The Secret of Happiness

As with the case of many of my writings, I’ve often been inspired by the books I read. Not only that: the experience I’ve encountered, the people I’ve met, the other side that I’ve travelled. The title of this blogpost seems grand, but it really isn’t. It is the core lesson I learn from reading Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom. Thank you David for lending me this book of his and said, “Even though your religion is not believed by the characters in this book, I’m pretty sure you may find some things to figure out”.

“Perplexed with a bit of relief” may be a good expression to describe how I feel after reading this book. It’s like, you know, being reminded of something so basic, so ‘going back to the ground’ you almost feel like a child learning knowledge about the world. I especially like page 98-99. This is the excerpt:

I knew depression was real, and in many cases required medical attention. I also knew we overused the word. Much of what we called ‘depression’ was really dissatisfaction, a result of setting a bar impossibly high or expecting treasures that we weren’t willing to work for. I knew people whose unbearable source of misery was their weight, their baldness, their lack of advancement in workplace, or their inability to find the perfect mate, even if they themselves did not behave like one. To these people, unhappiness was a condition, an intolerable state of affairs. If pills could help, pills were taken.

But pills were not going to change the fundamental problem in the construction. Wanting what you can’t have. Looking for self-worth in the mirror. Layering work on top of work and still wondering why you weren’t satisfied—before working some more.

I knew. I had done all that. There was a stretch where I would not have worked more hours in the day without eliminating sleep altogether. I piled on accomplishments. I made money. I earned accolades. And the longer I went at it, the emptier I began to feel, like pumping air faster and faster into a torn tire.

How many of us will react, “That’s my life!” after reading those passages? I bet a lot of us will. Isn’t it what we’ve got used to in modern society? There are many things that will keep us dissatisfied. My campus life is an example of a big chunk. I’m living in a world surrounded by high achievers, reaching on top of everything, the brightest minds of brightest students in the country. I’m not saying it’s bad. In fact, it’s the kind of life I’ve been living for my whole 20 years of breathing, and I’m proud of it. What intrigues me is the simple question, “Am I truly happy?”

Since I started school, I had always known what I wanted. In elementary school, my goal was to always be the first rank, and eventually be a student of SMP Negeri 5 Bandung, the best junior high school in this city. It went on as “to be a student of SMA Negeri 3 Bandung” and “to be a student of Institut Teknologi Bandung”. I was academically excellent in my 12 years plus of formal education, even until now many people still consider me as ‘excellent’. Even though I don’t have >3.5 GPA, I’ve had plenty of awards and accomplishments that have made me remarkable and received a lot of compliments. For myself, I knew I had always known where I wanted to go.

I had.

 

There are points in my life where I got so low, sank down to the earth with hands down. At these points, I often asked myself: what do I want in life?

That question haunts me again now. I once tweeted “Sometimes it takes a crisis to force you to find who you really are”. I meant it. This, as clever people say, a quarter life crisis. My formal education days will soon be memory. The next path is of course, “where am I gonna work?”, almost feels like searching for best schools all over again. Diverse choices come up, along with the thoughts of finding a steady partner, marriage, raising kids, getting old, … the list can go on.

Reading Have A Little Faith, I’m a little nudged by the message that book tries to imply. I begin to start questioning about what I’ve often treated as “side factors”. Things out of my busy daily life. Things about religion. About faith. About afterlife. About going back to God and decipher the meaning of signs I may have missed. About shalat. About shaum. About hajj. About zakat. About iman.

Religion is an element that is often missed while we’re trying to achieve big things. “Every man for himself”. God is like a divine creature some way up high, He has nothing to do with our pursuit of excellence. True, I do shalat five times a day, but as time goes by, I treat it as plain routine and eventually I’ve lost the meaning. My mistake is that it doesn’t make me closer to God.

Sometimes it’s so easy to make life seems bad. Sometimes it’s so easy to be trapped in crisis. Sometimes it’s so easy not to thank God. Unhappiness scatter everywhere around our lives. Bad score, jealousy that people are having better grades or better achievements, wanting to reach perfection, the desire for new gadgets, the wish to have a “better life”. Times when I updated my CV and realized that there was no more empty space to fill, but then I saw my friend got internship in a big fat company or won some competitions and went abroad free of charge. Times when I felt like I was smart enough but people were whizzing with their skyrocketing GPAs. Times when I felt like my life was great enough alone but then I saw my friends spending time with their significant others. So many emotions, so many things to feel bad about, so many factors of disappointment. Every single day, everything is never enough. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I bend on my knees praying that I’ll be given that better life, better chance, better this and that. I pray so that I can be happy. I search for accomplishments so that I can be happy. But what does it mean to be happy? What is ‘happy’?

