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Some Selfish Thoughts

I'm in a weird spot. The war against Ukraine isn't "mine", even by generous definitions. Yes, I'm affected by it in that I can't go home, left some loved possessions behind, and had to quietly discard my life's planned trajectory. More significantly, I worry for the friends and family who chose to (or had to) stay behind.

But it's not my country. It's also not nearly as bad for me as it is for many others. I was able to leave; I know my family has food and shelter; my apartment in Vyshgorod is still standing.

What I didn't expect to take up so much of my mental space is social media. About half of my contacts are Ukrainian; their Instagram stories show destroyed buildings in Mariupol, their Twitter links to petitions against Russian oil. I'll often see the same popular post shared six, seven times in the same day. Breaking news is retweeted and Facebooked until it overwhelms the feed.

On a basic level, I don't mind this (I don't think I have to right to mind it). For many people in Ukraine, this is their life 24/7. The world, as always, is already onto the next thing. It's understandable that they want to share their pain, keep awareness high, advocate for policies and aid that will make a difference.

But on another level, I wonder how compulsive this sharing has become. There's something exhausting about having to educate others about the injustices in your own life. I wonder if sharing feels like a sense of power, or a weight of responsibility.

For me, the war no longer takes up every moment of my day. It feeds on some mental energy, sure, but in general I'm able to live a somewhat normal life. I meet with friends, just over phone instead of in person; I go on walks in Sofia parks instead of in downtown Kyiv; I buy coffee for six leva instead of twenty hryvnia. There's still an element of uncertainty (where will we be living six months from now?) but, day to day, I've been lucky enough to find some stability.

In that time I've thought about how my social media reflects my life. Do I share photos of my somewhat steady life, or leave them hidden until things "calm down"? Should I be sharing Ukrainian news to my friends in the Western Hemisphere every day? Is it better to be silent on my relative security, or to cultivate a new normal?

This post isn't really about social media: that's just one area in my life that I'm struggling to balance. I'm still learning how to process everything, to be mindful of my luck without forgetting the daily pain of others, to become unstuck in the past without disregarding it all together. It's not something I want to spend energy on right now. I also think it's dumb to think I have anything like a large scope of influence.

The second part is that I don't know. I know that my close friends, Ukrainians and Americans alike, want to see what I'm up to; for us, posts act as a jumping-off point to deeper conversations. I don't know how people who I'm not super close with feel. And I don't think it's fair for me to make assumptions. Maybe I should be more active; maybe less. I don't think there's such a thing as a right answer.

One foot in Kyiv, one foot out.

Selfish thoughts. Not nearly as important as many individual realities. But I'm stuck on them, all the same.

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