Sorry for I have been quite unwelcoming (again) the last time around. I mean… I always know that you would eventually come for a visit. I know that on one of those random days, I would hear someone knocking on my door and rush over to open it–only to find you standing there awkwardly, swaying from one foot to another, a look of guilt is painted all over your face. It’s as if you have predicted (and expected) the terrible reactions you would receive from those who cross path with you; while you know full well that there is nothing you can do differently.
People got to do what they got to do, and I know that you’re just doing your job. It’s just that… no matter how often you came for a visit, still I could never get myself used to it. Again and again, I feel hurt, or sad, or betrayed, or confuse–and so, I’m sorry for the way I reacted to you the last time (but at least I didn’t slam the door on your face the way I did before!).
I would like you to know that I am still trying to accept you for who you are–and for what you do; and that I would love to invite you in for some conversations over tea (or coffee) after the shock of your visit dissipates.
But it’s impossible, isn’t it?
Because you can’t just pay a casual visit and hang out without having any farewells to deliver. This means, the next time I see you again, I would be totally unprepared again, totally sad and shocked again, and I would probably react with such an unwelcoming demeanor again. Can I say sorry in advance if this is going to be the case? Though I really hope that the next time I see you, I have had a bigger heart to simply nod and let you come inside for a while. Of course, a tinge of sadness will still be there when I found you in front of my door again. However, from all the people in the world, I guess you are the one who understands the most about sadness. So probably, we can comfort each other just because we both understand how it feels.
I know you have been sending me gifts as well after your visit. Sometimes they reach me in a week or two, other times they reach me in a year or two; and other times it takes 8 years for your farewell gifts to fall on my lap. I have no idea which delivery service provider you are using; as those gifts came in random timings and intervals–but, thank you for the wonderful gesture. I guess, often times, I overlook this lovely side of you–because I have been blinded by animosity towards you, just because you’re doing your job well (which is so unfair of me!).
So, I’d like to say thank you so much for sending me those farewell gifts–even after I reacted so badly towards you. No matter how early or late those gifts are, they always reach me when I least expected them. Mostly, they come in a simple hello; an opportunity to be brave and do spontaneous things; an exchange of smiles and shy glances; or a random conversation that ends up in warm and fuzzy kisses.
It’s fun to receive these gifts–although at the back of my mind, I am always conscious to the fact that one day, you will pay me a visit again and take away a particular gift from me. I know you will always send me new gifts–because that’s the only thing you can do (and another thing you’re really good at) to make me feel better. I know you can’t undo farewells, but you can always throw in new beginnings–when I have allowed myself to answer the doorbell again when it rings. And really, I think you’re kind that way.
Anyway, sorry for bothering you with this pointless letter. I think I’ll stop now. I just want you to know that I understand you–although most of the times it appears as if I don’t. But I do.
This is hard to say, but I will say it anyway: until I see you again.
Yes, until I see you again, Goodbye.
It was late afternoon, and we were sitting at a nook in our Parisian hotel room, looking at a wall fully decorated with beautiful painted plates.
“I’m going to eat on that one,” I pointed at a plate with a painting of a cat on it. “Which one would you prefer?”
He looked at me as if I were crazy. “Well, I think I am going to choose that one,” he pointed at the one with the frog painting. “But, come on, you don’t eat on those plates!”
“Because,” he shrugged, definitely thinking that any sane person would clearly know the reason why. “Because, those are not eating plates. Those are, like, really beautiful plates. And not to mention that they are bloody expensive!”
“All the more reason to eat on them, don’t you think? In the end, they are what they are, right? They are plates. Why can’t I eat on beautiful and expensive plates?”
Yes. I can be stubborn at times.
About a year ago, I started using my beautiful plates.
Well, those were actually inherited plates–some China and vintage Delft Holland–passed on from generations to generations; usually only to be left gathering dust in the cabinet or to be hung proudly on the living room wall; not really sure about what kind of impression they should make. And we’re not only talking about plates. We’re also talking about flower vases, tea pots and tea cups, as well as something like butter dishes.
