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.

photo-1436891678271-9c672565d8f6
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.

Advertisements

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”

 

 

“Find Your Nest Before You Fly”, Disencouragement, and Other Dilemmas

In my 2nd year of elementary school, I punched a boy in front of his mother because he mocked me. When I was criticized of my behavior as “not appropriate for girls”, my 8-year old’s words were clear and sharp:

“Emang kenapa kalau aku cewek?”
(“So what if I’m a girl?”)

To think about it, gender issues have always been something I constantly yearn to learn more and be aware of. As a little kid, I grew up alongside my twin brother. We competed hard ever since the square one. I’ve never felt that I should fall short behind him. I could be as good in school as any other boy could be. But as early as in my adolescence, I started to bombard mom with (the inevitable) question of balancing work and family. Recalling the 17 y.o. me, studying for college entrance test:

Mom, suppose I can get into that top engineering school and be a CEO… (At that time, a woman just became National Oil Company’s CEO for the 1st time in history). How can I be a good mother while working around the clock?”

My family didn’t know the concept of female corporate mothers. All mothers resigned when they entered the having-kids stage, including mine, who was once top-performer in a shoes factory. When asked why she gave it up,

I couldn’t stand having to silently took a bath in the morning so you and your twin would not wake up, scream, and beg me not to go. I wanted to see you two grow up in my own hands. Every day I came from work, exhausted, and asked myself why do I have to do this? While you were sleeping, I looked at your little faces and decided it was not worth it. So I quitted

 

I was petrified by her predictable choice.

 

I had always known where I wanted to go. My destination was always clear. Top schools. Best scores. Highest achievement. It’s been hard-wired in my mind to be the competitive, type-A personality that I’ve become getting used to. As a kid, teenager, and college student, it didn’t matter. It was good. Until one day, my grandmother came up to me months before graduation,

Don’t you think of searching for potential husbands? You’re surely a great young woman, but men are scared of you and your achievements. Don’t you think it’s time to slow down and get your friends match you up with someone? Find your nest before you fly, so you can always have a place to go back later on

At that time, I was the university’s Valedictorian, had two unsuccessful romantic relationships, and a dozen “barely there” love stories with various men, one of whom said to a friend,

She’s pretty and interesting. But it seems she’s just too smart for me?”

I gave up on finding any men worth dating. The lowest hope was Summer 2013, just in time when I met my last boyfriend. He was very supportive of whatever things I wanted to choose for my future, before the relationship crumbled because of some superstitious predictions by his conservative family.

Will cause a disintegration. Will not be good for him. Their future may not be good enough.”

With God’s grace, translates clearly into

“She’s too smart, successful, beautiful, dominant, and have such strong power to overshine our man. Forget her. Find another woman who is modest enough to be your bride. This woman is going to cook for you, have babies with you, and would not burden your life”

(Because, hey, no other reasons speak louder than that)

 

Which moves me into these questions:

  1. Why, are we women encouraged to reach high during our school years, if the end product will not be appreciated for any of her “superiority”? Why are “successful” women being socially punished?
  2. How do we, as high-achieving young women, find a spouse who would be supportive of our plans for the future, who would not be overwhelmed by our personal success, whose ego wouldn’t be “hurt”, and who would treat us as equal partners?

 

The “Having It All”

The mixture of being socially punished and too-late realization of self-worth creates this halo that errodes women’s confidence. The external pressure fractures our strongly-built bricks of pride in our own achievements. It’s sad to be the one who is trapped between the constantly escalating, incoherent expectations. Men never have to regret being who they are.

I’m now working as a Site Manager in a multinational oil and gas company. Now how’s that sound? For me, let’s be realistic:

  • It heavily minimizes the possibility of being paired with a man who earns less than me, and not working in Oil&Gas/any comparable industry as well. Even if we’re compatible, the families would squeak. The woman’s would encourage to find another man who “can balance you out” and “We believe there’s better men out there”. The man, unless he also comes from a wealthy or super tolerable family, would not completely be delighted.
  • Unless for some lucky exceptions to the rule (which actually happens, once in a while), the man would not want to see her woman getting herself dirty in a drilling mud with old guys as her rig crew. Trust me.

