Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Autonomy and Authority

Tuesday, 28 November 2006
Koningsstraat, Amsterdam

I remember that feeling in high school. Choosing your friends. You dress the same, you listen to the same music, you go to the same events... You even hate the same people and adore the same idols.

Your identity is that of being part of the group. It is what sociologists call 'collective behaviour' or early adulthood psychologists call 'peer pressure'.

Some people grow up to be part of a group and that's not wrong. I am and always will be part of my family.

I was clicking and musing on people's Friendster photos and how hard it is to see which one is your friend because most of their pictures are 'foto rame2'.

Is it the feeling of not wanting to be alone? Is it the fear of being different? Of not being accepted? Is it the feeling of insecurity? Is it not having a solid identity independent from 'a group'?

Is it all of the above?

It led me to think of what to teach to my children or myself. It's never wrong to be part of a group but it's important to be able to think for yourself. To define right and wrong. To stand on your own two feet. To be autonomous. To be able to perceive free of pressure. To be able to construct an argument. To be strong. To be persistent. The qualities you need in life to accept failure when needed and assess the qualities gained from the scar tissue surrounding our your wounds.

The more you are exposed to difference, the more you comprehend your own framework of life. The more you comprehend your own framework of life, the more you realise the realities you take for granted - thus questioning the authorities you conform to.

Perhaps metaphorically, it is like walking down the street focusing on your destination. Your view remains horizontal as you are walking on ground. When you are above the street, your view is vertical. You see the people walking in several directions, including you, and you establish the patterns that are obvious and the deviant behaviours of people not knowing where to walk.

You no longer see life as a focused destination. You start seeing life as a journey. No matter where you end, you always knew you made sound decisions. Because you always 'questioned'. Because you always 'knew better'.

Identity is a complex matter perhaps related to more than just culture or human behaviour. But it is not inherent and what is not inherent can eternally be challenged.

'...Most surely there are signs in this for people who reflect.' (Koran, The Kneeling, 45:13)

Fears and Pet Peeves

Thursday, 23 November 2006
Koningsstraat, Amsterdam

It was a rainy afternoon. I was sitting in De Jaren with Agne, looking at pedestrians passing by. We were talking about our plans after our programme ends. I told her (one) of my fears of coming home is the questions on having children.

Inaya: It's a given in Indonesia for people to assume that after you get married, you want children. And I know I am coming home to those questions.
Agne: If there is something I learned from my therapist it's that people project themselves on others. People judge because they're scared. People who have no fear, don't judge.
Inaya: *berpikir dan mulai tertarik*
Agne: Those questions they ask you... When are you having children, when are you getting married, when are you graduating... These are projections of their own fear, because these are the choices they have made in their lives. They want to make sure they made the right choices - they need validation.
Inaya: So it's never about us, it's always about them.
Agne: Exactly. So when they ask you these questions, just give an answer they can understand. It doesn't have to be your whole reason behind your decision on when to have children, because that's your own private space. They just need a validation, so give it to them. Say you're planning to, while smiling, and slowly shift focus to another topic close to children. Perhaps how cute your sister's daughter is (laughing).

I think she is right. I think we do project ourselves on other people. And it's never about us. Comments of us being fatter/too thin, it's because the people commenting are insecure about their bodies - or else they wouldn't pay attention to yours. Comments on why you haven't found a job yet - perhaps it's because they're not happy with theirs (misery does love company). Comments on your unorthodox views - it's because they don't want your views to shift theirs.

It's never about you, it's always about them.

So the best way to deal with this is to attempt to understand this pattern of thinking - and by not making it about you. Make it about learning more about other people's fears and use it to improve your communication skills, perhaps. Or to better understand difference.

Or to simply be more content with who you are.

Anak Tua

Sunday, 19 November 2006
Koningstraat, Amsterdam

It was an ordinary lunch on an ordinary Sunday...

Inaya: Ya, kalo kita gak bisa punya anak, mau adopsi anak darimana? Ambon? (Dalam hati: Wah gawat anak gue item2 (Double parenthesis: not like if it were my own it wouldn't be))
Arya: *sembari mengangkat bahu* Liat rejekinya aja.. (typical Arya answer)
Inaya: Dari Aceh aja kalo ngga, anak2 korban Tsunami.
*Inaya berpikir sebentar*
Inaya: Ya elah, udah udah berapa tahun nanti anaknya?
Arya: Suaranya udah pecah, umur 18 tahun. *suara sok diberat2in* "Mamaaaaa.."