One day, I simply washed them all (a serious washing involved due to more-than-a-decade excessive dust-gathering) and started using them.
I make garlic and cheese butter and place it on the beautiful butter dish to be used every morning as a spread on my bread. I boil my green tea inside the elegant tea pot and sip it slowly from the gorgeously decorated floral tea cup. I use the blue and white ceramic vintage plate for my scrambled egg.
It does feel nice, to eat from beautiful plates or drink tea from beautiful tea cups. And right now, I do feel alright (and happy) to use them up on a daily basis instead of storing them away or keeping them as decorative items. Yes, I have to admit that at first, I felt a bit guilty. And undeserving. And scared.
Am I supposed to do this? This is too good. Do I deserve this? This is too beautiful for me. What if I broke it?
But where do we actually start getting the idea that something can be too good for us? Are we actually being taught to lower our expectations and not have too high of a hope or to have big dreams–simply because someone is trying to protect us from hurt, failure, or disappointment that may lurk behind us?
He’s-just-too-kind-for-me is something I heard from a lot of women (and I might be guilty of using this nonsense once or twice in my previous relationships years ago–when I didn’t know better). In that sense, what are we implying with those words? Are we thinking that we’re so undeserving to be treated kindly? How often do we lessen ourselves to the point where we decided that we’re okay settling for less; and lowering our standards only to please others?
Other times, I guess we’re doing it to protect ourselves–our hearts, our dreams, our hopes, our memories. We’re thinking about storing them away in some place safe or hanging them on the wall for everyone to see–but not to touch. We’re too afraid of making failures or breaking our hearts or humiliating ourselves or looking vulnerable because then we’re going to get hurt; and then we’re not going to be perfect anymore (not to say that we are/were, ever).
Maybe we’re afraid that we’re not going to be those beautiful decorative plates that are being admired by everyone anymore–because the fact is, when we’re no longer becoming a decorative item in life–just like those plates; we’re going to break or decay or our colors may get washed out after some times.
I made some Italian spices butter this morning and stored them in the beautiful butter dish. Every time I see it as I’m about to spread it on my bread, it becomes a great reminder for me to be brave and to not settle for less. To know that I am deserving of wonderful things, great experiences, amazing life, and comforting love; to believe that nothing is too good or too beautiful for me, and nothing is too good or too beautiful for you, too.
You deserve it.
And starting tomorrow, I hope you’re having your meal on a beautiful plate.
It happens. There are things we might lose during our traveling journeys–no matter how carefully we guard them all the time, no matter how cautious we are. There will always be something that slips through the cracks, they say. And just like everything else in life, when you lose something so dear to you, there’s this certain feeling of sadness and helplessness that envelopes you for quite some time. However, losing things (especially on your traveling journeys) could also provide a series of valuable life-lessons that may (surprisingly) release us from having to carry too many things in our lives. These are 6 things you might lose on your traveling journeys and what they taught you about living life.
photo credit: geishaboy500 via photopin cc
1. Lose Yourself.
When you’re traveling alone to faraway places, where nobody knows you–suddenly, you feel that euphoric feeling of freedom hits you, really hard. At last, you are free from other people’s preconceived judgements about you! You are free to simply be you–you are free to do whatever you like.
You are free to lock yourself in your fancy hotel room and enjoying their clean and sparkly pool until your skin smells of chlorine, instead of walking under the vicious sun to the public beach. You are free to roam around the city until 3 a.m. with a bunch of guys from faraway countries you met at the hostel’s common room, bar-hopping in a country where people don’t really speak that much English. You are free to sneak your way into a wooden house by the paddy field–where people wear loose robes, beads, and crystals on their forehead, chanting mantras and swaying their bodies with their eyes closed, laughing and crying and screaming–and you’re watching them, asking yourself whether you’re supposed to laugh, cry, and scream as well. You are free to end up in a couch with a guy you have only known for 2 days, watching movies on his laptop before ending up kissing each other passionately.
Nobody knows. It’s your secret. As you’re losing yourself during your traveling journeys, you get a chance to know who you really are–no parents to tell you what not to do, no colleagues darting uncomfortable look your way, no friends asking you to do something you are not really into. You’re free to simply being you.
