Seriously, stop asking “kapan nyusul?”

So recently I’ve come to think that the question of “kapan nyusul?” is the root of all evil in our society. Okay, I’m exaggerating but I stand by my belief that that damn question does more harm than good. I hate it when someone asks me that question in any kind of context. I hate it even more than the question “kapan sembuh?” (FYI: I no longer friends with the pricks asking that dumb question)

I mean, what do you think life is? A race? Some kind of Agustusan competitions? If you do think that life is a race, you can stop reading and get the fuck out of here. I mean it. Go back to your little life/racing competition. I wish you luck. Hope you win.

Okay. Anyway, I personally think that the concept of “life is a race” is a form of ignorance. Imagine a person is born and put behind a starting stall like a horse or a dog setting out for a race. There is only a single track and you’re competing against everyone your age. Of course, there are checkpoints: go to school, graduate, get a job, travel to many places, get married, get a master’s degree, have kids, buy a house and a car – you know, the usual routine. And most importantly, like in any kind of race, there are winners and losers.

So when someone asks you “kapan nyusul?” what does it mean? It means that you’re lagging, dude! It means you’re losing, and this question does want you to feel like a loser, that your life is not going great right now and that you need to catch up. Crack the whip on your ass or you’re left behind.

Now, it’s not like I’m against marriage, grad school, properties, traveling, or babies. I’m happy for my married friends and those who have children and set out to start a family, or those who pursue higher education, hoard material possessions, or go wanderlusting (is that even a word?). I don’t really care if some people consider having all the ducks lined up in a row is an achievement or a sole indication of how a good happy life looks like. It’s just that I hope these people stop shaming others for not having what they have, ever or just yet.

Maybe we’ve been asking the wrong questions, to people and, most importantly, to ourselves. Oftentimes, we’re obsessed with a particular “am I happy?” question. And to answer that, we look up to others for reference or choose others to answer it for us. Oftentimes, we’re told that we’re not happy because we don’t have this, do that, go there, yada yada (when actually we’re just doing fine). And often, we believe that. We feel miserable. Maybe that’s the reason why the “kapan nyusul?” question can be very disheartening.

But “happy” is not a noun. It’s easier to answer if the question is “am I human?” The answer to the “am I happy?” question is more complicated and I believe each of us is free to define what happiness is. So when you ask someone if they’re happy, you need to be aware that it’s actually an open question, and you cannot argue with the answer because your definition of being happy may differ from others’.

Or maybe happiness is not what makes life good. It is not the marriage, not the job, not the kids, not the academic degrees, not the exotic places, not the money. Maybe what makes life good is to have meaning and a sense of purpose. Life is good when you know why you’re here. If we’re lucky, we don’t have to worry about being happy anymore.

So I’m saying stop asking “kapan nyusul?” To others or to yourself. You’re not doing anyone a favor and it’s annoying. Life is not a race. It’s a journey and we all have our own destination. We go at our own pace. The key is to keep going and try not to be so caught up in getting to a destination that we miss out on wonderful things along the way there.

In her beautiful (as usual) essay, Rebecca Sonit suggests that:

Like a life, a journey assumes a shape and a meaning that are only clear afterward, and like a journey, a life requires that you learn to let go of the plan when the actuality departs from it, to embrace what’s arriving, let go of what’s departing, to move forward and not get stuck. You can cover the same ground with entirely different purposes. Some people run away all their lives; some people search without finding; some people know where they’re headed and move toward goals, ideals, people; some in that subtlest of journeys move toward becoming who they are meant to be; some arrive.

On the other hand, Alan Watts argues that life could also be seen as a playful musical composition and we can be here, singing, dancing, and making meaning, as long as the music is being played.

Featured image courtesy of Jonathan Weiss via Unsplash


The last wave of goodbye

Tuesday, December 13, 2016. 3:59 a.m.

