6 Things to Experience Before Even Deciding to Quit Your Job

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I quit my job end of February this year. After 8.7 years working at a communications consultancy (which, more or less, equals to 26 corporate years), I decided to retire.

May last year, I turned thirty. Some said it was actually the appropriate age to start settling down, have a good career, and secure more money for the future. Sometimes, I think so, too. But most of the times, I don’t think I should.

Leaving the Comfort Zone

I have spent my 20s working–climbing the ladder from a junior PR associate to senior communications consultant, from Digital Division Head to Creative Director. And I loved those days I spent with bosses I respect, colleagues I admire, and clients I like; learning everything I had always wanted to know about and working on projects and campaigns I was proud of. But after 8.7 years (which, again, equals to 26 corporate years), it started to feel like a comfort zone.

Which was nice–actually, and I had nothing to complain about. But there was something about being inside my comfort zone that made me feel restless.

I knew that I just needed to step out to the uncharted territory and challenge myself once again: so that I could gain new perspectives, reap new experiences, and learn new sets of lessons. I know I have always wanted to create beautiful things and make meanings in the world–either in the form of a prose, an article, a photograph, a movie, a speech, a workshop, or even a simple 12-line poetry. By dedicating my thirties to do this instead, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. To live a life I have always dreamed of since I was a little girl.

Choose the Life You Want

But I can’t quit my job, a friend told me when she heard about my ‘retirement’.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t ask people to leave their jobs. And you don’t need to feel like you should leave your job. Do what’s best for you at a certain time of your life. We all have our own journeys; our own ways to live our lives, and it’s more than okay to live the life you want. Different things fulfill us in a different way, so feel free to choose the most fulfilling life for you.

However, if you find yourself in an intersection at the moment, thinking about whether you should quit your job and start over (or not), I have a little something to share with you: something that helped me to make up my mind and show me a clearer path in making my decision to live the life I want. Oh, well, 6 things, to be exact. I think it’s good to experience these things first, before even deciding (or without having) to quit one’s job.

  1. Surround yourself with people you respect and admire. Either you respect and admire them for their wit, wisdom, fun and uplifting personalities, loving relationships, or sharp business sense, connect with these people. Talk to them–even if it’s only for 20 minutes, over coffee. Ask them questions. Listen to what they have to say, examine how they live their lives. Read their books or watch their talks on YouTube. Just try spending more time with these people, and you’ll start to see how fast you ‘grow’.
  2. Work for yourself, always. Yes, even when you’re working 9 to 5 in someone else’s company, you don’t work for your boss. You’re working for yourself. Learn as much as you can. Use your company’s learning facilities or training opportunities. Seek advice from your boss, your seniors, or your peers. Give the best that you can to the work that you do. Always remember that when you’re submitting something, you’re saying: “This is my best!”–so, make sure that it is. Know your current drive and why it becomes your drive. For me, it’s the 3Cs. Is it Cash, Career or Cause? I have to admit that there are times when people really need Cash among others, for example when you have to care for a sick family members. Sometimes, your drive is Career. You want to climb up the corporate ladder or move to London branch or head a division because you have dreamed that kind of achievement in life. Other times, your drive is Cause. You have a great motivation to do something for a greater good, for instance saving dolphins or teaching students in remote areas. Examine your current drive to work and ask yourself, why am I chasing this? Knowing why you’re chasing the things you’re chasing or why you’re driven by certain things will give you more clarity in making professional (or even personal) decisions. In the end, make sure that wherever you are and whatever you do, always try to improve and develop yourself. These are the things that people can’t take away from you.
  3. Involve in things/projects you love and be a part of something you’d be proud of. I always find it mentally-healthy and refreshing to work on something I love that has nothing to do with my professional work. Nowadays, it’s getting easier to get involve in such projects, because you can just go on Google and search for established groups or communities in your areas you can spend your time with. If you don’t like something communal and are into something solitary like writing poems, work on your personal poem project–and publish it via self-publishing site like NulisBuku or in a Tumblr blog. Personally, I believe that doing these things keep yourself sane in the midst of a fast-paced corporate world and a ton of work pressures. It keeps you balance; and give you a sense of personal achievement: an achievement that is fully yours. Spare at least 2-3 hours of your time in a week to do this. You’ll never know where it may lead you.
  4. Reconnect with your own bliss and define your own success. What are the things you enjoy the most, no matter how silly or useless it may seem? Other people may look down on you because you don’t travel much, but what if you just love staying at home, baking cookies, making jams, and cross-stitching? Find your own bliss, and be confident with it. Then ask yourself, how much of these things have you injected to your daily life lately? Next, how do you define your own success? I mean, something that will make you feel light, happy, and fulfilled–like you have achieved your own greatness. We tend to measure our success based on society’s standard: a house, a car, a savings account, a spouse, children, and so on, and so forth. Other times, we compare our success with our siblings, our colleagues, or high school friends. However, if you can define your own success, what would it be? What is success to you if your loved ones won’t judge you? What is success to you if you are not afraid?
  5. Step a little bit further out of your comfort zone and do one or two thing(s) you have always wanted to do–no matter how small. They said, magic begins at the end of your comfort zone. Are there things you’ve always wanted to do but you haven’t done it because it feels scary, risky, humiliating, or uncomfortable? A friend of mine said that she has always wanted to dine out alone, in a restaurant. But she hasn’t done it, because it feels terrifying. What would people think? Won’t it be awkward to sit in a nice restaurant, reading the menu, alone? Won’t people pity her; thinking that she has no friends to share the meal with? “What do you think will change inside of you if you actually do this?” I asked her. She smiled, “Maybe I’ll be more comfortable with myself, more confident being in my own skin, and not having to care that much about what other people might think of me; or about other people’s judgement. I guess I’ll feel… lighter.”
  6. Plan the life you want, and live at least a little bit of it every single day. Take some time to think about the life you want. What’s your ideal life would be like? (in different aspects, like health, career, financial, personal, relationship, spiritual, etc.) List down all the things you would like to experience in your version of an ideal life. Then list down all the things you need to learn/acquire to be able to experience your ideal life. Then list down what are things you can give back to your loved ones, communities, and societies when you’ve lived your ideal life. Now look at your list and see how you can inject a little bit of your ideal life into your life today and start living it. Have you always wanted to travel around the world? What about traveling around your hometown on weekends and experience the joy of it? Thinking about connecting with people from different countries while you’re traveling abroad? Start now by becoming a host at CouchSurfing and meet people from all around the globe who are visiting your town. When you’re clear about the kind of life you want, you can start living it every single day, one step at a time.

