Monday, May 05, 2008


Wednesday, 8 April 2008
Haji Samali, Jakarta

One of the many things I realise during pregnancy is: my belly tends to freak people out. By people, I mean those who are not yet married or plan to. I seem to be a walking reminder that they need to walk faster.

Sometimes I ask myself: why?

I mean, why do we have to see it as a linear decision? Why do we have to finish school, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, and die? Why do we have to see it as a path instead of a choice?

Marriage is not for everyone: since my premise is I'd rather be single and happy than marry someone just because it's about time. Having kids is not for everyone: I'd rather donate money and help other children than have children and not raise them properly. It also goes the other way around: full-time jobs are not for everyone, traveling is not for everyone, living on the edge is not for everyone.

I think basically, we all feel threatened by those who remind us of who we are not. Because they disconfirm our choices, they make us re-question our decisions. After all, we all need validation. Evidence that what we are doing is right.

Problem is, right and wrong is not left and right. My decision to quit working is not less than the fact that other pregnant women are capable to continue working. I knew my limits and I chose my priorities. My limits and choices are not applicable to other people and vice versa.

So I guess it's mostly about knowing who we are and what we want. Instead of dwelling on the things we think we should have, we could focus on the things we know we do. Family, a job we love, friends we can really talk to. After all, no matter how rich, how high up the career ladder, how beautiful and brilliant your children might be, none of these are solid indicators of happiness.

So why worry?

Ways to Freak Out Your Partner

Friday, 22 February 2008
Kalibata Utara, Jakarta

Have you watched that episode of Friends where Phoebe reads Ross' journals and recites them to freak him out? (If you don't I think it's in 'The One with the Soap Opera Party'.) But anyway, I tried it out with Arya by memorising daily football analysis (biasanya di halaman belakang Koran Tempo).

(Setting: Inaya dan Arya dalam mobil, lewatin penjaga gerbang yang lagi nonton TV)
Arya: Wah, Arsenal ya?
Inaya: Iya, mereka harus menang nih, kompensasi atas Tottenham.
Arya: ????????????????????????????????

Saking lucu mukanya Arya, I do it routinely.

(Setting: Lagi-lagi Inaya dan Arya dalam mobil, lewatin TVnya penjaga gerbang)
Arya: Arsenal MU nih.
Inaya: Menurut kamu yang menang siapa?
Arya: MU sih, abis di kandang mereka.
Inaya: Aku pinginnya Arsenal.
Arya: ..... (mungkin dia berpikir: Do I dare ask why. Tapi dia tetep nanya) Kenapa?
Inaya: Pingin tahu bener ngga pendapat orang yg bilang Adebayor susah ditebak mainnya.

I actually don't know crap of what I'm saying :p but it's just too damn funny.

(Setting: Inaya dan Arya di kamar, lagi ngobrol sebelum tidur)

Arya: (tiba-tiba aja ngomong) No peanuts for my little peanut.
Arya: Sama kan freak-nya sama Adebayor.


On the Many Approaches to Being Pregnant

Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Kalibata Utara, Jakarta

Well, the first reaction would of course be happiness.

It took Arya and I (and by Arya and I, I mean me) 2 years of marriage to finally be ready enough to have children. My biggest fear was that there were so many flaws in me as a person, that would deprive my baby of true growth in its broadest sense. I was afraid that I would be inconsistent, set double standards, be too demanding, be too loose, be too light, be too anything – that might screw my kid up for good.

But then, once in a blue moon (why blue? Why moon?), I said to myself: ‘I will never be perfect. Neither will my kid ever be. No matter how good I raise them, the flaws in me and in them are the aspects what make human, well, human.’ So why avoid something inevitable? Why not embrace it and just make the good out of it (cliché, yes). That just as I will never be a perfect person, I will never be a perfect parent. And from this realisation, it can only mean that I still have room to grow.

So then my fears went away.

Inaya: Pernah punya ketakutan yang sama?
Arya: Iya, tapi ngga dipikirin. Ngapain nyape-nyapein otak.

So then God (or for some of you, nature) created one spouse for everyone. Sigh.


Somewhere Between 4-6 Weeks

There was this one day when I was feeling very melancholic. My body was changing, my hormones were kicking in, and then there was that first sonogram which kind of made me realise that something is growing inside me.

I also realised that for the upcoming 9 months I’ll go through a life-changing phase of learning and adjusting. Of learning to be unselfish and give. That my body will take its course and take care of something which is not its own. If my body is capable of doing this, I’m pretty sure it means my heart and mind can too. I guess being a woman gives us the remarkable chance to learn selflessly.

Then I realised that men are deprived of this chance and that they will never feel the physical bond that a woman can to their child. It’s sad in a way. It makes you reconsider what society means by ‘the privileged gender’.


Somewhere Between 8-10 Weeks

Between feeling like having a constant hangover 24/7 and barfing after every meal, losing weight and having aches all over your body – you tend to be a little cranky. I don’t blame the hormones I blame the SHEER TORTURE.