I cannot go back to sleep. My aunt from my mother side, whom we, her nieces and nephews, all called Mamah Rida passed away yesterday. Before I heard the news of her death, my cousin Gita, Mamah Rida’s daughter, messaged me that Mamah Rida was just back from the hospital for a check up. Her hip condition had been worse for a couple of days.

She had this pain in her hip for a few years now. One day she was trying to lift a big bucket filled with wet laundry and something in her pelvis system broke. That incident changed her and she became a large woman with a limp. But she was as cheerful as clear morning skies.

Anyway, back to the day I heard the news, I thought there was nothing serious with Mamah Rida. I thought it was just an unusual spike in pain in her hip that would be mitigated by drugs the hospital gave her. I phoned my mother to tell her this news and urged her to see Mamah Rida but she couldn’t because my father took the car.

I still remember how my mother said it, thirty minutes after our last call that afternoon. “Kak, Mamah Rida maot.”

And I still remember how my body reacted to the news. Sudden weakness on the knees. Excessive need to sit down. I was in a wedding favor shop with V and she thanked the attendant guy and rushed me back to our parked motorcycle.

It was hard to grasp considering Gita just told me not long before – only few hours before – that Mamah Rida was home. I was so naive to think that someone with an illness is better after they see a doctor.

On my way to the motorcycle, after experiencing utter disbelief, I finally bursted into tears. What triggered it was the memory from my childhood: I was about 5 or 6, in my grandparents house with my brother and Gita. Just the three of us. And Mamah Rida as our caregiver.

She took care of us during the days when my mother and my father went to work. She was sometimes mean to us and how at that time I hated her and was so scared of her. She shared this glare with my mother, the glare that terrified me (still does), and I couldn’t wait for my father to come home because by then Mamah Rida won’t be so mean to me.

And to see her, wrapped up, lying lifeless in her cramped living room, in her tiny house, my heart ached. To see her figure under the sheet there… so quiet and still.

When my mother finally arrived at Mamah Rida’s, she untangled the head tie and made Mamah Rida’s face visible. And I couldn’t help but cry like a baby. To see her, eyes closed, with the frown that once scared me, with her lips went grayish, I wonder whether death was painful to her. And I hope now that what pained her was the damage in her hips and that death was what set her free.

After the funeral, I went home and arrived at 10 p.m.-ish and super tired after the hike to Mamah Rida’s final resting place up in the slippery muddy hill. I went to bed straight after taking a cold shower and devouring the leftover pasta we cooked the morning before.

And then here I am, waking up in the middle of the night to the fact that I just lost an aunt. A funny and cheerful aunt. I kept thinking about her tiny house. The sad place she lived and ultimately died in. I recognize most of the furniture as the one that was once in my parents house. Mamah Rida had so little in her possession so she took used cabinets, clothes, utensils, and many things and junks my mother decided not to use again.

I heard later that she managed to travel to Sukabumi few days before her death to attend to something I didn’t know of. Her pain worsened right after she went back home. I hope that she was happy on that day when she was away.

But I couldn’t help but feel deeply sorry for her. In other version of stories, she could have at least led a productive, happy, and prosper life. She may not be a college graduate like her sisters. But she was really kind. She would love to cook us seblak or bala-bala with pempek dressing or extra spicy noodle during our visit to her house and vice versa. I could see that that was her happy moments. She loved to serve and help others. I felt sorry that her life was cut too short.

Then I remember something that Dumbledore said to Harry.

Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.

I want to believe with all my heart that the life Mamah Rida lived was full of love and joy and that others felt this too in her presence.

It’s hard to go back to sleep. My mind kept rewinding Mamah Rida’s exciting contagious high pitch laugh in my head, her voice when she spoke to me, her fondness of saying “Dasar boneng!” and her repeated story of how I always asked for a present every time she was back from work when I was very little.

“Dulu kamu pas Mamah Rida pulang kerja teh sok minta kado. ‘Mamah Rida, koda! Mamah Rida, koda!’ Gitu ngomongnya. Inget gak?”

I always liked it when she told me that story. The last time we met was this year’s Ied holidays and that story came up.

I will surely miss hearing it from her again.