And to sum it all up: LIVE–as much as you can, with the best of your ability.

Love, H.

Book: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

I picked up this book from the shelf because I fell in love with the title, and the cover. As I read the blurb on the inside jacket, my heart fluttered. The book tells a story of Julia Win’s journey to unravel the mystery of his father’s past. Julia’s father, Tin Win, disappeared without a trace one morning–leaving his family unsettled and confused. After finding a love letter written by her father to a Burmese woman called Mi Mi in Kalaw, Myanmar, Julia found herself leaving her life in New York behind to go to this small mountain village–without really knowing what she would actually find there.

I know it’s only January 2014. But as I finished reading the book a few days ago, I am convinced that this is going to be my favorite book in 2014–as well as one of my all-time favorites. I love the poetic dialogues and the rhythm of the sentences; I care too much about the characters, and I adore the unexpected turn of events as the story unfolds. But of course, like most of my all-time favorites, the book contains loads of wonderful quotes that seems to speak to me about the right matter at the right time.

As I read along, I could not resist myself to share some lovely quotes from the book on Facebook and Twitter and Path; but I still felt the urge to share much more–and so I decided to share all of my favorite quotes on this blog instead. If you don’t run to the bookstore and grab this book immediately after this, I hope the quotes will still speak to your heart the way they speak to mine.

THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS
Jan-Philipp Sendker
325 pages

Do you believe in love? Of course I am not referring to those outbursts of passion that drive us to do so and say things we will later regret, that delude us into thinking we cannot live without a certain person, that set us quivering with anxiety at the mere possibility we might ever lose that person–a feeling that impoverishes rather than enriches us because we long to possess what we cannot, to hold on to what we cannot. No, I speak of love that brings sight to the blind. Of a love stronger than fear. I speak of a love that breathes meaning into life, that defies the natural laws of deterioration, that causes us to flourish, that knows no bounds. I speak of the triumph of the human spirit over selfishness and death. (p.6)

How flat and empty the most beautiful words can sound. How dull and dreary life must be for those who need words, who need to touch, see, or hear one another in order to be close. Who need to prove their love, or even just to confirm it in order to be sure of it. (p.29)

How can anyone truthfully claim to love someone when they’re not prepared to share everything with that person, including their past? (p.33)