I was lying in bed, not having the energy to do anything. Next to me was Arya, sitting oh-so-healthily and it really made me hate his guts (‘Ayo Yang, jangan lemes dong!’ ‘Ya makan mesti dipaksa, jangan dimanjain.’ ‘Salah sendiri, siapa suruh kerja ya sekarang kamu mesti berangkat.’). There he'll be, I thought, healthy as a pickle all throughout my 9 months, not going through a single change physically and POOF, the baby’s there and he’ll receive the equal glory of being a parent.

Lucky bastard.

Then he absentmindedly reached for a pregnancy book and started reading.

Arya: Yang, ternyata sebaiknya kamu sebelum tidur makan cracker dulu biar bangunnya ngga terlalu mual.

Then I remembered that he tries. I suddenly forgot why I was so pissed in the first place.


Somewhere Between 10-16 Weeks

I feel healthier, more sober, I barf less and whine less. I can’t fit into my old clothes and my lower back aches each morning (the pressure from the uterus). I begin questioning who I want to be in 5 years and for the first time, it’s not for career-purposes. I want to be a hands-on Mom who is there morally and mentally for her family. I want to develop myself intellectually because I want to be able to answer my kids’ questions. I want them to learn as much as I know I’ll learn from them. I want to be their ‘home’.

So then I decided to resign from my office-hours job as manager and focus on teaching and researching. Maybe write now and then. In the long run, being a lecturer is a good career line. I get to work until my 60s (industry only hires people till they’re 50), I get to manage time between taking my kids to school and teaching. I get to take them to meetings and conferences. If I'm lucky, I'll be one of those academics who get to travel around the world for researches and seminars.

Though, financially, I hope I’m making the right decision. It’s either I can really be a good academic who can provide for (at least) herself, or I end up a burnt-out teacher with no research orders. But what is life without risks?

Needs and Wants

Sunday, 2 December 2007
Haji Samali,


Inevitably, we’ve all, in some point in our lives, experienced failure. Whether it’s not getting the job you really wanted, not getting into the school you’ve studied your ass off to get into, or, most commonly, trying your best in a relationship and still ending up alone. We console ourselves by saying, ‘Everything will be OK’ or ‘This was not meant for me, happiness will come another time, another place’. Slowly we feel better about ourselves and learn how to deal with life better and just be sharper the next time around.

But. What constitutes failure?

It’s when we’ve determined an objective and decide the mechanisms we choose to employ in order to achieve it. Remain consistent with the mechanisms chosen and weigh the pros and cons. However, at the end, no matter how consistent, perceptive and agile we were, the objective was not achieved.

A premise pops in my head: you need to set an objective in order to succeed or to fail. It’s the social construction that has so effectively been introduced to our mindsets that we need to know what we want, do our best to achieve it and all other outcome is considered failing. Jobs, grades, salaries, networking, building a family: all the conventions. But how do we know that that is our ‘objective’? We all know the oh-so-cliché saying ‘When one door closes, another opens’. We all take for granted the things we want and consequentially ignore the things we get. During all failures, it becomes mandatory to take into account everything comprehensively in order to call it an actual failure.

So with each failure, success is also inevitable. When we don’t get the job we want, it might be because we are actually good at the thing we are currently doing. When we don’t get into the school we want, maybe it’s not yet time for us to learn and it’s time for us to do. If we are going through yet another painful break up, maybe it’s because it’s time for us to learn who we are instead of how we are with other people.

For those who believe in God, He indeed has mysterious ways of showing us the things we need instead of the things we want. For those who believe in nature, She has certain ways to sustain a meta-balance which involves not only us, but also the others who evolve around us. It’s always never what you want, it’s what we can take at the moment.

At the end of the day, I guess it’s about taking care of the things you already have instead of dwelling in the things you think is good for you. If life is about choices, then I choose to keep trying, but be content with whatever life throws back at me.

On Many Things

Sunday, 11 November 2007
01.50 PM
Haji Samali, Jakarta

On Moving Back Home and Its Complexities

Continents and months have has gone by since my last ponder. Everytime I begun to write, I decided that no words could best convey the hard work of learning I had to go through in such a short period of time. Well, at least for me.

Some are too personal to say. Sometimes even to myself.

But all in all, all is well.

Arya and I have our own place. Yes, we’ve been living on our own for 2 years in the Netherlands but it isn’t the same. For Indonesians, especially those who live in Jakarta, you’ll understand this completely. Living alone abroad and living alone in Jakarta are two totally different things. I actually knew of this theoretically in my head all along, but knowing it and experiencing it are very, very different. But who am I to say. The most I’ve learned so far could be the least of what’s to come.

