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  • Claire Kalikman

ANXIETY RISING? WHEN TO LOOK AWAY


CORONAVIRUS. RACIST KILLINGS. SOCIAL DIVISIONS. MORE BAD CLIMATE NEWS. AND NOW THE TENSION OF THE US ELECTION. ENOUGH ALREADY! SOMETIMES, WE JUST NEED TO LOOK AWAY, WRITES CLAIRE KALIKMAN.


This year has been the worse in memory for many people around the globe. In America, where I live, coronavirus has utterly changed how we live, racist killings have brought sorrow to our hearts, and on top if it all, it feels like nature is rebelling against us. Don’t even get me started on the election.


I’ve always been a political junkie and used to race to my computer in the mornings to read the latest news, followed by several morning debrief podcasts, all before my first cup of tea.


When news of the coronavirus first came up in China back in January, I assiduously followed every detail, noting each uptick in cases as it slowly, then quickly, spread to other countries. At the point when everything began to shut down, it was only natural to seek as much information as possible about what was going on, so I read every article, metaphorically brushed off my high school chemistry textbook, and set about trying to understand what was going on and the myriad ways the virus might change our lives.


I was far away from my family in California. I’d been living in Germany and the pandemic had me stuck there indefinitely. Watching the number of cases in different cities climb, reading news from back home felt like a way to keep tethered to my family and friends, and to be part of a collective experience, even though I was 6,000 miles away. At a certain point, though, when the cases tipped from the hundreds to the thousands (and then the tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands), it wasn’t helpful to keep up - it was overwhelming.


I managed to get home. But it was under surreal circumstances that I went back to college to finish up my final year. The day after I arrived back at uni, I saw images online everywhere of a city that looked a bit like San Francisco, except this city was bathed in a dark orange light that made day look like night. The smoke had become so bad that it literally blotted out the sun. It blotted out the sun!


In a normal year, this would make national headlines everyday for a week. I couldn’t believe it when some of my peers hadn’t even heard the news. “Fire season” isn’t a phrase we ever used when I was growing up in San Francisco. It was only after I went off to college that I heard my parents discuss with alarm the fires that burned through whole towns across the state. My beloved hometown resembled Mars more than the city I grew up in. It was simply overwhelming to look at.


That’s when I decided to look away. I stopped devouring the news. I stopped listening to every single morning show. I stopped asking what was going on. It’s simply too hard.

For this election, I’m making a selfish choice. I’m leaving the country (don’t worry, I’ve already voted). I can’t be here while both halves of America try to tear each other down. I can’t be here to watch family members turn against each other. I can’t be here for what will surely be a brutal, slow, and divisive battle.


I don’t want to know, I don’t want to see. I’m not planning to read the news on election night. I don’t want to hear anything about it until we know who the next president will be.

I know, of course, that this is an incredibly privileged position to be in; to be able to get away, and switch off. But I decided for my own sanity that I need to focus on what is in my control.


Looking away doesn’t mean becoming apathetic or not playing a part in civic life. It means focusing on the issues where you do have some control, devoting energy to those, and ignoring the rest for your own mental health.


I do think that I can make a difference in getting out the vote among my peers. I do think that I have a role to play in making the fashion industry more environmentally friendly.

But my efforts aren’t going to stop a likely nightmarish voting count scenario. My efforts aren’t going to clear away the smoke in California right now.


If we all picked one issue close to our hearts and devoted real time and energy to it, the world would be a much better place. Instead, many of us wear ourselves thin trying to keep up with every movement and political event in every country.


It’s important to be a global citizen, but it’s also important to devote our energy to the places where we can make a difference. Instead of posting on Instagram every time something horrible happens, what if we instead invested real time and energy into the causes closest to our hearts? Protest, vote, write an article, read a book on an issue you really care about. These actions all mean a lot more than doing the bare minimum across many areas.


The evolution of the news cycle means that we all get information much faster than previous generations did, and with it - the temptation is to absorb every piece of it. But it’s an unrealistic expectation. We can’t do it all. This is an incredibly difficult time for everyone and preserving your own sanity is important. It’s okay to look away.


Claire Kalikman is content editor of The Wardrobe Crisis. Read her previous story here.

https://thewardrobecrisis.com/the-magazine/2020/10/28/when-to-look-away

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