A confession, a disclosure, is worthless when it comes at the wrong moment. If it’s too early, it overwhelms us. We’re not ready for it and can’t yet appreciate it. If it’s too late, the opportunity is lost. The mistrust and the disappointment are already too great; the door is already closed. In either case, the very thing that ought to foster intimacy just creates distance. (p.34)

There are wounds time does not heal, though it can reduce them to manageable size. (p.77)

There is no power that can release a person from pain or from the sadness one might feel–unless it be that person himself. Life is a gift full of riddles in which suffering and happiness are inextricably intertwined. Any attempt to have one without the other was simply bound to fail. (p.109)

A person’s greatest treasure is the wisdom in his own heart. (p.115)

The true essence of things is invisible to the eyes. Our sensory organs love to lead us astray, and eyes are the most deceptive of all. We rely too heavily upon them. We believe that we see the world around us, and yet it is only the surface that we perceive. We must learn to divine the true nature of things, their substance, and the eyes are rather a hindrance than a help in that regard. They distract us. We love to be dazzled. A person who relies too heavily on his eyes neglects his other senses–and I mean more than his hearing or sense of smell. I’m talking about the organ within us for which we have no name. Let us call it the compass of the heart. (p.123)

Ambition and fear have something in common: neither knows any limits. (p.125)

There is nothing, for good or for evil, of which a person is incapable. It would be much worse to expect good from other people, only to be disappointed when they didn’t measure up to our high expectations. (p.156)

A time of waiting offered moments, minutes, sometimes even hours of peace, of rest. Each and every thing required a certain amount of time. (p.165)

Was it really possible for a person to shorten the time it took to get from one place or person to another? How could anyone think so? (p. 166)

You don’t need to be afraid. You can’t lose me. I am a part of you, just as you’re a part of me. (p. 197)

“I couldn’t bear to be without you.”
“I’ve been here the whole time.”
“I wanted to feel you. And I was sad.”
“Why?”
“Because you were so far away, because I couldn’t touch you. Every hour we spend apart saddens me. Every place I go without you. Every step you take without me. Every night that we don’t fall asleep in each other’s arms and every morning that we don’t wake up side by side.” (p. 207)

A person maybe wasn’t alone after all. The smallest human unit was two rather than one. (p. 224)

Love has so many different faces that our imagination is not prepared to see them all. We see only what we already know. We project our own capacities–for good as well as evil–onto the other person. Then we acknowledge as love primarily those things that correspond to our own image thereof. We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize. (p. 244)

I am not without you, that you are with me from the moment I wake until the moment I fall asleep, that it’s you I feel when the wind caresses me, that it’s your voice I hear in the silence, you whom I see when I close my eyes, you who makes me laugh and sing when I know no one else is around. How can I explain to them that what you mean to me, what you give me, does not depend on where you are in the world? That one need not feel the other’s hand in order to be in touch? (p. 277)

It’s not the size of one’s nose, the color of one’s skin, the shape of one’s lips or eyes that make one beautiful or ugly. It’s love. Love makes us beautiful. Do you know a single person who loves and is loved, who is loved unconditionally and who, at the same time, is ugly? There’s no need to ponder the question. There is no such person. (p. 290)

At the end of the day, when I closed the book, I said to myself: I would like to love someone the way Mi Mi loves Tin Win and to be loved by someone the way Tin Win loves Mi Mi. May I be blessed with such a big heart to love someone that way: sincere, simple, and faithful–and find someone to share it with one day :)

2014: Kissing Fireworks in Alor

I don’t normally spend New Year’s Eve traveling or partying with friends. Most of the times, I’ll be reading some good books in my bed until the clock strikes 12. This year, 10 days before New Year’s Eve, a friend of a friend invited me to come with her to Alor–a small island in Eastern Indonesia. She wanted to visit some schools in the villages and asked me to do some storytelling for the local kids. I was making an impulsive decision when I said yes.

