Holding On

I checked my social media outlets, my texts, my messages, and everywhere is awash in bad news.

The French debates were awful and people feel doomed, the American government is moving forward on destroying access to healthcare for millions upon millions of people. I meet at least a handful of people every day who say that they don’t want to go and vote, or will go and vote blanche/abstain on Sunday.

I’m trying to hold onto a lot of things at once this week.

My Americanness, my political will, my efforts to integrate into French culture, my clear limitations on civic participation. My responsibilities to my household, my responsibilities to my thesis, my money, my sleep, my time, my health.

This is not an extraordinary list of things, and yet I struggle. I struggle with to endure another election cycle when international folks like myself are already sharing recommendations for lawyers, and having conversations about whether or not they’re able to continue their lives.

I struggle to balance the compassion that I feel for the people at risk in the US, the anger and hatred that I feel for deeply irresponsible politicians, when I am living so far away. I am running out of seconds in the day, and I find myself coming up short when it comes to holding on to all of the goings on in my two countries.

I’ve written about this before, and this isn’t a new challenge in the international circle, but I feel like I am at a breaking point. There are days when it is all I can do to keep collecting data and debriefing with participants. To walk myself through basic interactions with coworkers, to keep up with emails in two different languages. To get up and out of the house, with a relatively healthy lunch somewhere on my person (I’ve left half my lunch on the counter for two days in a row.)

I am afraid of what it means to give up certain things, certain areas of focus, certain mindsets. I am trying to hold on to two worlds at once, and it is becoming a more and more harrowing task. I am trying to make it through this social and political moment without surrendering any involvement, any concern, any awareness. I’ve already trimmed away the opinions of friends and other social media connections, I’ve already limited myself to a few, trustworthy news sources.

I am afraid that I’m holding on in vain. That my identity as someone who is aware, educated, and involved will be something that changes drastically in the coming months and years. My civic participation in both countries is so limited by my legal status or by my physical distance. I am exhausted, so is everyone, and I am running out of ways to make a meaningful impact.

What does it mean to hold on right now? I wish I knew.


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