6 Things to Experience Before Even Deciding to Quit Your Job

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 10.19.06 AM

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.


The Answer.

What does it mean to get The Answer?

This question crossed my mind one cold and wet evening, as my friend and I sat at the corner table. She was having a plate of chicken teriyaki and I was facing my Fettuccine Alfredo. The old restaurant was surprisingly busy on a weekday. People kept coming through the front door. Last order was just an hour away. I glanced outside the window and made a wish for the rain to stop when we closed our bill, so that we could stay dry as we walked back home.

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 10.20.10 PM

***

After several months of lovely and confusing pseudo-relationship, she decided to manage her expectation and guard her heart. And so, she posed The Question. “I am not asking you to do anything. I just need to manage my expectation,” she said, as they sat side by side under a strange sky in a strange country, faraway from home and past memories. “I love what we have. And I will want to have it as long as possible. But at the same time, I need to protect my heart, too. I only need to know whether this will go further than a summer fling; or not. That’s all. That way, I can prepare my heart, so I won’t hurt myself again.”

He gritted his teeth and responded right away with, “It’s NOT a summer fling! I really believe in what we have, in what we share. I love the idea of us as much as you do. And I want you to know that from the very beginning.”

She felt her heart leapt a little bit.

“But the fact is, I have a girlfriend,” he went on. “And we’re about to get married at the end of the year.”

Something sunk in her chest. She felt that familiar pain, again. She was not immune to that, no matter how often she had been exposed to such situation.

So she decided to put an end to it. She knew that they wouldn’t go anywhere. He was about to get married. There was no future in it. She didn’t want to get hurt again. So she bid him what-she-thought-to-be farewell. But he refused to leave her. And she could not deny the chemistry. The signs. The bond. She could not deny her heart. But the clock was ticking. So she posed The Question, again.

“We can’t go on like this,” she said, a bit frustrated. “I need to know where we’re going. You’re about to get married. So why are we here? Why are we doing this?”

“I love you,” he said. The answer almost everyone would want to hear. “I could not betray my feelings, too. I’ve made up my mind. I’ll talk to my girlfriend and her family. I want to be with you.”

And with that, she had The Answer–something most of us want: certainty, affirmation, commitment. She smiled with all of her beings. With The Answer, for the first time after those bittersweet months, she finally found both her official permission, and her safety net. To open up. To dream of a future. To be vulnerable. To pour her heart out. To fall in love completely.

Three months later, she received a wedding invitation. From him. She wasn’t the bride.

***

“So, what does it mean to get The Answer?” I asked myself when she finished her story that evening.

I realized that The Answer could come in many forms: from the three-word I-love-you thing to a reply to your text message; an invitation to watch movies, a “you’re beautiful” whisper, the changes in someone else’s Facebook profile from single to in a relationship, a marriage proposal, a wedding ring, the “imaginary lights” in his eyes whenever he looks at you. And we always think that we need The Answer. To move on. To have a closure. To be sure. To be double sure. To decide on what we want to do. To find out whether we should or should not fall in love completely. I felt this way before, too. There were numerous times when I persevered too much in getting The Answer; to the point that they started to feel like lame excuses.

When we came to think about it, The Answer does NOT guarantee anything. We think that we’ll feel certain when we have The Answer, although we know full well that there’s no such thing as certainty in life.

As I finished my Fettuccine Alfredo and sipped my lime juice, it became clear to me that while a lot of people are trying as hard as they can to get The Answer, getting it doesn’t really matter much. Such is life. People say the things they do not mean. People say things they really mean but then change their minds. Heart finds a new object of affection. People grow together and then grow apart. Having The Answer would not make us immune from hurt and pain.

Why do we need to get The Answer from someone else to decide on what we want to do: on whether we want to smile or weep; move on or fall in love? Why do we need to be certain about something when we know that life is full of uncertainties? What is wrong with not knowing and be okay with that? Because even when we have The Answer, we will always find another question to ask.


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 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.


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.

beradadisini

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.

beradadisini

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.

beradadisini

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.

beradadisini

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.
beradadisini

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.

beradadisini

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.


Be Gentle With Yourself.

Imagine a friend of ours coming over. When we saw her, we realized that she has gained some weight. Do we tell her: “You’re so fat. You’re so ugly. You’re lazy. You don’t work out. That’s why you’re fat. You’re fat and there’s nothing you can do. You’re hopeless!” 