The curtains were blowing in the gentle morning breeze. Looking at the children, Death said quietly, “Cry, Heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.

Glenn Ringtved

This is originally written as my journal (ahem, diary) post at the time I couldn’t sleep. I suppose I could share it here for others who may recognize themselves in the story and may find some consolation, if any.

Featured image courtesy of Lukas Budimaier via Unsplash

Morrissey Live in Jakarta 2016

It was no fun standing for two hours, waiting on muddy wet grassy ground, with both legs asleep and pins and needle all over your feet. It was no fun indeed that the suede shoes you bought a week prior to the occasion (couldn’t afford Doc Martens) now ruined because you kept accidentally stepping on puddles of mud that most likely used to be one of the golf holes in this ex-golf course in Central Jakarta where Morrissey, the charming man of my life, would have his second live performance in Indonesia (pray to god it wont be his last).

Perhaps the promoter wanted to bring Glastonbury feels, you know, with all that grass, mud, light rain and all. But it’s Jakarta with its terrible and possibly deadly heat and humidity. And if this is true, then the promoter has failed miserably.

But as I stood there on the muddy grass waiting and partly enjoying the 30-minute montage (among which were Maya Angelou’s voice-over reading No, No, No, No and Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen video), I kept thinking that the moment Moz came out of the wing, it was going to worth it.

And it totally, totally was. At least for the most part of it.

After a bow with the band, the charming man marched up to the mic and gave us a short acapella: “My heart, my heart, my heart, Jakarta!” The crowd roared and Suedehead came to play as the opening song for the night.

It was a good lay. Moz singing Suedehead.

It was my first time attending his gigs and it was almost surreal. I was constantly at the verge of bursting into tears, between utter joy and disbelief that I could live to see this day, that I could cross path with this man who came up with the most memorable lines in the history of song writing like to die by your side, well, the privilege, the pleasure is mine or the more you ignore me, the closer I get, you’re wasting your time.

I tried to keep my composure as I, along with the rest of the concert goers, sang along to his greatest hits including Alma Matters, Everyday is Like Sunday, Kiss Me A Lot, Speedway (where Gustavo flawlessly sang the last verse in Spanish), and Ouija Ouija Board.

And then it wasn’t long until Moz went political. After throwing his shirt to the audience during the end of Let Me Kiss You, he came back to the stage wearing a black shirt and asking the crowds whether we liked Donald Trump. I’m not sure what he made out of the noises coming from the fans, but then he went on saying “I’m surprised” followed with the exquisite World Peace is None of Your Business (substituting “ooh Egypt, Ukraine” with “ooh the USA“).

Each time you vote, you support the process. Moz during World Peace is None of Your Business.

He didn’t stop there. After I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris, You’re the One for Me Fatty, Judy is a Punk, and Jack the Ripper, he continued with Ganglord with a video montage of police brutality playing on the screen. This was too depressing I may say. Too much violence I had to look away from the stage. There were also some disturbing clips of police fatally harming dogs that I just couldn’t watch. Knowing Morrissey and his outspoken political views, it is not surprising at all.

The tension from the brutal video was eased a bit as Moz continued with First of the Gang to Die and The Bullfighter Dies. And then, the screen showed a picture of Prince William and Kate. Over this backdrop, Moz sang This World is Full of Crashing Bores.

They who wish to hurt you work within the law.

I enjoyed wholeheartedly the next two songs, How Soon is Now? and You have Killed Me, until I had to look away again after Moz pleaded “please don’t kill anything” and continued with vegetarian’s anthem Meat is Murder. This time, the screen showed horrifying video of animal cruelty.

Refusing to look at the stage, I only listened to Moz sang with my head turned sideways, fixing my gaze on some tall buildings nearby. Even after over three decades since the song’s first released, you can tell by the way he emphasized the lines “Eat, kill! Eat, kill! Murder!” that Moz is still as pissed at the meat industry as ever. After the song ended, the screen turned black and the huge white letters appeared.

Do you know how animals die?

