It’s been hard to write about 2017. I have delayed this writing for about 2 months since I promised myself that I’d finish it by New Year’s Eve – yet here I am, in a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon, slowly aching to assemble my memories.
Maybe I’d rather not finish 2017.
Maybe that’s the reason why it was so hard to put into words.
I ended 2016 with a high note.
The first few months into my new job and everyone was already satisfied with my work. I had a great team, a great boss, and I was heading into a great new adventure – in short, I couldn’t wait to start 2017.
And, boy was it a good start.
Who would’ve thought that I’d be an expat by the time I’m 25 years old?
I couldn’t have had better people to accompany me in all the busy-ness of moving in. I had 36 hours of Wednesday, and by Friday I was already in Gigi’s car when she drove me around Boston and Cambridge. My heart swelled with pride as I pictured the 2011 me walking at Stuart St, my first snow shower, my heart broken by a guy somewhere across the world, and I promised myself that I’d come back to this city although I didn’t know how.
I caught myself smiling while eating Chinese takeout in a cold mid-February winter.
Everything that followed was too good to be true. But it was true. Somehow God decided to align every stars for a fresh a new start. Somehow God pressed a pause button on my life, and I was put in a ‘perpetual happiness’ mode. It was as if God said, “You’ve been having rough journeys. Here’s your reward, enjoy it while it lasts”.
Some of my friends asked me how it felt to start living in a new country, so far away from home without any acquaintance around, and I tell you, that was actually one of the best feelings in the world. I was free to be myself, in a world who knows nothing about me. The world whose judgment I couldn’t care less, and in that world, I didn’t have to pretend to be anything I was not.
Needless to say it didn’t take much time for me to get accustomed to my new home. I moved to a beautiful apartment in an 18th-century brownstone building in the coveted area of Back Bay, and ever since then, my life was in a constant travel mode.
I spent my 25th birthday in two cities: Boston and Atlanta. My boss didn’t know that it was my birthday weekend, and when he knew, he gathered his former team to celebrate in a very Southern restaurant. My first Southern food experience… and I had that slice of carrot cake too 😉
Work-wise, honestly it wasn’t too much of a hassle, despite the fact that there were so many changes in the Digital business I was assigned in. Everyone was trying to catch up with the everlasting quest to understand the latest guidelines. But compared to the work I did in Asia, be it in this company or my former companies, I can testify that for the same level in the corporate ladder, workload in the US is easier compared to what I had back home. And I felt like everyone actively tried to enforce the work-life balance. Senior-junior interactions were more loose, I could be more open to push new ideas, and I never felt like my presence was not being validated despite having less experience in the industry.
Being assigned as a GME (Global Mobility Employee) also allowed me to take courses that are normally conducted in the US. It was hard to get approvals for it since I was based in Asia, thus travel costs would be much more expensive. Utilizing my then-current location, of course I enrolled. And of course it was awesome.
If anyone asks what is my best CLP moments, I’ll definitely put Power Plant Fundamentals course as one of those. Not the course itself, but that rare moment when I felt like I was truly a part of such global community. Look at that picture above, we have like 10 nationalities represented there! The camaraderie was there, the togetherness, and even though we’re all going to graduate in a couple of months, I’m glad to know that these people are always going to be my friends in another part of the world.
I was also very fortunate to be able to attend a course at Crotonville. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know what Crotonville is, it is basically the beacon of leadership and management practices of GE that any GE employee would be honored to get a chance to have a taste of it. LOL so excessiveeeeee but, come on, it’s a really beautiful place (did I mention full of food) that enabled active learning and accelerated the formation of fresh ideas.
And of course I had to make a little detour to Washington, D.C. and visited it for the second time after 2011!
Now let me tell you, my friend. When you had too much fun, the universe would most likely conspire to make you have it less. Because the world is not made to nourish human happiness. The world is.just.freaking.cruel. Nothing you can do or say will ever change the fact that you are NOT ALLOWED to be in a constant state of happiness. Therefore, May 2017 witnessed the formation of some ugly foreseeable future which everyone in my class despised to the bone.
Thus began the start of a whirlwind journey into the abyss of dismay and regrets.