To be honest, I was pretty reluctant to spend New Year’s Eve outside the comfort of my own bedroom–remembering how last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Penang had turned into such a disastrous experience. However, I was happy to say that this year I didn’t regret my decision at all! 2014 began ever-so-beautifully in Alor–and I genuinely hope that the rest of the year would be as (if not more) beautiful! *cheers*

December 31, 2013, around 9:30 pm, I found myself sitting in a shack near the port in Kalabahi (the small town in the island) with my friend, Monica, and four of our new friends from Alor. We had just ordered our humble New Year’s Eve dinner for the night: some plates of rice with chicken, beef, and goat satay; hot coffee and tea, as well as some bottles of Bintang beer for our Alorese friends. The air was filled with the salty smell of the ocean, the explosion of firecrackers, and a blast of dangdut music from the nearby shack–where Alorese men and women danced festively in every possible moves. Some were already drunk from the unlimited supply of sopi (local alcoholic beverage); poured directly into people’s mouths from time to time.

In Kalabahi’s street-side, every 5 meters or so, the youths had set up their own pop-up clubs: filling empty areas or house terraces with huge speakers (blaring the kind of music you’ll hear in clubs all over the world), disco lamps, and rows and rows of beer bottles.

Everyone was laughing and enjoying the night. Me included.

I wish you all a wonderful 2014–and may you have the courage to follow your heart’s desires.

Love,
H.

The Book.

“I think I’m going to move to Ubud for a while, maybe for 3-6 months,” I typed on my WhatsApp.

It was a cloudy Monday morning in Ubud. I was sitting cross-legged on the front porch; trying to decide whether I would go for a swim or not before meeting Alfred later in the afternoon.

Ubud, Bali

My phone vibrated.
“Moving to Ubud? And doing what?” Alfred’s words popped up on my screen.
“I don’t know,” I typed back. “Writing my book…”
An emoticon laughed at me. “Seriously?!!” Alfred replied. “Who the heck wrote a book in Ubud? Even Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t write her book in Ubud!”

And of course, he was right.

***

I decided to spend 2 weeks in Ubud; thinking that I would finally have the time and solitude to write The Book. These past few months, I had restrained myself from publishing any posts from my traveling journeys in Malaysia, Yogyakarta, Flores, and India–simply because this tiny (annoying) voice in my head kept saying: “Don’t post them now! Those stories will appear later in The Book!”

The Book is supposed to be my first non-fiction book: a travel memoir–and I have everything I need to finish it: a title, a premise, a rough outline…I even had almost 80% of the stories typed. All I need to do is type the rest of it, rewrite some parts that don’t come out as strong as I intended, and organize them to create a flowing narrative of 297 pages. It sounds so simple and easy, yet I had missed my deadline. Twice. I have no excuse, and I don’t intend to start finding one.

Every day, as I woke up to the sound of the morning in Ubud, I told myself that I needed to sit down and wrote a few pages for The Book, today. I needed to create my own Ubud’s book-writing timeline and stick to it.

I ended up doing everything but writing The Book.

***

Ubud kept me busy.

I bumped into some old and new friends (who happened to know each other)–and spent some days conversing with them on the back porch while munching on mangosteens. There were some days when I was on fire: typing around 6 proposals for several movements and social projects that I was about to pursue, as well as making business plans for some friends of mine–just because I felt this rush of enthusiasm and inspiration needed to find an outlet.

There were some days when I didn’t really have anything to do. And for some unexplainable reasons, on those kind of days, I kept bumping into people who practiced Reiki, spiritual healing, channeling, or yoga… to one point whereby I met a friend of a friend, and somehow ended up in a house full of statues and crystals by the rice fields near Penestanan for a kundalini meditation session–all the while asking myself, “What the heck are you doing, exactly?” and immediately answering back, “This could be an interesting story for The Book!”

When I didn’t bump into those interesting flocks, I went out for coffee or some healthy meals in one of those organic restaurants sprawled around the town; then walked around aimlessly for around 2 to 3 hours–checking out different alleys and shops and gelato bars, too lazy to even snap pictures. Other days, I would hang out with the staff at the hotel–conversing all night long by the pool while being bitten by mosquitos, listening to their life stories, and ended up explaining about meteors, eclipse, and earthquakes (“So, it’s not because of the dragon that is moving under the earth’s surface?”).

But most of the times, I would find myself sat lazily somewhere: reading a book, sipping watermelon juice, watching people, and then went back to my hotel–took a cold shower, wrote a long letter for my muse, and fell asleep.

It sounded like a vicious cycle, but the funny thing was: it actually didn’t feel vicious at all. I wanted to feel guilty because I didn’t touch The Book while I was in Ubud, but I just couldn’t.

***

It has been around a month since I got back from Ubud, and this week, I started to revisit The Book again. I realized that a ‘rough outline’ I have at the moment was not enough. This time, I committed to tighten it, restraining myself to edit (and re-edit) my stories before I could get that nice flow of narratives mapped out in a final outline.

