Ever since the war started, friends and family are constantly telling me to relax. They tell me that I look worried and that my face has gone permanently pale. Apparently, I seem overly stressed. This is not like the regular stress I usually feel when I have school assignments due or the chronic stress caused by lack of money, but rather something more overwhelming that seems to crush my spirits. Apparently, the world can visibly see me be overcome by despair and sadness whenever I check the news on my phone. Despite how frequently I check, with no respite, my face gets even pailer and I fall more deeply into gloom.
Close friends have told me that they never knew they would witness the day where I would be the quietest in a room full of people. They always joked around and told me that they would give anything to see that day. Now, they regret ever saying that. They have since acknowledged that an existential war was too high of a price to pay in return for a few hours of them not hearing my many bright ideas.
Do not get me wrong, I am sad. I have been to Yerablur twice in the last week and it has been painful. I have seen grown Armenian men, who are infinitely stronger and braver than I am, who already live the toughest lives, who have been told to never show weakness, sob relentlessly and mourn the loss of their sons who they loved so dearly.
The grief of the family members of those fallen soldiers is cut short by authorities who reluctantly tell them that they need to finish with their ceremonies. There are other young men who are coming in caskets to be laid to rest and there is not enough time. There are other fathers waiting to give their brave sons a last farewell as they sob and allow themselves for once to be weak and vulnerable. There is no shortage of heroes and hero-birthing parents on Yerablur these days.
Emotional exhaustion is what I am really feeling. Thanks to the internet, the day is filled with a roller-coaster of emotions. I can wake up feeling functional in the morning by hearing that the clashes at the border were “relatively stable” and an hour later my heart is broken as pictures of a wounded Artsakh load on my phone.
I never realized how the internet had changed war forever. News spreads so quickly and so frequently that it is impossible to shut yourself off. The flow of news is constant and every piece of information takes its toll on me. However, the information often raises more questions than it answers. It is information that keeps us in the dark and slowly drives us crazy as we ponder and think about all the worst possible scenarios.
I feel like I have been slapped in the face by reality, by history, and by the shere indifference of humanity. I have heard and reheard about the unfortunate geographic location of Armenia that has been the cause of so many wars as the world’s greatest empires marched and trampled on our land for thousands of years. I have heard and reheard about the genocide and all the culture that was taken away from us. A hundred years later, old grumpy men in my community who have met only a handful of Turks in their lives, reiterate that “The Turk won’t ever change.”
But, I have also heard and reheard all the stories about how the ancient Armenians, against all odds, have again and again fought for their survival and won. Stories of Aram Manukyan and Sartarapat have been played like a broken record in my home. My dad believed he would fail as a parent if the echoes of those stories were not heard throughout the lives of his sons.
Since the fighting started on September 27th, being Armenian suddenly felt way too real. Those stories that I have heard growing up were not fiction and I feel the weight of them on my shoulders. Nothing has changed for the Armenians. Our homeland is still at the crossroads of civilizations. Our existence is threatened once again when the world is too preoccupied. In reality, perhaps that is where the real exhaustion comes from – that the world continues to disappoint. Yet again our cries for help fell on deaf ears and once more we, and we alone will be the deciders of our fate and the guarantors of our survival.