A Fairytalelike Twist of Fate

I walk into a phase of emerging adulthood with some part of me insists on believing in a fairytalelike twist of fate. Reality might bite me every now and then, forcing me to lower my expectation in life, yet somehow the thought of having a possibility to have your life altered in a split second pushes me forward.

That thought does not come out of nowhere. Anybody who has a faith in the greater force than human being must know that if that force wants, it can alter your life for the better or for the worse in a blink of an eye. The later was what happened to me few years ago, I never thought that the death of your loved one could be so near and I was not immune to unfortunate event like I thought I had always been. Yet as someone who sees life as a series of ups and downs, I try to look at the brighter side. If life can throw me an unforeseen tragedy then it has the same capability to throw me a huge godsend. I just do not know what and when.

Few days ago, I re-watched Aladdin. The first time I saw it as a grown up and I could not help but to notice about all the nuances, which I had not noticed as a kid, in the characters of Aladdin and Jasmine. It turned out that the characters are more humane than I thought they were. I feel an instant connection at many levels with Aladdin and Jasmine as I saw them in a pursuit of having their aspiration fulfilled.

On the first level, I feel connected with how Jasmine yearned to see the world. She spent her years trapped in a palace where she was deprived from “all dazzling places she never knew”, the fact that she lived in a swanky palace did not make her feel content. What put a smile on her face was a short around the world journey on a carpet ride that presented her “a hundred thousand things to see”. This somehow reminds me of how I perceive my experience living in Jakarta, a city that is supposed to be a home for me but does not feel like one anymore.

I cannot get rid the thought of: I have spent too many years living in this tiny but densely populated dot on the earth. My head was full of the cities I like to set my feet in, all those cities I saw on the screen. I do not need to tick every landmarks or wonders of the world since being in a new city and watching people passing by is enough to make me happy. The novelty of being in a new town, not knowing about what to do and learning a whole different way of life, excites me the most.

I know that I have no reason to complain about my life in Jakarta. I got a pretty decent job which allows me to have savings and time for holiday, but many times I think that my job is only my temporary life as I am bound for something “greater” than that and I am not going to grow old working in a beautiful high rise building in Jakarta day-in and day-out. Like Jasmine, I long for an adventure in which I can ride my own “magic carpet” taking me to places I have never been to.

On the second level, I am also connected with how Aladdin questioned his royal identity that the genie granted him. “What made you “you”?“ was the question that Aladdin tried to crack with the help of the genie who convinced him that Aladdin’s true self was what made him special.    It was not a royal robe nor genie’s helping hands that defined the true self of Aladdin. This somehow reminded me to stop looking outward and start to looking inward.

Like Aladdin who once gained his confidence from all the properties made by the genie, I also built my self-esteem upon the external factors like school I attended and work I did. The perceived need to always be on top was driven by the desire to be confident. This perceived need also pushed me to always focus on the future and to plan ahead. Little did I know that life does not always go according to the plan. When I found out, I broke. It was painful to find out that you failed in booking your dream job or securing a seat in your dream school. I lived as if they were what only mattered in this world while the fact is life can be way more interesting than going into a top school or working in a blue chip company.

Don’t get me wrong, I still dream of going into a top school or working in that company I dream of working for BUT now I know that they are a mere tool not a destination. When you think that you lose sight of your destination, you will get lost. However, when you are aware that you only miss one of your needed tool you can continue your life knowing that the missing tool can be replaced by something else to get the job done.

I still wait for my magic carpet ride that will take me places. Sometimes reality strikes too hard that I think I will rot here forever in Jakarta. But there is always a part of me which will never cease to believe in a fairytalelike twist of fate. Like that of Aladdin, whose life was altered for the better in a course of one night. Like that of Jasmine, who was taken in a magic carpet ride to see places she always dreamt of seeing. One day, it will.

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Why do my mind get so loud upon watching 13 Reasons Why?

There was a time when you feel like a tiny space that you were in was your whole world.

