2016: A Reflection on Risk, and Taking The Road Less Traveled

2016 was a risky year. It was always in the verge of missteps and miscalculations, resulting in one of the most dynamic and unpredictable years that modern human beings have ever seen. True to the global trend, my 2016 was also very risky: it once again threw me out of the safe haven.

Today, at the edge of December, I want to reflect back on the huge risk I dared myself to plunge into, and how taking the road less traveled (literally and figuratively), has made all the difference.

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Oh yes. It takes a bloody sharp knife to shape a diamond.

By the way, I always create an annual blog post, but I forgot to make one for 2015. I think more or less it’s because 2015 was so flat. I lived my 2015 in an autopilot mode. Turns out that in crafting a career, you need something else that makes you feel fulfilled, even if you have a fantastic paycheck. I kinda had it at the back of my head, but I didn’t dare to do anything about it…. until it was done to me.

Ironically, the suicide spot of a Chinese emperor in Jingshan Hill became a witness for a change of direction.

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There, there… the dark shadow of Imperial Palace before my eyes. Here in this place I surrendered myself to the Hands of Fate, just like Emperor Chongzhen did when Beijing was invaded by the rebels.

In a sense, I actually took a calculated risk. A well-calculated one. It wasn’t like the decision to give up everything for Netherlands 2 years ago. This time, it involved opinions from a wide range of people, which produced a sound judgement.

2016 witnessed the decision to leave my coveralls with a heavy heart.

I cherished everyone I met and life lessons learned. Field life changes someone, in one way or another. It taught me to be a better decision makers, to remain calm in high-pressure situation, to foster teamwork with blue collar workers, to prioritize safety, to be a leader in a man’s world, to manage financial issues, and not to mess with integrity. It was a very enriching experience, one that can make you become much, much wiser.

And the friendships made are indispensable.

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Last karaoke in Duri, with some of the people who made living in a jungle worth it

In the aftermath of this event, I started a new habit – meditation. I joined some yoga classes, and they always had this 5-10 minutes of sitting still. I didn’t know whether I did it right, but there was this one particular session of 30 minutes meditation (I followed videos online) where I was totally absorbed. Then I heard my own inner voice saying,

You are never a failure. You are never a failure.

It touched me so deep until I burst into tears.

From that day on, I revamped my CV, and had this one strong prayer: to be guided into one, only one, right path. I began to question what I would do if I weren’t afraid; what I would choose if I only had myself to satisfy. I had secured some offers that I was still reluctant to accept, but learning from past confusions, I wasn’t good at being given choices. I’d rather being given a choice by God, rather than deciding for myself. Alhamdulillah, Allah heard my prayers.

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The start of my GE careers!

 

There are so many things that you will feel once you’re in the track of being a corporate worker. Sometimes things are tough at the office. Sometimes you wonder what it feels like to work in another company. Sometimes you think the work load is too intense. Sometimes you think it’s better if you work somewhere which gives you much more compensation and benefit.

But now, in my 3rd job out of college, having been in worse situation makes it difficult for me to just give up whenever the work load gets tough. At least I’m not alone here in this position, unlike my 1st job. I don’t measure work satisfaction based on money as the sole criteria anymore, because I’ve been in a situation where I can get money easily with half the effort, and still feel like there’s something missing. I also realize that I LOVE international atmosphere, even with late night (or early morning) conference calls. Plus, I enjoy business trips. :p I think all these lessons extracted from my previous job experiences contribute a lot in making me a happier person, professionally.