But before that, let’s just go to Mexico.
Because I could.
Monica was undoubtedly my best travel partner of the year! We had the same interests: food, museums/palaces/gardens, and always on the hunt for beautiful pictures…. For instagram. For our mothers who were always worried that their daughters would somehow turn into a drug dealer and they needed proof that we were okay. For our mothers’ social media. Basically for everyone who was concerned. We even came back during golden hour to this Palacio just to snap the best light. And suddenly the dark grey sky cleared into a beautiful ray of golden sunlight….. that disappeared right after we finished taking photos. Such a magical moment.
I didn’t skip fasting in Mexico, but still somehow managed to taste all the good food. Tacos, mule, nachos, BEST CHURROS in the world, and let me tell you that Burritos didn’t actually come from Mexico. I’ll stop right here before I get more and more hungry.
June ended with a slice of home in the faraway land. Somehow I managed to find a bunch of other Indonesians in town and bonded over a lowkey Lebaran celebration. Libertyyyy after 18-hours of fasting everyday!
After Lebaran, it was the month when I did everything solo. Inhaled in the deepest breath. Took everything to heart because I wanted to treasure all those feelings in a safe vault that I’d preserve in a cute little corner of my heart, as a reminder that I was, and I hope I can still be, happy. Took pictures because I needed some proof that good mornings did exist. Crossed everything off my bucket list while I still could. And enjoyed every hike of the temperature before things got colder… figuratively.
And one last icing on the cake before things start going downhill…..
I think this is a good time to start talking about Kelly and Mary Beth. They are two beautiful souls who accompanied me through the ups and downs that you would not see… cause it’s behind these pictures that only captured my happy moments. Mary Beth was my landlord, and she’s the kindest landlord of all the kindest landlord. She introduced me to Kelly, and I had been going upstairs to Kelly’s apartment ever since then. We got together for Meditation Mondays. I hugged my “pink pillow” when I felt like life wasn’t fair. And throughout these encounters, they echoed some of the things that I’ve long forgotten about myself. Some of the things that I could only feel when I was finally detached from my baggage of sadness, loneliness, or everlasting strive to be excellent when I was home in Indonesia. Never had I felt that I was free to be whatever I wanted to be. And it’s, sadly, very rare to have someone telling me that I am good. That I am enough, and I don’t have to be so hard on myself.
You are doing a huge service to our world. When you feel stress it is not from inside of you. It is from the imbalances in our world. What is inside you, Marsha, is a pure joy.
I was very sad to leave these two people I love. If there was anyone who made Boston felt like home, it’s them. I hope they are happy. I hope they know that they have taught me how to love myself better. And I hope they know, that when I feel sad, I look at that painting of Beacon Street I put on my desk and I think of them.
We had a lovely early dinner at BPL courtyard, took take-outs from Dig Inn.
There’s this scene I remember afterwards. I was on board a Delta flight before taking off. I was on a window seat, and two passengers beside me were a mother and her daughter. I was about to have one of the saddest break down of my life when the daughter called someone on the phone (presumably her aunt whom she spent summer with) and sobbed uncontrollably,
“I don’t want to leave. Can you hear me? I just don’t. Let me go back to you and (a baby’s name). I’m not ready for school yet. I’m happy with you (the aunt’s name). Please please just take me back. I can’t do this, I don’t wanna leave, I’ll leave this plane, I still have time, okay??”
I was like, heck, I wanted to be sad but this girl was even sadder. Her mom had to comfort her when the flight attendant asked her to turn off her phone and she refused. She cried and cried afterwards.
I felt like she was there as an affirmation that I was allowed to be sad. I put on my headphone, slowly pretended to look out of the window when that damn “Leaving on A Jet Plane” song played out of nowhere. I swear it was that song on my headphone. And I cried.
A good 10-minutes passed after I continuously sobbed, then something happened.
There was a baby in front of my seat. She somehow turned to me on her mother’s lap and touched me. She freaking touched me. When I looked up, she had the most angelic, reassuring smile ever. And in that instance, I knew it was over. I knew I had to move on, so I smiled back.
And I landed in Atlanta with a lighter heart.
(to be continued)