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Subject line: ‘Thinking of you’

Editor’s note: This article was written on Feb. 11, 2023.

Many people have asked me if everything is okay over the past couple of weeks. I suppose I look a little less coordinated than usual. While the initial response I want to give these people is to scream, “No”, I end up compromising my emotions and saying, “I’m just worried.” 

I’m not sure what this says about me, but each time someone replies, “About what?” I feel like shaking them by the shoulders and yelling at them to read the news. It’s truly eye-opening to realize how someone else’s apathy can heighten your own emotions.

Western indifference

By no means am I perfect. There are many things around the world I probably don’t know about. However, one thing I have never done — and will never do — is let my friends suffer in silence. Maybe that’s why this process has been so extremely difficult. 

Realizing how many people, even people I call my friends, deem it too much work to speak on what’s going on. Post a link, donate, start conversations — all things that are apparently incredibly hard. Am I selfish to expect some sort of action?

Asking me how I am, or sending me emails with the subject line, “Thinking of you” or “Check in” are — while obviously considerate — in so many ways infuriating. 

For one, please don’t think of me. Think of everyone else who is affected. Those who need help. Those who need your prayers. 

Two, to me, while it might not be the intention, these reactions seem performative at best. Realistically, the expectation is for me to say, “Yeah I’m okay, thank god my family is safe.” 

Guess what? I am not okay. 

As long as there are still people under the rubble, as long as the death toll keeps rising, as long as people keep saying things like, “Heaven gained an angel” — romanticizing the death of children, parents, siblings and loved ones — I am not okay. 

They are not okay. 

We are not okay.

The Charlie Hebdo comic; I guess it wasn’t outrageous enough for people. Not when it’s alluding to killing people in the Middle East. Because evidently, our trauma isn’t important when it’s so blatantly normalized

The EU announcing stricter refugee laws following the earthquake feels so dehumanizing. They went into defence mode — as if they are the ones who are in need of desperate help.

(Sergey Ponomarev)

Feeling like an outsider

Home is everything. Friends, family, memories… Perhaps most important is the sense of belonging. That’s what Turkey is, always has been, for me. Yet being an ocean away, as my people are suffering, I feel like an outsider. 

That last sentiment may seem fueled by nationalism, but it comes from a place of being raised in a culture rooted in collectivism.

I’ve been living with survivor’s guilt. In the first 24 hours of hearing the news, the only thing I could think of was, “It should’ve been me, not them.” In the following days, this sentiment shifted into many different things including, “I don’t deserve this meal when people are starving,” and,  “I shouldn’t be warm when babies are freezing to death.” Or I’d catch myself smiling at something and immediately be ashamed.

The worst part of it all is being here in Canada; the feeling of uselessness is unsettling.  

Bitterness and other “biases”

Maybe I sound bitter; that’s because I am.

I am angry.

Someone recently told me I was cynical, more so than most. I haven’t always been this way, at least not this much. I figure this happened in the last four years. 

I imagine that never feeling fully seen or heard in a room — where more often than not your lived experiences are either disregarded or tokenized (there really seems to be no third alternative) — will do that to anyone.

I’m so full of grief, it makes me want to throw up. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve even lost control over my limbs — constantly shaking.

Grief has never been linear. That said, before this week, at least, I somewhat knew how to process my grief. Now I know grieving for more than 46,000 people is a completely different experience. 

My grief looks like being on social media desperately trying to be useful from afar, getting nauseous at even the sight of food and having minor breakdowns in front of my co-workers – people who proceed to stare at me in dismay, stressed that the ditzy nonchalant POC is crying and they have more important places to be. 

I suppose I can’t blame them. I also don’t really know how to deal with myself.

Cover: A child near the rubble of buildings, following two earthquakes that struck Turkey, Syria and surrounding countries on Feb. 6, 2023. Reports say more than 40,000 people have died. Thousands more are missing, while millions are homeless. (Uğur Yıldırım)

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