When I looked up, Moz was nowhere to be found. At first I didn’t fret. I was so sure he was just changing and would come out again to deliver the encore (I was hoping I’m Not a Man as I heard it rehearsed during soundcheck).

But soon, one by one, the band exited the stage and I grew worried. It was not until 20 minutes when the crew packed up the set, I knew it was over. To this day, I still cannot believe that that was it. I thought I was going to experience something like “25 Live” with The Boy with the Thorn in His Side as the final song and people attempting to climb up the stage to steal a hug or a kiss. Too high of an expectation if I think about it again.

All in all, despite the slightly unenthusiastic crowd, the sickly heat, the muddy venue, and ruined shoes, I was having fun. The set was really nice, jam-packed with good old stuff while the not-so-recent stuff from World Peace was kept to a minimum (only three songs in total), although I was sincerely hoping to get more from it like Kick the Bride Down the AisleIstanbul, and especially Staircase at the University ’cause I really, really wanted to see Gustavo slayed the guitar solo. I’m not complaining though, the old stuff is what introduced me to Moz after all. So, it’s a glorious nostalgia.

Yet, as I drove back to Bandung on the lonely dark highway, I couldn’t shake this tiny disappointment that, I suspect now, stemmed from the belief that I deserve a proper goodbye, at least a little thank-you bow and a see-you-later wave. My girlfriend dozed off on the passenger seat and I was feeling blue. It feels like Moz has just broken this unwritten contract between a performer and the audience. But then again, he’s just Morrissey being Morrissey, unpredictable moody old drama queen. And I can’t help smiling when I remember, on some point during the show, he repeatedly yelled at the audience: “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

For what it’s worth, the most important thing is that I got to see the Moz in person, and that it’s a privilege and pleasure in its entirety for the opportunity to be standing before such a living legend.

Now I can die happy.

Tired but overjoyed. Trying to sneak an ugly self-portrait with the cardboard cutout Moz.


The medical adventure

For better or worse, life always has many surprises. And like surprises, it’s abrupt and, well, just surprising, and at times shocking. One of the surprise that life has thrown in my way recently is in the form of appendicitis.

Everyone’s born with an appendix (maybe, I haven’t done the research), this part of our intestinal system that some claim has no purpose or contribution at all to human body, although that’s still debatable. This appendix of mine went crazy in the most abrupt manner which resulted in me lying down on a surgery table, unsure, and excited about my first and my last appendectomy and how I thought that the appendix did serve a purpose after all.


On the Tuesday, April 5 evening, after a USG scan, after the doctor found a large inflammation in my lower right abdomen, I was hurriedly taken on a wheelchair to a surgery room and asked to strip and wear an ugly brown gown that barely covered my butt.

While I waited for them to summon me to the surgery table, I thought of Rebecca Solnit book that I currently read at that time. In one chapter, she talked about her own surgery, calling it her medical adventure.

You might be interested: [Book review] The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

This surgery would be my medical adventure too, though it’s rather unwanted and I was afraid of the idea of being torn open and stitched back like I was some kind of a fabric. But it’s still an adventure in a sense that it’s a journey to the unknown which also means many firsts for me: blood being drawn, urine being tested, getting anesthetized, losing consciousness, parts of me being taken away, and most of all, having to trust my life and survival to a bunch of strangers.

In the surgery waiting room, I also thought of my last roller coaster trip and told myself: “you’ll never know, you may come out of this okay and get to tell one hell of a story about it.” Acknowledging that you don’t know a thing about the future, that it’s unknown and that it holds mysteries, sometimes calms you down.

So when they called out my name, I was excited. Afraid and scared, yes, but mostly excited. The surgery table was shaped like a cross. They told me to lie down on my back and spread my arms like Jesus. They installed medical apparatus on my arms and gave me anesthesia. I could feel the strange substance traveled through the vein in my left arm and to my heart. The next second, my legs went asleep and it seemed that somebody just turned everything off in my body. And then I gave in. As I closed my eyes, just before I passed out for good, I let myself cheered: “oh so this is how it feels to be anesthetized!”