It was not an easy task. To be honest, I hate making outlines–especially detailed one with so many bullets and sub-bullet points. I always think of myself as a ‘spontaneous writer’ and outlining just doesn’t work for me. However, deep down inside, I know that I won’t go anywhere if I am still unsure of where I should place my stories on The Book. I can keep on rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and it will never get done. The stories will simply get lost somewhere in the middle of it all.

Ubud

And then it hit me. Right there. When I thought about ‘getting lost’.

I laughed at myself for a while, as I realized that ‘getting lost’ was actually my way of exploring a city when I travel. I am too lazy to read a map, I am not good in remembering routes (too busy noticing the small things along the way), and I get disoriented quite a lot–to the point that I could even get lost in a big shopping mall. I don’t plan things. I don’t keep a list of places I want to see. I don’t aim for landmarks or museums or souvenir shops. I just… go.

Now I know why mapping out The Book’s outline feels so darn hard since the very beginning.

Walking around aimlessly, not really heading anywhere, and letting the city I visit opening itself up to me as I get lost in it–that is how I travel. And The Book, indeed, is my travel memoir.

The Traveling Words.

One of the reasons why I love second-hand books is this: because sometimes–when I get lucky, I’ll find one with hand-written notes inside of it.

I am always fascinated by such random collision of lives; knowing that the book I am holding once belong to someone else; given as an act of love by the people who are/were close to their hearts. Reading those hand-written notes, I can’t help to wonder who these people are, what are their stories, and why those books find their way to greet me in some random bookstores in different parts of the world.

So, I guess the idea has been occupying my mind since then, leaving me questioning:

“What will happen when you leave hand-written notes: a poem, a prose, a flash fiction–anything that is close to your heart, to be found by random strangers?”

***

Last Saturday, together with my soul-sister, Ollie, we decided to find the answer to that question. And today, we come up with TheTravelingWords. It’s an idea that I have discussed with Ollie a few months back, but I guess an idea will always be an idea unless it is being executed. So, here we are now, inviting you to initiate connections with strangers by leaving hand-written poem/prose/flash fiction–or anything that is close to you heart, in various places.

“When you are traveling, carry your words with you. When you are not traveling, let your words travel for you. Magic happens when we let words travel.”

This November, we invite people to leave their hand-written notes with the theme “Distance” in a coffee shop. They can actually write their notes on the back of their bills and leave it on the table when they have finished their coffee. If the coffee shop have a tip jar, they can also put your notes there. They just need to put TheTravelingWords.com on the bottom of their hand-written notes (they can also put their names/contacts if they like), and send the pictures of the notes where they left it to us. We’ll showcase them all on the site, so that people who found their notes would know what this is all about! :)

***

Personally, coffee shop (especially tiny ones) is a place that is close to my heart. I spend many times there, sitting on the table far from the busy counter, writing some random lines on my notebook while watching people and sniffing the lovely smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans. I always find it amusing to leave something for the barista or the waitress… just to brighten up their day a bit more–especially when they are about to clean the table.

I guess now I have a stronger reason to do so.

More about TheTravelingWords can be found here. Let’s get our words to travel and touch lives! :)

It’s something about closing your eyes
and trying to forget something you
have always remembered.
It’s something about chasing
the feelings that burn the back of
your eyelids, knowing that it
comes from something unrequited.
It’s something about running towards
someone else’s back as they’re
walking away from you, leaving
all your whys unanswered.

On Finding Old Family Treasure

I know I am an old soul, and probably that’s one of the reasons why I am always drawn into anything vintage. Not to mention the fact that I can’t find the joy (yet) of reading books on my gadgets. I know it’s not that environmentally friendly, but I still love the real deal (would be better if it’s a second-hand book or a gift from someone): appreciating the cover, touching the edges, flipping the pages, reading the messages or underlined quotes someone had written inside… and don’t you think the smell of old books should have been bottled to be sold in supermarkets and sprayed in bookstores and libraries?

Thus, finding several old books from my grandfather’s collection was a bliss! A beautiful French dictionary (love that pocket-size thing and it’s vintage blue stained-cover!), a small Thai dictionary & phrase book, plus a Teach Yourself Chinese book! I know my grandfather (from my father’s side) loved books and that he spoke a little bit of Chinese and Dutch, but at the time he was still alive, I was still a little kid–and I didn’t know that he had this extensive interests towards learning foreign languages.

