Questions

I love my books. Not that I ever wrote one, mind you. I love books I own. I love to see them neatly arranged on the shelf; to see them slowly growing into a collection, resembling a personal library that is essential for my ego boost.

I also hoard books, meaning that I don’t want to lose them (except the bad ones). That is why every time someone asks me if they can borrow one of my books I always feel slightly worried that they might not return it.

Once, my co-worker said that he wanted to borrow a book I was reading (Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love–great book!). I told him I would lend him the book after I finished it. I never do because as far as I can see he didn’t read the book he bought several days before. It’s still there untouched, gathering dust on his desk. That’s cruel and I don’t want the same thing happen to my book. Even if he would read it, I believe he wont return it. Luckily, he seemed to forget that he wanted to borrow my book. Later, my other co-worker told me that he lent his book to this person and never got it back. My judgement was right. Oh, and poor him.

The thing is, I’m a nice person. I would never say no when someone asks me if I can lend them my books. I would always say “Of course!” with a huge smile on my face. But I wish I could always ask these questions to anyone who wants to borrow my precious collection.

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Congratulations

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To those who manage to be resilient despite hardship.
To those who manage a smile despite sorrow.
To those who love despite heartbreaks.
To those who always show compassion despite suffering.
To those who are brave enough to cry for help.
To those who have the guts to take risk.
To those who keep going despite uncertainty.
To those who know how and when to let go.
To those who hit bottom and get up.
To those who refuse to follow others and choose their own path.
To those who think that they aren’t strong but somehow still soldier on.
To those who aspire to be the change they want to see.
To those who keep their strength and carry on, facing life no matter how harsh, how harmful, how hazardous.
To those who wake up in the morning, unsure of what would happen but still manage to get out of bed and do whatever there is to be done because that’s the choice more sensible than cursing life and giving up.

Congratulations, we are the champions.


Image courtesy of Brooklyn Morgan via Unsplash

#DearMe: message to my younger self

Dear younger me,

In the future, there’s a popular service in the Internet called YouTube. This is where you’ll spend your time watching cat videos or people messing with mercury. In the year 2015, which is where I come from, YouTube will celebrate International Women’s Day by calling on women to do a video about what they want to say to their younger self. That explains why I’m here. So don’t freak out, okay?

First of all, I’m sorry I come out this way. It’s not that your future self doesn’t look good on camera or something (your looks gets better over years, you know, trust me). It’s just a lot easier to write a letter and you know YouTube won’t mind.

Now, here’s some message for you, my dear younger self. Please take heed.

Your English will get better

Those time spent watching MTV Indonesia and your adoration of songs sung in English was worth it. I thank you for that. Otherwise, I couldn’t write to you in this language you always find fascinating ever since your third grade teacher introduced it to you.

It’s okay to make grammatical errors. Don’t you worry about it (but you’ll be one of those Grammar Nazis in the future), just keep writing things in English even though it doesn’t make any frigging sense.

See, my dear younger self, you’re gonna be an English major and that’s awesome because you’ll get a lot to learn. You’ll write a skripsi in English for which you’ll get an A. That’s how good your English is (for a non-English native, of course).

You also will develop a very deep love for reading and you’ll learn a lot more from books you devour. It won’t be perfect, but it gets better. I promise. Just keep writing.

Don’t worry about not having a boyfriend

Because–surprise, surprise–you’re gay. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s going to be rough at times: how you always feel different from other girls, how you find yourself having a crush on your girl friends, how you’re afraid that people might find out and they’ll leave you and you’ll be lonely yada yada yada.

You know what, don’t worry. You’ll come out to your friends someday and they will accept you for who you are. And you’ll be grateful because it means a lot to you and is important to your own journey to self-acceptance.

Always remember what R. J. Palacio said:

Funny how sometimes you worry a lot about something and it turns out to be nothing.

Create something everyday

You know what they said (sometimes it’s okay to listen to “them”), little things add up. Create something everyday, no matter how small, no matter how mediocre. “If you work on something a little bit everyday, you end up with something that is massive,” Kenneth Goldsmith once said. Just make things; be it a piece of writing, doodles, laptop stand made out of cardboard (yes, you’ll make that one), knick-knacks, decorative shit, anything!

It’s okay if the things you make don’t turn out the way you imagine them to be. What matters is you made them and they are yours, your work, your own. It means you don’t just live your life sucking and consuming what other people make.

And remember what Betty Friedan told you in her The Feminine Mystique:

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.