This will be your chance to see both your brightest side, as well as your darkest side. You will truly know how far you can–or want to go. You will know and set your own values, and rules. You will find out about your true boundaries–things you wouldn’t do even when nobody’s watching. You’ll know what you really expect from yourself, as a person; what truly makes you proud and what disappoints you. You’ll have that opportunity to make the greatest mistake or write the greatest story of your life–and you’ll understand how important it is to live your life for yourself. Because in the end, it is your life. And it’s so tiring to keep on living it based on other people’s expectations upon how you should live yours.
2. Lose Your Belongings.
No matter how good you are in guarding your belongings, this will happen one day–that’s just the way it is. The airline somehow misplaces your luggage and it is on its way to Africa instead of Europe. Someone steals your wallet–and you do not have that much money left on your savings account. You forget about how you put your handphone on the grass next to your picnic towel, when you leave the park empty-handed. The key to your hostel room is missing. Your laptop bag is–(or maybe now it isn’t) stranded inside a toilet booth somewhere downtown.
After being swept by a sickening wave of panic, unleashing your anger to the whole world, cursing yourself (and your stupidity), wailing uncontrollably, and pulling your hair out to try to get your belongings back–to no avail, you start to feel your frustration dissipates. And then, there’s this empty feeling in your heart–somewhat scary and somewhat promising, a certain feeling of knowing that you just have to accept the fact that you have lost your belongings, and that you need to continue living without them.
And then you start counting your blessings. You’re looking at what you have, and being grateful for that. You’re thinking about how you can use these things you have to survive–and moreover, to be able to still enjoy the remaining days of your journey. You need to be flexible. You need to change plans, be okay with that, and be okay with less. And suddenly, you realize that who you are is not defined by what you have; or do not have. That you can actually get by with what you have–or you will find a way to, as long as you’re willing to.
You start reaching out to people, swallowing your pride, admitting that you need help. You talk to a stranger, some locals, your hostel owner, your friends, your parents–telling them about your misfortunes and asking them if they would be kind enough to help you. That’s the moment when you know how grateful you are to have these wonderful people in your life.
3. Lose Your Way.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Probably you’re too excited wandering around the city. Or you’re taking the wrong turns, hopping on to the wrong bus, or getting off at the wrong station. Probably you lose your map. Or you’re simply bad with directions, just like me. There will be times when you find yourselves lost (what an irony!) in a strange country. You are trying to trace your way back to where you were, but it seems like you keep on going around in circles–the cobblestone path and the colorful walls transforms into a confusing maze with dead-ends here and there.
You can keep going around and around and try again, and again, and again, or you can head over to someone and ask for directions. That’s how it goes in life, too. Sometimes, you need someone else’s help to show you how to get to somewhere. And when you’re about to ask for directions, the best is to know where you’re heading or where you want to go back to. Only then, the person can help pointing you out to your desired direction. There are times in life when you’re kind of floating in the middle, not sure on where you want to be, but not wanting to go back to where you were before, either. Rather than trying to go around and around in circles, seek for help, and ask yourself: where do you really want to be in this life? And it’s always a relief to have a place you can always go back to, as well. A familiar place that you can always call: home.
4. Lose Your Sense of Time.
You know those moments. When you lose your sense of time.
When you’re staying in a small town by the beach or a small hut in the mountains–those days when you have no plan whatsoever, no train to catch, no flight schedule to check, no boat waiting for you by the pier. You’re free to spend a day with yourself, doing nothing and everything at the same time. These are the days when you grab your favorite book, go to the beach and read all day long under the sun, dipping yourself in the sparkling sea when the heat becomes unbearable, having a nap with the sea breeze caressing your face. It’s one of those spontaneous days you spend with your local crush. A bunch of people with different nationalities you have just met at a local club. Your lover.
You have no idea about the time of the day. You wake up when you feel recharged. You eat when you feel hungry. You drink when you’re thirsty. You move your body when it feels stiff. You sip a beer when you feel like it. You let your senses tell you what you’re about to do instead of looking at your watch to follow a set of routines.