Being far away from family was not a trip to the zoo. Seeing my brother all grown up and missing most of the process was painful – but I kept reminding myself that I made a conscious choice and that this was part of growing up. I knew in my head, then, that once I’ve returned home – things would be much more complicated. The thing called family politics: everyone means well but nobody quite does anything effectively. Aunts asking much too personal questions, customs left unchallenged often resulting in silent ‘sighs’ (if you know what I mean) – be it ‘Kalo kerja terus, kapan kawinnya?’ challenged by ‘Selesein dulu deh kuliahnya, cari uang tuh bisa nanti-nanti.’ to ‘Kapan punya anaknya?’ to ‘Kamu tuh laki-laki, pemimpin keluarga, harus bisa cari uang.’ These black-and-white values of family life are too much accepted without contest, much so for my taste.

For me (and Arya), although it’s customary (in Indonesia) for men to be in charge of the household, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the woman is left idle. Household means cooperation, communication and realisation – both in making money (male in social gender; e.g. career, investments) and taking care of chores (female in social gender; e.g. house chores, taking care of children if any). It takes two to tango. You can’t clap with one hand. You get the gist.

But of course, my values aren’t the absolute truth. What works for me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for others. We are all entitled to choice and we are all entitled to difference in opinions. With that, goes the requisite of understanding and accepting difference. Again, this is a two-way-street. Unfortunately, not everyone is driving.

So there are moments when energy spent is not energy saved. It serves no good to explain yourself to those who can’t or won’t listen. Without feeling that everyone is beneath us, there is the art of ‘leaving things be’. Of realising that you cannot change the world with your own bare hands. There are things you can do and there are things that will cost more than you’ll ever get back.

This art – I’m pretty sure no one can ever master. But at least we can try. And hope that in the mean time we get to be just a tad bit wiser than we were yesterday.

On Work and the Bigger Picture

During my first week of jet lag, I got called back by my old office to help manage the production house that provides the services (documentaries mostly) for the communication strategy campaign I used to help coordinate. The next week, I was back to work. On that first week, I started thinking: ‘Why didn’t I take a short vacation before rushing back to work?’

But no, Ms. Inaya and her snotty idea of being a hardworker had to get in the way.


But again, all is well.

It was quite a transition from being a student and back to working again. Regardless of getting flexible hours, the workload and my own unrealistic standards get in the way of enjoying free time. Again, this was, and still is, a personal struggle of finding the balance between paying the bills, reaching for my own goals, retaining my life values, and being grounded (and maintaining sanity!).

Being my complicated self (eye-rolling permitted), I keep questioning my choices and re-evaluating my life. How is this going to affect my personal relationship with Arya? When am I going to plan to have children? Will I go back to school? Will I develop an academic career or a career in the non-profit industry?

What do I want most in life and how will my work be a part of this?

I guess we all have these questions in our heads and I’m also pretty sure that you can never have an absolute answer for any of this. You can only hope that you make the right decision (if this even exists) and make the best of the process. The only underlying value that I can sustain is: if I lose myself in the process (be it religion, life values, family), then I should let go of anything it is that is detaching me from the things that should hold me together.

Because at the end of the day, if I cannot sleep sound at night and remind myself that I am still me – and that by doing what I do, I am achieving a much bigger thing than just myself – it is just not worth doing.

Well, we’ll just have to see what the day brings.

On Planning Ahead: Realistically and Conceptually

I’ve been observing my friends and colleagues (most of which fall into the 20 to 30 year old age group), and in growing up socially, there are these two general groups (please forgive my over-generalisation). First are the planners. Those who think about insurance, hospital bills for labour, pregnancy costs, planning for mortgage, calculating their monthly expenses: in short, those who build up their personal lives according to their financial capabilities. In character, they are pessimistic, accurate, and not risk takers. The second are the do first, think later’s. In Indonesia, they are the ones who will respond in this manner: ‘Rejeki gak kemana’, ‘Banyak anak banyak rejeki’, and others in the same category. They are usually more confident, take temporary projects to pay this month’s bills and stress less.

There’s this teacher of mine who seems to think that Indonesians pray most of the time they should work. ‘Kalau sakit, berdoa supaya sembuh tapi ngga ke dokter.’ It is this philosophy of life that to me is very interesting.

How do we find the balance between being overly anal about planning ahead and being overly confident that everything will be OK (because face it, sometimes everything is not OK!)?

I guess for the planners, the limit is when we stress too much. What is the use of avoiding troubles with careful planning when we create new troubles by overthinking everything?

For the do-ers think lat-ers, the limit is when we end up making other people clean up our mess. What is the use of self-confidence when we end up asking other people for favours and loans?

I suppose none is the wiser and both types have their pros and cons. It is our obligation to identify which type we are and act accordingly. Be it by calculating our expenses and generating the necessary income (and if it is still insufficient, just lower our standards!) or accepting the worse case scenarios, accepting our failures and just start living!

Afterall, it’s not the successes that make us learn best, it’s the mistakes.


So there you go.

I think I need a vacation.

Oh, and by the way, my niece is adorable.