Who Are Friends If Not the Strangers We Chose to Talk to?

Traditional celebrations like 1st of Syawal (a.k.a. spending longer time with parents and siblings) can mean various things for a person: questions of “when-are-you-getting-married”, obligation of replying tons of broadcasted texts, hours of ride to an unknown area, but among others: missing your friends—or, in a more romantic sense, “the family you pick for yourself”. This post might get a little bit too sentimental, but really, I can’t find a better method of expressing how friendship takes a lot of part to my daily happiness.

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I’m not a fan of cheesy tokens of friendship, but these necklaces made by Diku are irresistably cute—although I can’t promise her that I’m ever going
to wear it. Sorry, darling. HAHAHA.

*clears throat*

Familiar with those cliche lines about “true friends are those who stick with you through the hard times” and the rest of similarly phony quotes? Well, let’s not stop there. This post would argue that there are countless factors, tinier but more profound bits, that constitute a friendship. And even more intriguing, I’ve found that a plethora of friendship types exist—not being in one category doesn’t make you a less valuable friend, the system simply works differently. The following ones are just several examples that are by no means mutually exclusive to one another (i.e. a person can belong to more than one group) and they may or may not be applicable in your own story:

1. The Guys Who Bro-zoned You

Or, if you’re a male, the girls who sister-zoned you. This type includes those from the opposite-sex who can easily ask you out to accompany them to another town or hang out the whole day and tell you boring stories about their newest crush yada yada yada with no hesitation whatsoever. Being with them (usually two or three altogether) in your best days can mean feeling safe under the watch of plural bodyguards—but in your worst days when you really need them, their girlfriends (if they have any) take them away.

Some of you might start seeing traces of this pattern around: the one-girl-with-two-boys and (I don’t really see that much but for the sake of gender equality) one-boy-with-two-girls? This type usually goes in sets like that. Oh and, familiar with the “let’s get married if we can’t find anyone when we’re 40” vow? One can always abuse their bro/sisterzoned friends for this. LOL.

2. The Partners in Rare, Short, but Always Meaningful Discussions

People say that the best kind of friends are whom you can spend hours with—even while doing nothing at all. But what if, for unavoidable reasons, some friends cannot always be around? Be it because they have to live somewhere abroad, work miles away from your office, or study in the same campus but are busied with completely dissimilar activities? Thanks to happenstances, though, somehow you meet them sitting alone in the canteen, carrying their books in the library, rushing into the train you’re on, or blinking on Skype. When this happens, you feel like the happiest person in the world, because you know that you’ll engage in one of those priceless conversations.

It’s almost impossible for me to take names as examples because there are just too many of them—but if you find posts containing brilliant ideas in this blog, you might realize that they are often derived from the discussions with my brilliant friends from this category.

3. The Communal Friends

You know, a group of people that laugh very hard at your jokes and whose jokes you laugh at—you love spending time with them because they’re fun, hilarious and all, but the magic disappears when you hang out with one of them separately. (It doesn’t always have to be like that, but it happens, really.) I’m not saying that we don’t love hanging out with merely one of them, but you know, everything suddenly becomes very awkward when the rest of the gang left.

People who went to boarding school or various organizational activities might be familiar with this pattern. Most girls in Kharisma Bangsa’s female dormitory (I’m particularly close to Melissa, Juli, Ami, Putri, and a lot others, but you get the idea), International Relations batch 2009, the HNMUN team (for three consecutive years), my Project Management squad, etc. I think it does not mean that they don’t worth as an individual (of course they do), but the saying, “The sum is greater than the parts,” explains it better.

4. The You’re-So-Different-from-Me Friends

Although most friendships are based on similarities, there are certain attachments that were born from differences instead. You know, the blonds you meet overseas, the Ahmadi peer you encounter at a course on human rights, and—yet the best—the gay friends! HAHAHA. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that I tend to befriend people because they don’t come from the same background of religion or even sexual orientation, but you know, having fresh, surprising insights from people with life stories so alien to yours is so valuable they have to stand on their own category. Cheers for stronger tolerance and humanity.

5. The I-Hate-You-but-Somehow-We-Always-End-Up-Forgiving-
Each-Other Friends

Let me tell you a secret: friends who have extremely similar points of view with yours can be twice more dangerous than those from classification #4. I’m not a big fan of horoscopes, really, but two people from the same zodiac should be careful lest they want to maintain a good relationship with each other. It can be extremely challenging for two Aquarians, in particular, because they’re generally born with pride and selfishness. (I have many stories to share where the subjects stopped talking to each other every now and then, but let me keep it there.)

