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Are We All Extremely Spoiled Children Now?
Having a friend who recently ran from war does wonders to my mental health. Whenever I’m feeling exhausted, hopeless, or overwhelmed, I ask myself “Could I explain what’s happening to Lilia? What would she say, or do in my situation?”.
Framed this way, a lot of my concerns seem like very first-world problems. She can certainly empathize with the challenges of children getting sick or waking up at night. But the questions of meaning, fulfilment, life mission, or purpose are alien to her at this stage of life. She knows her primary job right now is to keep her kids sheltered, fed, and educated, and no kind of blue-collar work is below her if it helps them pay the bills.
My friend isn’t free from simple everyday concerns. She too wonders how to navigate moving in with her parents-in-law, where to buy the perfect birthday cake for her daughter, or how her kids will adapt to their fourth school and friend group in less than two years. But underneath it all she’s more centered and grounded than almost anyone I know. Yes, changing schools all the time isn’t great for her children, but it’s still so much better than bombs falling on their heads.
This is one of the things everyone knows in theory, but doesn’t really care about until it could happen to them too. In theory I knew there were wars in the Middle East and kids starving in Africa, but did I really care? My whole city got completely burned down to the ground still within living memory, hundreds of thousands people were murdered in the streets, and yet I grew up believing that peace and prosperity were the natural state of things, something completely normal, inevitable, and expected.
I wouldn’t be surprised if my friends in America believed in this still. How could they possibly relate to a tragedy happening on another continent? I always knew there were wars, famines, and natural disasters somewhere, but they seemed like something out of a fairy tale. Only now that the war came to our next door neighbors, I got to really feel that it could happen to us too.
Since then, I can no longer pretend that life was always this peaceful and comfortable, or that a delivery courier messing up my order is something worth getting upset about. Even if my Ukrainian friend could relate to my pain in this situation, my own grandmother certainly would not. When she was my age, she could only eat a chicken soup if she killed a chicken first. When she was a teenager, she had armies plundering the entire region twice. If I was suddenly transported to her time and place, would I survive there even for a week? Were people in the past built differently, or are we all extremely spoiled children now?
Or maybe it was our grandparents’ biggest dream for their children and grandchildren to have better lives than they did? Maybe getting upset over food delivery is a sign that we’ve officially made it? If I could save my daughter from the challenges I had to go through, I’d do it without hesitation. I’d do it even if it would make it impossible for her to ever relate to my problems, and make her judge me for the choices I’ve made. Aren’t we all trying to give our children the best lives they could possibly have? Can we do so without having them stuck emotionally as children forever?
My closest friends and family are all sheltered, fed, and safe. Their immediate survival was never at stake. I’m living in the most luxurious times, and even though this knowledge doesn’t make my first-world problems go away, it does certainly help me gain perspective. No matter how intense or overwhelming it might feel, nothing I’ve experienced so far could possibly be the end of the world.
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