Monday, June 28, 2010

Silent Sigh

As I am preparing for my third trip without Malik this year, I realise that it hasn't grown any easier. I feel anxious leaving him, as I did the first time. As a mother of a toddler, it's very difficult (if not impossible) to completely detach. To fully embrace the fact that we will be physically inaccessible to him.

But I do realise I manage better than I did the first time. I know that this is a carefully calculated choice with his well-being first in mind. I know that his father is every bit as good a parent as I am (if not even better in certain (emergency) situations). I know that having an active mother (hopefully) will contribute to his emotional development. And I consciously accept all the consequences, along with the fact that I can never have it all.

It's human to emotionally feel one thing and rationalise it with a 'cost-benefit' assessment. Not exactly finding a balance, more of accepting the consequence of a decided set of priorities and managing counter-productive psychological responses towards them (whoah, that's a mouthful).

But yeah, I'm learning. Sigh.

On the lighter side of things, logistically everything is set. Flight, accommodation, scheduled session, workshop paraphernalia, packing.

Intermezzo: I'm an early packer, I don't like forgetting things on the last day as it adds unnecessary stress - an imprint of my mother. Arya, on the other hand, packs the night before - not unlike another beloved (hello, Dad!). So I should get by just fine. It's not my own comfort than I'm actually shifty about.

What I've figured so far is: leaving loved ones does not get any easier with the amount of time I travel. The emotional attachment remains the same. I just learn how manage, set aside, and prioritise better. Which is a handy skill, don't you think?

Compartmentalisation training: level 3.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who's to Say

Recently, a public figure told me that he thinks I have the potential to become a leader but I lack the self-confidence to take the role. He advised me to learn to believe in myself more and take charge. I don't fully agree with him, but I do think his opinion is valid in one way.

I do think I lack self-confidence, more in lack of self-assurance. But I embrace it as part of who I am, I don't see it as a weakness, I see it as character. That trait makes me think twice before I act, makes me listen before I speak. It pushes me to become observant.

And to follow that argument, I have no passion in becoming a 'leader', in a traditional sense of the word - one that involves persuasion and rethorics. I think we lead ourselves. We are accountable for our own actions and words. We are independent in deciding our thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.

We are all leaders. Through our own roles and in our own way. Some louder than others, but more often than not, none the wiser.

As long as it's done with heart.

Monday, June 21, 2010

After Several Rounds of Trying

Sometimes, great expectation
is met with great disappointment.
That's life. Move on to the next round.

Having said that,
I think our characters are defined more
by our failures than by our successes.

The point is, after all, to keep trying.

Or Ignorance

If you want to disagree with something,
it's very important to understand it first.
Or else it's called fundamentalism.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Deafening Silence

Around several weeks ago, I began to grow really disappointed in the public figures I thought had the opportunity to bring progress to the democratic and developmental change in Indonesia. Several became more fundamental, shooting down all views they perceive opposing theirs. Several became politically interested, leaving the ideals they fought for when they were young and aspiring leaders and substituted them for personal welfare. I felt that everyone had no elegance in fighting their battles, justifying their methods for their perception of a higher goal.

While the ones who had the maturity in behaviour, attitude and thoughts, to lead - remained silent. Because the ethically and morally uncorrupted will of course attempt to stay that way. Living lives that are content, peaceful, being members of society that affect the rest in subtle ways. But nevertheless, quiet.

I was really dissatisfied with the way things were. The non-existing common goal as a whole nation that is diverse and plural. Our media agenda is commercially determined, easily diverted on issues that are of no contribution to our betterment as a society. Ideologies are contended, accepted, negotiated, but I rarely see anyone who is willing to open a dialogue on how to work together - despite all these different stances, to reduce poverty, preventable deaths, illiteracy, increase access to education, ensure a sustainable solution to a welfare state, and a media system that serves the public. Call me a modernist, socialist, I don't care, because all these aspects are prerequisites to a democratic society with members who are equipped with the skills aiding them to participate in public agendas.