It felt like a fast forward to the future, skipping the moment when some doctors made an incision in my belly, cut off a part of me, and sewn me back. I found it odd that I could miss the most violent and possibly horrifying moment in my life, that I could get through it without having to feel pain, although it did left a scar. To be anesthetized is to be amnesia.

I stayed at the hospital for about two days and people came to see me, mostly my parents’ colleagues, bringing a lot of bounties. I told my manager and coworkers that I couldn’t show up at work for the next several days and they sent me lots of good wishes (and the HR granted me extra five day paid leaves. Woo!). When I made my way back to civilization, my friends came to my kostan, bringing the most delicious sweet martabak I’ve ever tasted and stories about people with weird names and laughter that hurt my not-fully-recovered abdomen.

My girlfriend, she is just the best. Juggling between college and work, she was able to give me the unwavering attention and devotion. She took care of me with compassion, patience, and love.

And my parents, they do what parents do during my crisis. I remember that when the anesthesia started to wear off and I was still half conscious, my mother and my father gave me a kiss on my forehead. It was the first time in so many years. And I remember holding their respective forefingers and saying “thank you” before I blacked out again.


The night before the surgery, I felt a blinding pain in my stomach. I went to the doctor that evening and she told me I was having an acid reflux, that nothing was serious. But the pain stayed even after I took the expensive medication that the clinic had me buy. It was so excruciating that I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking that I was going to die that night, that death was just a blood puke away. It was just like when I had a major asthma attack in the fourth grade. I was suddenly very aware of my mortality.

My death wish that night. Yes, I can be very overdramatic.

It turned out that I survived the night but the pain remained and was worse. By the morning, I decided to go home to my parents house on an Uber and asked for their help.

That’s right. I was asking for help.

I used to think that I could be entirely, totally, independent of my parents. I used to arrogantly think that I didn’t need them or anybody else for that matter, that I could be just fine on my own. Then, appendicitis adjusted my perspective a little bit. And I came across this on my hospital bed:

Illness mitigates solitude in another way that it attacks any notion that you are separate, autonomous, and independent. You require bone marrow or blood from another; the care of experts and of the people who love you. You are made ill by a mosquito or a virus or an unknown environmental toxin or by an aberrant gene you inherited or some exciting combination of these things. You cannot ignore that you are biological, mortal, and interdependent.

Then I think to myself: I survived appendicitis, and many calamities that happened in my life, because I had asked for help and because people had helped me.

Before appendicitis and before The Faraway Nearby, I always thought that asking and receiving help or generous gestures would put me in debt and thus it did feel like a burden. Little did I know that this kind of indebtedness actually would bind people together.

I didn’t tell my friends that I had a surgery. The reason why I did that was unclear. They eventually knew and when they came to my kostan, they told me: “Lain kali mah ngomong kalau ada apa-apa teh.

“…There are gifts people yearn to give and debts that tie us together. Sometimes to accept is also a gift.”

To wrap it up, let me just quote yet another lines from The Faraway Nearby, the book that my kind girlfriend got me for my birthday in January.

A major illness or injury is a rupture that invites you to rethink, to restart, to review what matters. It’s a reminder that your time is finite and not to be wasted, and in breaking you from the past it offers the possibility of starting fresh.

So I guess the appendix serves a purpose after all, at least for me. It turned into an illness and the illness, with the help of the wonderful book about stories and empathy that is The Faraway Nearby, turned me into somebody new who will not hesitate to ask for help.

Featured image courtesy of Gratisography.

The day I stopped calling my parents’ house my house

This year is my second year since I moved out of the house where I grew up in. Ever since that day I packed my stuff and moved in to my first crummy little kostan room with non-en-suite bathroom, I stopped calling that house my house. I now simply call it my parents’ house.

I don’t really understand why this slight change in the sense of possession of that house occurred. I should’ve realized it earlier because technically that house is, and has always been, my mother’s. My brother and I (and to an extent, my father) were basically just a bunch of freeloaders.