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I glanced at my bookshelf where my phrase books were stacked neatly on top of each other. French. Greek. Arabic. Spanish. Hindi and Urdu. Russian. Wow. Now I know where my fascination for foreign languages originated from!

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I also found this holy treasure, Highroads of Literature (1927), and let out an excited shriek every time I looked at the beautiful paintings inside the pages–accompanying Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

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Another amazing finding was this Robinson Crusoe’s book, because there’s a purple stamp from the bookstore where the book was bought… and it was a pure bliss to find the word Buitenzorg stamped on it! Buitenzorg was the name given to my hometown, Bogor, during the Dutch colonial era. It meant something close to “a worry-free town”, where the summer residence of the Dutch East Indies Governor-General was located. This city of rain, that was surrounded by mountains, became a ‘resort’ town where the Dutch escaped from the bustling (then, and still bustling until today) Batavia (the Dutch name for the country’s capital, Jakarta).

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From my grandmother’s side, I actually bumped into this amazing thing: Madame Wong’s Chinese Cookbook. And look at those hand-written chicken-feet recipes on a piece of paper tucked inside the pages!

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Not to mention that the book has these beautifully breathtaking hand-drawing illustrations to show you the final look of the meals and the cooking steps–instead of photographs that you usually find in modern cookbook!

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Have you ever found an old family ‘treasure’ lately?

Life-lessons that are hidden behind a series of heartbreaks.

Yes, they hurt. But no matter how much they hurt, I realize that my previous relationships–even when they didn’t work out the way I wanted them to be, have taught me some valuable life-lessons, and I won’t trade these with anything. There were times when I was young and didn’t know any better, but looking back at what I have experienced in life so far, I realized how much I have learned. And I am thankful for that. These are some life-lessons I learned from my previous relationships; things that are hidden behind a series of heartbreak, and I want to share it with you.

1. Do not jump into a relationship with a guy just because everyone else thinks he’s cool. Jump into a relationship with a guy because you think he’s cool–even if everyone else thinks he’s not.

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Do not choose to live your life based on other people’s expectations on you. And you won’t be happy comparing what you don’t have with what other people have. What makes them happy may not be something that will make you happy. Find your own thing. Your own calling. Your own way to live your life. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there, too. It’s hard to ignore people who tell you to live your life a certain way, especially if these people are those who are close to you–or your heart. But you owe yourself your life. This is your life. Make sure that you live a life without what-ifs.

2. Do not break up with a guy just because everyone else thinks he’s not cool. Break up with a guy because you think he’s not cool–even if everyone else thinks he is.

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Don’t let others determine what you should or should not like. Don’t let others tell you what’s edgy, what’s mainstream, and what’s quirky. Don’t let people put you into boxes and give you labels. Think for yourself. Stand to what you believe in. Some people will judge you for this. But that’s fine. You’re better off without listening to their judgement. And because we know how terrible it is to be judged, the least we can do is to not turn ourselves into the people we don’t want to be. Let’s stop judging other people, too. Like something because it feels nice to you. Love something because it warms you up inside. Do something because it’s fun and it makes you laugh–even when other people think it’s stupid.

3. It may not be as painful when people break up nicely. But you will still cry. And it will still hurt. And you’ll still have scars.

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And it’s okay to cry or to feel sad or to feel angry. Don’t ever think that you should be happy all the time. People will say, “Cheer up!” or “Come on, forget about it!” but if you know that you need time to embrace that sadness, by all means, take your time. Tell your friends that you don’t want to go partying or getting drunk. You just want them to sit with you and hold your hands and give you a silent hug. Sometimes our friends don’t know how to handle us when we’re hurting. They just don’t want to see us going through that pain because it hurts for them, too. So tell them this. And cry if you need to or if you feel like it. Because those tears: they heal.

Feel that pain, that sadness, that anger–but don’t indulge yourself in it. Your body knows when it’s ‘gone’: you no longer feel that cold sensation in the palm of your hands, that burning feeling behind your eyelids, that aching emptiness from somewhere between your chest and your stomach that you can’t really pinpoint or describe with words (but you do feel it, don’t you?). You need time to let these feelings out. You need time to heal. When you try to repress it, and force yourself to go out partying, getting drunk and faking a laughter, what needs to come out does not come out–but they are still there. They don’t get the chance to heal.