There was a time when you thought that the people you surrounded yourself with represented the whole population of human on earth.

There was a time when you thought that people have never walked in your shoes while the fact was the shoes that you wore were not big enough for them to put their feet into.  

There was a time when everything started to feel better. Looking back, you never know whether the world has changed into a better place or you have changed into a better individual. 

I have just finished watching 13 Reasons Why, which depicts a death of a high school student named Hannah, and I can’t keep my mind shut as the series leave a profound effect on me. So I feel the urge to write this post.

My highschool life was way behind (damn, almost 7 years), it was difficult but nothing compared to Hannah’s. At that time, my mother took me to see a psychologist a couple of times which I was actually quite ashamed at that time that I told people I saw a doctor. My mother was knowledgeable enough to realize that there must be something wrong when I felt so anxious and lost sleep at night (seriously, I was so afraid to go to sleep because I thought I wouldn’t be able to wake up again and I had no idea why I thought that way). Thankfully, she knew how to handle that issue very well and thought that asking a help from a psychologist is as normal as consulting about your health to a doctor.

Reflecting to my experience of asking help, I find it so heartwrenching that Hannah did not get a chance for a professional help by the time she needed it the most. Her parents were not even aware of the issue as she acted normal at home as if nothing’s wrong with her school life. Or I assume Hannah acted normal because she did not want her parents to be worried as their family-run store was broke. But keeping a problem to ourself always has always taken its own toll.

The second thing in this movie that bothered me was how Hannah was corrupted by her friends (they don’t even deserve to be called friends, by the way). Some people do walk into one’s life just to ruin it and to leave a massive void. It saddened me that the only time Hannah met someone who was keen to affectionally touch her was when she got so traumatic with human touch. This point leads me to my third point.

At first I thought that Hannah was just too overly dramatic, until I watched an episode when someone invaded her personal area without her consent. Then I began to understand why she felt wasted and did what she did. I believe it would be difficult to confront the perpetrator in such situation because they can be manipulative at times. In a society where the victims are often blamed, it’s also a bit terrifying for the victims to admit of such bad things have occured to them. I know this is only a series but I can’t help to wonder if this terrible thing is still happening in the States, a country where sex education is a part of curriculum, can the situation be worse in a country which doesn’t provide sex education at schools, such as Indonesia?

I know that sex is considered a taboo here. But like it or not, people do it and we need to do something to address any issues that entail. Some people might argue that it’s a huge sin, but so does corruption. We don’t want corruption nor “free sex” (I don’t really like this term actually, but that’s how people say it) to happen, but they do happen out there and we need to do something.  If we can teach anti corruption at school, why can’t we teach sex education? Because it’s not about encouraging young people to have sex but to make them aware about consent, safety, and consequences of having sex.

Lastly, I don’t have younger siblings. But if I have one who is still in high school, I want to let him or her know that the world is so vast. Hold on and in no time you will find a space that is big enough to fit who you really are. And you always have a choice by the way, say it outloud, and make sure you make the best possible choice because it doesn’t only affect your life but also those of around you.

A Gift from Saigon

The plane that I am on began to descend from an altitude. I started to see what were waiting down there, a densely populated town packed with four or five-storey residential building,  a different type of residential building than what I used to see back home. The sheer excitement of being in a new place for the first time took me over as the plane touched down. It has been quite a while since I felt this way. I have grown too familiar with all aspects of my life in Jakarta and an escape is all that I need.

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Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, was a town I knew nothing about, apart from what I see in Miss Saigon which does not represent the city in any way. But here I was in Saigon on my birthday after made a quite impulsive plan to visit the capital of Vietnam. As a person who loves to plan things out, hardly do I travel without a thorough planning of what to visit and to see. But being a bit spontaneous was not that bad at all. Having a mundane routine in the past two years has made me yearning to live an unpredictable life.

