“Aren’t you tired of trying to fill that void?”
That one sentence in 'Shallow' kept replaying in my head.
I have to admit that my experience being off social media for nearly a month and a half turned out to be surprisingly and pleasantly comfortable, perhaps too comfortable that I almost forgot how fast time went by. Part of it was because I needed to reshuffle my priorities, part of it was because (ironically enough) my social life was full so I needed a break from the online world, but part of it was because I needed time to get in touch with myself again to understand the void I was trying to fill within me. I decided to come to a halt — it was time to change course.
Watching what’s happening in the world breaks my heart, as I’m sure you’ve been feeling the same, too. For a while, I felt restless. For a while, I felt powerless. For a while, I even felt guilty for how little I could help. It seems so easy to turn off social media and ignore the news we don’t want to read, blame the people for their governments, or think that none of these imposes any impact on our lives because we’re different and so far away (fact: they do). It makes me wonder if deep down inside, Putin’s also just a vulnerable man trying to fill the void in his life; the void that, sadly, costs too many lives.
I believe we all have a unique role to play in society. Like an orchestra, a great one plays with a clear balance of different sections in tune — strings, keyboard, woodwinds, brass, percussion — creating a beautiful symphony. Of course, the conductor's role is just as crucial. So what’s my role? What’s your role? What are our roles?
For a while, I couldn’t figure out the answer for myself.
I’ve finally come to terms with accepting the condition of being a limited human (thanks to Oliver Burkeman and his book ‘Four Thousand Weeks'). In a world that’s constantly facing multiple crises, maybe not all of us are meant to dedicate our lives to primarily pursuing activism (at least not in a conventional way). Maybe some of us contribute simply in our daily acts of kindness. Maybe some of us take on different roles on different days and for different social causes. Maybe the role we play is a lot more agile than we think. No matter big or small, each role has its own significance.
As I surrender to my own finitude and work with it instead of against it, I allowed myself to focus on doing the next right thing. I stopped questioning myself about what role is mine. I asked myself: “What role I am going to play?”
War, no matter when or where it happens, always hurts our people and our planet. I will never forget how thankful my dad said he was when he told me that his first battlefield mission as a marine was called off because China halted their invasion of Da Dung island in Quang Ninh, Vietnam in 1979. I don’t even want to imagine what would happen otherwise.
Unfortunately, millions of people and families are not as lucky as mine, and millions of people from the least developed countries in the world may die because of famine if the war doesn’t stop now.
Amanda Ripley provides an excellent explanation in her book ‘High Conflict’ on why we get trapped, how we get out, the importance of rehumanizing the enemy and working on conflict from the bottom up, not just the top down. As a society, how do we help remove the seeds of hatred that have the dangerous potential to last through generations? As an individual, how do we advocate for peace? And as our revolution continues unfolding, how do we build conflict resilience to become not absorbed in high conflict but stronger from it? These are the questions I keep thinking about.
Tomorrow, March 21st, will mark my second-year anniversary since the day I wrote my first blog post at thecqo.com. In hindsight, that’s the role I created for myself even though at the time I had no idea how long I would stick with it. I was surprised to learn that I didn’t really miss being on social media per se (I thought I was an addict), but I did miss this — sharing what I have learned and reflected along the way with you.
If you know a Ukrainian, Russian, or Belarusian, I'd like to encourage you to check on them, or if not, it's also a good idea to seek understanding by reading and watching what their people have to say from reliable, impartial news sources. Many people in Russia are risking their lives to protest against the war. Donate (if you can), lend a hand, help people heal, support humanitarian causes, fact-check before sharing, and create an inclusive environment for other people.
What is the next right thing that each of us will do?
I may be a dreamer, but I believe that we have the ability to make our world more beautiful when we play our roles and build it together x