A Glimmer of Spring

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[A stone’s throw away from home.]

Sometimes I pause and wonder about what I have done to deserve everything that I have today. I’m never the most hard working student in the classroom, not the best friend/protege/leader, not the most devoted daughter at home, and my husband is definitely the better half in our partnership. And yet here I am, attending a ridiculously expensive university without paying a single penny, accomplishing almost every plan on my list, and supported by a family with unconditional love every step of the way.

Other than a few romantic heartbreaks, I almost always get what I want—friends, grades, schools, organizations, awards (not necessarily in that order). I have heard and sympathized with stories of failures before, of course, but the magnitude of how it shapes a person never really hit me. For so long, I have lived in my privileged bubble and remained clueless about living any other kind of life.

Until I get to know my husband, and with him his past failures that I have come to admire.

When he first opened up to me about the failure after failure after failure that he experienced, I was in denial. How could it be? He has passion, infinitely talented, and not only dares to dream big but also works hard to accomplish it. Compared to the indecisive me, he knows what he wants. He could be so certain about what he wants he decided to quit college. Yet across the table, sat me, almost taking all of my achievements for granted.

I thought, he must’ve been perceiving these events under the wrong framework. Maybe what he thought were failures are simply smaller-sized successes that help him learn. Like when he did not make the cut to the city’s baseball team despite training for months, it just meant that he was finally good enough to be in the semifinals. Or when we could not fundraised for our little short film, we could’ve focused on the fact that we got more than a handful donors that trusted us with their money.

Only later I realized that taking your failures into such perspective takes not just a discipline mind-training, but actually knowing that you will succeed at some point. I came from a position of privilege to be able to tell him that his pain is temporary, that it will pay off someday, as long as he keeps trying. It’s like telling violent crime victims that he/she was going to be okay—they might be, but what just happened would stay with them for a while.

Over time, I also learn the possibility that the only reason I haven’t truly failed (in a way that matters) is because I have avoided all the scary fights. I have told people I wanted to be a published author practically forever, but I have not finished a manuscript until this very day. I very rarely take a chance in anything that has even a glint probability of rejection. I never run as a president of anything in my life, and I only led projects when I know I have the resources and capacity to deliver.

On my wedding day, I told everyone how Wikan keeps me grounded, and I meant it. He reminds me every day how whatever I achieve in life is nothing but a privilege, allowed by the never ending support from my family and the people around me.

Here’s to growing even taller in the summer.

A Breakdown of Winter

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[Maybe listen to Wikan’s wonderful playlist while you’re here.]

“So, after a semester, did you feel like you’ve grown, Afu?” Was a question from my good/amazing Bangladeshi-American friend that caught me off-guard during our small-group dinner a couple weeks ago. My instinct—which I followed—was to answer yes. But when he continued with, “In what ways?”, I had to think it through.

Indeed, when you’re over a quarter-century old, what would constitute ‘growth’?

I told him, now I don’t worry so much about being liked.

During the early months at grad school, my energy was put into making sure that my counterpart enjoyed talking to me. I was determined to show how great Indonesians are. I would tackle every awkward silence with a random topic, laugh at the unfunniest jokes, and look interested in the most boring subjects. Lately, however, I cared less about putting these extra efforts. I realized that not every two people are meant to click with each other. If the other party does not bother to make conversations, I won’t. It doesn’t mean the end of the world. I sure hope that it doesn’t mean that I’m becoming a mean person, either. I hadn’t given up completely on trying, I’d like to think I just understand better when it doesn’t work.

Finding genuine friends that made Boston home definitely helped.

Perhaps, I continued, it was because I finally discovered a comfort zone comprising of a few really good friends whom I know I could be real with. These people probably don’t have a clue how much they mean to me, but strong connections are rare, and I deeply cherish the one we share. To be able to talk about things that matter to you with people who give a damn and don’t judge is truly, truly life-changing.

Never did it occur in my head that I would make friends again at the age of 24. Thought that game was over years ago, but—again—never doubt what the universe had hidden for you in the right time. Our group spent the rest of the night talking about languages, Harry Potter, and a bunch of other stuff, but at home, I continued reflecting on how—if—I grew.

Maybe I grew because I lost, and lost, and lost, and sometimes—won.

Boston winter is teeth-grinding cold. I later figured, however, that underneath the weather, lies the even colder truth: becoming the first is tough, and I more often than not am just an average. Which was hard at first, but in retrospect made me very glad, because:

If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.

Confucius (apparently)

To date, I have got more Bs than As, more internship applications rejected than accepted, and lost more competitions than actually winning them. The most exciting part is that I honestly thought I was good enough, and learning that I hardly am. In short, proving myself wrong. Again, and again, and again.