Here’s what I learned from Have A Little Faith:

So, have we solved the secret of happiness?

“I believe so”, he said.

Are you going to tell me?

“Yes. Ready?”

Ready.

“Be satisfied.”

That’s it?

“Be grateful.”

That’s it?

“For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you.”

That’s it?

He looked me in the eye. Then he sighed deeply.

“That’s it.”

Turns out that the secret of happiness that we all yearn for is right in front of our eyes. For me, that’s quite a drawback, isn’t it? Ambition is what keeps many of us alive. Looking up, striving for more. If the fuel’s not there so how can the engine work? If the desire to be bigger, greater, smarter, another –er is not there, then what’s left for us to live for?

I know because I’ve been there. It’s good to settle down, but where’s the fun in that?

I realize it’s hard to implement this, but this is what I’ll say: having more doesn’t keep you from wanting more. I’ve always had this vivid imagination that I’ll someday be a successful female CEO and live a wealthy woman life. But at the same time, I know a lot of rich people with unlimited amount of money who are not happy because of them. So how do we attain happiness?

I believe that the secret of happiness is not made to make us stop striving for the “better”. It’s good to live a life full of achievements, but it’s “better” to live a life full of meaning. I know someone who lives this way, and I can honestly say that he’s one of the happiest and most inspirational person I’ve ever met. I think the reason why he’s different from any other achiever I know is that he knows where his portion is. He knows his boundaries and let go with it. He, as he told me, “remember God at least 2 hours a day”. Maybe, these 2 hours are the time when he starts being grateful of what he has. And then move on with life. And continue to achieve greater things but keeping the satisfaction down to the right level. That way, he lives a beautiful life but still full of struggle.

Having more doesn’t keep you from wanting more.

The only thing I can say is that ambition, desire, want, they all got their expiration dates. Once they’re gone you’ll feel empty. It will be gone, no matter how hard you shake your head in disbelief. And when the time comes, like now, I think I’ll try to execute the secret of happiness. To be satisfied. To be grateful. For what I have. For the love I receive.

 

And for what God has given me.

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Congraduation, P Rei!

CONGRADUATION YA REINHARDT ALBERT MATONDANG, S.T.!!

This piece of writing is dedicated to my graduating friend, Reinhardt Albert Matondang, PN 08. This is also a tribute to Anastasia Ratna Wahyu Wijayanti, PL 08.

October 20, 2012 is supposed to be the day where I’ll take pictures with you wearing toga, but for some unfortunate reasons, that never happened. Om tante tolong dong anaknya jangan langsung diculik ke Jakarta, kasih waktu ikut arak-arakan dulu huhuhuhuks. Anyway,I decided to make this blog post in the hope that your graduation doesn’t only pass as picture-less. HAHA.

So, your graduation, it is. After all those TA things, now you finally have that S.T. title behind your name! Yeah! It’s overwhelming loh to see people I know are graduating ….. and I’m left here, loveless as ever #eaaaa. Oke Bahasa aja deh haha.

CONGRADUATION YA REINHARDT ALBERT MATONDANG, S.T.!!

Tulisannya luntur. Emang dasar naas sih.

Sumpeh, lo adalah partner nista gue yang paling pol. Dengan kelulusan lo dan Nana, resmilah sudah saya ditinggal sendiri di Bandung bersama segala kegalauan hati. 😦 Udah 1 taun berlalu sejak sesi curhat tanpa filter samsek di bawah pohon Arsi, pas kita tiga-tiganya masih jomblo dan berbagi kisah pahit manis masing-masing. Nana finally menemukan pendamping duluan yang ternyata adalah anak jurusan lo, oke dunia sempit. Tapi gue masih merasa fine fine aja karena masih ada lo sesama jomblo, jadi gue masih bisa bernista. YES. DUNIA MASIH ADIL.

Kalo dipikir-pikir entah kenapa gue, lo, dan Nana ditakdirkan menjalani perjalanan ke Bangkok bersama-sama. Dari awal pun gue ngerasa bakal nyambung banget sama kalian, sementara awalnya kalian ngeliat gue sebagai… “Dewi Khayangan ITB pengurus Asosiasi Artis Gerbang Depan aka nampang mulu di baliho”.

:’)

Anyway, kenapa gue se-niat ini sampe bikin blog post tentang lo adalah karena……. GUE SEDIH KARENA TRIO NISTA GUE UDAH PINDAH SEMUA DARI BANDUNG! 😦 Demi apapun gue akan kangen sesi traktiran setiap ulang tahun yang dilakukan bergantian, karaoke dimana kalian gak nyangka suara gue bagus (ehem), dan semua sesi ngobrol ngalor ngidul yang bisa makan berjam-jam dan terlalu jujur. Kemaren pas lo masih kerja di A*******************, gue ngerasa kehilangan orang yang bisa diajak cerita tentang segala macem.  Kehilangan! Soalnya lo-nya kan udah serius kerja nih ceritanya, apalah artinya cerita cimik-cimik gue tentang hidup ini. Makanya kemaren gue seneng banget bisa ngobrol panjang lagi sama lo, karena gak mudah menemukan orang yang mau (dan mampu) ngeladenin semua curhatan labil gue tentang cowok yang ‘ehem zzz haha hm yaya’ gitu. Iya kan iya kannnn.