Indeed, limiting the course of hatred to ‘coming from the same zodiac’ would oversimplify the case, but basically it’s when you become friends with people who have similar characteristics or traits with you—having a similarly big ego, or the likes. At its best shape, you will think that maintaining this kind of friendship is worth all the mean texts and painful yells at each other, but the same pattern repeats so frequently you start questioning if that premise is true.

6. The Family Friends

This one is pretty scarce, but there are cases when you don’t stop at becoming friends with a person, you also become friends with their sister, brother, or even the entire family. Maybe the philosophy behind such pattern is this: “If friends are the family you pick for yourself, it’s more practical when they already come in a package!” LOL. I surprisingly have two friends that belong to the same family (the sister is just older by two years, so it does make sense).

7. Le Best (Girl)Friends

This one seems to be Indonesian movies’ favorite. The girls in Ada Apa Dengan Cinta or sok-keren ones you’re sick of in cheap sinetrons are just two quick examples. I myself always frown at my television when these girls get pretentious or shout some obnoxious jargons, but I can’t help but to admit that—in a less annoying way—I’m also one of them. Please don’t laugh.

It’s not like your entire life depends on these girls, but they’re the first aid kit whenever you need a mind-venting ritual. I can literally talk anything—and I mean anything—to my girls. Wheter you’re having a bad hair day, parts of a newly-read book you need to excitedly bore someone with, an idea for some organizational stuff you need to brainstorm about, boys issues, anything.

What’s even better about them is that sometimes you don’t even need to talk to tell them things. They never really listen anyway—they sort of understand you beyond words. In a more negative note, this means that they don’t need your permission to do anything. This means that when you don’t allow them to sleep on your bed, they will do it anyway. Or they can borrow your dress and tell you that it looks better on them without having to worry that you will feel bad about it. It’s not because they don’t respect you, but because they know that you wouldn’t mind. Or you would, but they just don’t care. LOL.

***

What I can underline is this: people say that friendship is about accepting our friends’ imperfect personalities as they are. But that can’t be entirely true, since you are the one who already conduct a ‘personal selection’ from the very start
—not that it’s bad or anything.

Again, these imaginary boxes are not intended to classify, let alone differentiate one type of friends with another, because there’s no such thing. Although one should not be self-conscious when they interact with their friends, as a social scientist I cannot help but to realize what I’ve elaborated in this post.
Remember: they can always overlap and a person may transcend any of these categories. For instance, my girlfriends and I are also involved in a variety of professional ties (I’m their coach in one activity and one of them is my vice president in another organization), but such facts cannot not matter any less to how we see one another.

So you see: there are friends you take for granted, friends you catch by surprise, and friends whom you wish were around. Some friendships’ kick-off might be admiration whilst some others depart from hatred, but you know that each one is distinct, incomparable, and adds up uniquely to your overall life story.

P.S. I’m also available on The Jakarta Globe Blogs now.
P.S.S. I still can’t believe I made this post almost two years ago. Corny to the core.
P.S.S.S. It is to my sudden comprehension that maybe being humble is not about keeping your head down to compliments—maybe the real proof of humility is to celebrate your friend’s victory. To pat on their back when they are successful.

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What Aboriginal Paintings Can Tell You

This lengthy post has actually been hanging around my draft box for almost a month (when plenty important events conspired to take place at the same time, that is). A week in Melbourne plus three more being inside the government’s system taught me a great deal of lessons, and so do Aboriginal paintings. You will see my attempt to link both of them in this post.

For the record, the following indigenous illustrations of Australia were mostly inspired by Dreamtime, a sacred era when, according to the animist framework, ancestral totemic spirit beings created the world. This includes how the birds got their colors, babies their spirits, and so on. Faith developed from the simplest things can turn out to be the most beautiful, don’t you agree?

1. A wonderful trip and a good home are both about being with the right person(s)—the place never matters.

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When did the concept of ‘home’ first appear? Was it after the nomads decided to stay and lead their life in a single area forever, or was it about being where their family lived? I would go with the latter hypothesis: a journey can also be a ‘home’ when you are with the people you care about. This painting portrays the crossed fate between three different creatures, to symbolize my overall adventure in Melbourne: 1) Bu Iim—a motherly host, by whom I was treated like a daughter for more than 6 days, 2) AMUNC kids—wonderful children, really, who patiently listen to whatever inputs I choked them with, as well as 3) Fika and Eno—two cordial friends who volunteered to take me around the city! With these people around, I hardly felt like I was away from home.