Wikan always told me that external affirmation does not matter when I have given my best, and I wholeheartedly knew that he was right. Another good friend shared an awesome quote which basically says, “Bs prove that you have learned something in the classroom while still enjoying life”. Could not agree more.

Plus, when you occasionally win, it tastes much, much better.

This last bit, I think, had been the highlight of winter (and the entire semester) for me—not that spring had been anywhere near Boston. Other than that, perhaps the Hogwarts Homecoming trip that Wikan and I did last ‘spring’ break. Tee-hee.

If you’re reading this from Indonesia, please go outside and enjoy the warm sun for me!

A Synthesis of Fall

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[Click here for suggested background music.]

If time could have a form, the past three months had been a dense-but-loose, huge-yet-fluffy block of lessons. At the background, stood trees turning into red and cold winds swooshing into the city—in a very Cantabrigian way. I had been stationed at its center, determined to make sense of everything. As my best friend Rocky said, “Back then, we tried so hard to conquer the world. Now, we realize that growing up is about conquering ourselves—and sometimes it takes even much more work.”

This fall had been just about that—falling, punnily enough, into a sea of revelations.

1. The Almost-Impostor Syndrome

I expected my first week at HKS to be filled with the fear of people thinking, “How can she even be here?” Or worse, “She’s probably here as our diversity token—after all, we need more students from Southeast Asian countries.” And there were definitely moments when I questioned whether the admissions office made a mistake by letting me in, and whether it was all pure luck and timing.

They probably read my mind, because the first thing they told us on the first day of our orientation week was literally: “You belong here. You are HKS.”

And just like that, I believed them. While I am fully aware that I’m hardly the smartest person in the room who still gets occasional visits from good-old-friend insecurities, I realized—pretty quickly—that I belonged there, and that I made the right choice.

How did I arrive there? On that same day, we were visited by NYU’s Professor Kenji Yoshino, who gave a lecture about diversity and inclusion in a post-racial/gender segregation world. Specifically, he introduced ‘covering’, which is a way for members of minority groups to hide their identities in order to blend in. It’s not the topic per se (which was obviously interesting) but the way this community actually talked about it—put them in frameworks, questioned assumptions, diagnosed with data, and discussed what we should do about it in the most practical way—I simply couldn’t resist to fall in love.

I grow fonder and fonder of the institution every day, because those four steps remain at the center of what we do; including on the day Hillary had to deliver her concession speech. Here, ‘public service’ is not a mere soundbite but air that the entire campus breathes. (I swear I’m not overselling—although it is certainly not exclusive and would likely be the case in other public policy schools, too.)

Since you’re in love, everything else appears so small. There were tons of assignments and plenty of time-consuming reflections, but like with all loves: you just have to work things out.

2. Adopting an Identity

Some people say you’ll never genuinely appreciate the beauty and/or comfort of your country until you leave them. This is especially true when you had been so spoiled by all-year-long warm weather and now it’s almost always freezing.

Some people say you’ll never truly embrace your identity until it becomes relevant to the conversation. This is especially true in a classroom with 60 extremely well-read, effortlessly critical public policy students—debating about often-cross-disciplinary issues from various corners of the world.

Being an ‘international student’ pushes me to get in touch with my identities—an activity that I didn’t usually bother to, just because it didn’t seem necessary. Being here wakes me up from my quarter-century-long ‘identity numbness’—and realize that I’m an Indonesian woman who was raised in a conservative Muslim family. Listening to opposing political views on a daily basis, I had to put my liberal self out there or I would not have a voice at all.

My identity, values, and ideologies are suddenly put under the spotlight, lurking behind every statement and academic argument that I made. Likewise, I had to be aware of my friends’ identities, values, and ideologies in making sure that what I say does not disregard or discriminate them in any way. This process creates an entire layer of thinking on top of the actual thinking—which had been a novel, challenging, yet rewarding experience so far.

Outside of school, Wikan and I also have the opportunity to learn about what being a minority is really like, from mistakenly assumed as Chinese, down to being told to ‘go home’ just several days before the Election. I am determined to never forget how that made me feel when I fly back home and resettle as the country’s majority.

3. The Freedom to Write (About Anything)

The highlight of the past month, however, would have been how my writing brain had officially been liberated. GAAAAAH. It feels goooood. Sure, I wrote op-eds before—but as I’ve told you before, having a job means you’ll always be restricted by someone else’s (cue: the company/organization you work for) territory to a certain extent in whatever you present publicly. Now, being my own boss, I get to write quite about anything—and it took tons of load off my shoulder.

Indeed, not having the 9-to-5 commitment to spend in the office is also helpful, although it turned out grad school actually takes much more than 8 hours a day—more on that later. With most credits going to Professor Greg Harris who forced me to write every week in his policy writing class—I’ve so far managed to publish the following pieces which made me feel, again, liberated:

And I certainly look forward to write much more! Wikan had been reminding me about the book draft I haven’t touched for months, and speaking of Wikan…

4. The Not-So-Unorthodox Marriage Life

Legally, Wikan and I had been married for roughly four months. Mentally however, we’ve been husband and wife for almost two years, literally making the most mundane to the most important decisions together throughout. One of the first decisions we made together as partners was the color of my room, which we also painted together (sort of). However, the honeymoon period of our relationship ended as soon as I got my grad school letter of acceptance in early 2015, where we had to risk our still-very-fragile connection then had I left for school immediately. We decided that I stay, and a little over twelve months later—after many self-discoveries and moments of learning about your partner better—we decided that we would like to do this for the rest of our lives.

In case I haven’t properly introduced him: Wikan is way more talkative and creative than me; he’s a dreamer, and a spontaneous one. While we are both liberals who believe in—among others—women’s authority upon their own body and therefore abortion, we are very different in nature. I tend to be more impatient and pragmatic, while he’s all about perfectly-done poached eggs and idealism. While we are united in our love for good design, minimalist furnitures, well-made movies/television series, tech, tidiness, and great YouTube channels (we know a lot), we fundamentally diverge in perceiving—at least in the early stage of our relationship—whether being rational and dismissing the emotional is actually a virtue (guess who’s who).

But of course, we’ve figured that out for a while already. So what’s new?

“Why do we choose partners so different from ourselves? It’s not chance or cliches like ‘the heart wants what it wants’. We choose our partners because they are the unfinished business from our childhood. And we choose them because they manifest the qualities we wish we had. In doing so, in choosing such a challenging partner, and working to give them what they need, we chart a course for our own growth.”

—Jay Pritchett, Modern Family

The fact that he’s pretty much the opposite of me in a lot of aspects means that there will be constant turbulences as long as we’re together, and in a marriage, it becomes our reality every single day. However, it is not necessarily a reality that we deny or despise; instead, we embrace it as a way to challenge ourselves and as Jay beautifully put it—chart a course for our own growth. After all, turbulences only tell us that our relationship is still perfectly airtight. Lack of them, on the contrary, signals that some parts are not intact, or there might be gaps that need fixing.

Hence every now and then, Wikan would—as soon as he detects that something’s wrong—make me talk about instead of suppressing it. He believes in healthy quarrels instead of pseudo peaces. As a result, we had never been silent to each other for more than 15 minutes and I’ve always ended up loving him more after we fight. Having been a conflict-avoider my whole life, this means pushing myself to be more self-conscious about the things I don’t like and finding ways to communicate it constructively; understanding that—after all—we’re there to be the safety nets for each other.

Of course, moving to another country, being on our own, and having to find a new rhythm at home play a great deal in shaping our recently-legalized partnership—but I think it’s pretty much what marriage is about anyway.

P. S. Wikan is an incredible cook.

All in all, I have been having the most amazing time of my life. Thought I had passed my most blessed stage long ago but just proved myself wrong. The universe had only been kinder and kinder throughout.

To friends who read this through until this very line, please let us know when you’re in Cambridge! We’d be more than happy to host and give you a tour.

Why I Hadn’t Been Writing Through 2015

As per tradition, this morning I woke up and spent the day thinking about how the past 12 months had treated me and what I feel about it. One key realization is that I hadn’t been writing as much as I used to—not here, at least—and the thought upset me.

Have I transferred from the left side of the equation—where people produce/write/create—to the other side of the room: the accepting consumers? I know that there’s nothing bad about being a consumer, and that a person moves from one side to the other from time to time anyway; but it still sucks to worry whether you finally entered a stage where you stop having genuine concerns and in-depth opinions about things. For somebody who claims herself to be an admirer of ideas and intellects, I hadn’t been much of either recently.

I also noticed that lately I kept on repeating the same sets of words, which demonstrates a lack of the most essential skill to narrate. I’m afraid that I’ve been doing a lot of things last year, except actually writing my own stories—which, if I think about it, really is the one thing I promised myself to keep on doing for the rest of my life.

Was 2015 not an inspiring year? Did I not have enough emotional jumps—loneliness, pain, joy, love—such that nothing moved me to click ‘new post’ and start paragraphs? Well, this post is a—potentially futile—attempt in trying to make some sense of this curious change.

1. I moved. Four times.

I started the year deciding that investing more in where you go home to after long hours at work is worth it. Little did I know, that it began a long series of packing in and out.

First, I fell in love with this well-lit kostan room (the window was really big) and stayed there for what happened to be only three months. A big announcement encouraged me to resign early and with that, forced me to find a more affordable place. A month later, I found out that I wasn’t actually leaving the country until another year. My then-best friend and I decided to partner up and found a two-floor, spacious flat that was close to both her and my workplace, so we signed up a 6-month contract—which was a huge deal for us both. I even modified my part of the apartment (with a big help from Wikan, of course)—we painted the wall blue, brought in our own furnitures, and voila:

1. I Moved

In late July, however (only three months later), my flatmate was stroke by a situation that compelled her to part away. It did not make sense to spend twice as much just to keep the place, so naturally I left—with a broken heart. Not sure what got me back then, but I ended up taking a big leap and went as far as buying my own studio. I’ve lived there—a place I could definitively call ‘home’—for five months now, and though I’ll move again in about half a year, I know I finally have a shelter I could always go back to.

Along the way, hours were put into designing, purchasing, folding, and hammering stuff—the same hours I could’ve spent on contemplating and typing down words.

2. I traveled. For traveling’s sake.

Observing how a lot of us fell into the trap of over-romanticizing the virtue of traveling, I try to keep myself alert about it. I could not, however, deny the enchantment from learning a new culture, discovering new tastes, and sinking into a new background. Traveling last year had notably been different, not merely because I won myself a great partner, but also because we traveled for traveling sake. No conferences or business meetings on the sidelines—which was the only way I knew traveling previously.

We kicked off with Bandung, Pulau Seribu, and Kuala Lumpur in consecutive weekends of February (talk about being ambitious—it was literally a land, sea, and air trips). We then visited Yogyakarta in June—just in time for the Vaisak—and finally Surabaya in August. Typically, we would plan part of the trip and let the rest surprise us on the way, which turned out to be the best way of traveling.

2. I travelededed

(I went to Bangkok and Washington D.C. for work, too, which was fun, but the highlight of all, to me, would be this lantern festival in Borobudur.)

Traveling for traveling’s sake, apparently, did not spare much space for you to contemplate on journey takeaways. I was too happy, and though it is probably not fair to argue that happiness puts your guard down, mine seemed to have.

3. I took pictures.

I’ve always liked taking pictures—aesthetics awe me, and since I do not draw, transforming what I see into frames might as well work. In 2015, I took the challenge further and bought myself a 35 mm fixed lens. While some people perceived ‘not being able to zoom in’ as a weakness, a professional photographer told me it’s the most effective way to fundamentally learn and improve. “Istilahnya ngetuk pintu: kalau mau foto deket ya deketin, foto jauh ya kamunya yang mundur.”

2. I Took Pics July

I also learned that I’m good at framing (guess that’s all writers do), though I need to learn more about setting the right exposure and all. I posted most of them on Instagram, just because. They say pictures worth a thousand words; I used to disagree, but it is also possible that photography fulfilled me in a different way from writing.

4. I got accepted.

I wrote about receiving my Hogwarts letter despite being 12 years late as soon as I got it, but the true effect of this news only kicked in later. One of the most memorable remarks was made by a colleague, who totally got me and said, “I went to Yale, and I understand that a lot of times you would want to sound humble by saying ‘I will study in Boston next year’ instead of saying the name of the school, but it’s really okay.” Which made me go HAHAHA.

4. I Got Accepted

The rest of the society was either, “Oh, okay.” or “WHAT OMG THAT IS SO COOL CONGRATULATIONS!”, both of which made me sort of unsure about appropriately responding. (I usually opt for a polite “Thank you.”)

The magic letter also dragged in some big questions about life, including whether or not I would survive a long distance relationship; and by ‘long’, I mean 12-hour difference long. There was an inevitably long emotional roller-coaster from then to now that occupied at least 3/4 of my brain all the way down. Thankfully, I survived the ride i.e. it did not kill me i.e. it is supposed to make me stronger.

5. I watched. Almost every other day.

The year had been a great time for the movie industry and—consequently—its consumers. I think I watched many well-made films last year: Mad Max, Inside Out, The Force Awakens, The Martian, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl, and of course, Steve Jobs (Aaron Sorkin’s). Beyond that, I also caught up on the good ones I missed e.g. Boyhood, The Lunchbox, Juno, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Castaway on the Moon, etc.—most of which I uncovered on the generosity of Wikan’s recommendation.

5. I Watched

Having a partner who actually read cinematography for his degree brought be to subconsciously develop this instinct of looking beyond what I see and learn from the movie. If I used to look for clues of a proposed ideal and philosophize about it afterwards, now I took the time to think about the technicalities of it; why a certain scene was made that way instead of another, and whether it was the character who made the slow plot compensated. This instinct, in a way, has redirected my attention and it was unlikely for me to write about what I thought about these movies from that perspective.

6. I wrote. But for different purposes.

Come to think of it, I did blog and write throughout 2015—though on different media and issues. In fact, I got published on The Jakarta Post three times—the first one actually shared the centerpiece with Bill Gates, which was quite meaninglessly cool. I also finished my first full-fledged script titled Adhra: Cerita Tentang Naluri Manusia (the team had a crowdfunding page from which we raised about IDR 13.000.000, but that money happens to still sit in our bank account, waiting for our proposals for additional funding to get approved—thank you and apologies if you happen to have donated but haven’t heard anything about the film).

(Left-hand photo credit: Athalia Soemarko.)

Lastly, I am on the long run to publish a book. No spoilers but the plan is that it would be both a collection of essays and a short memoir, talking mostly about what growing up looked like to yours truly. It is written for people in their 20s, who finally realized that life was not what they thought it was. The only lacking ingredient now is confidence that there people would actually read it :))

What was nice, though, is that Wikan treated me a three-day writing trip—all by myself—in this beautiful valley, which was an unbelievable luxury for an introvert like myself.

7. I had my own farm and cooked.

On Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns, that is. Someone bought me this beautiful, classic Nintendo DS Lite a few months ago—which was pink—and off I went spending 12 hours straight taking care of tens of cows and sheep and chickens :))


That aside, the cooking part was real. One of the great things about having your own house, is that you have the liberty of using your kitchen without worrying about your neighbor smelling an overcooked dish. Last year I made Indomie goreng (lots of them) and scrambled egg and chicken wings and they all turned out to be okay.

My first purchase in 2016 is a rice-cooker: a symbol for the intent to achieve food security at home, one bowl of white rice at a time.

8. I vlogged. And Snapped. And Periscoped.

Year 2015 was when I discovered Anna Akana, Casey Neistat, and a bunch of other vloggers who share their day, jokes, and problems, in a video format. The idea of recording and broadcasting yourself startled me—basically the whole ‘vlogging’ concept did—because compared to my overedited writings, it seemed so simple.

In June, I published my first-ever vlog, which was about the then-newly announced supreme court decision to legalize gay marriage. It hit almost 400 views over a couple of days, which amazed me, really. And since then, I got addicted to taking videos of me talking instead of writing things down. I don’t think anyone should see vlogging as a substitute of blogging, but the it does somewhat work as a conduit for channeling rants. (I’m @Afutami both on Snapchat and Periscope, by the way.)

9. I attended weddings. Beautiful ones.

This one has nothing to do with the fact that I write less, but it is sort of an important bit of 2015 that I feel obliged to include. First was this intimate backyard party of Rara & Ben’s with only 20-ish invitees around, then Natasha & Adit’s extravagant one where I was bridesmaid, and lastly Alanda & Adit’s outdoor reception to close 2015.

They all have one thing in common—the warm and fuzzy feeling of wanting to believe in true love, and a happily ever after scenario. I talked about weddings in a very different tone before, but I know I’m happy for the friends who found the loves of their lives, and deeply wishing that they would forever be together in happiness.

10. I attended grandmother. Several times. At the hospital.

Though Eyang (age 80+) had been able to wander off here and there (we watched that Tjokroaminoto movie together and traced back his offsprings like detectives afterward), this year she mostly stayed in bed. After being hospitalized in the first quarter of 2015 for several weeks, she came back to the hospital (though a different one) in the last quarter, for breaking her bones. She fell—in the middle of our house in Bogor—quite hard to the ground, and she remained lying there until today.


It was quite heartbreaking to see your cheerful grandmother having to stick on the same place every day for almost two months now (she’s home, but still bed-glued). Get well soon, Eyang.

11. I performed poetries and got interviewed (not as a poet).

This year I did my first (and second and third) spoken word performance, and it felt amazing. The open mics were hosted by Unmasked (they don’t have any social media accounts nor a website yet, unfortunately) on a monthly basis. One of the many great things about Unmasked open mics, is that the crowd is always so supportive. The atmosphere made it possible for me (and many other performers I think) to take the stage and speak up the truth—not to prove that literary blood runs in our vain, but to simply take that weight off our chests. A special shoutout to Ayu, Mbak Putri, and Pangeran for co-founding the community.

12. I Talked (2)

After Indonesia’s post-2020 climate commitment announcement, I also got interviewed by a number of big media outlets, including The Guardian and ABC—which was exciting because I get to speak about an issue really close to my heart. There was a number of speaking opportunities at youth events, too (including a climate change conference simulation at my alma mater and Marketeers Hangout at fX Sudirman), but what really made me glad was this Journalist Breakfast on Climate Change my office organized, and I look forward to having more of them.


12. I camped. And slept so little.

For a week. I met new people of all sorts and from all around Indonesia—which was a really direct way of learning about your country and its diverse issues. I learned, that being smart does not guarantee that you will be liked, and the other way around—that being miss/mister congeniality will get you to be a leader who could sometimes make the bad choices.

14. I Camped

It was an overall eye-opening experience, in many different ways. Despite the hurdles leading up to D-day, I was glad to be receiving the government of Indonesia’s scholarship which would make it possible for me to get my masters next year. Cheers.

13. I rediscovered an old love.

It’s been a while since the last Parlemen Muda Indonesia; both the team and I realized that we might be losing the momentum, now that national election was long over. That is when we gathered up and rethink about how we want to provide a platform for Indonesian youngsters to learn about public policy while voicing out their opinions. On December 7th, we soft-launched Podium.

11. I Made New Babies

There isn’t much to talk about for now except what you could find on the website—as usual, the team members are all full-time employee somewhere else and work on a voluntary-basis, which probably explains how we move quite slow compared to other similar media platform. We plan to officially launch this year and scale up. Feel free to sit and watch, but even more so to participate!

14. That, and I’ve been loved. Deeper than ever.

Flying back to square (month) one, I remembered having 20-something people over to my parents’ house in Bogor (which means they’ve traveled quite some miles to get there) and have a cook-out together. They were divided in three groups, each cooking a different dish. It worked well and we all ended up burping by around 3PM.

12. I Was Loved

What was really nice, though, was their presence, these hand-written letters, and a follow-up conversation about how they see (saw?) yours truly. It did not only help me understand my shortcomings, but more importantly made me feel loved, though not always understood. Later in the year I also learned to differentiate understanding from accepting, and loving from being attached.


On a more obvious note, it is this man who has been there to endlessly support me through all my hard times in 2015. I cried—multiple times this year—on his chest, and he always finds his way of bringing back a smile on yours truly’s face. I am grateful for the person that he is—his ordinariness more than anything—and he is not; to finally find the perfect home in this ever-moving world of insatiable humans; to feel accepted in all my ugliness and silly dreams. I love you.

15. Lastly, I partied.

On December 31st, I was finally able to reconvene with good friends and played silly games and had loads of fun. (We danced and had a couple competition to defuse a bomb. Boyfriend and I arrived a close second—after failing a couple times first hahaha.)

13. I Partied

It took me seven straight hours to write this post, and honestly, I got carried away and lost on the way from proving a point about not writing in 2015. At the end of the day, I think, I just needed to put all of those happy pictures out—for myself to revisit later in 2016 and beyond.

That said, I wish you a meaningful restart and happy new year!

People of the Year (2014)

Being 22, you couldn’t help but realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore—in fact, it never did. You do, however, continue to gravitate towards certain people: those who make you feel home, and those who give you the courage to leave it; to fight for your dreams. Some of these individuals might just happen to be around you (because you share the same university major or work at the same firm); some are people from the past who had to go separate roads (because life took them there) but bothered to make their way into your present; and some others were naturally drawn into you for what you both love. Either way, you now know better than ever that they matter. And since writers write about things that matter to them, here I am, posting my tribute to the 14 (sets of) people who made my 2014 count—in no particular order:

  1. Fellow Forest Warriors

In my first week of being an intern, WRI’s President/CEO cracked me up by saying—on an informal dinner, “It took me 20 years before I started working here, but this is your first job out of college? Too bad Andhyta, everything else will only be down the hill from now on—WRI is the best place you could ever work for.” Well, I thought, his confidence was reasonable—we had quite an applaudable cause, to begin with (saving forests and all). About two years later, though, I understood that it was rather the ‘people’, that make my workplace one of the bests in the world.


Because what are the chances you would find colleagues who love talking about science and religion over lunch? And if that isn’t something enough, the same nerds also enjoy discussing about politics and linguistics as much as they do about food and traveling. They don’t really gossip—at least not in the common definition of it—although they do care about your overall well-being and check on you when you’re in a scholarship interview or feeling sick even when they don’t have to. The conversations during our team lunches in the past months have been something I treasure—so much that I came up with a separate blog to document them. Looking forward to more of them this year, too! Cheers!

  1. (South) Jakartan Policy Wonks

Another weirdly interesting set of people that I got to meet in 2014 happened to gather in this study group (?)—more like an after-hour geeky get-together—that convenes on a monthly basis. We typically started the night sitting in two separate benches (one affirmative and the other negative, in case it’s not obvious enough) and debate on a recent policy issue. So far we’ve only met five times—topics including: 1) Uber licensing in Jakarta, 2) fuel subsidy, 3) direct regional election, 4) inter-faith marriage, and 5) the new curriculum—but each of them had been immensely enriching.

We could be enthusiastically arguing against one another and yet mutually aware that it was all for intellectual pleasures. Next year, we plan to regularly publish summaries through http://wonk.id—so things would be expectedly more interesting. In case you’re into policy debates (and are young), don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.

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  1. The Other Aquarian

Not sure if quoting words from when you were still a third grader is a strategic move, but nobody puts it better than Dumbledore: “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” Instead of ‘always there to support you’, this good friend of mine prefers to ‘slap you in the face when the whole world is busy kissing your ass’. He would bluntly say something that would’ve hurt me when said by strangers, and yet remain one of the few people I could trust. We rarely had the chance to be physically present for each other in 2014 (even had to cancel a Bandung trip on last-minute), but he would spend 1-2 hours on the road just to kidnap me over 45-minute lunch, pop up for a short-yet-nice Skype call before flight, and send silly pictures from our old times every now and then. Here’s to wishing we could do another memorable roadtrip together some time this year.

  1. My December Boys

While maintaining a friendship could be challenging, maintaining a half-professional-half-personal bond is twice so—throughout 2014 more than ever. It was the year we kicked-off on our respective full-fledge careers, and therefore had to adapt to the new, changing nature of routines that came along with it (setting up a meeting had never been as hard). Given that our legacy (IFL) was at the brink of a long hiatus, some principal decisions ought to be taken. I am grateful to have survived through all the brainstorming and disagreements with them both; now equipped with plan ready to be executed. The long hours we spent (in various corners of the city because office meeting is too mainstream) will be worth it, I hope. (Oh and special thanks to the older of the two who bore with me during our trip to Paris/Strasbourg!)

11. Iman-Tama

  1. The Double F(amily)

Some farewells just happen so fast—one day you’re still sharing a table (and coffee cups) with them, the next day you’re rearranging your stuff in a new space that is only several miles away but still reaves you off the place where your roots previously grow (I miss Comma from time to time). We saw it coming, of course—and we said to each other, “Hey we could definitely meet every night! You could reach this place within minutes, and we could have dinner together! It would be fine!” We ended up not having dinner every night (does anyone who says these things actually achieve them?), but we still have our moments throughout the year. I would drive down to Bintaro or Pejaten—or anywhere, really—as long as we could still spend some time together. They still listen to my ramblings, and I’m not always reliable but will try my best to give my shoulders when they need me. You guys are awesome—don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

10. Finia, Fri

  1. The Big Sister I Never Had

I first met her through joining this selection in 2013 (which was one of my life’s best decisions)—and after months of unexpected occurrences, found myself on an interview (and later accepted!) to the same think tank she worked for. Ever since, she had been consistently empowering and supportive—she broke the imaginary ceiling of ‘self-doubts from being an Indonesian in an English-speaking environment’ and convinced me to make bold moves, all done through direct examples. Even after she resigned for grad school, she still sends me emails offering help/inputs for my own applications. Not sure if she would allow me to call her a ‘mentor’, but if she does, I could testify that she’s one who communicates effectively. Instead of teaching you what’s right/wrong, she would involve you in the thinking process—and she would give you credits when it’s due.

Really wished I could return the favor, but not sure if I could provide her with anything she doesn’t already have—if it means anything, I’d pray that she kicks ass in the rest of her academic pursuit this year.

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  1. The Writer/Editor

His keywords: books and boys :)) You know who to WhatsApp for night drinks or sushi treats that involve talks pushing on either of those two buttons. Tracing back, I really couldn’t tell how we started becoming friends—I only have vague memories of visiting the Spy Museum in Washington D.C. together, and I guess everything else just followed through. Last year our library of conversations welcomes ‘career choices’ as a new entry—which is only natural because we both wanted to be writers—and now I am happy because he is doing it for the two of us (grab his book in the nearest Aksara).

He knows damn too well how badly I want to publish one of my own—and never ceased to remind me about that.

You soar high, o friend, through your dancing words and awkwardly joint phrases. Let’s meet at the top of the hill when our paragraphs take us there. (Oh and it’s the year we ‘matured’, too, but adult content may not suit as Conundrum material.)

  1. The Unsolved Scribbles

It takes a certain courage to grow feelings for someone, and a different kind to say it out loud. So I would like to take this space to appreciate him for just that—coming out to me, with no tricks whatsoever up his sleeve. He could’ve run away for good—and soon he will—but for a moment that seemed to be forever, he bothered to sit in front of me and be honest. Sorry if I hadn’t been the girl who could make things simple for you—but the blame should go to the both of us for being the complicated human beings we were. I’m not sure about the state at which we currently are but pray bring with you the good memories of us as friends—ones who secretly took pleasure from (and count on) our counterpart’s smart comebacks when we threw teases at them.