Another time, maybe our nephew is having problems with his math homework. Do we tell him: “You’re so stupid! You are never good in math or in anything else! You’re just stupid and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to grasp it!” 

Or our friend, who is struggling with his music career. Do we tell him: “Just give up. You’re not talented. You’re wasting your time.” Or a colleague, who is struggling with her relationship. Do we tell her: “You’re pathetic. You’re always unlucky in love. There’s no way for him to love you. Of course he doesn’t love you. You don’t deserve love. Nobody loves you. You’re worthless.”

Do we tell them these things? I guess most of us would say, “Of course not!”

So, why don’t we say those things to them? “Because those words are just mean,” we may say. “Because it feels heartless to do so. Because we’re afraid that these harsh words will hurt their feelings and make them feel worse. Because we know words are that powerful.”

The thing is, if we don’t say these things to our friends or our colleagues or a little kid, why do we say these things to ourselves? Some of us even repeat these words to ourselves way more often than others. Why do we say I can’t do this or I am not good in this or I am fat or I am ugly or I suck at this or I’m such a failure?

If harsh words that we say to others can hurt their feelings, what about those harsh words we say to ourselves? When we say harsh words to others, there’s still a distance. A distance between us (who said those words) and the others (who received those words). Even with this distance, we know our words can hurt their feelings deeply. Imagine the time when we say those harsh words to ourselves. There’s no distance whatsoever. Imagine how much more it hurts. Imagine how severe the impact could be.

So be gentle with yourself. We know how nice it is to hear others saying good things about us; or giving us compliments, support, and encouragement. Let’s do this to ourselves more often from now on.

*) inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Eva a long time ago. photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt from Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“If I came to think about it again today and calculated it mathematically, I would say no way. No way I could ever send all my kids to school,” said the cab driver.

It was another rainy afternoon I spent at the backseat of a Jakarta cab. The clock was ticking away, the rain kept on pouring, the car horns around me were blaring madly, and still, 20 minutes later, the traffic didn’t move. Fortunately, having spent 12 years commuting, I have familiarized myself with Jakarta’s hellish traffic jam—to the point that it doesn’t really bug me anymore (the fact that I don’t drive my own car helps).

So there were times when I would just watch the traffic in silence; sit cross-legged, close my eyes, and meditate; sing along to the songs being played on the radio; or take a short nap. There were also times when I would play stupid games on my iPhone, text-flirt with a guy I like via WhatsApp, or have a chat with the cab driver.

***

I didn’t remember how our conversation began that afternoon. I guessed I was casually asking if the driver had kids—and how they were doing with their education. “I have three kids, and alhamdulillah, they are all in school,” he said. A tinge of pride was clearly audible in his voice when he added that the oldest one was about to graduate from university.

“Until today, I still can’t believe it. It’s such a blessing from God that my kids can pursue their education,” he continued, turning down the volume of the radio. “There were times when I counted the money I got from driving this cab, and logically, it was not enough to send my kids to school—not to mention sending my daughter to university. But I always believed that God would help me and show me the way. So I prayed to God. I prayed for my family, for my kids, for myself, for us to be safe and healthy, for my kids to be able to go to school. And then I went back to work and just work as hard as I could, knowing that God had listened to my prayers.”

And then he laughed. “The funny thing was that actually I didn’t get more money. But my daughter got a very good grade and could go to university on a full scholarship. At other times, some relatives suddenly gave us some money. When I wasn’t driving (the cab), someone gave me a job to drive an ojek (motorcycle taxi), thus I could get another source of income. A neighbor asked my wife to help out with cooking or washing.”

“Somehow, we always found ourselves having enough money. Such a blessing from God. I am so grateful. I am not rich, but everything I have, everything that God has given me, is enough.”

The cab driver had just given me the best advice ever about living life.

***

I had heard about The Secret when the book came out. I didn’t buy or read the book, though. To be honest, I had just watched The Secret movie on YouTube two months ago. When I watched the movie, it confirmed my belief that The Secret is a concept that have grown within me since I was a little kid. The concept is linked to the way we practice our spiritual beliefs.

I remembered how my mom always said, “Go get wudhu (ablution). Shalat. Pray to God. Ask God to help you. Tell God what you want.” Now I realized that this is the process when we’re sending our wishes to the Universe. And when we pray, we need to believe that God is the Almighty. We need to have faith (imaan). The Secret tells us to believe that the Universe is abundant and it will grant our wishes if we only believe.