We are so focused on difference that we slowly forget how to search for common ground.

But I tell myself that these are growing pains. The preceding generation will give way for further generations in achieving these goals. It's a slow and unique process. You can compare to what has happened in other countries but ours is our own. With our own types of people, social groups, religion, and culture.

I fight in my own, immature and quiet way, making subtle efforts. Trying not to be corrupted. Trying not to be righteous as the public figures I criticise, simply being an insignificantly small part of the larger discourse.

And I too, stay silent.

Monday, June 14, 2010

One of the Same Kind

Yesterday I read an article on gender and social change in the past 10 years, there is a new trend initiated by the now 30 to 40 year olds. Researches show that women lead the global workforce. Findings suggest it's not because women are superior to men, but because patriarchy has limited the male's choice to a career line. Women adjust more to the demands of the industry, while men feel certain work aren't masculine enough. They choose engineering as their subject of choice in a world progressing towards a service industry, although not absolutely, we are slowly leaving behind the manufacturing industry. Consequently, women fill in the positions of customer service, news anchor, marketing manager, consultant, the list goes on to work mainly related to soft skills and developing the right side of the human brain.

Women leaving the house for professional work has also opened up new professional work in the domestic area and early childhood education sector. The people getting degrees on childhood psychology and filling up these positions? More women.

My criticism is that these findings are western-centric. Being culturally, ethnically, and religiously more diverse (and devout) Indonesia works differently, implying different gender development.

But in terms of upper middle class Jakarta, to some extent these findings are reflective towards what is currently happening. Women in Jakarta do have more social mobilisation than men. I've seen mothers bringing their newborns to work so they can continue breastfeeding them, some choose part time work, and some decide to advocate on how to juggle between motherhood and career. But the general trend is to not leave domestic responsibilities while embracing professional development.

Another personal observation is how working women have a tendency to feel superior over their male counterparts. They are the dominant caregivers to their children and they contribute financially to the household. A female 30 year old manager said to me one day, 'I can do everything a man can, I can call someone to repair broken things in the house, and I can get pregnant.'

Let us all take a deep breath.

I won't go into a long debate about gender sociology, but I do want to emphasise on one thing.

Our foremothers worked hard so that women could have equal chance in education and work, not because we can build a new trend of matriarchy. If women today feel that the world has changed towards female superiority, really, we are just repeating the same 'repression' 'feminists' have fought against. We are becoming what we (used to) criticise.

I believe that the world creates a natural balance, but humanity, we need to work on.

The trick is now for men to be more active domestically and let go of patriarchal views that are actually repressive towards them actualising their potential. Embracing the fact that they can be as good a parent as a mother and as good in using their right brain as women.

And for women to remind ourselves, that a 'household' is not about who does things better and faster. But about how we can cooperate with each other to realise greater things, like raising our 'children'.

Let us leave behind '(matriar/partriar)-chy'. Let us embrace, well, humanity.

After all, aren't we all one of the same kind?


Dedicated to my partner
Who from the get go
Works as hard in tending to our son
as he does in his career

And all the while
thinks nothing of praise
But that we all live
to fulfill our responsibilities

Photo taken at 2AM
Malik was 2 weeks old

PS: in case you're wondering, that's bottled breastmilk :D
It's how we divided night-shifts. And no, he didn't have trouble latching on afterwards.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

Yesterday night, I dreamed I was boarding my flight back to Aussie, when I realised I left my winter jacket and glasses at home. I asked the pilot if he would wait for my husband to bring it over and he said he would.

My subconscious is not very creative in cooking up metaphors.

Even in my sleep I see Arya as my support system. Even in my sleep I see that I need protection against the 'foreign', whether it's the environment or my own limitations. And even in my sleep I have high expectations in the kindness of other people.