It’s one of those days when you go to a cooking class, learning how to make batik, taking a silversmith course… and you’re so immersed in absorbing these new lessons, enjoying each and every moment as you try to follow the instructions, giving 100% of your heart and mind into what you’re doing… and the next time you realize it, the time is up! Or it’s already sundown! You wonder, where does your time go? How come it goes away so fast?
These are the days when you’re enjoying life as it is. You’re enjoying what you do–or what you do not do. You’re enjoying the things you learn, the people you meet, the feeling you feel. Even when it seems like you’re ‘doing nothing’, you’re simply enjoying it. You’re not forcing things, you’re flowing genuinely and gracefully through it. They say, the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. How wonderful it is if we can live our lives this way, every single day, appreciating and enjoying each moment that passes us by–knowing that no matter what we do (or do not do), we are living a life without regret.
5. Lose Your Prized Possession.
Maybe it’s a lucky charm. A favorite photograph of your late parents. A special scarf given to you by a lover. An old teddy bear. A memento from your most memorable trip. These are the things you bring with you wherever you go, like a security blanket. They may not be something precious for others–but they are things that are so precious and dear to your heart. They are your prized possessions. They carry memories from times you can’t go back to; faces from people that pulls you in like gravity, nostalgia from a somewhat familiar smell and scent and sense of security.
But there are days when somehow, you lose it. Usually, you do not know how you lose it–because it’s something you have always guarded ever-so-cautiously, more than the rest of your belongings. It may take hours or days before panic creeps in, and you start looking for your prized possession–your heart thumping–only to realize that it’s gone. It’s nowhere to be found.
Losing your prized possession taught you about releasing your dependency to various things or circumstances outside of yourself. To know that no matter how careful you are, there are moments when things will fall apart. When you’re attaching yourself to something, you’re being dependent to it. You feel as if it makes you ‘complete’. Thus, subconsciously, you’re preparing yourself to be ‘incomplete’ when that something is taken away from you.
You can’t rely on things outside of yourself to make you feel better or happier. You can’t keep replaying old memories to make you feel loved or worthy. One day, there will be times when you just have to stand your ground on your own and face the reality; no matter how cold it is. Releasing yourself from dependency is knowing that you’re the only one who can transform that cold reality into a warm fuzzy place of your own.
6. Lose Someone.
It’s indeed the most painful. You can “lose” someone that doesn’t come with you on your journey at the first place, like a parent, a best friend, or a boyfriend: the people who stays where they are when you hop on yet another plane. They may not understand you, on why you need to keep going and moving around, and why you still have somewhere else to go to after all those traveling journeys you have done. They may feel like they can’t keep up with you; or that they need someone who stays–instead of someone who is constantly leaving.
You can lose someone on your journey, too. Saying goodbye to a local host that has become like a sister to you after a month. Waving to a fellow traveler you have grown to fall in love with–not knowing whether the two of you could ever see each other again. Or deciding to part ways with a boyfriend you’re traveling with–as the journey you’re embarking uncovers various sides of your personalities that simply doesn’t serve both of you well anymore.
And you will lose someone. It’s bound to happen, and it’s inevitable. The people you’re closest with right now, yes, you will lose them as well eventually. It’s just a matter of how, when, and where. The people we meet are delivered into our paths to impart their wisdom and help us grow. There will be times when their ‘task’ is done and both of you need to move on.
As sad and depressing as it may sounds, the silver lining is that knowing this, you will stop taking them for granted. You will stop waiting for the “right time” to say something to them, or to do something for them. You will be asking yourself on why they are sent into your lives–and why you are sent into theirs, and as a result, being even more present and mindful when you’re interacting with them.
You will realize that whatever it is you have with them today, it is only temporary. Seize every moment and be real with your closest ones. Life is too short to be spent playing games–to postpone expressing your feelings and affections until you feel more secure or deserving; or to be spent competing for power and dominance. Whatever comes out of you, let it comes from a place called Love.
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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.”
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Set 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.
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.