The Secret also tells us to be specific with our wishes, and to wish only goodness. How many of us, during our elementary school days, have heard jokes or stories about why we need to be specific about what we ask in our prayers? For example, about someone who wants to ‘light up the world’ and end up being a huge candle instead of an inspiring country leader? “Do not pray for bad things to be casted upon others,” my grandmother used to say. “It will be reflected back upon you.” (Jangan doain orang yang jelek-jelek. Nanti malah kamu yang kena.).

The bible said it perfectly as well: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

The Secret also tells us about being thankful for what we have now. About the importance of gratitude. Interestingly, there are five aspects of a prayer in Sufism, and guess what? The first aspect of prayer according to Sufism is, indeed: gratitude.

We’ve been too familiar with the phrase Ora et Labora as a student. Prayer and work. Similarly, The Secret tells us that we need to do something instead of just sit around waiting for magic to happen. We need to make an effort to get us closer to our heart’s desires.

And then we need to let them go.

Do not doubt the Universe and keep asking on why we haven’t seen anything happening yet. We need to believe that the Universe will bring us what we want (or even better) when the time is right. This is the concept of pasrah. Surrendering completely to the hands of God when you’ve done all your best. (Interestingly, I found an article about a missionary who changed his name into Pasrah Karso or Surrendered Will, so I guess this concept is acceptable in different religions).

And so my crash course about The Secret was delivered one rainy afternoon, by an amazing cab driver.

***

Came to think about it, I was curious. What’s the best piece of advice others have ever received so far? Who gave them this advice, if they still remember? And so I have collected some great advices received by my friends in different parts of the world:

AULIA HALIMATUSSADIAH, INDONESIA. Business woman, start-up founder, author of more than 20 books.

That nobody can hurt me without my consent. My former boss told me this after I broke up with a long time boyfriend. I put the quote as my laptop’s wallpaper for quite some time. Can finally understood the whole meaning two years ago. Now, I can master my own emotion. It’s a life-changing quote.

SAMANTHA BARRY, UNITED KINGDOM. BBC Producer and Journalist.

The best advice I ever got is to surround yourself with people that support you. It’s only in my 20′s that I realized the value of having a core group of friends who are your cheerleaders. Yes, we are there for each other in the sad times, but for me when the people in your life support and encourage you, there is not a whole lot that you can’s achieve.

BINA SHAH, PAKISTAN. Internationally acclaimed writer.

I have received so much wonderful advice in my life from so many people it’s impossible to really pinpoint one piece. However I will tell you about a book that changed my life, and the advice contained in it: Napoleon Hill’s The Power of Positive Thinking. Any advice from any person I knew that said the same thing he said in that book was just reinforcement for what I learned from that book: that your positive mental attitude (PMA) was the most important factor in determining whether you could be successful in life, and whether you could help other people, and also whether you would be a pleasure to be around or a disaster for everyone else in your life!

ASTRID SCHWARZ, SOUTH AFRICA. Visual artist.

“Dream Big”. These words may not be a sentence representing that of a strand of pearls {in that the words are just two, and not many} but they have added to a solid foundation of following a dream that began from very small beginnings. My big sister, now living in New York, has been telling me, to, in one way or another “Dream Big” from a young age. It was only in 2012, on a visit to NYC that she said the actual phrase to me “Dream Big”. It struck a chord, and has evolved into “Dream Big and then Dream Bigger”. I always go back to the phrase, it walks hand in hand with being persistent and active in building my dream, and so the words are no longer just a phrase, but they entail a beautiful element of simplicity that in turn encourages and uplifts me as I grow my dream.

GEETANJALI KAUL, INDIA. A talented blogger, a wife, a mom of two kids.

You know, as far as advises go, I follow many. And collectively they changed my life and made it better. To begin with, my dad always said ‘Aim High’ and I followed that in every field of life. Then as I got married he said, ‘Never differentiate between relatives of your husband and your own.’ Truly this helped a lot. It would never be your mother or my mother, it would just be mother. Let them guess and ask whose mother! Then a friend of mine told me as I got married, ‘If you are upset with him do tell him.’ Men do not get to know that you are upset and they would be enjoying and you would be sulking. So say it out loud. Lately, my mentor taught me to smile through all that happens and there is nothing you cannot find if you really want to, which denotes basically: where there is a will there is a way!

NILA TANZIL, INDONESIA. Founder of Rainbow Reading Garden, Social Worker.