Eventually, the pressure goes on into the woman’s internal considerations. I’ve heard myself asking, and doubting:

  1. Why this heavily male-dominated industry? Why not a bright career in a big city, with malls just steps away and I can wear beautiful dresses and put on fancy make ups? “Because that’s what’s a woman’s supposed to do?”
  2. Do I really want to be the corporate leader, ah, do I have to be? Isn’t it enough just to be a regular worker, stuck in a non-existing career ladder….?
  3. I want kids, and I’m afraid they are not going to grow up as good as I expect them to be. When is the time to slow down? I know I’m ready to compromise if that’s what it takes, slow down my career for my gorgeous little precious, but when?
  4. When is the right time to get married? If I get married, can I continue working? Do I really want working, at all, after marriage? Being a housewife doesn’t seem to be a bad idea, either. I know a lot of women who are happy with that, and I’m happy for them too.
  5. Now, where do I find a man to get married with? I’m afraid of being single for the rest of my life. I’ve seen too many older women who haven’t been married, who are successful, who are lovely to be with. And I’m too afraid of how this society will perceive me if I am unmarried.

 

You may think I’m desperate by writing this.

I am, and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Because it’s too hard to be a woman in this 21st century, where you are expected to be too damn perfect in every aspect of your life. Those who have found her nest before she flies are so lucky, you should be grateful to have someone who wants to be your real partner. Those who can craft out their career plans clearly without having any doubt, ought to be thankful for their courage, because that’s what I’m lacking of right now. Those who cannot stop dreaming and reaching high because they are not afraid, are great, and I wish I could have that positivity.

But I’m inclined on the side that says this is not just me making up stories. These are real women’s issues that may have crossed their minds once in a while. I try hard to avoid saying this, but then again, we are just women. We want to be cared, loved, appreciated, and be heard for our own aspirations. We want to be free and be content with who we are.

Why, why is that too much to ask………..

A Realistic Take on Fairy Tales

As a young girl, I grew up with the notion that fairy tales existed. That someday a ‘prince charming’ would somehow come into my life and carry me away by his utmost perfection. A standard description of a prince charming was someone who had to be handsome, smart, wealthy, healthy/athletic, romantic, understanding, patient, kind, and……. Well, basically he possessed all positive adjectives.

This bubble of imagination was always further amplified by what seemed to be a never ending fairy tale feeders: movies that almost always had ‘happy’ endings, couples who were so good at faking themselves and made spectators thought that there were never any conflicts between them, magnificent weddings with meticulous ceremonies, and streams of ‘romantic’ pictures/musics/online posts/advertisements, etc.

We all grow up believing that fairy tales exist, that a person who will be a perfect companion with perfect qualities lives somewhere in this gigantic world full of secrecy and lies.

 

Don’t we?

 

I do.

 

I was a firm believer on fairy tales. I saw love as a purest thing a person can live with. I believed that love was never supposed to be a betrayer. That love, once found, would always stay: tested and true.

As I moved to being in my teens, however, I discovered that I was, indeed, not a princess waiting for her prince charming riding a white horse. As much as I wanted to stay firm on my fairy tale belief, there it was, the previously undiscovered territory: Rejection. Unrequited love. Tragic stories. The ‘long gone and moved on’. I did not comprehend, back then, that love could hurt someone so bad that he/she would never fully recover.

Moving on was never in my dictionary. The day when I woke up finding my first love was not in love with me was a hard slap. The first break up felt like a sharp razor blade. The first experience being cheated on was like a melted ice cream cake on someone’s birthday surprise. It was meant to be, it was meant to be, but the fact that separations are inseparable risk from being in love is a dormant beast waiting to be woken up.

It shook my belief on fairy tales. Forever.

As a young adult, I saw more inconsistencies. Like so many people who decide not to get married because living with themselves is just enough, and they are happy and content with that (and I’m happy for them, too!). Like how come people who have been in love for 8, 9, 10+ years could just break it off like no year has passed by. Or people who have just met for 1 month can somehow add longevity to their own tales and swear to God that they will forever live side by side. Or random stories of how people can just meet and tied up – dialed wrong phone numbers, saw a cute girl in a café, met in their first day of new job, watched same gigs together, greeted by old acquaintances, met in job fairs, match-made by friends or parents. Unbelievable.

And yet, people have got married for a lot less. High rates of divorce cases are solid proof that love does not always stay forever and ever. Somewhere along the line, it may transform into roses filled with thorns. There are also arranged marriages where two people who don’t love each other get married for the sake of various reasons – parents’ consent, cultural requirements, economic needs, or just plain bad luck. Surprisingly, some of these marriages survive, loveless perhaps, where their hearts are somewhere else, but survive nevertheless.

