Unless you’ve been living under a rock, human beings are fighting the (arguably) biggest war ever in the modern history, sans the tanks and jet fighters. Virus rules. This is also on top of abnormalities of the weather, bombshell news from UK’s Royal Family, tensions between Iran and the US, et cetera. All in just the first 3 months of 2020.
It’s funny how I (and many other people) closed 2019 by basically saying that 2019’s been a bitch, and I (we) expected that 2020 would be kinder in delivering its lessons. Whatever the lessons are, it’s definitely not delivered in a kind way.
It’s delivered in my mom’s Tiger Mother style, no less.
Hard to believe that this photo was taken merely 5 months ago.
Travel plans of 2020? You wish.
Once again, the way life throws its timings is unpredictable. Indonesia didn’t even feel like COVID-19 was real until mid-March. I still celebrated my birthday peacefully and business seemed to run as usual. I then signed up for a weekend meditation retreat, where I had two blissful days without phones and any other means of communication. A very wise decision, because…
…by the time I came back, Jakarta was shaking.
We are indeed living in a VUCA world. In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. What we now know may as well be history, just like my parents’ holiday tickets that were supposed to be used in April. Although yes, we can prepare, but practically, hoping that life will always go in a way that we predict them to go is a useless fact.
In the meditation retreat, I was taught that reality is a constant flux. Take the sub-atomic level, for instance. A quark, the fundamental constituent of matter, consists of something that always changes. Your hot soup will be cold 5 minutes from now. A baby is not a baby anymore in several years. In other words, ironically, change really is the only constant. Therefore, in mindfulness practice, we have to distance ourselves from our thoughts. Because in the end, thoughts (and its friends, like worry, anxiety, etc.) come and go, just like life. They are made-up matters of one’s own self, and it’s not always true.
I may die next week, but I can also live 70 years from now. A pauper may be a billionaire, but a billionaire may also be bankrupt.
For every sun, there is moon. For every day, there is night. For every sadness, there is always happiness.
When I try to connect the learning I got with the world’s current situation, I conclude two things:
No matter how much I want to control what happens with my life, there are always variables that I cannot control.
The first step to beat the fear of uncertainty is to accept that uncertainty.
I am not immune to fear of uncertainty. My anxiety goes to the roof. All the shocking news, a twin who works daily at the hospital at the forefront of a pandemic, every inch of envy towards other people, every hurt imposed as a result of being compared with the society throughout my whole life, and every “what if” brought me down and continue to bring me down. But I’m starting to say, “Not now”. Not this second. Not if I have the power to say no. Not if a worry is made up by things that change anyways.
And this is a powerful realization.
I promised myself that I would take 2020 as an avenue to know myself deeper. I’m glad that I’m taking steps towards that goal, even as small as accepting that life happens. I will learn to meet my uncertainty with an open arms and be content with what I have and don’t have; with what I can and cannot control. And maybe, that way, I will begin to heal.
2019 is the year when I question everything: my current life, my past, my hopes and dreams, my choices, my circumstances, my friends, my lovers, my parents, my brother, society in general, and perhaps most of all: myself.
This is the year that really found new ways to break my heart.
Before delving deep into the layers of this year, let me start with a confession:
I had a strong intention of getting married by the time I’m 27 years old.
This was set way back when I was 10. I had these life goals etched into my childhood diary:
To never be out of top 3 in class every semester
To get into the best SMP and SMA in Bandung
To spend college life in ITB
To work in an oil & gas company
To get married by the time I turn 27 (I had my own reasons why this number was chosen)
and that’s it. It stopped at number 5. Because my 10 y.o. self was intoxicated by the promise of living happily ever after, so she didn’t know what would happen once a girl gets married to her prince charming.
I have to say, she was either a genius or a seriously flawed human being. In one fateful afternoon in Bandung, she made a self-fulfilling prophecy. Only 1 life goal remains, only 1 life goal misses its mark.
It’s one thing to adhere to society’s standard, which I never really cared for anyway, but it is also one thing to see myself failing on my own big picture. The thought of missing the execution of this life-long plan haunted me the entire year. This year, not only society or my family sees me as a failure, but I also see myself as a failure.
