A full-course meal that is 2022

I genuinely thought I was done with 2022 when the year abruptly turned itself around.

On November 23, I posted a reel (“And with that, the 2022 season comes to an end…“) concluding the year to be that of family, friendship, community, celebrations, explorations, and self-acceptance—all orbiting a core defined by losing Eyang.

On November 26, little did I know, I met someone who thoroughly reoriented the rest of the year, like a sonata selfishly engulfing the rest of the song.

I knew that 2022 was supposed to teach me about how sorrow and joy could co-exist—almost reinforcing each other even—but man I had no idea that a whole other level of happiness existed before you. There’s no way I could have anticipated finding this much comfort again, not after all the pain and loneliness I’ve familiarized myself with lately.

In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking talked about how the positive energy yielded out of The Big Bang is inseparable from the negative energy dispersed throughout the universe. The former could not have existed without the latter.

I’d like to think that your existence is the culmination of every bit of misery I’ve ever had to go through before this point, because how else could I deserve this overflowing sense of contentment?

(In my head, you would say that I deserve all this and more.)

Writing this is a conscious effort to remind myself that this year has been that of a full-course meal, no matter how much more convenient it is to focus on how it’s ending. The journey was kicked off by Sorrow, followed immediately by Wonder, and finished with Joy—so, so, so much Joy.


First Course: Sorrow

I thought I have mastered the art of losing in 2021—but it was dwarfed by what I experienced this year. The universe seemed committed to making sure I did not have a half-baked lesson and let me experience an even deeper loss, that of the woman I love the most in the world. A loss that floored my entire being and completely changed the way I looked at the world.

If you’ve never had a significant other passing away, please know that no matter how prepared you think you were, you could never really be ready for it. The first time I entertained a real possibility of not seeing Eyang in her green room at my parents’ again, I cried so hard I had to gasp for air. Then when Mamah called me at 6AM in the morning, saying that Eyang finally took her last breath after four months of intensely fighting against her failing kidneys, all I could do was sit in silence. When I finally saw her again, all wrapped in white kafan, all I wanted to do was hug and kiss her forehead for one last time, knowing how much I will miss doing that forever. As they slowly lowered her into the ground, all that’s left was peace, imagining her smiling face of reuniting with her beloved husband and daughter again.

Today, seven months later, she is still on top of my phone’s ‘favorite call’ shortcut. I badly miss our weekly calls, her voice when she picks up my call saying “Assalamualaikooommm”, asking me about my latest work trip, me wishing I could take her around if she wasn’t bound to her bed. I miss how she would joke that my jodoh would be both handsome and rich, and how she would brag about me to all of our relatives.

It helps to think that she continues to live in all of our memories, remember how she’d led a full life, and try living by her values every day. I am grateful to find the rest of the family (Mom, Papah, Pap, Mamah, Kakak, Dede, Cici) ever more resilient after going through that together.

Alfatihah untuk Eyang—we all love and miss you so dearly.


Second Course: Wonder

After over two years of staying put at home, 2022 is also a year of (re)discoveries: making new friends, delving into new hobbies, bathing in new forests, strolling through new cities, and accomplishing a major dream.

  • Opening myself up to new friendships has been one of the most rewarding things this year; met a few souls whom I will treasure for a really long time (if not life). The kind that inspires you, that will stick around during bad times (including when you fall sick), that made you grateful it happened instead of fearing that it won’t last forever.
  • I let Dinar drag me to new activities—did muay thai a bunch and was pleasantly surprised to find how my body reacted to beat and music. It turns out I enjoy learning dance moves and didn’t mind that I looked silly while doing it. The dopamine rush that followed was pretty great, too. I happened to also unlock a new capacity to fully appreciate good meals (‘living to eat’ from ‘eating to live’), coached by Florida.
  • Reconnecting with nature has fulfilled my soul. Spending time in the forests (or beaches, alternatively) of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Lombok has given me that singular feeling of being connected with Mother Earth is something I will always yearn for. It’s the year I finally understand that ‘grounding’ myself (in a literal sense) is a necessity for my being, a reminder of why I do what I do.
  • On the flip side, I have marveled over what humanity has been able to achieve—particularly in Madrid and Seoul. Learning the histories of their people, taking pauses to appreciate art—the peace that comes with being a nobody in a whole new city was one of a kind, a privilege that I never want to take for granted. Vaguely in between all of that, I tasted the fleeting feelings of belonging.
  • Finally, after quite the delay, Menjadi got published. Putting on a new onion layer as an author, having all of my good friends at the launch party, and traveling around to discuss the book have brought me some serious wonderful feelings. I’d love to tell my 13 year old self that she’s doing alright—accomplishing her dream(s), one at a time.