 

I’m now standing in the line of young adults going through someone’s wedding ceremonies. Watching their eyes glistening with hopes and dreams while holding their prince/princess charming’s hands, clasped together decorated with bouquets of flowers and streams of well-wishers. I am happy for them, of course. IMHO, one of the highest achievements someone can make is to succeed in finding someone who makes them brave enough to swear to God that they will protect, love and care for each other forever. Forever is a long time, but somehow they think it’s not long enough.

As a young adult, my views have shifted much. What I deem as ‘fairy tales’ are now different from what I previously assumed. I understand now that fairy tale is just that. That love is a raw emotion, adjective, noun, feeling, material that will always have its ups and downs. Prince charming exists, somewhere in this world, but with his own flaws and inconsistencies. He/she may or may not be good enough, or cause everlasting peace, but when the time comes to see deeper, they are indeed the perfect companion. All I need, and all you need too, is someone who makes us at ease. Whether or not they are charming is just another unimportant story.

After all, love is not always supposed to end up being buried side by side with funny sayings on the tombstones. Because there can never be someone who is perfect enough to be and to love another person – they are just there with different needs and have found contentment in each other.

I came to the conclusion that we make our own fairy tales. And when it comes to love….

Ah, je ne sais quoi.

Learning To Let Go

If there’s something I’m grateful for having in this early 2014, it’s the nudge and realization that we eventually do need to let go of some things, people, feelings, and memories.

There’s a constant regret that I always have ever since that happened. I might even go as far as saying that it was one of the biggest regrets I’ve had in my life. So far, I have no satisfying closure. I only do what I could do best: to show the world what they’re missing. It’s my only panacea to the wound that cannot be healed.

I was always in a constant denial when it comes to this particular matter. And in case you wonder, it’s not about romantic relationships. But it hurts. It still hurts, like an incarcerating cage of guilt that follows you around. Some scars here, some bitterness there. There’s a wish that I wished would be granted, to turn back time, to clarify, to explain the complete story, and to take back the privilege that was once mine.

After the discussion, I asked, “So you agree then, that I have no chance to come back and start again?”.

The answer was clear. No. I don’t have that chance. It’s been a saturated situation, and going back is not a viable option.

But there are people out there who had no prejudice against me, from the start. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to do those stupid things. It was a chaos, where endless tantrums were thrown. I know it was a mistake, but shit happens, and life sometimes gives us its lessons through the harsh way. The silver lining was pointed out by both parties: I expanded my acquaintances, I learned to dive into a lot of exciting things, and I tasted the other parts of life I might wouldn’t have done unless that happened.

Maybe some things fell apart so other pieces could start assembling better things in the same place.

“You can’t make all people love you. Selalu akan ada orang yang mungkin gak bisa dibikin suka sama lo. Yah tapi liat aja Marsh… segitu banyaknya lo dapet bunga sama hadiah waktu wisuda, itu nunjukin banyak yang sayang sama lo kan. Banyak orang yang udah lo jadiin temen selama lo di kampus ini. Mungkin kalo itu gak terjadi, lo gak akan punya temen sebanyak itu. Shit happens tapi yaudahlah”

There’s no better words for me than this quote below. This may be the time for me to let go of the thing I wish I never did. Maybe I have to let go of some parts of my life, just so I can live a steady future free of worries, while trying to reach bigger and better goals. Walaupun semuanya tetep kerasa perih. There are hopes and dreams that stopped blooming in the middle of time, that I cannot modify to be how I wanted it to be in the past.

Because… truth be told, what else can I do besides letting go?

People change, even the ones you thought you knew the most. And even though it hurts to see them go, you have to move on, for the memories are all you have, and things might never be the same.

-Anonymous

Senyap

Beri aku waktu untuk menjalani transformasi ini.

Karena hanya untuk sekali, aku ingin merasakan kebebasan yang sesungguhnya. Izinkan aku untuk berpikir, untuk mencerna, dan mengetahui apa yang ku inginkan. Tidak pernah ada waktu yang cukup untuk berkontemplasi dan memaknai tujuan yang kabur. Tidak ada kesempatan untuk melihat lebih jauh ke dalam. Selalu ada paksaan untuk mengekstrapolasi, tapi jika permintaan masih bisa diterima, berikanlah satu hal yang paling kuinginkan saat ini.

Mungkin aku hanya ingin lari dari semua ekspektasi yang harus selalu aku penuhi. Mungkin aku hanya ingin menemukan kebahagiaanku sendiri.

Karena itu, enyahlah, tolonglah.

Aku tidak minta dikasihani, aku tidak minta dipuji, aku juga tidak minta disakiti.

