I read Karen Russel’s short story “Ava Wrestles the Alligator” a few years ago in her short story collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Although the story itself was full of magic and metaphors—an alligator theme park, a ‘ghost’ boyfriend, a Bird Man, a swamp prom, and a gecko crown, there was one sentence that popped up in my mind from time to time even when I wasn’t thinking about this story in particular.

It was a sentence written by Ossie—Ava’s sister—in her letter to Ava: “Sorry, Ava, I have the sound of more words, but I could not remember the shapes of the letters.”

The sentence made me pause. I reread it. Again. Again. And it was just becoming more beautiful each time. It encapsulated so many things I could not explain. It gave me this funny feeling in my stomach, the one you have when you are about to ride a roller coaster. I was mesmerized by that sentence.

I picked up the story again this weekend, and as I read it, I found the little details about that story I had forgotten—until I stumbled upon that sentence once again. It was still beautiful. It still took my breath away. And I know that in years to come, even when the story has faded from my memories—everything blurs with other short stories I have read and loved—I will still remember this one sentence.

Perhaps, this is how we remember people.

We tend to shape our memories of them based on the limited time we spend with them—and our memories of them, over time, will be replaced with one single word, one single interaction, or one single feeling. We may never truly understand that person in their entirety or remember everything this person has said and done—only the ones that somehow resonate with us at a particular moment, something we choose to compartmentalize.

Something we choose to remember.

Beradadisini Love Letter to Self

I took up a personal journaling project this week: writing a love letter to myself before bed. I work on a thin A6-size handmade paper journal I got from a paper artist, Els.

The journal is thin and small enough, so it doesn’t overwhelm me. It feels like I am only going to work on a small project. However, the handmade paper, with its textures and colors, is also beautiful enough to make me feel like I want to do something with it every evening.

The love letter is simple, concise, and short. I thank myself for what I do that day—even as simple as cooking meals for myself or taking the time to rest. I praise myself for the smallest achievement that day (like not being angry when things go wrong or treating someone kindly). On tough days, the letter can be full of words of comfort and assurance. I write all the things I wish to hear. The letter is me telling myself, “I see you. I hear you. I know how hard you try; I understand what you’re going through.”

I think most of the time, we can be too hard on ourselves when we do something we regret or when we make mistakes. We can keep talking ourselves down and replaying the scenes of what we think should not happen repeatedly.

But most of us don’t take enough time and patience to appreciate ourselves when we do something good, don’t mess things up, or make an effort at anything—no matter how small.

Writing a love letter to yourself is about acknowledging ourselves—and appreciating those efforts that we often take for granted, such as getting out of bed in the morning or making it through another challenging day.

To me, this project is a lovely way to use my tiny journal at the end of the day. It is also a calming, creative, and relaxing reminder-to-self that my effort counts—and that I am worthy of love and appreciation from myself.

“Would you like to try working on a tiny journal where you’ll write love letters to yourself from time to time?”


This is what standing up for yourself can look like:

Keep doing the things you love doing the way you enjoy doing them, even when everyone else tells you otherwise. Let your heart sing the tune of its soul; even if you’re the only one finding it beautiful. Do not let anyone or yourself crush your spirit or take away your capability to dream, to love, to wonder. Celebrate yourself.

Standing up for yourself does not have to look aggressive. It does not have to feel like a fight. It’s not always about convincing others or explaining yourself and your decisions with the hope that everyone else understands or accepts your choice.

Standing up for yourself can also look like something ordinary—something small; like a tiny wildflower sprouting through a crack on the highway. It can look like something persistent—some tiny flickers in the dark that just refuse to die. It can also look like those quiet moments when you whisper to yourself,

“It’s okay. Keep going. I got you.”

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
a woman stepping away

I think most of us are naturally excited about the idea of anything new. It’s shiny. It’s fresh. It’s a new beginning, a clean slate. We’re in love with opportunities, possibilities, things that have yet to materialize. A dream, a hope, a longing for something in the future. We always prepare ourselves best for our next hello, but I think we’re not so good at preparing ourselves to say goodbye.

Maybe because anything ‘old’ doesn’t seem that inviting, that promising, that exciting. It represents everything that has happened, the known, things that we couldn’t change. But I believe the ‘old’—as are goodbyes, has its own charm. I look at it like a family trinket, an antique shop, a vintage market. There are precious things in there, attracting you and your eyes only—if only you know where to look. Things that can be appreciated only by you and may look utterly useless to anyone else.

So while the world is already abuzz with New Year planning and excitement, here I am: reminiscing the old, another year that has passed.

Before thinking about the ‘next’ year, I usually take the time to think about ‘this’ year. I feel the need to close this year officially, which in an office setting may resemble an annual report. I feel like I need to give proper respect to this year and the old me. Because to know what to do ‘later on’, I need to understand what ‘now’ is like—and what ‘yesterday’ had been. Only then can I feel more capable of making an informed decision for planning my upcoming year.

Here are some journaling prompts I use to reflect on my year and to wrap it up with awareness, mindfulness, appreciation, and gratitude:

What are some of the beautiful memories/moments from this year that I’d like to keep and cherish?