Nina Bobo

Sunday, 1 October 2006
06.31 AM
Koningsstraat, Amsterdam

No one can argue with the fact that we are most uninhibited when we are sleeping. We become ourselves, we stop thinking, we stop questioning, we just 'be'. Since di kala tidur kita sama sekali tidak bisa menyadari kita melakukan apa, menjadi penting untuk mendengarkan komentar-komentar orang yang sering tidur bersama kita. If the premise that 'we are most uninhibited when sleeping', then one may hypothesise that 'our true characteristics will surface during sleeping'.

Or will it?

Kata Arya, pernah ada kejadian di malam hari ketika gue mendorong-dorong dia towards his side of the bed so that I have enough space for myself (and by 'dorong', I really mean 'dorong'. Kaya dorong lemari). Ternyata, di saat tidur itu, gue menyadari bahwa daerah gue udah terlalu besar dan gue mendorong-dorong dia ke tempat yang lebih kecil daripada tempat gue saat itu. Arya claimed that in my sleep, I said, "Oh. Sori!" lalu tidur lagi.

Arya: Bahkan di saat tidur pun kamu gak mau daerahnya diambil orang lain.
Inaya: *tertunduk malu*

Berpikir. Lima menit kemudian;

Inaya: Tapi kan setelah sadar aku minta maaf! *lame attempt for validation*

Menarik aja mencari tahu apa kebiasaan kita dan apakah itu mengungkapkan what kind of person you are. Perhaps in my case, well, territorial apparently. I know some people yang 'meringkuk' kalau tidur (my sister). Ada juga yang ngompol (nah lho) dan ngorok (different people, fortunately). I know some people yang kalo tidur tangannya naik kaya bayi (Zaki & Tata), though I don't know what that actually means. I know some people who are civilised (Dad) and always cold (Mom); again, don't know what that means. But I am sure when psychologically tested all can be interpreted in one way or the other.

Anywho, what is your sleeping behaviour?

Child's Play

Thursday, 28 September 2006
Koningsstraat, Amsterdam

After a tiring day in Den Haag arranging data collection for my thesis, I finally took a seat on the train back to Amsterdam. Listening to Spinto Band's 'Oh Mandy' and daydreaming for a bit alone in a four-seater... Life is all well until 5 seemingly 10 year old children 'yang bau matahari celingak-celinguk' and talked to each other loudly.

Don't sit here, don't sit here.

"Zullen wij hier zitten?" yelled the boy with the blond hair.

I closed my eyes.

So I kept ignoring them and enjoyed the view. I was alone with my playlist but could still here some words mumbled in the background.

"MEVROUW!" three kids yelled at me. From their grins I could tell this seems to be the third time they tried to talk to me.
Inaya: Ja?
Little girl with Afro: Acharhsarhuerhjf (something in Dutch).
Inaya: Sorry?
Little girl with Afro: Acharhsarhuerhjf (repeated that something in Dutch).
Inaya: I don't speak Dutch very well.
Little Indian boy: You going to Amsterdam Central?
Inaya: Yes.
Little Indian boy and friends: *sigh of relief and proud that they didn't make a mistake*

My heart skipped a beat. They are adorable. I started paying more attention to them.

One Indian boy with black eyes and black hair, one very Dutch boy with blue eyes and blond hair, one African-Dutch girl with a Fro and huge hoola-hoop earrings and two blonde Dutch girls that look too much a like.

I think they're a good example of how the Dutch are. Despite them being bad dressers with a culture of 'basa-basi', they are by far the most diverse society in Western Europe. These kids, in front of me, are a walking example of how multicultured the Dutch are.

The nice event made me reminisce a bit about my first flight to Amsterdam. I was sitting next to an Irish man named Neil (or so I would remember him with that name) who was telling me about his son in Bandung.

Neil: It's amazing how much children can teach us. I put my son in public school in Bandung and his friend drew him a picture when he moved to Jakarta. In the picture, all of the children had black hair but he drew one of them with blue eyes. Isn't it astounding how he sees all his friends, including my white son, as the same. And that the only thing that distinguished my son is the colour of his eyes.
Inaya: *Menangis tersedu2 dan gebuk2 lantai* (ya gak lah)

As we are forced to grow up with bills to pay, chores to do, food to prepare, we forget how nice it was to just, well, be kids. To see things simply as they are, not with pretentious glares and judgemental thinking. If we can no longer be one, let's just learn from them. If we get real lucky, we might be able to see the world as a big playground like we used to.

PS: Kaindaaaa lihat fotonya deh. JC Penney heiwheihwe..

The One with the Yeti

Ross: I mean it's... it's kinda far from work, but, uh, you know, I'll get so much done on the commute. I... I've been given the gift of time!
Chandler: Now, that's so funny, because last Christmas I got the gift of space. We should get them together and make a continuum.