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Power CLP Class of 2017 and 2018. There are 26 people from all over the world in Class of 2018, and I’m the only Indonesian. In a sense… I have to be a great performer because I don’t want to embarrass my country 🙂

2016 was also a year packed with travel times, be it for business or for pleasure. I’m so thankful to be able to step my feet in so many cities this year: Kuala Lumpur, Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Seminyak + Ubud (Bali), Dubai, Budapest, Seoul, Surabaya, Sabang, and Banda Aceh. I love the stories through the air, friendships made, bucket lists checked, local food tasted, and that feeling of being a tiny-tiny-tiny dot in this huge universe whenever I travel somewhere I’ve never been before. I will let these pictures do the talk 😀

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Kuala Lumpur. Not the real Petronas Twin Towers… but you get the idea 😉
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Checking one item off my bucket list. GREAT WALL OF CHINA!
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Science-themed bridal shower for our bride to be -Rea- in Seminyak, Bali
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Dubai with my lovely family in UAE
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Budapest, Hungary… felt like a dream. My first time ever of going to Europe.
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Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. I intended to visit Korea next year (another Twins trip), but who knows I had a chance to visit it this year. Alhamdulillah.
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Finally, Sabang and Banda Aceh concluded my 2016 travel journal. Had so much fun with Chevron mates, and got a wake up call to strengthen my faith after learning from so many miracles occurred during 2004 Tsunami disaster.

My favorite trip? Tough question, but I think I’ll pick China. It’s my first backpacker-style trip, and being able to go to a country without any guide, where you literally have to figure everything out by yourself, is amazing. My twin brother is my best travel mate for sure, and I’m really looking forward to travel together with him somewhere in the near future!

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The best travel partner of the year goes to… my twin brother!

The Love Department is the only underperforming part of 2016, which is understandable because you can never have it all at the same time 🙂 But it doesn’t mean that this year hasn’t brought much improvement: it is, after all, a year when I learned the important fact that I don’t have to be sorry for who I am. There are always people who just don’t want to be with you, and it’s not because you are too much of a good thing. Likewise, I learned that empowerment is also about accepting the fact that you have to let go of someone, or something, who doesn’t give you added value anymore. I am so depressed by being a single 24 years old girl, I am so longing to find someone to make me believe that not every man has the intention of hurting people they love, but I finally realize that my happiness is not dictated by someone else who fills a void in me. Allah knows that I will never love someone halfheartedly… that I need to be my whole self before I’m ready to live a life with someone who is destined for me. I’m too fragile – as I’ve always been – and perhaps having the time and space reserved for myself is the only way to restore the faith that is lost towards the opposite gender.

At the end of the day, 2016 is that one year where you’re finally be able to see the big picture, look back through the rearview mirror and understand that everything happens for a reason… and everything that happened actually makes sense. Subhanallah.

2017 is already peeking through my Inbox *wink 😉 and I have high hopes that it will turn into an even more fantastic year for all of us.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!

Beyond Repair

It is one week before three years.

The last time I ever felt that deep, soothing, embarrassing, red feeling of non-quantifiable warmth seeping, like from afar, yet it inhumed every doubt I ever had in the past 548 days before. It was extremely delicate and light that seemed too perfect to be readily available by my very eyes. I thought that perhaps, the odds were finally in my favor… but what was ethereal, I learned, should be treated cautiously. If it was surreal, it was probably never real.

Of course it wouldn’t end in an Eden filled with blooming flowers and colorful leaves. Of course it was doomed. Of course someone ate the forbidden fruit.

Of course I was wrong.

Grief that was carefully concealed, moved to the land of possibilities. The entire performance was imbued with sparkle and elan, until finally someone needed a fresh air to breath. To think. To realize that the malefic seed was gnawing every last drop of confidence that was seriously crafted.

You can put faces outside, soaked in a beautiful blue lagoon, sip the finest cocktails, enjoy the most luxurious box of chocolates. But the hollow, the cavity, that concave little hole of shit, is not to be treated with a drugstore receipt. A profound understanding of why and how it happened, the consequences, the possible treatment, the alternatives, are to be considered in a well, thoughtful manner.

You could be ruined beyond repair.

Until the point that what was once nifty piece of work seems to be dull and outdated. The idea is obsolete. The people are assholes. And everything associated with this beautiful grace is in no way more than cock-and-bull story. It was magical, it is still supposed to be magical, but your senses are telling you that it is all unreal.

Roots of bitterness clasp you hard enough to break your conviction. That at the end of the day, the world is nourishing human loneliness. Just what is the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all in the pilgrimage of soul-searching, tumbled across roses filled with thorns.