Who are the people that are present in my life, who have helped, supported, and challenged me so I can grow into myself even more?

What are some of the obstacles/difficult situations I have overcome this year?

In which way have I been treating myself more lovingly and respectfully this year?

What are some of the things I’ve learned this year—whether it’s something practical or something philosophical?

Which areas of my life are doing pretty well this year? Which areas aren’t? Why?

Looking back, what are the things I’d like to do less and the things I’d like to do more?

If I could sum up my 2022 in one word, what would it be? What seems to be the central theme of my 2022?

I believe the ‘old’ can give us a lot to think about. What are our patterns? What has failed and why? Are we repeating the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result next time?

I like to think that the future, the past, and the present are connected to one another, and in many ways, they are present simultaneously: in us—and the way we see ourselves, others, and the world, every single day.

wishing you a wonderful goodbye to 2022,


This year, I learned to accept the days when I don’t feel motivated, tired, or a bit grumpy.

I learned to allow myself to sit with this feeling instead of feeling guilty about it and forcing myself to be productive, socialize, or just get things done. I gave myself permission to just rest, take a long nap, stare at the window, or listen to Owl City’s old albums on repeat. I focused on befriending these feelings and being patient with them, like a lover trying to win the hearts of their loved ones. I knew that these feelings would eventually pass if I allowed myself to sit through them, but these feelings would stay longer if I decided to fight them aggressively. I knew that when these feelings passed, I would have that urge to do, to create, to produce… until the urge dissipated. It’s like an ebb and flow. It’s natural.

This year, I learned to better express my feelings and have difficult or uncomfortable but important conversations with the people around me.

I learned to tell people when I feel hurt or disappointed; I learned to say what I want and need instead of being passive-aggressive about it. I learned to ask for what I think I deserve and feel okay with hearing whatever answer I might get. I learned that it’s okay for me to believe that I deserve better, and just because the other party disagrees, that doesn’t mean they are wrong but also doesn’t mean that I deserve less. I learned to let go of the need to help and be available all the time for everyone because this is impossible. I learned that it was okay if I was not the heroine in the story because every character—no matter how minor—has a function to move the story forward. I allowed myself to admit when I do not have the energy, mental space, or resources to help someone and not feel guilty about it.

This year, I learned not to be conditional in my action.

I learned that I can still choose to be kind, to do my best, to contribute, or to trust, even when it seems like others are not putting in the same effort. I learned that I need to give or do something because I want to, because it feels right, not to expect anything in return or to be perceived a certain way. I learned that at the end of the day, it’s not about what others do or don’t do. It’s about what I would do if I love and respect myself—and what I would do if I love and respect others. It’s not only about how I am perceived by others but also (more importantly) about how I perceive myself. Because at the end of the day, that is what really matters. 

What are some of the life lessons you learned in 2022?


Setting boundaries and not letting other people completely drain your willpower, attention, hope, and energy: self-care. Communicating what you need or want clearly, in a calm manner, instead of repressing, denying, or being passive-aggressive about it: self-care. Stop making excuses and start making time to work on your dreams: self-care. Seeking (professional) help when it feels like you can’t keep yourself afloat anymore: self-care. Stop caring about what random people think of you and start caring about how you think about yourself: self-care.

Standing up for yourself when necessary: self-care. Closing or quitting a chapter in your life, career, or relationship that does not align with whom you want to be and how you want to live your life—then preparing yourself for a new journey: self-care. Feeling under the weather, not wanting to do anything, and not feeling guilty about it: self-care.

Moving on: also self-care.
Working on your issues: self-care.
Sorting out your finances: self-care.
Taking care of your health: self-care.
Not taking things too personally: self-care.
Forgiving yourself: self-care.

In the end, self-care is not always about doing the things that make us feel good or give us instant gratification. It’s also about doing the RIGHT thing: something that is good for us in the long run—even if it may feel hard at times.



Your journal is not messy.
It’s immediate and spontaneous. It captures your thoughts and feelings in the spur of the moment. It’s without hesitation. It’s flowing freely, quickly, and intuitively.

Your journal is not boring.
It’s practical and simple. It’s straightforward and minimal. It is what it is. It works for you and lets you organize your thoughts and feelings in a way that suits you best.

Your journal is not embarrassing.
It’s private, raw, and honest. It’s uncensored. It’s where you are brave enough to be vulnerable with yourself. It’s your safe space to open up, reflect, learn, and grow.

Your journal is not ugly.
It’s freeing and liberating. It’s full of things you need to let out and let in, full of memories you want to forget and memories you want to remember. It’s authentic and genuine.

Let’s not judge our journal harshly.
Know that it doesn’t need to look a certain way.
Stop determining the worth and preciousness of our journal by comparing it with others.
Our journal is worthy and precious because it is the archive of our thoughts and feelings through every stage of our lives—a mirror of how we’ve grown through thick and thin throughout the years.

It’s us, documented.


I believe that we can have our own self-care rituals that can be done at home without having to spend a lot of money. Sure, self-care can sometimes be about treating ourselves (getting that manicure, going on that vacation, staying at that nice B&B); but this is not the only way. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. We have other options. It’s not only about ‘the treat’—but also about how we treat ourselves. I believe that self-care is not only about having fun. It also takes discipline and patience—just like how you would care for a plant.