“Life is about balance. When we receive, we also need to give. Don’t always look up. Look down, because there are still a lot of people out there who are not as lucky as we are, and they need our help.” That’s the advice from my mother, Yuriah Tanzil. I always remember it. Thus, when I got my own salary, I helped a child in need. That’s my way to give back. It makes my life balance. Another one is from my friend, Henri Ismail. He said, “We only live once. If you want to do something in life, then go and do it. Otherwise, you’re a loser.” This advice makes me pursue the things I have always dreamed of. I don’t want to be called a loser by myself.

***

What about you? What’s the best piece of advice you have received so far? Who gave you this advice, and how did the advice change your life?


My Saturday with Mishka.

“The tragedy is not that you’re gonna die this way,” my mother had said to me once, “it’s that you live this way.”
[The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly.]

I fall for words. Words of all kinds. Flirty texts. Random questions. Stupid remarks. Retarded emoticons. I fall for words so much, to the extent that I once agreed to meet a guy I had known online without even knowing how he actually looked like. He wrote nice emails and texts. That was all I know, and that was enough. Later on, he realized that he had not sent me his picture.

“What kind of girl agreed to go on a date with a guy she doesn’t know the look of?” he asked, laughing.

“An open-minded girl,” I replied. “And, anyway, who said that it was a date?”

“Ouch. You got me!”

So, we met over coffee one afternoon. And he turned out to be very pleasant and nice–just the way I pictured him through his words. We had a great conversation. And banters. And we laughed a lot. Oh, and as a bonus, he was actually quite handsome. Thus, don’t blame me if I continue to fall for words. My experience tells me that it’s 95% accurate.

So, yes. I judge people from the way they write (including the type of font they choose). I fall for their writing style, their choice of words, their inner voice, the way they place the right punctuation marks, as well as the wonderful feeling of reading those sentences out loud and thinking about how smart or funny or dark or interesting or intriguing the writer must be.

I also fall for Mishka Shubaly this way.

***

About a month ago, when I was browsing the Internet, I stumbled upon a mention of a writer I’ve never heard of before: Mishka Shubaly. I was intrigued by one particular article about him in Huffington Post, written by Cynthia Ellis. Cynthia’s words got me in an instant. Soon enough, I had been reading reviews about Mishka’s works all over the Net. Then I just knew by heart that I have to read them! Excited, I went to Amazon to purchase Mishka’s Kindle Singles–and devastated when a message appeared on my computer screen, stating that his works were not available for sale in my country.

Brokenhearted, I went to Twitter and told the world my sufferings, mentioning Mishka. I was so surprised when he sent me a direct message a while after! He didn’t know me. I was merely a stranger. But he was asking for my email address so that he could send me a draft of his story. I cried happily. I have learned many times in life, that you can get what you want if you only ask.

Screen shot 2013-07-15 at 10.56.22 PM

When The Long Run landed on my inbox, I cherished it like my secret treasure. Soon, I was immersed in the story of how Mishka climbed out from his ‘shit hole’–that was full of drugs and booze–and tried to ‘run’ his life back on track. I read the story 4 to 5 times in a row, slowly, tracing each words, each sentences, finding new details here and there every time. I read some parts out loud–and someone else’s life, more than 10,000 miles away from here, slipped from my lips. I fall in love with Mishka’s voice. The rising emotion as I delved further into the story. The way he sounded so bare and brutally honest, so strong and yet so vulnerable.

I’d never had to get through a breakup without that tireless listener, that bottomless well of comfort, that sympathetic devil: alcohol. I didn’t start drinking and I didn’t stop running, but I did start wearing sunglasses on my long runs, twenty-one miles over five bridges in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, so the people I passed couldn’t tell that I was crying.
[The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly.]

The Long Run was a dark story. But Mishka didn’t inject depressing sobs as much as he laughed it all off–the way one should when looking back. The ability to laugh at ourselves is healthy. Because then we put ourselves not as a victim, but as a survivor. We’ve gone through that, we’ve passed, we’ve survived. Our past will always linger somewhere underneath our layers, but now it’s going to be more of a deep and reflective ha-ha story instead of a dreary suicidal tale.

The next few days after reading The Long Run, I was organizing my thoughts to shoot Mishka an email about his story and how it had affected me–both as a person and as a writer. But before I even had the chance to do so, I clicked the blue dot on my Twitter’s DM button one cloudy Saturday morning, and found a message from Mishka.