When I told people that I moved out of my parents’ house, most of them gave me a wry, condescending smile. Some told me that moving out should happen after you’re married and it should be your husband taking you out of that house and put you in another. Some of them told me that instead of spending my money on paying the rent, I should stay and save to buy the house of my own.

Some said: “susah kok dicari?”

Actually, the last one was my mother’s saying.

I understand why I got a lot of such uninspired comments: I’m still living in the same city as my parents and their house is only 6 miles away (30-minute drive) from my place. Besides, it’s not common in our culture for a single woman to move out of her parents’ house and live independently by her own means unless there’s a condition like having a job in another city.

The only thing I could do to respond to those people and their comments is giving them a shrug and, of course, zero fuck.

It’s my life to wreck, you self-righteous bitches.

Of course I don’t tell them that. Something else I don’t tell them is the fact that I don’t really have many happy memories in that house or with its residents. It’s always been the issue with young adults who are inclined to leave their parents’ house.

I had always been dreaming about moving out of it since I was a kid. I remember when I was ten or eleven, I once made an attempt to run away because I didn’t want to wear the dress my mother bought me.

Even then I knew I was different and eventually there came a time when I realized that this house would never ever accept me for what I really am. I had to put up with its inhabitants for so long (and the other way around obviously).

When I finally got my first real job and was quite sure that I was financially independent, I took a leap of faith and fled the nest.

But I gotta say, it’s not easy living on your own, especially if you’re a twenty-something millennial with a low pay job.

When your friends go out having coffee in a hip cafe, you’re thinking about what to eat for dinner. When your friends post holiday pictures on the Instagram, you’re thinking about how to pay bills and rent and make it to the next pay day.

You might be interested: Why we hate it when our friends become successful

Now, I’m not complaining, alright. I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s my choice and I’d rather live in a cramped room than live in lies.

To some people, living with parents affords the luxury of having not to worry about bills or rent. The other perks is that you have the chance to save. In return, you have to be a nice, good kid, a kind of mirror that reflects the self-image your parents want to see.

And there is where my problem lies: I can never be such a kid. Ever. So I ran away. Yeah, in a way.

See, most kids regard their parents as their role models, an example of what they should be when they grow up. They inherit values and practices from their parents and will likely pass them on to their own kids in the future.

That’s not the case with me. I don’t have as my birthright what Rebecca Solnit calls “an adequate or at least unquestioned sense of self.” My moving out of my parents’ house is an act of reinventing myself, finding my own ground, exploring the terra incognita beyond the circle of my comfort zone. And maybe also a little bit of rebellion against my parents’ values and their expectation of me.

People might think that I’m an ungrateful brat, a deviant. But being biologically related doesn’t always guarantee love. And there are asshole parents out there oblivious of their own shortcomings.

And of course, yes, I’m an asshole kid too. No doubt about that.

Yet still, I respect my parents and that’s the best I can do as a child. I try to be on my best behavior when I’m around them (that’s why holiday seasons are the hardest). I’m only doing it to honor the time they fed me, clothed me, bathed me, wiped my barf off my face when I was still a wee baby. Not to mention their utmost generosity to get me proper education. I really admire what they did.

So yeah, I moved out of my parents house. But not out of their lives I ain’t. Well at least not yet (I have yet to come out). In fact, my relationship with them gets better over time I’m away from them. And even though I don’t live in that house anymore, I somehow still call it home.

Featured image courtesy of Elizabeth Lies via Unsplash.

5 Good Books I Read in 2015

So, I read 19 books this year, instead of 25 like I planned to in my 2015 Reading Challenge. I know, I know, I’m such a slob and the featured image is over-dramatic. Ugh. I knew from the start that I’m not going to make it. I should’ve not set it 25 at the first place. But then again, I never thought that I actually can make it to 19. It’s more than last year or any year in my life! So, I guess, hooray?

Anyway, to sum up my not-so-great reading year, and to make up for my shortcoming, here’s a list of five good books I read throughout 2015 (in no particular order).


1. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit


A Field Guide to Getting Lost was published in 2005 and it took a decade for the book to reach me. It found its way to me through Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. I told my girlfriend that I really wanted the book and being an awesome girlfriend that she is, she took that as a hint and she gave me the book on my 25th birthday! Not a single day spent when I’m not grateful of that.

To be honest, I don’t know where to start to explain the magic that the book has cast on me, not to mention how life-changing it is. The day I finished reading it for the first time, I read it again that very day. And the day I finished the book for the second time, I felt indescribably sad because I wanted to read it all over again for the third time but I knew I had to move on.

Simply put, A Field Guide to Getting Lost offered me the most singular reading experience I’ve ever had. It’s thought-provoking and profoundly moving. The subject of getting lost, of being lost, of letting go, of facing the unknown with bravery, of stepping out of one’s comfort zone isn’t new, but Ms. Solnit put a set of glasses on me that made me see the subjects she discussed in her compelling, beautifully-written essays with new eye-opening perspective.

It’s easy to get lost yourself in the book, to get immersed in the story of captivity, of beautiful person, of friends, of relationship, of adulthood and childhood, of maps, of Nature, of blues, of metamorphosis, of distance, of desire, of Albert Hitchcock’s Vertigo, of so far and so on.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost gave me a new meaning about falling in love with a book, so much that it’s literally always in my bag, with me anywhere I go. It’s the book that puts me to sleep on many sleepless nights, not because it’s boring but rather comforting, like being in a cradle of your mother’s arms. No, seriously, this book is like a bible to me, the one that I will always turn to again and again.

Favorite quote:

To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surrounding fade away. In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography.

2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio


I think it is necessary for grownups to get into children’s books sometimes because they are full of wisdom and some of them tell it in a straight-forward, non-patronizing way. And if you were to ask me what’s my favorite children’s book, then Wonder would be it.

Wonder is a story about a 11-year-old boy named August “Auggie” Pullman. Auggie always feels that he’s nothing but an ordinary boy. However, his unfortunate physical condition makes him anything but. Auggie’s adventure begins when his parents send him to a public school for the first time in his life.

In the book, Auggie becomes the center character around which other stories revolve. Yes, other characters, like Auggie’s sister Pia and Auggie’s friend Jack, also get to tell their own stories including how they see Auggie. And this is where the book stands out.

R. J Palacio is capable to write each narrative thread with distinctive voice, even style. I like how Palacio gives the reader access to the story of many different characters and thus gives the readers the understanding as to why this particular character did what they did. This also allows the readers to gain more impression about Auggie.

Wrapped in a heart-warming story, all characters (except Julian and his mom, that bitch) conspire to form one important message that the book tries to pass on to readers:

Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


And if you were to ask me what’s my second favorite children’s book, it’s The Little Prince, though I wouldn’t so much call it children’s book. It’s a children’s book written for grownups and it will surely give grownups like you and me an epic proverbial slap across our faces.

The Little Prince forces you to remember what it’s like being a child and reminds you that grownups and being one generally suck: how they prefer “golf, politics and neckties” to “jungles or stars,” and how “they’re no longer interested in anything but numbers.”

I’m not free from blame though. I’m one of the grownups described in the book. It’s true because I feel disappointed in myself for not having completed my reading goal. I’m disappointed because I could only read 19 books out of 25. See, that’s how awful grownups can be: they focus so much on numbers instead on things that matter.

But getting old and growing up are some of the things in life that are inevitable, as what happened to the narrator and the rest of us. But we must not forget how wonderful it is being a child and that the things that matter are seldom visible.

Favorite quote:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.


4. Love and Mr. Lewisham by H. G. Wells


The last time I read a classic (Emma), I almost died of excruciating boredom. Then, I decided that text from days of yore was simply not my cup of tea.  That’s why it came quite a surprise to me that I actually enjoyed reading Love and Mr. Lewisham.