So, here is a list of self-care activities you can do starting today:


Take a long shower. While you are showering and lathering your body with soap, bless and thank all your body parts from head to toe.


Eat when you are hungry. Drink when you are thirsty. Rest when you are tired. Cry when you feel the need to. Listen to your body.


Say kind things to yourself throughout the day. Appreciate and compliment yourself.


Massage your neck, shoulder, legs, upper arms, or other body parts that feel stiff with your favorite massage oil. Wish these body parts well while you massage yourself.


Eat from your favorite plate. Drink from your favorite mug. Write with your favorite pen. Surround yourself with the things you love. Enjoy the nice things you have.


Hug yourself in the morning, under the blanket. Smile when you see your reflection in the mirror as if you’re smiling at a good friend.


Remember to breathe deeply and give your body a little stretch throughout your day.


When you catch yourself comparing yourself to others or talking harshly to yourself, stop and do something else. Jump. Stretch. Do a silly dance. Listen to your favorite song. Go make yourself a cup of tea.


Keep the promises you make to yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect by yourself.


When you close your eyes, stop the temptation to replay past hurts or mistakes. Instead, imagine all the wonderful things you would like to experience in the future.


Wishing you a beautiful self-care moment,


In August, I attended a friend’s ceramic and illustration exhibition and gasped at her beautiful work: a giant dog and smaller ones, tiny turtles, wonky tulips, green grasses and bushes, colorful snakes. Everything was so cheerful, so playful, so summery! Her exhibition started as her graduation project—where one of her teachers questioned her cute and joyful park. “Where are the drug dealers and the homeless?”

“How did you reply to that?” I asked her.
“Well,” she said. “I told them this is how I remember parks. These are the things I see when I walk on a summer day at the park.”
“It’s your park,” I nodded.


One afternoon, this conversation came to mind as I sat at my desk at one of Ubud’s co-working spots. We arrived a few weeks before, from the best Amsterdam summer in years: I was walking around with shorts and sleeveless tops all day, drinking cold water from the fridge and dragging our living room carpet to Vondelpark for a nap.

But the rainy season is coming to Ubud. I wake up to rain and inch out of bed only when the coffee has been served on the terrace, wrapped in a jacket and smelled of minyak telon. I don’t mind this kind of weather. It feels like home.

I haven’t been writing a lot these past two years. I haven’t been sharing a lot as well. I didn’t have the mental capacity to do so. Moving to Amsterdam during the pandemic—with lockdowns and curfews, far from friends and families, didn’t sit well with me. I was sad most of the time. Angry, other times. Small things triggered my insecurities. I wrote in my journals almost every day, and usually, I ended up crying or feeling empty.

So I didn’t write a lot, and I didn’t share a lot. Not because I only wanted to share happy things but because I hadn’t processed my sadness. It was still too raw to share, and sharing it felt irresponsible. I wanted to take it slow, to sit with the feeling until it peaks, transforms, or passes—without feeling like I had to hurry the process.

I read a lot.
I made art and learned how to paint with acrylics.
I filled up sketchbooks.
I even started running (thanks to my persistent and supportive husband).

I cooked daily because food is my comfort, medicine, and security blanket. The stove was busy with pans and pots, the four burners occupied. I made chicken porridge, eggplant rendang, stuffed tofu, Kalasan fried chicken, shrimp with salted egg, liver in sweet soy sauce and margarine, and vegetable dumplings. It was my way of bringing home (or the feeling of home) closer: everything that is nostalgic, familiar, and missed.


A few months after I moved to Amsterdam, an editor friend asked me to write a book about living there. When I arrived in Jakarta after two years, she asked me, “What happened with the book?” I said, “I couldn’t do it yet.” I tried many times, but everything I wrote came out angry, sad, and ugly—whereas Amsterdam was depicted as a cold, hostile, and menacing city (it’s NOT!). I was too wrapped up in my sadness that I couldn’t see things objectively, let alone write about it.

Another friend of mine, upon hearing this, told me, “Maybe you can start writing in Ubud. Maybe distance gives you perspective.”

That was when the ‘park’ conversation came to me.


Sure, there are many things in the park—and if we’re observant, we’ll see everything during our walks.

Sometimes we need to see things we don’t wish to see and sit with that. To think of what we can do or accept what we aren’t capable of doing (yet). But there are also times when we can choose to capture things that uplift us, things that will make us smile and feel hopeful.

Our mind is a park.
My mind is a park.

grounding at the park,
stepping barefoot on the grass,
look out for dog poo.

—my lousy attempt in haiku.

When my park is dark and stormy, I’d prefer not to have people walk around there. It’s not safe. The trees may fall, the storm may soak you wet, and the wind howls so loud you cannot hear anything. But when my park is lush and sunny, I’ll be happy to have people come over: to smell the flowers, nap under the tree, enjoy a picnic accompanied by the dogs, the ducks, and the birds, or play catch.

And I’ll share the stories about the dark and stormy nights on a warm, sunny day.

Hanny illustrator
I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.