***

“I can’t believe I’m talking to you right now,” I typed. “This is so effing absurd, but one of the coolest things ever!”

I was perched in a comfy couch in Casa, Kemang–my favorite place in town to read and write, or have a lovely chat with my besties. That Saturday, it was raining heavily outside, and I was glued to my computer screen, talking to Mishka.

“One time, a cab driver told me. Everyone has to work, but you can choose who you are working for. I work for me. He was so right,” Mishka replied when I asked him what was the best advice he had ever received in life so far. “I started working for me, too. Toughest boss I’ve ever had! But I reap the rewards, not some fat old white man in a suit. Funny to get great life advice from a cabdriver, huh? Or unsurprising. I often find that people working the front lines of humanity know the most.”

(I didn’t tell Mishka–yet, that one of my greatest life advice also came from a cab driver in Jakarta’s hellish traffic jam. But I’ll save that story for the next post)

“How does it feel to write something as… honest?” I asked Mishka. When I read The Long Run, I got nervous imagining how different people who were being featured in the story would react to it–and to him. “Do you struggle in the middle of writing it? Like how much should you put out and how much should you hold?”

“Writing the Kindle Singles is always exhausting,” said Mishka. “I try to write them like I’m writing a private diary that no one will see. Then, before I can stop myself, I send it to my editor. And then it goes out to the world and I have to deal with the consequences. It can cause me a lot of anxiety, heartache, worry… but the end result is worth it. I’d rather have people hate me for being honest than love me for being something I’m not. I’m a flawed human being with a lot of bad habits and foolish tendencies with lots of poor decisions and ugly shit in my past. I think that’s something a lot of people relate to.”

He was right (and it was funny he said that, because a few days ago I had just wrote a piece about dealing with our pasts).

***

The Long Run is indeed a story about struggling with addiction–but it is more than that. Mishka’s addictions to drugs and alcohol is our addiction to a certain guy. To political power. To a branded bag. To be skinny. To a lighter skin-tone. To self-pity. To wealth. To the Internet. To an unresolved love affair. To a past.

We’re all dealing with our own addictions. We’re carrying these things inside, hiding it like a well-kept secret–so that no one will find out. Everyday, we’re all trying to run away from something that anchors us down, and run towards the freedom to be who we truly are.

Humor is all a matter of perspective. You watch Homer Simpson hit his head and it’s funny, but when it happens to you, it’s supposed to be a tragedy? Nah, I think it’s funny either way.
[Mishka Shubaly.]

***

“We need to find a way so I can buy the rest of your stories,” I told Mishka. “I can pay through PayPal if you have a PayPal account.”

“Please just email me some popcorns as payment,” replied Mishka. And so, I did.

Screen shot 2013-07-13 at 5.51.15 PM

—————-

UPDATE, Jul 17, 2013: And Mishka shared this on his Facebook Page. Isn’t he just the sweetest? :’)

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.31.01 PM


We Are Made of Memories.

Maybe it’s true, that our past doesn’t define us. But inevitably, our past will always be a part of our present; and our future. It’s something that will always stay within us, for the better or worse. And this is definitely alright–as long as we have no regret.

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 3.31.00 PM

We have made mistakes, or done things we are not proud of. We have been hurt badly. We failed many times. We thought we could not move on–that it was impossible to feel alright ever again. However, surprisingly, we always see ourselves eventually moving on, just because. For some it takes months, for some it takes years. Maybe we will be able to move on when we have stopped fighting the past and decided to make peace with it instead. Knowing that it’s alright to forgive without forgetting–as long as we can choose wisely the things we’d want to remember. We choose to remember the lessons instead of carrying around the pain. We choose to remember the feeling of recovering instead of the feeling of despair.

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 3.32.09 PM

In the end, we are made of memories. Good ones, bad ones, uplifting ones, embarrassing ones. And all our lives, we have also left pieces of memories inside those we’ve crossed path with–some of them might have long gone and forgotten, some will always feel close to our hearts. We will never be sure about how things will turn out, about whether we’re going to make a courageous bold move instead of another stupid mistakes. So, let’s just don’t think about it too much. For the time being, these are the only things we can do: being presence in the now, seizing the moments before they pass us by, and collecting memories. Loads and loads of memories worth remembering.

Because memories are what we all made of, and we are still going to carry them with us for many many years to come.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,666 other followers