So embrace that feeling. Try letting it in instead of letting it go. And then shine again, beautiful! Wear that scar with pride, because it shows how courageous you’ve been to love someone or something so deeply. And you don’t live until you have scars.

4. If it doesn’t feel right somehow, maybe it’s because something is wrong.

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Listen to your gut feeling. To your heart. To that little voice inside of you. To that urge to do something that seems like comes out of nowhere. Listen to that tinge of doubts at the back of your mind when you’re about to do something you are not really keen to. Don’t shut these voices down, because the more often you shut them down, the fainter they become, and when you need to hear this voice again one day, you will find it difficult to hear anything. So listen to that voice attentively. Let them talk to you. They will talk to your more often if you listen to them more often.

5. When you walk into a relationship, make sure that the guy is someone you love to be with, and someone you are crazily in love with.
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I heard this a lot: that you can’t have it all. You can’t be successful in your career and be healthy and have a passionate marriage and raise two kids and be a wonderful parent and be a millionaire and do good things for the world… you need to choose. You can’t have it all! I refuse to believe that. I believe that I can have it all. I won’t let other people’s limiting beliefs distract me from what I believe in.

When it comes to relationship, for instance, why do you have to choose on whether you want to marry your ‘best friend’ or marry the guy that makes you burn with passion and desire? Why can’t we have both of them in one guy? I know there are happy couples out there who found both qualities in each other. And I want to have both qualities in one guy, too. I want to believe that this guy exists in the world, no matter how naive it sounds or how other people will mock me for this and tell me to be realistic. I don’t want to settle for less just because I want to have someone by my side. That won’t be fair for me and that won’t be fair for him. We won’t have space rockets if we only aim for the sky. There’s a vast universe out there. Why can’t we aim for it? And space rockets–they used to be a dream. Now look at how real they are!

6. Don’t waste your time waiting for someone who doesn’t even know that you’re waiting for him. On a second thought, don’t waste your time waiting. Full stop.

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Funny that we don’t know how much time we have in this life, but we keep on delaying things. We wait for something to happen, for someone to come, for a certain situation to play a certain way. Don’t wait. Just act. If it works out, good. If it doesn’t work out, the faster you know, the faster you’ll move on. Don’t spend your life ‘just’ waiting. Don’t ask yourself, “What are you doing?” and answer that with, “I’m waiting for something.”.

There are so many things that you can do while waiting. Reading a book. Singing. Talking to strangers. Dancing barefooted. Playing guitar. Learning a foreign language. Traveling. Making funny noises. Doing volunteer works. Creating arts. Swimming. Falling in love. Make the most of your waiting time. Go out and see the world, meet people, experience things. Life is short but it’s full of surprises. You’ll never know what will happen. You may meet someone new or bump into something exciting that will make you forget that you’re waiting for something. And when the time comes, you’ll know that maybe what you’ve been waiting for is not something that you really want anyway.

7. Don’t stay in a relationship just because you love the guy. Be in a relationship because you love the guy, and because you like the guy. It’s possible to love someone you don’t like–that’s why a lot of people are trapped in abusive relationships.

beradadisiniSet your boundaries. Respect yourself. You are beautiful. Don’t let people abuse you–physically or emotionally. Both are unacceptable. When someone calls you a “fat-whale” when you gain weight or “you are such a bitch” when you’re involved in a heated argument, know that you don’t deserve that and you won’t let people treat you that way. When it’s possible, walk out from a relationship, a job, a circle of friends, or any environment that drags you down and sucks the energy out of you. Sometimes other people can’t save you no matter how hard they try. Sometimes, you need to save yourself and stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Reach out.

And then remember to be kind. Be generous. Don’t say the things you do not mean. Don’t do the things you know you may regret later in life. Don’t inflict pain on others because you know how much it hurts. Lastly, don’t forget to give the best of yourself in any situation, and know that you deserve the best as well. You’re gorgeous, inside and out. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Love,
H.

Painting pictures with words.

Last month, my publisher held a talk show and photo exhibition for another omnibus, JIKA (my story is on the 69th page!). In this omnibus, 13 female writers & photographers worked on a short story with the premise “what-if”, combining their words with a series of photographs they had taken to paint the story. During the talk show, a girl asked me about how to work (write) with pictures. You can find my answer below.