Aku hanya butuh waktu untuk diriku sendiri. Mungkin sekarang, mungkin nanti, mungkin kapan-kapan. Matikan lampu. Matikan musik. Matikan suara apa pun karena aku tidak ingin mendengarkan. Lapurkan pandangan secanggih mukjizat karena aku tidak butuh pertimbangan. Sesungguhnya aku tidak butuh kata-kata atau pemikiran yang lantang disuarakan…

karena yang ku butuhkan hanya senyap.

What Suffering Teaches Me

If I have to describe myself in just one simple, meaningful sentence, I’ll say, “I’m a person that has been broken”.

Because that’s just who I am. 

People always expect you to do more than what you think you’ve had enough. In this first steps to the real world, that becomes more obvious. Something’s always missing. There’s always a crack that you try so hard to cover up, but that will always be found out. You want to be seen as flawlessly unbroken, but in this already messed up world, who doesn’t have issues?

I was once a totally innocent kid, like anybody did. I started playing in the neighborhood, started going to schools and socialized with a lot of people, and I began to see things differently. In my eyes, I saw destruction. I saw imperfections. I saw the faded beauty of the world I once saw as totally unblemished.

I was, in one way or another, broken.

The cracks began to add up as I was broken to the inner part of myself. The only part I knew would be too fragile to be released to this merciless reality. So I let it go, and it was broken, bashed, bruised, injured, damaged, in any way I would never have forgiven myself with.

But what I didn’t realize was that I truly needed myself to be broken.

Life, they say, is like a battlefield. Of course there would be bruises. Of course there would be pain that you cannot just simply tarnish. But experience counts. The more you understand your battlefields, the more you are able to devise excellent strategy.

The experience of suffering is really what makes my iron-fenced heart works.

I cursed my teenage years for being manipulated by hollow dreams I trapped myself in. For waiting for someone for years, without having the guts to do anything except lamenting over the sad facts that the head would never turn to the direction I was facing. I moved on to another journeys, was broken by menacingly cruel people who just would not understand what I was giving them. Even until my early adulthood years, when it comes to love, I still feel like a lost soul whose search for her half go in a cycle of treachery.

But the sufferings I went through, the people I was romantically involved with, the miscalculations that made me question my ability as an engineer, the forlorn tales which endings were determined to be tragic from the very first beginnings………….. all of them teaches me to stand up and know myself better.

Looking back at my years of loving and being loved, I realized that they had made me much stronger. Strong enough to understand that things don’t always go the way I want them to go. Strong enough to put rationality ahead of any illogical fallacy. And if loving someone completely requires you to love yourself completely too, I can proudly say out loud that I am now ready. I’ve known my self worth and how much portion of my heart I will allow someone other than me to have. I’ll still open myself up for any possibilities, but the hopes will not be as high, the fantasies will not be as wild, the expectations will not be as heavenly as before. The days of cotton candies have been over, and now I focus on optimization, life-long goals, diminished lust and having control over various variables. I know the dreamer in me will always go vividly romantic, but the slaps out to the reality makes disturbance even more possible to be minimized.

The experience of suffering is what really makes me who I am now.

I’ve always wanted to be a high achiever. It was a default chip that was implanted long before I was born. But if anyone sees me now and comment on how lucky I am, I can humbly say that they have the wrong idea. Things I’ve gone through, all the trophies and certificates and titles of ‘champion’ are the things I earn. Things I earned with literally bloodsweat and tears. And if anybody asks, how can I do that? How can I do that? How else can I do that?

Because I know how it feels to suffer from failures. Because I know how it feels to be broken, to be torn up from the inside, to be told that you were not capable enough, to be accused for being weak, to be compared with someone you love to the bone; to be told that your best — the best version of yourself that you created so delicately hard — was not good enough.

When you’ve suffered through your lowest points, you can always keep your head on the ground when your heart goes to the cloud.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I make this writing in one of my life’s lowest points. Where I barely know where I should go. Where my biggest fear comes true – to be unable to know what I want. Where I can’t see the big picture. Where my days of being a strategic planner seems to have no concern.

But I make this writing in the hope that I will remember the struggles I’ve gone through. The worst sufferings of my life that I have survived. This writing is intended to tame my ego down and to understand that I am still, and will always be, on my way to an eternal fixation of myself. Because happiness, by any means, is something that always needs to be chased. As Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love states, I have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of my own blessings.

This is my battlefield. Knowing the worst should make me able to cope with changes of plans. This is the thrill of living, where unprecedented results may occur. And I should always be prepared.

Everything in this world are made for a purpose and should just makes sense. And only when you’ve been in the dark can you truly appreciate how grateful you should be to be able to see the light.