I hope to do more of all of the above next year (including a possible second book?).


Third Course: Joy

[Enter: you.]

You should know that we met at a point when I was done with wanting to be with someone. I was perfectly happy alone; you told me that you were, too. Neither of us expected to walk down a road that leads us here. (Read: nggak jelas banget anjir kamu tiba-tiba muncul entah dari mana mendadak bikin kesengsem dan butuh ketemu tiap hari.)

When people asked us how it started, we would tell them about the dog park. We were temen seangkatan di kampus who somehow reconnected. But I think it started all the way back—it might have even started the days we were born. The scarily similar families we ended up with, where we’re both firstborns with two younger siblings from the opposite gender. Where both our parents decided to call us ‘Dit’ at home and gloriously combined their names as our middle names. The separate but parallel journeys we took that led to the way we think today (gimana ceritanya we both decided to give ourselves a new name made out of the acronym of our full names, or started a business as teenagers, or bought properties just five minutes away from each other in the same year).

When people asked us why, we would tell them how it just makes sense. But I think it also doesn’t make sense how you tick practically everything on my kriteria mangga list. I never dared to think that the imaginary person I created in my head existed, and yet here you are. It is pretty crazy to think how many telepathic moments we had, how you help me with what I actually need not just what’s expected, quite unreal that you often just knew what I was thinking before I said anything.

When my friends told you that I’m difficult, you would tell them that being with me has been the easiest, most natural thing to do. For me, falling is easy when you responded “She overcomplicates things.” with, “That’s actually what I love about her.” Falling is easy when you’re a fierce problem solver—from daily mineal things to bigger, more consequential decisions. Falling is easy when you bring focus to my chaos, clarity to my anxiety, and calm to my worries. Falling is easy when you cooked me fried ox brain ‘just because’ or serenaded me on the piano in the morning. Falling is easy when being with each other’s families immediately felt familiar.

When our friends reminded us that this might just be a honeymoon phase, we would tell them that we are perfectly aware of it. But we also couldn’t deny this is no ordinary ‘honeymoon phase’ by far. I never felt this strongly about anyone, not in the first month of getting to know each other. I never gravitated towards another person this much; I typically would have needed to ‘use the restroom’ during dates just to get a break from hanging out with someone. With you, it still feels like I haven’t had enough, even after spending a whole week together. The intensity, passion, and overflowing joy has been unparalleled.

When our parents would (eventually) ask us when, we would tell them that we are taking our time. Because there is no shortcut to test endurance. You haven’t seen me at my worst, and neither have I you. But to the extent that you have sat with me when I was confused, afraid, jealous, and angry, I am already convinced that you have what it takes. I’d like to think that I have been able to provide you that space to be vulnerable, too.

The fact that two careful people who weren’t ready to (re)commit with anyone else before couldn’t help but talking about forever—just weeks after getting to know each other—is rather unusual, to say the least.

It’s weird how the year started with me crying a lot, and ended with me smiling ear to ear almost every day. Never did I anticipate to find myself being able to be ridiculously in love again, after what I’ve been through.

But that’s life, I guess: nothing’s quite permanent, including this state of happiness. The only thing left to do is to cherish it while it lasts.

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