Yaudah deh segitu sih. Intinya mah selamat menempuh hidup baru lah ya. I’m gonna miss you and Nana so damn much, you know 🙂

dan tetep, wish gue buat lo (dan gue)

Semoga kami segera mendapat jodoh yang lolos seleksi administratif maupun seleksi substantif, dipercepat, dalam tempo yang sesingkat-singkatnya. Amin.

Tambahan deh wish buat lo,

Semoga segera dipertemukan dengan karir cemerlang di perusahaan konsultan multinasional dengan gaji selangit dan kesempatan S2 MBA di Amerika Serikat. AMIN.

Maaf banget norak. Maaf banget kalo lo malu punya temen kayak gue yang nulisnya ngaco. Ini yang tadinya mau gue kasih ke lo tapi ga jadi karena lo-nya ga ada. Ini buket bunga ukurannya lebih besar daripada rata-rata, hasil perjuangan nawar di gerbang belakang.

Ta-da! Tebak gue dapet harganya berapa

Semoga lo adalah sukses selalu. Semoga tiang-tiang baliho di gerbang depan segera dikembalikan ke tempat seharusnya, supaya gue bisa nampang lagi di gerbang depan sebelum keburu lulus taun depan. Amin.

Selamat Wisuda!

-Marsha-

Multivariate Analysis of The Failure of My Recent Love Story

Why did it stop? Why did he lose interest? (Or, it seems that he did?)

After telling the whole story, my boy-friends gave their analysis about my problem. For me, it opens up a new view on understanding the way these XY-chromosome people think. You may, as I do, agree with them.

Talking to boy-friends feels different ya. They give honest analysis, not just the cheer up lines or a set of broken heart-y songs like what girl-friends do.

I like the fact that I can have honest conversations with my boy-friends because I don’t have to risk falling in love. We’re and will always be in bro zone anyway. So telling them about my love story becomes quite exciting.

Disclaimer: It’s gonna be a LONG post. I’ve warned you. But who knows you may find it interesting? It’s an analysis, after all. We engineers love analysis. Right? 😉

BACKGROUND

There’s this man I’ve been thinking about lately. Like any other love story it wanders off quite easily. A bit reciprocating sentences, inexplicable response to unimportant things, heated up gossips between mutual friends and random late night talks about nothing but worth staying up for. It all went smoothly for a while. I could feel the expectation going up inside my heart, tried to dismiss the feeling I wish I’d never feel again. When you’ve fallen to the trap of liking or loving someone, things get quite blurry and you suddenly lose the sense of differentiating between what’s real and unreal.

Suddenly, everything stopped.

I don’t know exactly what caused the catastrophe. I did try to be as friendly as possible. I personally agree that I’ve been working quite hard to ensure that this particular process goes naturally casual, because after a careful analysis, I assumed that this man would step back if I suddenly turned too aggressive. So I did what I thought was right. Replied text messages without thinking too much about his response, so as to keep the conversation going on. Avoided personal questions, put some funny things worth smiling on, adjusted to the fact that this man was very, very shy.

So why? Why did it stop? Why did he lose interest? (Or, it seems that he did?)

After telling the whole story, my boy-friends gave their analysis about my problem. For me, it opens up a new view on understanding the way these XY-chromosome people think. You may, as I do, agree with them.

THE ANALYSIS

First, they point out that the beginning of the failure might stem from the fact that I am always surrounded by my girl gang. Sounds so high school, right? I have some close friends that I often go out with, including for lunch at campus. We talk about shits. We gossip. We do everything that a group of girls do. We share problems. We laugh until our stomach hurts. We talk without filters. We’re best friends with each other. Now the question is, why is it a problem?

I truly can’t explain this, BUT they say it DETERS men to try approaching someone who is a part of this kind of group. The reason, they say, is that they are afraid of being the ‘trending topic’. They don’t want to be the object of gossip. They don’t want their private life being exposed, but they know that they can’t help being talked about in this kind of girl gang. You get the idea?

My interpretation: “I wanna be close to you, but that doesn’t mean that I have to befriend 9 people at once. Since you can’t do that, okay then, bye”.

RRRIGGHHTT. My friends are indirectly ruining my romance! God this feels like a totally new horizon.