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I love working (read: writing) with pictures. They provide me the opportunity to look deeper into details, textures, and colors. These are some of the approach I use to paint pictures with words:

1. Descriptive Details.

Look at the pictures/photographs/objects and record as many details as possible—throwing everything into your writing journal. Red door. Rustic red door. Blue walls. Aqua blue. Sky blue. Bright blue. Chipped paints. Exposed bricks. Wooden window. Red window frame. Wild plants. Locks on the door. These will become the word-pool from which you can develop your sentences to describe the photograph later on.

2. Magnifying Memories.

Our memories are such a wonderful source for stories! Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects and try to remember something from your past that reminds you of this particular scene. I looked at the chipped blue paints of the wall and remembered one time when you scolded me in front of my friends because of my chipped nail polish. Came to think about it now, I should have known by then that you were such a jerk.

3. Familiar Feelings.

Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects closely, then try to recognize the feeling that is rising up inside of you. Desperation? Loneliness? Pity? The feeling of missing someone? Fear? It seemed like a long time ago since anybody walked in through that red rustic door, and a tinge of sadness ran through me—because I knew how people could get lonely at times. I meant, really lonely.

4. Intensifying Imagination.

Think about the things you can create; things that are non-existent in the pictures/ photographs/objects, and play with your imagination. You can do this by asking random questions. Are you going to tell a story about the guy who painted that door red? What kind of people live behind that kind of door? Is this a picture from that part of the town where a little girl got murdered last week? Why do they paint the walls blue?

5. Raining Romance.

If you’re writing a lot about love, romance, or relationships (like me), this will help. Look at the pictures/ photographs/objects, and think of a scene that is taking place/had taken place right there and then–for one or more of your characters. How do they end up at that particular scene in the photograph, and how does this particular place/object affect their relationship? Are the things/objects in the photographs represent something the character tries to repress?

Have fun with pictures, and have fun with words! Keep writing! :)

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photo credit: Ava Babili via photopincc

It’s Right.

I was running late for work. So I didn’t change my shirt. The evening’s drinks left a lingering taste in my mouth.*

You know it’s right because it’s light. You know it’s right because your heart is clear. You know it’s right because your mind is free from fear. You know it’s right because you stop worrying. You know it’s right because you can just take it all in or let it all out–and both feels equally satisfying. You know it’s right because you don’t really think about what can possibly go wrong: chances are, things can actually go right.

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And when I left. You were fast asleep. Tangled in the sheets. And on the bus I could have sworn it was all a dream. And it didn’t happen to me.*

You know it’s right because it’s bright. You know it’s right because it feels so damn good. You know it’s right because you’re happy. You know it’s right because you feel pretty. You know it’s right because when you’re standing in front of a mirror, you really like what you see. You know it’s right because wherever you go, whatever you do, and whomever you’re with, you keep on seeing the best in you and the best in them.

And then I felt the scrapes. From the slippery subway grate. Oh, how you laughed. At my complete lack of grace.*

You know it’s right because you can simply be–without the need to even try. You know it’s right because you always mean what you say. You know it’s right because you do not say the things you do not mean. You know it’s right because when you mean it, you feel it. You know it’s right because you are who you are. You know it’s right because you never need to question ‘what-did-I-do-wrong’. You know it’s right because the other person does not give you a reason to ever doubt yourself. You know it’s right because you live in the now.

But I could not recall. A more perfect fall. Cause when I looked up into your eyes. It didn’t hurt at all.*

You know it’s right because it doesn’t feel like a fight. You know it’s right because you don’t have to worry about winning or losing. You know it’s right because the two of you are equally bad at playing games. You know it’s right because you say and hear thank you. You know it’s right because you say and hear sorry. You know it’s right because each word carries the same weight, meaning, and importance for the both of you. You know it’s right because when the other person looks into your eyes, you let your feeling shows.

And I thought, be still my heart. This could be a brand new start, with you. And it will be clear. If I wake up and you’re still here with me in the morning.*

You know it’s right because the other person appreciates the great little things you do–when all the while, you only think of them as ‘little things’. You know it’s right because though the circumstances may not be ideal, that doesn’t bother you the least. You know it’s right because you can talk to the other person for hours and be silent with the other person for hours–and none feels even close to awkward. You know it’s right because it feels effortlessly nice. You know it’s right because it feels like gratitude.

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*the lyrics from The Postal Service’s Be Still My Heart–a wonderful song :)

{Our first rain of the season is here, he said. And it smells beautiful. And if you were here, I want to give you a kiss. Upside-down. Spiderman-style. She chuckled to that and the world continued to shower her with glittering pixy dust.}