Someone will be at the end of this tunnel, waiting to restore the belief that is lost, to show another person that love and compassion are still alive, and very much relevant. Everyone else is enjoying this sweet delicacy — it is not a privilege.

It truly should not be a privilege. It’s supposed to be a basic human right that is not too difficult to access.

Only wish for one thing: no more pyrrhic tales. Please. Make real-life halcyon days a reality.

Rest well, lovely souls. If I can, I will put you in my prayers. Good night.

The Best Revenge

These days, I got so fed up with these noises in my daily life:

Why don’t you have a boyfriend?

Guys are intimidated by you. (or some variations of you’re too smart/too accomplished/too irritating/too outspoken/too blah blah blah)

You need to get married really, really soon.

You’re going to have a tough time raising kids if you’re not pregnant by the time you’re 24/25/26.

You’re too picky. Way too picky. You have an unattainable standard.

Don’t be a workaholic/Don’t be career woman. Women are meant to settle down.

[Somebody’s mom] has a son and he’s ready to get married, let me introduce you…

[A random, out of nowhere someone] is single, [matchmaking begins]

 

You know what? I’m sick of this. It makes me feel like I’m a total failure just because I have no boyfriend, no solid plan of getting married in the near future, have no idea or time or money to invest in meeting someone, and basically not adhering to society’s standard.

I’m sick of failed relationships because I’ve had my fair share of broken hearts and I’m traumatized by that. I’m sorry, but that happens. Love is basically an unwanted byproduct. I know I have to settle down someday and I have to accept anyone who comes into my life when it has reached its own “cut-off”, but not right now, no?

I mean, come on, people. I’m 24. It’s not like I have my life stops here — my life has just begun. And I just want to live it in my own pace, peacefully.

Alas, society’s expectations always affect me profoundly.

But now, it’s time to take charge. It’s time to take into account the things that I can control. After all, I can do so much and let go of the rest. Love is uncontrollable, because it’s never logical. Somebody just pops out from somewhere, and I seriously cannot plan when and how and with whom I do fall in love with. So after a series of depressing deliberations, I finally set my mind, body, and soul into this one thing:

My objective is to make 2016 – 2018 my new 2011 – 2013.

The timing and circumstance is just strikingly similar: international atmosphere, a painful recovery from a broken heart, single as fuck, pumped up with ambitions, and generally happy and content with myself. The last time I did this, I had one of my best revenges. Heartbreaks have always been my start of something amazing.

Because I want to show the people who hurt me that they were wrong… that I wasn’t just a waste of space.

I know I will always have this soft side where I know I can never be enough by being with myself, but at least I’ll have it right:

Aren’t you supposed to be with the best person when you have transformed into the best version of yourself?

 

 

What I’ve Learned From Being Single

It’s my 16th month of being single and I’ve just finished reading a novel titled “How To Be Single”, so it’s easy to imagine where I might have drawn the inspiration of this post from. But really, I think I’ve had these thoughts fleeting in my mind for a couple of months now, after I’ve recovered from all the bad dramas of a broken relationship and endless, sleepless nights where tears stained my pillows almost permanently every night.

After all the crazy break ups with the people I could picture a life with, you would think that I would go crazy and believe that all this hype of love and being loved is just a pure lie, or more accurately, a freaking bullshit.

 

Well, I did think about it that way.

 

But then I changed my mind.

 

So here are some of my thoughts on what I’ve learned from being single:

 

  1. You are not entitled to have the obligation to live your life alone

 

A girl can dream. And one of her biggest dream is to have someone who loves her and who stays by her side in going through this whirlwind of life’s mischief, together. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it takes a shamanic magic to make that come true – what with all the beautiful girls out there that our possible prince charming could choose – but it’s a pathetic idea to live a life alone. REALLY. So even though my heart is broken, and my former man has flown away with his own choice to leave me, and my soul is writhing by picturing another possible failed dates, I promise myself that I will love again, and someone will love me back, again. How will that happen? I don’t know. I guess it’s time to believe in miracles.