2. Every mankind was born with a disease of caring too much about themselves. Life is then a quest to find the only cure: to fall in love.

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“We’re all a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we fall into mutually satisfying weirdness.” —Robert Fulghum

The geckos above depict the Aboriginal belief that each of us has a soulmate—or someone destined to accompany us for the rest of our life. That’s not where I am going, though. If anything, I simply believe that every mind is under a subconscious quest to discover another mortal whom they can care about so much—that they can forget their own ego for a while. These mortals, they might not always love you back and you can get disappointed every now and then, but believe me: any sane individual will appreciate one’s company and kindness, although they have different ways to express such gratefulness, and sometimes you just have to read between the lines.

Putera shared his magical ‘Rule of 3 Years’ to me after our Finale Ball dance:
“When you fall in love with someone but not sure if you’ll ever going to end up with this person, just wait until 3 years. You’ll be surprised by what destiny is capable of, Fu.”

3. “Everything is a process of a process of a process. The outcome doesn’t matterit might not even exist.” @darlol

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See how tangled this web of circles are? Well that’s probably what’s going on with life. Today’s failure, tomorrow’s success, yesterday’s stupidity, they are all simply bits of a bigger scheme: the grand design that God has assigned to us long before we were even born. So stop wasting so much energy on regretting what you have or have not done—focus on enjoying today. Carpe diem, they say. Oh and remember that both good and bad luck are earned; they materialize as a result of something you have done in the past.

4. All encounters are meant to make us thankful of what we havenot to be sad of what we have not. And it’s only a matter of perspective.

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This painting, entitled ‘The Meeting Point‘, depicts one of those Daydream stories where the spirits meet each other at one spot—before departing and start their own stories afterwards. What I learned from meeting Australian students and, in particular, my highschool friend Eno, is that one can either be a pathetic whiner and mourn over the good things in life that she missed—or she can opt for being thankful of things that she actually possesses. Eno conducts a high-end, happy life in Melbourne: she rents her own apartment, explores many interesting places in the city, and gets the best education she can put her hands on. On the other side of the globe, I have to survive with whatever my lecturers provide throughout courses, in a hot city where all you can really do is, basically, struggle.

But let’s change the perspective: despite all the sucky things I have to deal with, I do have a lot of things to be proud of—amazing talking partners, lessonful organizations, and spicy foods at its best. And of course, Eno can be more grateful to her so-called ‘monotonous’ life, having listened to how I wish I could go abroad for my undergraduate study.

5. Whereas knowing ourselves is one of the main keys to success, most of us are the worst judges for ourselves.

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Human minds are like these abstract lines: they’re terribly winding and incomprehensible. The process becomes twice harder when we have to take a closer look at our own heads. But really, one should first understand him/herself before
he/she can help anyone else.

Being an intern in President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring Oversight, I realize that there is a wide gap of difference between creating changes slowly from the bottom (as what we’ve been doing in Indonesian Future Leaders or other organizations) and doing it rather efficiently quick from the top. My point would be this: regardless what people say about losing your idealism once you got trapped into one of those governmental institutions, do what suits you best. If you think you have what it takes to overhaul the system altogether, then go for it.

What’s important is to be a great person wherever you are, but don’t forget to look down and feel powerless. Today’s common mistake, as hig
hlighted by Pak Kuntoro Mangkusubroto himself, is to feel important when you’re around important people. There’s one message that remains in my head from him: “Jangan sombong. Di sini, kamu akan bertemu banyak orang hebat, tapi kamu bukan salah satu dari mereka.” (“Stay humble. Meeting a lot of great people does not turn you into one of them.”) Powerful words from one of the most respected men in the country, indeed.

6. Humility versus ‘Sungkan’

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Despite its unquestionable virtue, humility can sometimes be misunderstood as ‘kesungkanan‘ (you see—I can’t even find the English word for a concept so cultural in the Sundanese and Javanese tradition). The bird in this painting is keeping her head low, but it does not mean that she will let any predator belittles her speed to flee. Don’t get humility wrong: it does not mean feeling like you’re worse than everyone else—it’s acknowledging your strengths while humbly admitting that they will not last forever, and that there are contribution from other people to your owning such talents. And remember: although haters will always find a reason to hate someone, the vulnerability of being disliked because you’re smart is higher than if you’re kind—so stay alarmed. Alarmed, but not conceited, and neither ‘sungkan‘—because it only takes all the chances away.

