deplete yourself to the point that you aren’t capable of feeling empathy, of imagining how deeply injustices can run, how our very foundations must shift if we have any hope of healing.
I hope that you know you are not always at the center of it, but you can always contribute, you can always be a piece of the force that moves us all forward.
And that momentum? It’s important.
Don’t let yourself become worn out and give up.
It is hard to keep our eyes open.
It is far harder not to.