Happy International Women’s Day. Here’s a photo of your way cooler future self.

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Why I stop worrying about me not being able to travel much

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In this Instagram epoch, more and more people want to travel so that they can post their photos from their journey and thus gain more likes and followers. They try to master the art of photography, buy a smartphone with killer snappers or action cameras or Leicas, and learn about the hottest traveling-related hashtags.

Ah, maybe that’s just me.

Millennial shallowness aside, I really admire people who travel, going to (Instagram-friendly) places unknown to them, getting lost in sort of way that it changes them, or better, transcends them, thus making them a better person (or so they claim).

But lately I felt that the desire to travel became more urgent to the point that it turned itself into a problem to be solved and therefore it caused anxiety.

I really want to travel but I can’t seem to find the time. Now, what if I couldn’t travel? What would my life be if I don’t travel? Would it make me a bad person? Would it make me less cool? Oh god, I hate my life!

This is, in my self-righteous (haha) opinion, partly because the Internet is inundated with beautiful travel pictures and blog posts ramming down your throat as to why you should travel and why it’s good for you.

While I wholeheartedly believe that traveling places, to some extent, is life-changing, I’m also bugged with a question: is it the only way to change your life, to be enlightened, to leave your comfort zone, to get lost, to find yourself and to be a better person?

I, too, want the experience, the insights, the sense of self-transcendence, of getting lost, of being someone new, someone better. But it’s not that easy to drop everything and go traveling, not as easy as they claim to be, at least for me.

Then, in the most serendipitous way, I bumped into Pico Iyer’s TED talk on one ordinary January day at work. Weeks later, my girlfriend got me Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost as my birthday present. This almost felt like the universe conspired to provide me some kind of answers.

Going nowhere and getting lost anywhere

The experience you get from traveling beautiful places, Iyer believes, can bring clarity to your life; you can turn sights into insights. Perhaps this is what people mean by “traveling can make you a better person.” But Iyer noted that “nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food.” To Iyer, it’s not about the place. It’s how you see the place.

You can master this turning-sights-into-insights business by developing “more attentive and more appreciative eyes.” And this set of right eyes can be acquired by–drum roll, please–going nowhere, you know, like sitting still and doing nothing. Yes, that’s what he said.

I found that going nowhere was at least as exciting as going to Tibet or to Cuba. And by going nowhere, I mean nothing more intimidating than taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.

Considering that Iyer is one of the most celebrated travel writers, this particular account came as quite a surprise to me. Yet it hits home, and in a way it’s kind of soothing. While most travelers urge people to pack their bags and suitcases and book flight to some strange exotic place, Iyer does the opposite: “Yo, sit still and think about all the things that bring you joy.”

To me, this is an antidote to the aforementioned anxiety. And thus, this becomes one of the things to prepare before I embark on the actual travel.

Meanwhile in A Field Guide, Solnit pointed out to me many ways to get lost. It turns out getting lost is not always about dislocation. It also happens in your head. It’s about the “immersion where everything else falls away.”

Lost was … mostly a state of mind, and this applies as much to all the metaphysical and metaphorical states of being lost as to blundering around in the backcountry.

In one chapter, Solnit talked about a short passage from Virginia Woolf’s essay, in which Woolf told her account, in such meticulous details, of rambling a city street and how one can lose the sense of oneself through this simple activity.

For Woolf, getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are. This dissolution of identity is familiar to travelers in foreign places and remote fastness, but Woolf, with her acute perception of the nuances of consciousness, could find it in a stroll down the street, a moment’s solitude in an armchair.

The shocking truth is, I’ve actually been experiencing this sense of being lost from time to time: on one Sunday morning in my parents’ house or when I spend my lunch break sitting alone on a bench in a park. The truth is, I’ve been trying to transcend myself this whole time by lying idly on a bed, listening to bird chirping or looking up to watch the sky getting split into little pieces by interweaving branches. Everything, for a moment, falls away. This also happens when I get so immersed in a book I’m reading.

Then I think to myself that perhaps I don’t have to go to faraway places to have this kind of amazing “adventure.” It’s always there as soon as I’m out my door, as I step onto the road. And if you’re careful, you can find it on your bed, on a park bench, or in a book you read.

Of course I still want to travel. I believe I will someday. But I don’t worry about it anymore for the desire to travel is no longer a problem to be solved but a reminder to myself that happiness or whatever it is that can bring calm and tranquility to your life isn’t found in places where you are not. It’s always right here as soon as you stop pursuing it.

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