Which for some reason, more often than not, are met.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Private Cooperation

Sometimes my over-analysing and theorising seeps into my personal life. In the middle of browsing for Malik's school, I research who owns it and what their ideologies are (political economy) since in invariably influences their policy making, curriculum, selecting their human resources.

Our children's education should be an extension of how we raise them, I think. Consistent to the values we transfer to them, the way we live our lives and see the world. It's a peaceful agreement between wanting to be certain that we equip them with 'empirically tested' tools and realising that it is our responsibility to facilitate them to grow into independent individuals. Following this logic, the best schools as indicated by society might not be the best school for the human beings we call our children. It really depends on which direction we want to point them to, but at the same time allowing them to walk their own journey.

At these moments I am very glad I have a partner who is levelheaded, grounded, with strong logics. Although I realise that it is important to understand the background and context related to decision making, I have a tendency to not know when to stop. Arya is willing to listen to my opinions and is able to 'moderate' them, so to speak. We share the same framework but our methods are different.

I subjectively claim that I could never have found a more appropriate partner. Or objectively claim that the probability is extremely low to do so in a lifetime (:D).

But the romantic in me chooses the former. With love.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Inner Dialogue

After staring at my screen for an hour trying to write a critical article for a media (a long process of typing tentatively, deleting, typing tentatively some more, deleting some more as well), I decided that, at least for now, I am only capable of two types of writing.

The first is what I call 'menulis tulus' (this inner dialogue I call my blog). I write without thinking. Freely, passionately. As an illustration, my hands make those clackity-clack sound on the keyboard because I'm typing without pause.

The second is my academic writing, so far my theses (and several published journal articles). It's easier for me to write an academic article because I can fill in my logical gaps by referring to other scholars/studies. I get to explain more of the context and my own perspective in the larger spectrum of the debate.

At first I thought I needed to get my thoughts out there, via the popular media. But I figured there are some people who are brilliant critical writers whose articles are published numerously in the media. There are people who are great public speakers who have the natural talent (and perhaps acquired skill) to speak to an audience.

Maybe I have my own niche. Isn't the point of working (well, aside from the obvious (slash inevitable) bringing food to the table) - finding something you do passionately? I teach passionately. I blog passionately. I, ironically, write my thesis passionately. I believe the intention is more important than the implication.

I won't discredit writing an article for the media just yet. But for now, I'm focusing on the things I know I do with heart, naturally, almost effortlessly, and hope that one day momentum will allow it to spiral greater than the intention with which it was initiated.

To every person their own.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Beyond the Books

I was talking to my brother yesterday evening about some of his lecturers who grade based on comprehension over the text, not about what the students can do with what they've learned. Then we talked about how several lecturers, mine included, who refuse to be corrected, challenged, and questioned in class. They would be defensive and even flunk the student out of spite.

As a lecturer and researcher, going on my seventh year now, I have experienced being imprecise in class. It was in those first years that I felt the surge of insecurity, thinking about the possibility that after admitting not knowing, students would question my credibility altogether.

But this risk is always, always undermined by the fact that the best ways to learn is to admit not knowing. After lectures, I learn more than I knew before, because students are willing to contribute what they know into the framework that I've introduced. The classroom becomes an interaction, a dynamic, instead of a linear process of knowledge transfer (and what is knowledge, anyway, if not continually challenged).

And afterwards, seeing hands rising at the end of a lecture becomes gratifying. That those textbook science goes beyond the classroom, to everyday life, to how we handle personal and social trials. That a thought could generate a string of questions, furthermore shining light on other issues and finding answers is why I think human beings began thinking in the first place.

We should all consider ourselves students, because the best of mentality is one that allows mistake - and learns from them. It's how we better ourselves, develop our potentials and come out sharper.

After all, the moment we think we know it all is the moment we stop learning - which makes it the moment we're officially ignorant.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Bebas nilai bukan tidak memiliki nilai.
Tapi tidak menghakimi yang berbeda nilai.

Amal C. Sjaaf