Now, the book is not actually from Jane Austen era but it is a tough read (it’s published in 1899, for the sake of god) and it took a while for me to finish. But I can say that it’s really worth it!

I’ve never read romance so realistic as this, despite its historical and cultural background. By romance, I don’t mean touchy-feely, hearts-and-flower shit like Nicholas Spark novels. The kind of romance portrayed in Love and Mr Lewisham is the one that destroys and ruins you, one that contradicts your principles, one that is tragic, one that doesn’t have happy ending, one that is full of struggle. Because, as someone in Medium put it, “when life enters the picture — bills and payments and jobs and stress and divided attentions — that’s when love starts to feel less like a romance and more like a battle.”  Well, Wells understands this very well. He also touches the subjects of human nature, politics, and spiritualism.

Favorite quote:

What is man? Lust and greed tempered by fear and irrational vanity.


5. The Hours by Michael Cunningham


Everyone has at least that one book whose story resonates the most with them, that they can easily relate to. This kind of book is usually the one that reminds them that they are not actually alone. The Hours does that to me.

The Hours is not an easy read. I had to read the book five times before I penned this. Too much $10 words I had to consistently look up to dictionaries, moving back and forth between Merriam-Webster and Google Translate. But it’s worth it, I’m telling you.

I watched the movie version first before reading the book (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman deliver stunning performances). Unlike the movie, the novel gives me immense access to the inner lives of the three women; what and how they feel in given moments. You have no idea what happened inside someone’s head in a seemingly ordinary day of their lives.

It’s amazing to know that you share that indescribable inner turbulence you feel everyday with somebody else. This somebody else is fictional, I know, but someone who wrote this story (in this case, Cunningham) is real. He knows that this kind of feeling exists and he successfully transcribed it for others who might feel the same way.

Favorite quote:

Think how wonderful it might be to no longer matter. Think how wonderful it might be to no longer worry, or struggle, or fail. What if that moment at dinner—that equipoise, that small perfection—were enough? What if you decided to want no more?

Bonus: 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer


I didn’t actually finish the book. I’m still reading it though, skipping through and opening random pages. I guess the book is never meant to be read linearly at the first place and that is, to me, its charm. The joy is in the moment you bump into some particular things and you just happily smile because you’re in an agreement.

No plot, no characters, no setting, not even structure. Just a very long list of little things (some of them pretty big) that make life worth living.
It’s true that some things can only be acquired by financial wealth, but most of the things that can bring you joy are actually free. That’s the message the book’s trying to deliver.

14,000 things to be happy about is indeed one of the things to be happy about. Also thank you, Yana and Maul, for getting me this wonderful book. I’ve added our friendship to my personal list of things to be happy about.

To wrap this listicle up, I wish you a happy new year! Have a good one people!

5 Takeaways from Self-Reliance

When there’s nothing physical books lying around, I started to find freebies online. Yes, I’m that cheap and I try not to be a purist who only sticks to “real” books, although I prefer tangible books any other day.

So I settled for this free PDF of Self-Reliance by the great Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Truth be told, it was not an easy read. There are a bunch of fancy vocabularies and structures, but likewise there’s also a lot of good stuffs in there. It’s like a bible to the non-conformist in you.

Here’s my takeaways, I hope it’s of help.

1. On what it means to be authentic, doing things for oneself, not for others’ validation (and how hard it is):

“My life is for itself and not for a spectacle […] What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. […] It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

2. On how conforming to society “standard” that one finds irrelevant will diminish one’s own character:

“The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is, that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character.”

3. On how one should be like Nature, existing for what one is:

“Man is timid and apologetic; he is no longer upright; he dares not say “I think,” “I am,” but quotes some saint or sage. He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”

4. On keeping true to yourself and others and how it’s necessary to let go of people who are “not in the same truth” with you:

“I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. […] You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility.”

5. On how traveling is not the means to cure sadness and how anxiety will follow you even to the most beautiful places (similar to this article in The Philosophers’ Mail and Pico Iyer’s TED talk)

“Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

One-liner bonus: