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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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)

Words of the Year (2013)

If you happen to be one of Conundrum’s earliest readers, chances are that you have read my summaries of 2011 and 2012 already. I did them mainly because I over-enjoyed retrospective contemplation—not to mention the functionality aspect of it: these posts really help me look at the bigger picture of who I really am, and feel quite significantly more grateful about it.

Now Kundera insisted on the (unbearable) lightness of being—he tried to convince us that when things don’t repeat, they sort of evaporate and float, if not vanish, to the air. It is exactly ‘reoccurrence ‘ that keeps memories heavy enough to stay on the ground. It is repetitions, not mere discussions about them, that sustain history as a reality before humans. Anthropologists however, would probably argue that events don’t gain weigh as they happen again, they simply become a tradition.

Am I trying to give a third shot to a plausibly long-term ritual, or is this only an effort to answer Kundera? I’m not particularly sure. Either way, I’m assuming that you aren’t entirely happy about having another carousel round—which leads me to take the cheesy road for the sake of offering something different this year: 13 words that can help describe my 2013 (mostly taken from Adam Jacot de Boinot’s The Meaning of Tingo). Might get a little sentimental and lengthy on the way, I worriedly hope you don’t mind.

1. Yerdengh-nga

1. Yerdengh-nga (Wagiman, Australia), v. “To clear off without telling anyone where you are going.”

I began the year leaving on a 5-month scholarship to the Island of Lions, and for the first time in my 20 years of life, I understood what ‘missing’ actually meant—in its most naked, honest sense. I remember spending my last day in Bogor crying myself off to sleep as it became clear to me how much I cared about my family and friends, how their presence mattered more than I ever realized (I was emotionally slow—probably still am). I didn’t regret the decision though, I did need to withdraw myself from the status quo—wasn’t sure where I was headed to, but I knew I could use some clear-cut beginning and a fresh start as a complete stranger in a country of introverts.

2. Hiraeth

2. Hiraeth (Welsh), n. “A feeling of sadness, somewhere between homesickness and nostalgia.”

As a consequence, though, I had to deal with hiraeth—a great deal of hiraeth (it was never in my dictionary before). I wasn’t in an exactly perfect shape to make new friends—Mr. Thesis kept on calling my name every time I spent too much time hanging out with them—so I had to settle down with a little loneliness in the libraries. I gave up expecting anything on January 25th, but to my surprise, I had a really good time: a lunch treat by a cool professor, a home-made dinner by Agi, presents from him, Shieron, Iip, and my roommate Chontida—even Kiki and Stefi came over with a real birthday cake! For the first time in my early weeks away from home, I felt content.

3. Tuti’i pas ayina

3. Tuti’i pas ayina (Persian), n. “A person sitting behind a mirror who teaches a parrot to talk by making it believe that it is its own likeness seen in the mirror which is pronouncing the words.”

One of the bright peeps above might sue me by equating them to parrots (LOL), but this Persian word impeccably represents what Diku, Fahmi, and I (a.k.a. the Evil, Human, and Angel coaches—HAHAHA) had been trying to do with them: to make them see what we saw, that they had the potential to grab the awards we’ve all been waiting for. They say three is the charm, but apparently we had to lose again. Despite completing the hattrick though, I gained many valuable lessons just by accompanying them preparing for and going through the War. So thank you, kids.

4. Lele kawa

4. Lele kawa (Hawaiian), v. “To jump into the sea feet first.”

It will be a complete lie to say that I knew what I was doing when I applied an internship position at the awesome think-tank where I ended up being offered a full-time post at. In Hawaiian, people would say that I lele kawa-ed: I wanted to swim but was still afraid of the depth of the water and all. Regardless, this was my first professional business card (I’m now a research assistant) and needless to say I was quite proud about it without any particular reason. I guess it was a simple satisfaction of finally being hired and making actual impacts on the ground.

5. Ai bu Shi

5. Ai bu shi shoo (Chinese), adj. “So delighted with something that one can’t keep one’s hands off it.”

Past the lele kawa period, came the ai bu chi shoo phase of working. Today, having worked over 8 months for the institute and experienced many rare opportunities from it (including being involved in the Riau forest fires episode and actually flying to Washington, D.C. to meet all the awesome geeks and researchers there), I should say that randomly applying for the internship was one of the best decisions I made in 2013. This is a pretty new team picture of the Indonesia team taken at the office.

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6. Kapusta (Russian), n. “Money (literally, cabbage).”

I hesitated to pick this word because somehow, I was afraid to admit that to a certain extent I am just as materialistic as people I typically hate are. A better word to describe what I’m trying to say is probably ‘afford’ but that’s English, so I had to go with ‘cabbages’ instead :)) Bottomline: I simply have to brag about how good it felt to afford a life of your own, making your own cabbages and spending them as you please (especially if you make four digits per month). I’ve also been blessed with the luxury of making my family a little happier with the small stuff I can provide them with. What I now have to learn about is to keep myself grounded: to truly understand that I do not, in any way, reserve the right to be selfish and annoying just because I grow my own cabbages.

(No, btw I did not buy the sweet-looking Beetle. My friend and I just rented it for our SF-LA trip.)

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7. Boghandel (Danish), n. “Bookshop.”

Now one of the good things about having lots and lots of cabbages is that I can buy a loadful of books (insert a huge grin emoticon here). To nobody’s surprise, this year I hit a new record of the number of books I managed to take home. I got almost another one every three days, and barely finish one of them every week. In economics, Rocky would say, this is called over-supply problem. In my language, however, I call this ‘over-blessing’. You are welcome to visit my soon-to-be library!

8. IAUg

8. Mokita (Kiriwana, Papua New Guinea), n. “The truth that all know but no one talks about.”

As you might have realized, I finally finished 3.5 years of academic experience in the beloved campus (stole half a year on the Singaporean escapade). Surprisingly though, the day I actually wore my bright-orange toga, I hardly felt anything. I was pretty sure I was happy, somehow, because all the people I loved were actually there: the whole nuclear-family (Eyang, Pap, Mom, Kakak, Dede), the girls (Kiki, Ipeh, Diku), my crazy Booktalk folks (Rocky, Rozin, Johan), most of Batch 2009, etc. But to really try to be conscious about what’s in my head, honestly, it’s mostly empty. The actual satisfaction kicked in after my somewhat successful thesis defense (to attend which Yere delayed an entire class zzz)—graduation day was mostly ceremonial and foggy. It’s almost like a sad entrance—a reminder that you had to leave comfort zone and enter an entirely unknown universe called workplace.

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9. Sekaseka (Zambian, Bemba), v. “To laugh without reason.”

Another highlight of 2013 is that I had a great multitude of fun, a spontaneous, unplanned kind of fun. It involved doing a sudden Barbecue cook-out with some of my closest friends, midnight karaoke sessions, and most important of all: an all-around-the-United-States trip (whose tickets weren’t booked until 2 days before we took it)! I guess I simply had enough of being an uptight, downright-organized person, and apparently losing control over yourself is not a bad deal at all. Here’s to more taveling and real friendships in 2014!

7s. July

10. Tuman (Indonesian), v. “To find something enjoyable and want to have it again.”

You might wonder why (some people actually asked), someone who’d already been doing a lot of youth-related projects and should’ve moved on (read: yours truly), still bother to work on something completely dull and boring like Parlemen Muda Indonesia? Was it a post-power syndrome, or simply the fact that I had nothing better to do? Truth be told (and I’m not trying to cover this up whatsoever), I simply enjoy the entire organizational process: the planning, the crises, the coming to a solution, all the thrill that leading a project brings you—but mostly the planning. Will I do it again this year? Probably not, but not because I don’t enjoy doing it—I simply want to try focusing on something I should’ve been doing this whole time. Something like, you know, actually trying to write a book.

Riris

11. Piropo (Spanish), n. “A compliment paid on the street (which ranges from polite to raunchy).”

What I learned over 2013: one shall not pretend that he/she is lousy at something just to make people think they’re humble, because clearly humility doesn’t work that way. I believe that’s everyone should find the one thing they truly love and/or are good at, then stand up for it. I also trained myself not only to get used to compliments, but also making the effort to thank these people for their kind words while pushing down the urge to let the rest of the world know about it. (Except for this one, of course. A compliment from Mbak Riris—my awesome dosen pembimbing—even a petty one like this, is simply too overwhelming to be kept a secret. Pardonnez moi. HAHAHA.)

6. June

12. Vybafnout (Czech), v. “To surprise someone by saying ‘boo!’.”

And 2013 did that by letting me speak to Vladimir Putin, the very father of Russia. I did not know the possibility of this until I actually stepped onto St. Petersburg and heard the rumors about the opportunity for 20 Delegate Leaders to sit down and have an actual chit-chat with him. I guess the year was just messing up with my expectations and the whatnots. In a generous way. (If you speak Russian, you might also want to watch the video and jump to 1:06:06.)

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13. Mahj (Persian), adj. “Looking beautiful after a disease.”

One of the things I decided to confront this year is the insecurity over my not being pretty. When I said ‘pretty’ I did mean the capitalism-imposed version of it: one would quickly conclude that I won’t make it as any magazine’s cover. But this year somehow, just somehow, I had the people kind enough to repeatedly say over my ears that I am beautiful, at least when I was pale and sick :)) What’s actually better: to know that they still stick around despite you being unpretty. I somehow suspect that maybe we don’t really want to be perfect and admired—maybe we just want to be ugly and accepted.

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Anyway. There are some words that I thought would mark 2013 but proven to be completely wrong: ‘torschlusspanik’, a German word for “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older” and ‘parebos’, an Ancient Greek meaning “being past one’s prime” are two of them. But no, being 21 years old proved itself to be one of the best times of my life.

Andika told me that life is supposed to be full of surprises and that’s what you need to be prepared of. To have more of them. Some people try doing ‘yetu’, a Tulu-Indian word for “gambling in which a coin is tossed and a bet laid as to which side it will fall on“, but the wiser ones know that it’s a futile effort. You just have to take the roller-coaster ride and feel the breeze in your hair.

Now comes the part where I share what I really wish for 2014: to stay grounded and unpretentious. Basically to still find comfort in riding angkots-quo-Commuter Lines, as well as eating street foods (I’m sure Angkringan will forever be good). I won’t promise myself to write more, but I hope my upcoming 2014 journey would be meaningful enough to take notes about.

Oh and here goes a little quote that is totally unrelated but so beautiful I simply cannot resist to not use it to close this long post:

“Great conversations are like beautiful squares in foreign cities one finds at night and then doesn’t know how to get back to in daytime.” —Alain de Botton

Twelve Pieces of Twenty Twelve

Confession: 1) I still feel as if this post was made just about yesterday in the very corner of my room. Apparently, another set of 365 days has passed—and 2) I would lie to say that I don’t enjoy the process of reading through my agenda while leaving marks on the pages of moments-slash-accomplishments that matter to me throughout the twelve-month period.

So without the intention to sound cocky whatsoever, here goes my story.
(You might want to stop here if all you have in your head is a judgmental brain.)

January: Beaches and Beyond

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It has been a tradition of the crazy students in my beloved department to start the year with an outing agenda. This year, we went to Anyer Beach and despite feeling tortured of not being able to be productive for three days, it turned out that playing with the sand and sea is just as enjoyable as exploring a silent mountain. (The month become twice exciting when I got the news that I will be an assistant lecturer in one of my favorite courses this semester!)

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Other than the newly-found affection, this month also marked the beginning of my realization upon the perks of chairing a discussion. Having moderated Marshanda and Dik Doang in Meet the Leaders National Conference, I realized that my previous giddiness toward bad interviews was not always triggered by lame answers but also hardly-sharp questions thrown at them. And somehow this reminded me of a nostalgic push to have a career in journalism.

February: There Are Still Lessons after a Second Failure

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Having successfully failed (what an oxymoron) in 2011, Universitas Indonesia’s team emerged and (objectively) performed even better at Harvard National Model United Nations 2012 last February—although we missed the award. Again. The loss hit me even harder not only because I was the head delegate, but also the fact that it was my second chance and I still missed it. But hey, it helped me to realize that I truly savor the pressure and level of complexity this competition offers (and thus will go there again next year). Good thing that we got to stroll across New York for three days afterward (I also made a post about it).

March: Even True Love Needs a Proof

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After having the idea for quite some time, my two friends and I finally managed to publish Indonesian International Relations Students websitea platform for, as the name stated, passionate youth to write their ideas and arguments in the discipline. Additionally, @iirstudents was also made to spark online debates/discussion and basically interact with the people on Twitter. I was so happy getting exposed to everyone’s enthusiasm!

April: The Devastation of Getting Second Is a Myth

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According to this research, bronze medallists are happier than those who won silver. The reason to such postulation is mainly the fact that runner-ups usually face a harder time moving on from the thought of “I could’ve been the champion had I done a little better.” Knowing the efforts that my best friend did to win the faculty’s Mahasiswa Berprestasi award, however, I know that he deserves the position far more than I do and I can’t be a happier runner-up. (Oh wait, I could beit was when Iman was finally announced as the National Champion!)

May: Lessons for the Coach

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I always had the fear of “You’re not good enough to win an award and yet you dare to train us?” whenever I began a coaching session (for either public speaking, debating, or—mainly—Model United Nations). As I went on, however, I got to understand that being a coach is not about being greater than your kids (and thus legitimize your position as the person to look up to), but having the eye able to identify even the most hidden potentials that they have and smart enough to formulate the method that might assist them in the unleashing process. Currently feeling rather addicted to it (especially after the chocolat chaud the kids brought me from Canada, LOL), this year I took the pleasure of becoming the coach for several teams in my campus’s club as well as high schools.

June: It’s Okay to Stop By

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If there’s anything I really learned this year, it’s the fact that life is not only about moving upward the stairs of career but also having frequent pauses so you can enjoy the view. So—invited by a senior—I sneaked into his extended class on philosophy in Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Driyarkara every Monday, in addition to several other unrelated concerts, seminars, and of course, books.
Which were amusing!

July: Australians Make the Best MUNs Ever

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I still remember my first experience of directing a conference—I was a rather shy, clueless one—and within just one year, God let me experience a whole new level of heated debate in the year’s most livable city, Melbourne. This was me, my co-director, and the delegates of COP 18 at Asia Pacific Model United Nations Conference 2012 after three days of great discussion on global carbon trade. We had motions on video-screening, singing, and dancing—I love Australians!

August: A Collage of Overwhelming Exhilarations

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1. I finally published my first-ever article on The Jakarta Globe Blogs. The amateur (not to mention debut) post made it to one of the Most-Readable-on-JGBlogs, got 88 retweets, and I definitely felt super-great about it! You can read it here.

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2. We managed to hold the first-ever national gathering of Indonesian Future Leaders board from across the country! Despite the poor venue (we had it in an unused masjid’s hall), we had a really precious time togerther exchanging views.

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3. A series of meet-ups also filled in the month. I’m usually a wallflower who avoids crowd, but the month really taught me how meeting new people let you brainpick in an entirely different way, but equally nice. These are some of the awesome people I met somewhen in the middle of August.

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4. You know, it’s just about time that one will regain their faith and optimism in the government. I had mine after working with a team of Indonesia’s most brilliant people in the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight for two months, as an intern. You should have a slice and apply, too! More information can be found here.

September: Graduation Is Both a Farewell and a Beginning

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After going through five months of amazing forums and awesome projects, we were finally declared as the alumni of Young Leaders for Indonesia Wave 4.
I don’t exactly know how I can say this without being cheesy, but the experience was truly a life-changing one—it made me realize that each of us has the responsibility to contribute back to the country.

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In the same month, two of my friends also graduated—from the university, in just three years! The rest of batch 2009 can’t be prouder of Pettisa and Caroline.

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My friend Gesa once told me about this clever person who made a curriculum vitae not only after his achievements, but also failures. So this, my friend, is an open self-reminder that I have been once rejected by a company I wished to work for. I felt very, very disappointed at that time, but rejections are one of the most effective tool to humility. Cheers.

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P.S. I also had a
hard time moderating my first-ever semi political talkshow with (among others) Faisal Basri and Arif Zulkifli, but ended up enjoying it! Oh and after getting the opportunity to talk and moderate a number of other similar events, I sort of understand how answering human’s instinct to share will indeed lessen the burden of being overblessed with opportunities.

October: The Commencement to My Retirement Period

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Indonesia Model United Nations 2012 marked the last (and best) event I was involved in throughout the year, and can’t be a prouder part of it. Looking forward to a greater one next year, will gladly come to the closing ceremony, Diku.

November: Too Much Happiness

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Hold your breath, ladies and gents: I FINALLY MET AYU UTAMI IN PERSON! Although I did embarrass myself by unstructuredly blurting out how she’s not just my favorite writer but also a prophet-writer whose writings profoundly change how I see things, I was so happy when she spontaneously commented, “Oh kita beda satu huruf aja berarti. Kamu A-fu, saya B-fu. Maksudnya Bilangan Fu,” followed by the audience’s laughter.

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And this. This marked the first time I scored in a writing competition (I never entered any before) and God I can’t be any more thankful.
In case you want to read the essay I submitted.

December: West Sumbawa and Bali

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I used to ‘meh’ at people who blabbed about how not traveling is like only reading one page of the whole book yet my first experience to another part of Indonesia outside Java Island gave me this perpetual longing to explore some more.
Had an interview about it.

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Did not manage to compose any report about Global Youth Forum, but I guess most of my criticism was eloquently elaborated by Youth Policy’s article. Thanks to Angga Dwi Martha, I had one of the best hands-on learning experience about how a policy-making process is really complicated and yet critically important. Although, the event stroke me back with a bit of pessimism about how our bureaucrats can ever meet our high expectations.

Above all the heartbreaks that made me stronger and missed opportunities that humbled me down, I thank God for proving that even after all the amazingly wonderful experiences I had in 2011, things can still get better.

Let 2013 surprise us. Have another great year ahead!

P.S. Lately I’ve been doing a small literary photography project on Instagram. Despite the obvious incomparability, the activity gets me excited just like writing does. Feel free to check the pictures out!