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Saigon resembles Jakarta in a way that it is not a city for everyone. Some people might find it too intimidating, while some other enjoy the city so much. I fall into the category of people who enjoy it too much. Although the multitude of motorbikes made crossing streets felt like a near-death experience, walking in the downtown of Saigon was an interesting experience. There were so many interesting things to see, from locals selling beautiful-looking baguette to old french-influenced buildings scattered in the district 1 of Saigon. It was all chaotic, in the most beautiful way.

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My trip in Saigon was made easier by Saigon Hotpot, an organisation run by students who offer free personalised tours for tourists. They were beyond amazing and acted as an excellent cultural ambassador of Saigon. I signed myself up for two tours, which were city sightseeing and traditional food (there was a small fee for traditional food tour), with Saigon Hotpot. I could easily say that hanging out with people from Saigon Hotpot was definitely the highlight of the trip as they gave me an access to the life of Vietnamese from which I gained so many valuable insights about this beautiful country. I learned so much from the experience that I had with Saigon Hotpot. It reminded me how I should keep opening up myself for new people since they come to my life with something that I can learn from and enrich my perspective. I definitely can write a whole post talking about my experience with Saigon Hotpot.  But I guess I will save it for a later occasion.

 

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Cooking at Linh’s home with her mum and Hong Nhung from Saigon Hotpot.

 

 

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Lunch provided by my host from Saigon Hotpot! Such a great cultural experience.

 

 

Ah, I became a more reflective person whenever I visited a place for the first time and somehow that humbling experience helped me to mature. The fact that I know a little of the place I am in always makes me stop from putting a high expectation. This obviously prevents me from spoiling the joy of life which does not always roll as I want it.

As I made my way back to Jakarta, a town that I started to despise before the trip, started to feel more liveable. Still, this is not the place I would like to spend the rest of my life in. But the fact that I am able to cross the street, with a help of malfunctioning footbridge and zebra cross was an enough reason to be grateful for.

Are You Someone You Wanted To Be When You Grew Up?

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It was just before 8 pm, after work. I stood facing the window of the Transjakarta taking me home through the route I have grown too familiar with. How have I not? At least, I have been staying in this town for 23.5 years. It was dark outside that I could see my reflection. I asked myself: am I seeing someone that I wanted to be when I grew up?

 

It took a whole lot of stories to answer that question. And it shall start with this one:

 

Perhaps, I am a poster child of entitled millennials who grew up believing they could be who they want to be as they were constantly told uplifting stories by their parents or grandparents. My late mother, who was raised by a single mother in a family of five children, was never bored to tell me how her mother made her going to her 2nd choice major (because her aunt was attending that major so she did not have to buy new books)  which eventually led to a job that took my mother places to promote the flora of Indonesia. Meanwhile, my late paternal grandfather had always told me and my cousins about how he joined the war during his youth, went abroad to study, and went on as the chairman of a company. With all those stories, I grew up believing that one day I would trailblaze my own path making me a better version of me.

 

Now that day is here I am not there yet. Not even close. A couple of months ago, I celebrated my second graduation and work anniversary. I reflected on what I did in the past two years and felt that I am nowhere near to the place I intended to be when I started this all. There is no one to blame in this situation as I choose to stay for many reasons, even when opportunities knocked on my door. But lately the thought that I am still doing the same work routine and tasks as I did two years ago bugs me. I could no longer calm myself by saying: it is only a phase. If something has been going on for more than a year then you know that it is not a mere phase.

 

I began to worry about my personal growth and some parts of me that I unintentionally lost along the way. I used to be a go-getter person who will give a shot to anything I want to do but now I have a lot of hesitation. I used to be a much nicer person than I am but now I become so hostile towards people even ones whom I barely know. I always justify the hostility by saying: how can I be nice if I myself have a dull life, huh?. And I used to look forward to something but now I cannot really tell what day it is because it does not really matter if I do my Tuesday work on Monday or vice versa. Perhaps, this is the time to make an intervention to myself.

 

I tried to start over something new, but God, I thought that I run out of luck. I have always been a thick skinned kind of person in a sense that rejection will not ever bring me down. But having a major rejection in an age when I am supposed to face a quarter life crisis undeniably affected my self-esteem. I am saying about a scholarship rejection here, one that I applied a few months ago. (As I am typing this post I have just found out that I do not pass another scholarship).

 

They said that if God closes a door, He must open a window somewhere. If the scholarship had not worked out, then I should have pursued a better job opportunity. I sent my resume and here came a phone call from a strange number which turned out to be from a dream company of mine. I was ecstatic to imagine a possibility of relocating and working in this company’s newly established unit which was thoroughly covered by Harvard Business Review. Weeks have passed and the second fateful call has never come yet. I realized that is too much of a hope for me to expect that I would bag that job. It is too good to be true and I am not, in the first place, that good.

 

Am I seeing someone that I wanted to be when I grew up?

 

I am thankful for my life, but for that question I must say that I am not. I am not ashamed to admit that I am not fine with my life, because in order to fix something you need to acknowledge that you have a problem. And I believe it is okay for me to write that I am currently not okay since the state that I am in is not something that exclusively happens only to me.   
As I tuck myself in bed every night, I always pray that tomorrow will offer me a breakthrough that I did not have today or yesterday. I know that I am quite screwed right now but it is only temporary as I am young and will grow out of it.

A Millennial’s Impression on 60-years-old Tiga Dara

Ini film zaman dulu kak, hitam putih. Beneran mau?“, the box office attendant asked in disbelief upon my request to purchase tickets for matinee show of the restored 1956’s Tiga Dara (Three Sisters).

It seemed like the sight of millennials siblings going into cinemas to watch an archaic black and white movie was not something that that attendant anticipated.

But I am sold the moment I knew, from Alex Sihar’s talk in TEDxJakarta, about how this evergreen musical  from the legendary Usmar Ismail put a foundation in pop culture scene of Indonesia. The influence of the movie was so profound to the older generation, perhaps the impact was equivalent to my generation’s Petualangan Sherina, if not more. It is said that people of that era were so infatuated by the casts, music, and fashion of the movie.

As the title suggests, Tiga Dara tells a story about three sisters whose love life are somehow intertwined. The three sisters named Nunung, Nana, and Neni lived with their father and grandmother. After their mother’s passing, the eldest Nunung took care of the family’s chores.

At the age of 29, the grandmother exhorted Nunung to marry a man of her choice. But since the introverted Nunung was not seeing anyone, the grandmother set a plan with a help of the father and two other sisters to find a man for Nunung, who gave a lukewarm response to this crazy idea.

One morning, a man named Mas Totok came into Nunung’s life through a fortuitous encounter at the market. Although at first Nunung was so aloof, Mas Totok stole not only Nunung’s heart but also Nana’s. Being the youngest one, Neni came up with a comical scenario to solve the love triangles between Nunung, Nana, and Mas Totok.

I learned from this film that even though decades have changed, marriage in Indonesia is still seen as a family affair rather than a personal choice. The grandmother personified the old generation who sees marriage as a means to complete one’s life. Meanwhile, Nunung and her father represent the younger and more progressive generation who sees marriage as a choice rather than an obligation.

We witness how Nunung, who was a year short of turning 30, had to deal with societal pressure to get married before turning 30. The sheer pressure did not hinder Nunung from voicing out her own aspiration. It is impressive to see how women at that era are already depicted opinionated and take full control of their life. This view, in my opinion, should be retained in today’s films.

The music of this movie was beautifully composed by Saiful Bahri whose works were pretty much influenced by the traditional music of Melayu and swing. As the restoration team could not locate the whereabouts of the original record, they decide to re-record the songs with today’s musical talents such as Sari Sartje, Bonita, Monita, Danilla, Mondo Gascaro, and many more, arranged by the talented Indra Perkasa.

Considered as the trailblazer of Indonesian pop culture at its time, Tiga Dara has recruited a whole new generation of fans in its come-back. I am definitely one of them.

Sebelum Kita Ditelan Jakarta

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commuting in Jakarta

 

Apa yang harus kulakukan,
Sebelum kita ditelan Jakarta?
Tenggelam dalam gelombang riuh
Bising derap langkah kaki manusia
Duniamu yang utuh dan tak pernah bisa kusentuh
Duniaku yang tak pernah utuh, sebelum ku sempat memilikimu
Keduanya pernah terbentang pada satu ruang dan waktu
Hanya terpisah jarak selemparan batu
Sekuat tenaga kucoba mengayuh
Perahuku tak pernah bersauh di tempatmu
Ingin kutanyakan ini padamu
Apa yang harus kulakukan
Sebelum kita ditelan Jakarta?
“Mengenalku lebih jauh”
Kuharap itu jawabmu.

(Inspired by the overcrowdedness of Jakarta that does not allow two people to get to know or meet each other by chance)

“Your Social Media’s Feed Is My #LifeGoal?”

A brown-haired young girl, dragging a small black suitcase and followed by a trail of entourage, cafehopped in a quest of finding a picturesque place to conduct her photo shoot session. Once in between one fancy place to another, we catch a good glimpse of the girl’s love life as she and her boyfriend exchanged curses in the local language at one time and stole kisses at the other time. That very scene is enough to drive their massive following base on social media crazy and start to comment: #CoupleGoals or #RelationshipGoals.

Generation Z (people who were born in end 90s and 2000s) love the brown-haired girl. She obviously knows and is being smart about this. At the opposite end, some other people hate her, accusing her of being an awful role model and a product of bad upbringing. But who cares? at the end of the day you are not famous enough if you do not have haters coming on your way. The more fame she earns, the more online shops hire her to do social media endorsement. That black suitcase that the girl carried around is full of of products waiting to be shot and modeled by the girl in endorsements on social media.

In real life, the girl is not a famous movie star nor a pop star who graces your TV and magazine. “Excuse us, what is TV and what is it……ma..ga..zine??“, say a member of generation Z at the background. She is just a “regular” Indonesian girl who happens to be a social media savvy, if not a genius. I watched her story in a 37-minutes-long video blog (vlog) that has been viewed for almost 400k in a mere 5 days. With a little touch of rebellious side in her feed, which draws attention of her young audience, she manages to garner hundreds thousands of followers on social media.

Despite of being shunned for her non conventional demeanor (a little background about Indonesia: in our society girls are expected to be all covered up and demure by avoiding to curse in a public setting, well I know it is unfair since guys can curse), she offers a kind of lifestyle that perhaps Generation Z secretly long to have. I am not in any capacity to morally judge that aspiration but this girl can capture her audience’s aspiration and deliver what the audience crave for through her social media content, whether she does it deliberately or not.

The unprecedented shift in media consumption, as evidenced by more time spent on internet rather than on TV/ print media, has given birth to social media personas such as the girl with the brown-haired girl. I tell you she is not the only one. In Indonesia it is common to find out what seem to be regular people in real life have thousands to hundred thousands of followers on social media. There is one thing that these social media personas share in common, their picture perfect life is something that most Indonesians are not privileged to have a taste of. The relevance factor, in this case, is built from aspiration instead of proximity. These social media people are not people with whom Gen Z can identify themselves but rather a clique of cool people whom Gen Z aspire to be.

At another picture, the girl is shown hugging her boyfriend, both are dressed in Calvin Klein undergarment perhaps to mimic the famous ad of the undergarment brand. In a society that has a very high standard of modesty and is keen to judge, it takes a big courage to post a picture of yourself in underwear, let alone with your boyfriend. Had it been taken by common teenagers, the picture would have been frowned upon and been a subject of bad talks. Yet, the girl’s post is still flocked with comments of #BodyGoals or #RelationshipGoals.

This strikes me, does the girl’s social media feed embody the aspiration of her followers that everything she does becomes a #LifeGoal of her followers? If so, I guess we are in a dire need to start proliferating the idea of social media literacy.