7. If there’s anything you should never let go, it’s the little kindness inside your heart.

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As much as it’s hard for certain people to move on, they change very overwhelmingly quickly. Someone you know from two years ago has become someone else today, and the bad news is, it’s not always towards a betterment. (But then who are we to judge what’s good for everyone in this planet?) So move on, and believe that there’s something better—although unknown—waiting for us in the end of the tunnel. Leave everything behind—except that little kindness inside your heart, for that’s what makes you human.

Mikha once told me, “A powerful picture is not taken with expensive cameras; it simply makes you wonder about how they were shot.” The same premise applies for humans—powerful ones are not wearing the most expensive clothes—but rather thoughts that inspire you to wonder.

8. …Because every mind is a collection of stories.

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I love meeting new people not because I’m some network freak who secures her future by befriending cool folks—but more because every individual has a unique story carried at the back of their head. Be it embarassing mistakes they somehow did, the fear they never dared to tell, or failures they managed to bounce back from. It’s always interesting to listen to people’s stories—and share your own in regards. I think that’s how we should live our lives: as storytellers.

I know you’re very much confused with what I’m trying to say in this sloppy, jumpy post—believe me: I am just as puzzled. But I’m glad that I finally managed to post this. Have a great week!

Popularity Explained (or Why We Enjoy Tweeting about Where We Eat Our Red Velvet Cakes So Much)

For a person who was born with average talents to a common family, being known by strangers can sometimes be creepy. One day I attended a Philosophy of Social Science course just to find out that a group of girls were sending messages to one another on a piece of paper—talking about me. Of course I did not ‘intentionally’ peek over their shoulders (I did), but it nevertheless was embarrassing to discover your name jolted down by juniors you never met before. Or the word awkward might be more like it.

(Okay you might start thinking that I’m trying to say that I’m quite popular, but believe me—that’s not the case. Well at least that’s not the main case. HAHAHA.)

One of the stupidest things a journalist can ask to public figures would be this: “How does it feel to be popular?” If you ask me, I believe they deserve a punch in their face to ask such a lazy, pointless question. A worth-trying alternative would be, “Do you aim to be popular?”

Most people would say—or lie, to be exact—that popularity is just an inevitable outcome of their doing something good (or bad, in some cases). It is to my regret that the trend always demonstrates otherwise: youngsters crave to be popular. This is not morally incorrect indeed, but changing one’s point of view in seeing popularity might increase their productivity level in a significant manner
(and plausibly otherwise).

(Oh and please be reminded that I am by no means an exception to this premise. You see—I’m still naively 20, for God’s sake.)

Online-communities

“We have the power to be heard at the click of a button, and you choose to let the world know where you’re eating your red velvet cake.” @darlol, one of my most favorite accounts.

For one thing, I regret how social media create a bunch of overly self-interested individuals. Take Mother Theresa, for instance. Shall there be Twitter back then, would she tweet the number of poor children she helped? Would your parents care to tell the world that they have been accepted to work in the country’s most bonafide company more than they wanted to make their parents proud?

Twitter and Facebook have indeed broadened our network reach, but they failed to deepen the existing connections we had before we signed up for an account. While our close friends used to be the first ears to know about how we feel that day, the internet deceived us to skip them and go directly for the bigger audience. We started creating false images of ourselves just for the fun of popularity. What good can we earn from these showing-off tweets?

“Headed to a meeting with new clients. Excited!”
“Kuta beach, here I cooome!”
“Thank you for the past two years, love. Waiting for more…”

I mean, I will still buy personal tweets as long as it gives me certain benefits: be it stupidly funny ones, extensively informative ones, or anything alike.

For the record, I do not declare myself free of any guilt. I, too, sometimes have the urge to let the world (or a particular person, most of the time) know what I’m currently doing, and damn, nothing can be more effective than Twitter.

So what we should blame on is solely the system of social network.
Its mere existence grows people’s insecurity, facilitates us to compare ourselves to others and, when we’re not lucky enough to have self-control, makes us feel rather ‘less’ than ‘thankful’.

Here’s an easy example: when tweeting about how you volunteered in one of the most respected hospitals in town does not even visit your mind, reading someone else’s announcement about how they happily work abroad will stimulate you to outpopularize that person by tweeting about it.

So, yeah. I’m looking forward to when our society gets maturer and cares to share ideas more than places they visit. Until that day, folks.