This year, I broke my own heart.
That never happened before.
I have a beef with number 7 and its multiples.
My first fight with other kids was when I was 7 (I’ve always been a good kid). My worst teenage year was in 2007. My worst year career-wise was in 2014 (2×7 = 14). Now that I think of it, 27 is also arguably the worst year of my 20s.
Whatever is happening between me and number 7, the symptoms have always been similar.
Five out of seven days, I feel worthless. I cry almost everyday, sometimes without any particular trigger. I tend to avoid going back home, this time it’s made easier by the fact that I don’t live under the same roof with my parents anymore. My sleep is not peaceful – I very often dream, whether it’s a good or bad dream. I have a hard time waking up because every day feels like another battle I want to avoid. My faith in religion takes deep downturns. I eat junk food. Things also escalated into an alarming state, something I’ve never seen or felt before, to the point where I decided to seek professional help.
I was a mess this year. I really was.
On the contrary, work has been going exceptionally well in 2019. It’s always happened this way: when one aspect of my life fails miserably, another one compensates. 2007 introduced me to the world of English debating, the most cherished part of my teenage years. In 2014, I had a very good boyfriend who helped me go through major twists and turns of my early career. In 2019, I have a great boss, a great job, surrounded by great colleagues, and keep getting compliments and some awards.
It didn’t happen without losses. 2019 is, after all, a “reset year” for my company. Looking back, I lost many of my colleagues this year… 16 people in total. I also couldn’t stop working – there were times when I took calls in between bathroom breaks; had night meetings 3-4 days a week; and covered up for colleagues who left. This exhaustion and constantly high stress level led to 7 days of being hospitalized, of which I commented on my first night in, “Wow… I really can sleep at 9 PM now?”.
I applaud my country team for going through this tough year. Maybe we are not the best team out there, but I can say for certain that I’ve witnessed an amazing teamwork right here in Jakarta, this impression that I will always carry with me wherever I go professionally. Against all odds, through literally sweat and tears and countless martabaks, we made this year possible. Maybe I am just a small part of it, but I have an unwavering sense of pride for my country team.
My passport got less stamps throughout the year. After spending more than half of 2018 up in the air, this year I was “grounded” (pun intended :P). It wasn’t without a couple of flights, tho! I spent New Year’s Eve in Brisbane’s Southbank with my aunt’s lovely family. The first days of 2019, we went around Queensland’s beaches then flew to Sydney. I made a mental note to come back to Sydney… not because it was super interesting — I prefer Melbourne 🙂 , but because traveling with a family with kids meant less time spent outside, and I needed to be a bit more adventurous next time.
Right back home, I switched suitcases and flew to Kuala Lumpur for a week-long meeting, after only <10 hours on the ground. That was one large internal meeting – I got the chance to meet so many functions from Engineering to Vertical teams. Truly a networking chance not to waste.
Mid-year, I went back and forth to Surabaya to close a contract. That was one hell of a difficult negotiation. We didn’t always get what we wanted and now I know which skills I need to upgrade myself on.
Thankfully, being hospitalized didn’t deter my flights to Singapore in August. Extra care was taken on what I could and could not eat, but it was refreshing to to let myself be brainwashed by Crotonville once again, after that last ALJ in New York. My key takeaway from the training is this: Conflict is not always bad – sometimes healthy conflicts are needed to move teams forward. I was also grateful that mom could tag along by the weekend!
Towards the end of the year, there were more trips: Bali for Alexey’s wedding, UK for Sasfia’s graduation (also a much needed personal trip), and meetings in Kuala Lumpur again… this time plus Pekanbaru!!
I will let pictures do the talk 🙂
This year, I met new people… or met new “people” (you know, those you thought you knew but turns out you didn’t). Divorce has been a major theme being discussed throughout the year. I would rather not have any of my friends go through it, yet some of them are fighting this battle right this very second. I feel honored to have been trusted with the deepest secrets and thoughts of my good friends, albeit in the most heartbreaking moment of their lives. If my presence can mean something to them, even just a tiny reassurance that they are loved, I am forever grateful.
From friends who are going through divorce, I learned three things:
The importance of self love, and equally, the importance to know yourself (and I mean really know yourself and what you are able or want to sacrifice by entering a shared life) before settling down;
Hurt people hurt people, so at one point, someone (hopefully yourself) needs to step in and stop the circle;
There are traumas and emotional baggages that just don’t heal. The ones you carry with you since you were a kid, and they often involve how parents treated you. If you are not ready to be a parent, don’t – because kids remember, and they should not be a projection of your unfulfilled dreams.
It’s humbling to see how everyone really is fighting, for better or worse, or sometimes for an outcome that nobody can foresee. A divorce is a whole new level of heartbreak, because, as my friend put it,
“I have built my home around this man for 10 years, and he is suddenly out of the picture. So I am now homeless, and leaning to myself is scary. Because if something goes wrong, I am the only one accountable”
A dear friend
If anyone is reading this now, may I kindly ask you for a prayer for my friends who are going through this difficult time. I pray that God gives them strength, resilience, and most of all, a pure heart that can let go.
In 2019, dating, funny enough, took quite some space of my already overwhelming year. Dating was another mess I would rather not deal with. And sure, I’ve cried on multiple occasions because of bad dates, ghosting, or an algorithm failed me. Despite all this, I really have to give credits to myself. I chose to be brave. I chose to open my heart. And equally important, I chose when to close it.
I could’ve compromised my belief for an amazing man – except one bit. I could’ve continued chasing the ones who didn’t want to be chased. I could’ve messed up someone’s marriage. I could’ve been with guys whose values didn’t match mine, and surrender to the idea of settling down, without ever really wanted to be with them.
I could’ve chosen to end my singleness this year. But I didn’t.
Because my soul would not let me settle for less. Because my friends’ divorce have been a painful reminder that one should not ignore what the heart is saying, that red flags are there for us to see if we choose to see it.
Sometimes a prayer for someone is answered by letting that someone glides away.
And I don’t want anyone to feel like I don’t love them 100% because I experienced it myself – a loveless marriage is not the way to go, for any party involved, future kids included.
I learn to tune out the “Kamu terlalu pilih-pilih…” noise because, look, when I look deeper and examine what I want out of a relationship, 3 things are apparent: 1) My criterias, if I have any, are not rocket science. If anything, they are attainable; 2) There are legitimate reasons why I cannot fall in love with some guys, no matter how great they are on paper, which I tried to make sense by drawing a mind map; 3) I realize that I may not have any criteria at all. Guys I’ve liked so far are different. There are patterns, but so far my heart instinctively knows whether someone has a shot.
And for this, I trust my heart to make decisions for me.
Looking back, 2019 might have been a year full of struggles, but not without any valuable lessons. I broke my own heart, yet slowly found ways to mend it. Sure enough, the darkest moments of 2019 are omitted from this post because this is, after all, a public space, so I get that one may not have the complete picture of the magnitude of sadness, hopelessness, and disappointments I’ve felt this year.
In 2020, I will continue to dig deeper into myself to really know her. Because whatever and whomever is waiting for me ahead, it requires a different kind of attitude, understanding, and wisdom. This is the year where I have minimum expectation, but I do wish 2020 will be kinder in delivering its lessons. I doubt that I could endure another painful ways to learn. Sometimes, I just want to say that I can be tired too, and I hope the universe listens to my plea this time.
I was bitten by a writer bug so I looked for prompts on what to write. Thank you to thinkwritten.com — the prompt for Day 299 of the Year 2019 is “Concrete: Write about walking down a sidewalk and what you see and experience”.
I was a wannabe liar, I was proud, and I was a little giddy. People waved from their open-air spaces, some were more reserved. I thought, by then, I’d be drenched in rain, but that greyish-blue sky didn’t want to spill the tea.
They say, from that magnificent building I was looking into, a tragic love story emerged. I thought it was only a myth. Why was it tragic, anyway? Maybe it was for the best? My judgment had long been clouded by the silver, golden, and bronze linings I wouldn’t even believe that there could only be one option of looking at things. I thought to myself, love is never real.
No. Love is always conditional.
Some young people sat there, unbothered. The way they look at things were different in many senses. Coolers, picnic baskets, books on hand. My adventurous self wanted to say, “Hi, can I sit with you?”. But no, no. Remember the meme?
“You can’t sit with us”
Of course. My world and your world are divided by the thin line between expectation and reality. I wouldn’t want to be friends with too many people anyway. This, this heart of mine, is a heart well-fortified.
I didn’t intend to keep it that way. I really don’t. Especially to the ones that I secretly wanted them to break into.
Was being too good a bad thing?
Apparently he thought so. Everything that was too much was a bad thing.
My feet had reached the bateau. I climbed upstairs, despite mother’s voice on my ear telling me I should avoid getting too much wind. She wasn’t there, and I was a full-fledged adult.
The wind was indeed strong, and I stubbornly stayed.
Now I was looking at the cobblestone pavement, thinking I wouldn’t be back at this point again, when I saw the old couple sitting across me with a relaxed expression. They looked like they had all the time in the world.
And I smiled.
Maybe I shouldn’t have rushed. The river bank was not the worst place to walk, albeit a bit scary under the bridge. It wasn’t what I expected from the most talked-about river throughout the continent, but I should’ve appreciated its charm more. I wasn’t born to be an optimist, it seemed. But that steady gaze, that steady gaze of eyes who had seen more than what I had, the longing of passed days and not so distant ending, the realization of living in the now….
Whether you realize it or not, 2019 has come to its second half.
And for a twentysomething like me, every second counts towards getting myself into the full-fledged world of adulthood. Someday that’s not too far from now, I wouldn’t be able to join the crowd of people taking advices on how to maximize the defining decade. Heck, even now I’m already starting to see smoothies bowl as something that’s just too edgy – things that I take as signs of beginning to separate myself from some types of crowds out there.
Even in my own crowds, I’ve started feeling more and more separated.
These days are really the days where people make life-changing decisions, like swearing to God that they would only stay with one person for the rest of their lives. Going to weddings are COSTLY, and mentally draining. Instagram stories are now filled with someone’s babies crawling in 10 frames that I have zero care about. But what saddens me the most – my biggest sadness about people getting married and having kids – is that family life is becoming an inseparable part of them, and I just have to accept that. Nowadays, when you meet Mrs. A for 30 mins, that means you have to spend 20 minutes watching her kid eats something and 10 minutes to actually talk about both of you, which should have been the sole purpose of that meeting. And a getaway to Bali or a group trip to Prague is starting to fade out of the picture, replaced with mini trips with little ones or saving for their dream homes. And while I am utterly happy for my married folks, I also absolutely cannot relate.
Career-wise, most of us are already on the 5-year mark. You’re not treated as a fresh graduate anymore. You’re definitely getting more expertise on whatever it is you’re focusing. Some of us have built companies from scratch or led their first team or moved from an analyst to associates. We have gone through more parts of the world than what we initially imagined when we were 10. We are out there making strides — grad schools, groundbreaking research, polished papers, fancy conferences and high profile meetings. But there are also some other people who got their careers stalled. Some couldn’t even graduate from universities, and others resort to low-paying jobs, because not everyone has the ability to get >30M IDR salary per month. Some are left out and, again, cannot relate.
No one ever told me adulting is hard, and I’m (not pleasantly) surprised that it is this hard.
It seems there are always these dark clouds with a stark message: that you are never gonna be enough.
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.
Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith
I read this book back in college days, when I failed to go to Paris and
failed on many selections to start a career in oil & gas companies. Data
was not the new oil back then. O&G was the symbol of prestige, and my
mother’s daughter just had to get her hands on the best things she could have. I
cried at Masjid Salman thinking my life was not gonna get any better.
Alas, fast forward to 2019 and I still saw me taking the same steam off my chest in episodes of breaking down.
People like me are prone to reacting negatively in the face of adversity. It’s as if everything and everyone expects someone like me to have a flawless life, that when I encounter pitfalls, I wasn’t even allowed to fall. I know many of my friends who do the same way. I’m just so used to navigate into the realm of the known, that when I get into the realm of the unknown, things start to spin out of control. And in the end, I always blame myself for not mastering the matters on hand.
And then one day, some two months after my 27th birthday, I said to myself that I’ve had enough.
I’ve had enough of blaming myself for everything that I am not and
everything that I cannot be, in whatever and whichever state my life is
currently in. I’ve had enough of seeing the good in people and the bad in
myself. And I’ve had enough of feeling trapped in this body, mind, and soul
that I have lived with for 27 years, knowing full well that I can be as amazing
as whatever standard I put into that seemingly unattainable pedestal, as long I
visualize myself sitting there.
And I think the universe listens to what you say you are.
I started to talk to people who reminded me on the importance of self-love, without even intending to. These people came in many forms: someone who broke off a relationship that, in hindsight, clearly wouldn’t work; someone who is going through a divorce; someone who ditched his own dream job; someone whom I thought is a real workaholic but, instead, said “Work is a part of your life, but should not be your only life”; someone who urged me to get out there more; someone who nominated me for an award; seminars that preached about financial independence; and medical check-up report.
In one of those conversations I’ve had, there are three things I remember
If you see yourself as a 20%, someone who loves you for 30% will look like like the best person you can get;
Here’s a prompt: describe your perfect day. You will be amazed by how much it reveals about yourself and what you want in life. This prompt is not hard to answer, because you’ve known it all along;
Begin with the end goal (or goals) in mind, but remember to take things one step at a time
“If you see yourself as a 20%, someone who loves you for 30% will look like the best person you can get”
Almost everyone in my circle know that I’ve been searching for my man in my entire life, and that’s why my last break up felt so overwhelming because I thought I have found the one. That is also why being single feels like a painful itch that I cannot scratch. But now, looking back, I realize that my inability to get the man of my dreams is because – hold on tight, it’s super cheesy – I haven’t loved myself as a whole. I haven’t been unapologetically in love with myself, flaws and all. At one point, I was so amazed that historically, the boyfriends I’ve had have always come by themselves when I felt like I was on top of the world: after being a high school national best speaker, after getting into my dream campus and possibly the hardest major, and after getting Ganesha Prize and left university with a blaze of glory.
They were not there to complete me; because I was complete. I refused to settle for less because I knew my self worth, even after my heart was being repeatedly banished and bruised.
your perfect day”
Let me know if, right after you read that sentence, splash of images
flashed into your mind right this very second.
My perfect day has many things to do with family activities, like cooking
pancakes with strawberries and going to some museums with smart kids. I
describe my partner as a “husband” instead of a “lover”. That’s how I know that
being a wife, and being a mom, is very important to me, despite my exterior
that so loudly screams a high-achieving businesswoman. What matters more is the
underlying message that it sends, such as:
That complete kitchen with a marble top does not come for free – save more so you can get the best appliances, tidy up your personal balance sheet, and have some real investments with results that you can reap;
Even if, in the end, they come by themselves, husbands are worth the search. Sign up for dating channels, try to go on dates just for the sake of practice, and get out there and find the communities which activities you enjoy and causes you care about. It is important not to settle for less, but also equally important to draw a line between what is fundamental and what is decorative;
Two smart kids are hard to raise by a sick mom. Good sleeping patterns, adequate water intake, and gym habits all need to be built into your everyday routine.
with the end goal (or goals) in mind, but remember to take things one step at a
You can have many goals. Many, many goals. You want to publish a
groundbreaking research on dementia and be a billionaire and live your life plucking
spinach in a farm for tranquility. And that’s okay. It’s okay not to have your life figured out and have branches
of possibilities that extends into one, two, three different goals. But if you
set it as a goal, you need to: a) Define the steps to reach that goal; and b)
Prepare an exit strategy, in case your plans fall out.
My current goals have to do with three things: job, school, and family.
And I am painfully reminded that I can only take one step at a time. Maybe a marriage is right for now, maybe it’s not. Maybe applying to grad school is the way to go, or maybe jumping into the next job offer is a better move. Just like the message from many business books I’ve read especially for women: you can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time.
I made this writing during a particularly sunny weekend, after 1 hour of
self-paced exercises and a bowl of delicious bibimbap. Earlier this week, I was
not in the mood for being happy because I was so exhausted by all the mundane
conversations in dating apps. And last week I was utterly hurt by the remarks
of my brother who made me feel worthless. I look at those apps and breathe a
deep sigh, “If only I could have a boyfriend so I can delete all these self-deprecating
algorithms”. But the next day, I pushed myself to get a life. I talked to some
people. I made plans. I took notes. And I honestly have no idea where this is
going to lead me, and there are always gonna be voices that say I’m not pretty
enough, or I’m not successful enough, or I’m not thin enough, or I’m not good
enough, but I am rest assured that I will deliberately try to consciously choose
myself, over and over again.
And maybe that will invite good things to come into my life, in whatever form there is.
This post is inspired by Wini Rizkiningayu, thanks for trusting me with some of your deepest thoughts.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” -Jack Kerouac
Melbourne was unplanned from the beginning. It was supposed to be some days in Sydney but then nobody was even sure that any plan would materialize. How happy I was to have had the chance to visit a new continent I’ve never been to — had to be approved by Asia Pacific General Manager, no less — and once again I didn’t visit its major city. Just like what I did with USA and Boston. Or Europe and Budapest. My travels were meant to be non-traditional, spontaneous and sweet, memorable and exciting. And the die-hard planner inside me happily obliged.
Warm welcome is, it seems, a signature of Aussies. Staying at AirBnB felt like staying at a relatives’ house. It helped that for some reasons, my first night was spent in a lovely two-story English style house of Melbourne’s most affluent suburb. What with the abundance of Asian influences that reminded me of home — or my roots, for that matter. A start of my working week with professionally made coffee by my colleague that honestly looked a lot like Steven Seagal. And the subsequent lively chats over — guess what — coffee, with the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.
Paris was cocky. New York didn’t care. Dubai was artificial. But Melbourne grew on me. It wasn’t a description you’d read in a travel magazine – because, I found, that it’s not meant to be described. It’s not a theory, but rather, something you put into practice without too many thoughts processed. It’s laid back, welcoming, full of smile, and will feed you various food that doesn’t disappoint.
Funny thing about my adventure in Melbourne is that, it was full of surprises – in such ways that turned to be good. There have been numerous occasions when I set my Google Maps to go to a famous eatery, only to find that I didn’t like it. In fact, in the end I’ve never tried the ones that are most recommended. I went around searching for alternatives and found what I needed. Maybe not exactly the best pasta joint in Lygon Street, but the ambiance was perfect. I could see the tagliatelle being made in front of me, and the gnocchi literally melted in my mouth. Or that hip brunch place that I turned down because there were too many people inside, only to find myself brunch-ing at the café next door with roughly the same amount of people but being presented the prettiest pancake I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
Walking through Chinatown, seeing more Caucasian-looking people eating happily with dresses and smart pants nonetheless more than Chinese-looking people on a merry Saturday night (which felt weird, but somehow good), I thought to myself …
Melbourne must have tried to send me an important message.
What I did, and how I did it in this city, is exactly what life should be. Twists and turns on every corner. An imperfect execution of well-made plans. Bunch of alternatives to the straight path. I might not have found what I was looking for, but I certainly found what I needed the most for that particular time frame.
I was gulping portions after portions of Dim Sum when my colleague asked about my plans for the future. I told him I’d be happy to continue school, but mother hesitated to let me do that before I get married to someone. I’d be “too bright” and he literally rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, I know. There are things in life that I can’t control, right? Planning for career advancement or pursuing master’s is controllable. But meeting someone? I’m just gonna do what I am capable of influencing, then it might somehow alter the equation”
“I was just gonna say, I love my wife, and that’s because she’s smart. Now let me tell you something obvious. You’re definitely a catch. Guys in Indonesia are so dumb they are missing out on someone like you”
Full of dim sum goody in my belly, I pat myself on the back if, back home, I could really believe what we’ve just said.
Twists and turns.
Exception to the rule.
It happens. Everyday. All of my lucky cards scattered somewhere in this universe waiting for me to pick it up when I didn’t miss the bus.
And when that happens, I’ll remember the nights I spent in the most livable city in the world, with some handsomely made Cappuccino, mouth-watering pasta, authentic ha kau, or a delicious steak night on the bank of Yarra River.
Thank you, Melbourne, for reminding me that life is mysterious for a reason.
“I dreamed we were dancing in St Petersburg, then you fell and I caught you”
Sapsan train was my lonely ride. Moscow was sunny and inviting, for sure it was the summer high hanging in the air, but going further apart it was getting even gloomier. My friends were trying to get some much needed sobriety by sleeping uncomfortably. Everyone was silent for a while, with headphones on and minds flying away somewhere else. Most likely to the people they cared about, anywhere in the world.
Russian villages passed by my eyes like an echoes of Soviet past. It wasn’t exactly beautiful but it had a certain characteristic that you wouldn’t find anywhere else, and I succumbed to that moment with my eyes closed. Minds of mine drifted into territories that I didn’t want to revisit, and I found my eyes watery, glistening with tears.
Glavny station was up and running. Dark clouds were scrutinizing, cold air made me grasped. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for it to be this chilly, but something inside me got warmer. I couldn’t help but smirked my way into one of those historic buildings that would be the place to spend some nights in. I jumped at the thoughts of “I did it. I made it this far. I made it myself”.
St Petersburg was special to you, and it was becoming special to me too.
I left wondering, across a Gazprom building, how that photo on an icy bridge was taken. How you laughed like you didn’t have any care in the world. Was it one of these beautiful bridges I stepped my feet on? I wasn’t there, I wasn’t inside your mind –it was taken years ago– and neither was I now.
Neither was I now.
I wonder what you’d say. What if, in a parallel universe, I could have the right to tell you that I could to it without you? What if I instead begged that universe to change course and let everything stayed the same? Would you come running to me like a chicken you were, or would you stay still like you’ve never said a word?
The rain poured without warnings. I wasn’t getting myself drenched in this already cold temperature, no way…
“I think I need to give you a hug”
I was on a romantic movie scene, that’s what I told myself anyway. Even if it had to end abruptly like how it always did. Even though it wouldn’t last as per usual. Even though it was a simple, short walk that would linger longer than it should.
Maybe he was the only person I needed at that very moment, maybe I didn’t have to wish it was someone else, anyone who was less unreal to me. Weren’t we all mixed up? Weren’t I messed up? I cried inside with joy and sadness mashed into one, and these people were circling around like a dream I’ve never dreamed but secretly dreaming about.
“Come closer, I don’t want your shoulder to get wet”
I was looking for a silver lining. I thought about all the missed opportunities I consciously knew I missed. I was making deliberate choices that would dodge myself from these kind of bullets. Who would’ve known what this tough shell felt, who would’ve known this mushy soft thing inside a steel-like fortress?
I was an alien to my own scheme.
On that walk to remember, I could feel the ice melted. Slowly. Gently. Like that coffee in Cambridge when I fell into the arms of a beautiful stranger. When I let my guards wander around the river without any damn second thought. Who needed any band-aid when I could let myself loose? Who needed any extra boost when I didn’t care if I could protect my own immunity?
But St Petersburg was beautiful in its own way.
It was a reminder that I never loved anyone less than they deserve.
It was these old buildings with a certain Caucasian, Russian charm. This lovely Georgian Khachapuri that was as big as boats. The Kharcho that warmed my heart. We were in a long, long lines that seemed never ending, 3 hours of taking turns queuing, then I said to myself later on,
“I once thought Louvre was better”.
The Hermitage was worth all the long wait, and I hope you are no more than my Louvre…
…with one request — don’t taint my Hermitage with a Mona Lisa smile.
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.