Second, is about image. Someone told me that it takes liking the ‘image’ before the ‘inner’. For men, no matter how beautiful someone’s inner beauty is, the only certain thing required to make them interested is how that person looks. This definitely does not only mean “sense of fashion” or “sexy and slim body”. No, they say, it’s more than that (for the intelligent, of course. Other men with lower level of education/assholes/playboys/one-night-stand-er may have different perspective). They say, it’s about liking what this girl seems to be on the surface. And it’s relative. They may like it calm, mother-like, bubbly, noisy, or even rambunctiously chaotic.

Now, when they get to know a girl deeper, they may discover that this girl doesn’t seem to be what this girl seems on the surface (uh, multi-layered sentence). In my case, my boy-friends told me that this particular subject might have liked what I looked like. And then, going back to the first problem: the girl gang. And he saw the me I portrayed when I was with my girl gang.

Or he might have discovered it in other ways, like, “Oh, she’s not what I think she is! So this is her in her everyday life. Jeez, it’s better to drift away. I like her calmness and seriousness and her intellectually enchanting radiance, where do they go? Okay I can’t take it anymore, no no I can’t stand someone’s problem like that. That’s your problem not mine. You’re too full of drama, I’m definitely not looking for drama. BYE”.

RRRIGGHHTT.

Third, this particular person might as well be AFRAID of COMMITMENT. This correlates with the fact that maybe, just maybe, this person already has a lot to think about. TOO BUSY, y’all! For men, it’s all about being superior. Lots of important things to think about. Girls should be put on secondary priority. They think that girls are overburdening because they add problems instead of reducing problems. “I have to do this this this and this this this…wait, there’s more!”. True, sometimes they’ll miss the feeling of being cared by the opposite gender. But when workloads come over they know where they have to go.

My comment on this:

Hello, anyone out there who happens to be experiencing this kind of thing. I don’t know about other girls, but one thing I know: for lady engineers, overflowing workloads are our daily intake. If it’s with me, for example, you don’t have to worry. I KNOW how it feels to have lab, tests, quizzes, organizational activities, personal problems, PMS and physical sickness all at one time and still manage to snatch the Outstanding Student award. Yes, I’m a chemical engineer who eventually stays alive, and that means surviving a bloody crazy war zone. My point is that I’ve been accustomed to being independent. If we happen to be a couple, I’ll ask your permission of whether I’m allowed to interrupt your work. Overburdening? Not quite right.

This is the advantage of dating lady engineers: we’re logical. We’ve mastered the art of prioritizing. Girls out there fret about girly stuffs, about bad hair day and non-glossy lipsticks, we do fret about not having better grade in fluid mechanics.

And after all, we have our girl friends to rely on. If you’re too busy, we’re gonna stick to them like how we’ve always been. And once you have free time on weekends, we’re gonna have candle light dinner together. Correct?

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

After the lengthy analysis, you readers esp. girls may think, “SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION???”.

Sorry people, I still haven’t figured out that one yet. My boy-friends suggest that I can only sit down, watch, wait, and pray. To add some more solutions:

  1. If it’s related with the analysis #1, the only thing I can think of is pray that the next time I see him, he’ll see me without my girl gang and eventually realize that people can be different in different occasions. What I do with my friends is not almost always the reflection of what I do with myself. Don’t generalize, you know.
  2. If it’s related with the analysis #2, it’s quite hard, they say. Because it’s your image that has been crushed down in their PoV. Okay, one last attempt: hey man, I assure you that you’re going to date ME, not my issues. You have my word on that.
  3. If it’s related with the analysis #3, well, I’ve pointed out the way it works on the comment section. If that’s not enough, then we may as well not get together.
  4. If it’s the worst case scenario, like he’s found someone who suits him better, then I’ll have three things to say: a) It’s not like I’ve never had my heart broken; b) I’ve had the experience of not being chosen so it’s not something new; c) As beautifully written by Chelsea Fagan, “I wish there were a more complex way to phrase the sense of drained sadness that I feel about the biting competition that is palpable between women, a word that would perhaps do more nuanced justice to all of the social dynamics at play, but there isn’t”.

Last but not least, when all is said and done and when there’s no room for improvement, I’d like to quote Gaby Dunn:

You just found me in the wrong universe. That’s all. This is, as they say, the darkest timeline. Everywhere else, nay, “everywhen” else — us in the Civil War, us in Ancient Egypt, us in the swinging ’60s — we are happy.

Because you could have loved me forever. And maybe in another universe, I let you.

CONCLUSION

If things don’t go better, maybe you just found me in the wrong universe. 🙂

Tell me, kay? If you don’t want me, tell me so I’ll know, and I can direct my investment to something more profitable.

Thank you! 😛