 

  1. How will that happen? Treat your love life as seriously as you would treat your professional life

 

Because things are simply getting a bit serious.

I think that at some points, it just dawns on you that you need to settle down. Especially in this Indonesian (or Asian) culture in general, it’s hard to dodge the sad, earth-shattering fact that women are STILL treated differently when they are unmarried. No matter how successful you are in your career, no matter how financially stable, full of achievements, gorgeous looking, I-have-it-all you are, this sick society is still going to pity you. That’s the word. But they don’t do so to men, not as often and as intense.

(And they’re going to suddenly do awkward things to hide their judgments when you tell them you’re single, but your instinct works, thank you very much)

I don’t want to be pitied for the rest of my life, so I at least have made a plan. When I’ve reached a point where my professional life is stable enough, which means I have a satisfying job with at least a clear career development plan for the next five years and it pays all my bills and my needs, I will hunt for a man. No kidding. Hunt for a man. I will be in charge of my own happiness and be a high achiever in my love life as well. I will improve my appearances, search everywhere, ask my friends to set me up on dates, enlarge my circle of acquaintances, do religious rituals, and I even think of online dating. I’m not pathetic, I’m just increasing the odds of getting married and having children and being free to soar high in my own professional life without “being feared by men who are attracted to you”, and finally letting the society shut up. It’s a goddamn free country and I’m allowed to make a personal project.

 

Well, not now, but not too far from now. Maybe in less than five years.

 

  1. Even so, you still deserve someone who loves you back the way you want them to

 

That’s why I find it odd that some of my girl friends are still in a relationship where they are constantly hurting. What’s the point of being in a relationship where there is a constant need to explain yourself over and over again to someone who just don’t understand? What I learned from all of my failed romances, if I can learn anything, is that communication is key. Be brave and tell them you’re disappointed, angry, and unsatisfied. Explain the logic behind your statements. The wrong ones will shrug it off and tell that you’ve been overthinking it or you’re being too pushy but if they really love you, they are going to compromise for the better. Especially if it’s about fundamental concerns. If they aren’t, you may be settling for less than what you deserve.

Don’t expect men to understand or read between the lines. It never happens.

 

  1. Do not, do not, take your partner for granted

 

When I was in a relationship, a partner’s presence was appreciated, expected, and then taken for granted. But when I’m single, it’s just I’ve been reminded of how convenient it was to have someone ready to hear all your stories, offer consolation and assurance that everything’s gonna be okay, and simply be there to give emotional support. Sometimes, we’ve got so used to having someone spare their time, money, and energy to be with us. We complain about the inability to go to some fancy cafes, the long distance, the “very rare phone calls this week!”, less gifts and romantic gestures. Finally, when your partner has flown away to spend 2 days with you, thousand of kilometers away from their workplace, and you complain about not being able to spend the whole week of his days off together, think again.

Think of how sometimes, your partner is underappreciated. When you’re single, this is something you’re going to miss.

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Picture’s taken from here 
  1. And finally, as they say, miracles happen every day

 

I recall that I could be in a relationship with a new, exciting guy, always at the time when I felt content with myself.

I have always been a desperate romantic, and my everyday state is being mildly desperate about my lousy love life. But there have been times when I got so desperate I even went on being depressed. Then I realized that no one, no one in this world would love me if I hadn’t been able to love myself. So I did, and I am still trying to. Because people are drawn to somebody who is enjoying what life has to offer. Somebody who is happy, and has a positive outlook on life. Someone like this evokes a radiant, irresistible glow, and who doesn’t want to be with someone like that?

I think I’m perfectly okay and qualified to meet the one. It’s just that for now, I haven’t been finished with my own life, and somehow that has created a barrier to let someone else’s life mixes in with mine. Perhaps I need to let go of my fears, and my unhappiness, and my constant worry and negativity. Only then can I let someone get into this hidden shell.

 

Only then can I let myself find the love I’ve always dreamed of.

The Miscarriage of Hopes and Dreams

We don’t always get what we want or how we want it.

Everybody tells us to think positively, to keep the hopes and dreams alive. Whenever we encounter any failure, we are told that there is a reason behind every unfortunate event. A better way ahead. A better life to live. A bigger plan than what we’ve had for ourselves. All the more reasons to keep moving forward.

Rarely in these occasions that we have the sad, hard truth shoved down our face. We naturally do not want to accept defeat. We are born to be brave warriors who bring home the news of victorious battles. It is even a challenge to, at times, not be impervious to losses and compromises. Because we are never born to be the losing ones, we are never born to accept the duality and double sides of a struggle.

But what if hopes and dreams are, in reality, the deadliest weapon of Pandora’s Box?

There are sadness, grievance, inequality, unfairness, and cruelty everywhere we look. But all these things don’t matter. Hopes and dreams can keep us alive. We succumb to this lovely idea that we are destined to be alright, and everything is taken care of beautifully at the end of the day. We need not to worry.

 

Bullshit.

 

I’d like to think that sometimes we have no other logical choice but to retreat and surrender. Sometimes it is just so.freaking.tiring to push through. And sometimes, it is best to acknowledge that yes, I am a failure. I am not as smart as I previously thought I was. That I am a grieving soul that need not to be pitied, and I am forever alone in my own journey of self-sacrificing. This is me, bare and vulnerable and acknowledging my loss, my heartache, my inability to cope with the vengeance that life offers, disguised as a deadly poison in a sparkling red crystal.

Sometimes it is best to understand that love, hopes, and dreams cannot hold a candle to overshadow pain.

It is indeed a pathetic and otherworldly idea. But as a human being, we cannot always live in this halo of positivity. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that these evils can just be swept under the rug. Negativity is there to keep us grounded, to keep our expectations properly managed, and to show us that yes, this world is not at all kind and compassionate. In a sense, it helps us create sound decisions that are not affected by the promises of fake hopes.

In the end, one will always end up believing. No matter how many times their hearts had been broken, no matter how little of its pieces still left after being menacingly bruised, no matter how each scar irks with endless savagery, no matter how many lonely nights they have spent with tears of grievance.

One will always end up believing, that someday, this will be worth it all. That there will be no more sad story, but likewise no cotton candy of happy endings.

 

And that is where the story serves its justifications right.

 

 

Everglow

 

You’ll never stop loving someone. 

Anyone who has carved their names in your heart can never stop being your someone special. There will always be something that reminds you of them. The particular way of how that person smiles. Their styles of writing. Their angles, habits, and behaviors. They change and morph over time, but there is always something that instantly piques your interest, whether or not they are the people you used to know.

Love is a powerful feeling.

So powerful until one dares to say that moving on is a myth. Or more precisely, there is no moving on from somebody. They live on in your life, more so in your memories. Affecting future decisions, emotional stability, and the way someone perceives the world around ’em. These particular people who have left our lives are the ones who leave their presence eternal — the ones who leave us with their everglow.

Let them go, you may.

Cherish the new people coming into your life. The ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. Time ticks and no one has got eternity for their sorrows at night. No one wants to dwell in the sea of torture for the rest of their lives.

But these people, though they might be gone,

The light that they left us will everglow.

“The light that you left me will everglow”

 

 

The Easy Way to Renew US Visa in Indonesia – Without Any Interview!

I got my first US Visa in December 2010, just two months before going to New York/Boston. I’ve since had this wild dream of going back to America before my visa expires in December 2015. Sadly, I haven’t got that other chance… 😦 But just when I thought my visa would end up being a token of memory in my passport, I read about “Interview Waiver Program” for Indonesian citizen.

Basically this program is a “shortcut” to renew your visa. You just have to drop the required documents at your nearest RPX Drop-Off location, and wait until your new visa and your passport(s) are mailed back. You don’t even need to come for an interview at the US Embassy! How convenient!! 😀

So, can everyone just renew their visas through this program?

Well, unfortunately not.

You’re eligible for Interview Waiver Program if you:

  1. Are an Indonesian passport holder
  2. Have a full validity visa (a visa that can be used for 5 years), B1/B2, F, J, C, C1/D type visa that was issued on or after June 1, 2007
  3. Are applying for the same type of visa as your previous one.
    For example, if you had F (Student) visa and now you want to apply for a B1/B2 (Business Travel), well, you can’t do it through Interview Waiver Program.
  4. Are >= 14 years old at the time your previous visa was issued
  5. Have all the passports since your previous visa was issued.
    For example, if you got your visa in 2007 and your first passport expired in 2012, that means in 2015 you currently use your second passport to travel. These two passports have to be sent to get your new visa.
  6. Have not been refused a US visa in the last 12 months
  7. Have never stayed in the US for >6 months with B1/B2 visa
  8. Have never been arrested or convicted for a crime

If you check YES to all those statements: CONGRATULATIONS! You can now start gathering the required documents.

Just like the regular US visa application process, you have to fill in the DS-160 form. Then you choose “Schedule Appointment” on the Embassy’s appointment system.

Wait, I thought you said “no interviews”? Why do I have to schedule an appointment?

As you go through the process, there will be a series of questions (the 8 questions I posted above), and after you’ve answered all the questions, you will be given the option to renew your visa via Interview Waiver Program. However, if you wish to follow the regular application process, you can click further to schedule an interview appointment in Jakarta/Surabaya.

How much do I have to pay for this?

The fee is just the same with regular process — when I applied in October 2015, it was US$ 160, paid at the nearest Standard Chartered bank.

After you have paid the fee, bank will give you a receipt. Save this receipt. After that, you need to go to RPX Drop-Off Location to deliver your documents. I sent it through RPX Bandung, Jl. Sampurna no. 12, (022) 2031800. Jl. Sampurna is on the way to Hasan Sadikin General Hospital (dude, just Google it up! :P)

What documents do I need to send?

You can ask your parents/friends/relatives to send the documents. You don’t need to come in person to RPX. I did ask my mom to bring our Kartu Keluarga, tho, as a precaution. These are the documents I sent:

REQUIRED DOCUMENTS:

  1. DS-160 Confirmation Page
  2. Current and prior passport containing your previous visa (I sent 2 passports of mine. Don’t worry, they will be safe)
  3. One photo size 5×5 cm taken within the last 6 months, adhered to US photo requirements (just go to the biggest photo service in your city, they most likely know what to do). Oh yeah, if you wear glasses, you don’t have to take it off in the photo.
  4. Dropbox confirmation letter –> you get this automatically after finishing DS-160 form
  5. MRV or EFT Receipt –> from Standard Chartered bank

OPTIONAL, BUT I SENT IT ANYWAY:

  1. A very rough travel plan to the US
  2. Proof of income
    I sent a photocopy of an offer letter from my current company, stating my basic salary per month. You can also sent a “rekening koran” from your bank account. The most important thing is that the examiners know that you have sufficient fund on your own to go and stay in the US for <6 months.

What if I don’t have any travel plan yet? I just want to renew my visa because it will expire soon. 

It’s okay. I don’t have  a concrete plan either. I just made a 3-column table stating that I’d fly from Jakarta to New York on 1 June 2016, travel in New York on 2-12 June 2016, stay at ABCD Hotel in Upper East Side, and go back to Jakarta on 12 June 2016.

The exact dates? You bet. I haven’t even bought any tickets 😀

Oh, I did enclose the contact details of my relative who lived and worked in US, tho. I don’t know if this becomes any factor of consideration by the examiner.

So that’s all you need to do!

You send all the documents, and wait for a new visa to arrive at the convenience of your home! 😀

Hope this helps anyone searching for the easy way to renew US Visa. Don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section below — I’d be happy to help!

References:

http://www.ustraveldocs.com/id/id-niv-b1b2iwp.asp

http://jakarta.usembassy.gov/visa/iwp.html

http://rpx.co.id/id/your-assistant/rpx-locator/