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  1. The Prizzly (Polar-Grizzly) Bear

Making new friends is not really my forte—but with him, no effort was needed at all. My memory told me it began with a book—Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Golliath, to be particular (not my kind of book either), on which I wrote something like, “Why would a Golliath read a book about how to beat himself?” From then on, we hang out several times; mostly as partners to catch up with ‘now showing’ movies—because we simply couldn’t afford missing them—and crashing into a mutual friend’s crib or event. I think it’s very possible that in our previous lives we both lived in the wilderness as animals, and that he was then a protective friend of the forest’s prancing doe. Our age difference hardly means anything—after all, I’m psychologically 12 years older than my actual age.

Above anything else, to me he’s a great mentor with whom I discuss career/academic/life options—although experience revealed that our disagreements have so far outnumbered the consensus we reached :))

  1. The Slanted Brother

Part of being someone’s friend, apparently, is witnessing him turn into a drastically different persona and stick around because the subtle presence of that nice guy you once knew makes up for it. Through the limited but quality conversations we had last year—post-attending a classic concert together and through many ‘international’ (HAHAHA) phone calls—I am happy to find him worry a lot less about what people think, and become more of the man he always is. Been three years since our first awkward bump into each other (and more awkward lunches that followed) but even now, we could still run hours on endless talk—unfortunately, these days he seems to be enjoying activities that involve less talking :)) Despite anything else, I am most thankful for how he always believes in me even—or should I say, more importantly—when I don’t.

  1. The Camera Bearer

Never really planned to fall in love but there did I, with the story he pitched me during that brief late-night chat on a glass table. Adhra was the title I picked for his brainchild—a Swahili for apology—and on nobody’s mark, off we went to raising more than Rp 10.000.000 from the amazing people who believed in us to make a 9-20 minute short movie. Come to think of it, approaching him at that campaign event was one of my best decisions of the year, for I get to meet a like-minded geek who appreciates films as a form of art, and whose taste in music matches mine (although his song vocabulary is way ahead of mine).

On New Year’s eve (about one year after we met each other), he lied next to me—shoulder to shoulder—and said, in one of the most serious voice he could ever improvise, “You have no idea how grateful I am to know you. Thank you, Fu. Thank you for everything.” He—the sweet boy that he is—was the one who had no idea how much he’s impacted me. Here’s to more working weekends to bring that story inside your head to the screen.

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  1. The Angel and Demon

Their friendship came in a package—not that I’m complaining. Our most memorable time of the year would probably be that almost-midnight concert we jumped in, although I value our random gets-together just as much. Sitting between them helps me find the perfect balance: my right side’s gonna chirp to brighten the day up, while my left side’s supply of skepticism is constant. He will bring me down (not because he hates me or anything, the opposite’s more like the case), she will support me back on my feet (because she cares). He will laugh at my silly sides (or roll eyes at my failed jokes), she will pretend like I’m the funniest girl on earth (or ask me to repeat because she didn’t get it the first time). He would buy us flowers just because, and she would nag us about not being able to walk too far because heels happen (kidding Maam, you’re doing great). He’s actually one of the kindest/sweetest people I know, too, especially for drawing this:

4. Ikhsan-Sirly

  1. The Lioness Mothers

Growing up has taught me to never take anything for granted—my home and family included. No, especially my home and family. After the semester I spent overseas, I decided to invest more time and effort for the ladies I haven’t prioritized enough due to other job and passion callings. Twenty-fourteen has been the year I got to spoil them with flowers and fabrics (the two things they both seem to be really obsessed about—thought it was genetical but then it didn’t occur to me), in addition to just generally being in regular speaking terms.

Expressing emotions has never been easy for me, but this year I dared myself to tell them about how grateful I am to learn first-hand that nobody should tell women to stay in the kitchen. That they should be free to choose what they want to do with life. The younger of them two told me to ‘chill out about marriage’ and ‘achieve your dreams first’.

When I have my own daughter (or son, doesn’t matter), I will make sure that she understands that, too.

  1. The Bitches in Black

If you’ve been friends with someone for more than five years, you’d be their friends forever?—I’m not too sure about that. In friendship, as are in every other kind of relationships, what counts it seems, is your commitment to make it work. Entering our sixth year—with all the foreign dynamics we weren’t familiar with—I was dropped at the intersection of whether I would fight for it or leave. I of course, being the coward soul, left. Spent almost half of the year without them around did make me feel lonely.

Glad to have things back together at last, and promise I will try to be a better friend from this year onward. Here’s to never having to grow up separately ever again. After all, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

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P. S. It caught me by surprise that this post would make the fourth of my annual review ritual—been doing it since 2011on to 2012 and 2013. Not the type who would stick to the same thing for a long time (I usually get bored on the second attempt) but hey, here’s to not judging yourself about what she’s capable of.

P. S. S. Here’s a quote from What If, my favorite romcom of the year:

“It’s very easy to be cynical about love until you’ve had that instant connection. If you’re lucky, it happens once in a lifetime.” (2014)