I recently have this fear: I would not have enough time to read all the books I want to read.

Every time I glance at the pile of to-be-read books on my shelf, I feel overwhelmed. Soon, there will be new books: new releases praised by BookTubers or shortlisted by Vulture or Esquire, new translations recommended by indie booksellers like POST or published by Marjin Kiri or Penerbit Haru.

How can I keep up?

And still, every time I go out, I browse the little free libraries around the city (most often the one at the corner, across the canal), hunting for surprises. Amsterdam had gifted me some excellent titles these past few months: Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint (which gave me Sherman Alexie’s vibe), and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park among others.

From time to time, I visit Scheltema’s web-listing of second-hand books (despite struggling with their website’s not-so-friendly UI/UX), trying to find out if someone has sold some of the books on my wish list.

I am still finding myself coming home to tiny bookshops or climbing the stairs of 5-storey bookstores when I have no idea where else to go. The sight of those shelves comforts me. The words hidden inside rows and rows of closed books promise me another story, another world, another reality.

When I was little, I lived precariously through the books I read, mostly Enid Blyton’s and Hitchcock’s. When I read a novel, I was a student in a British boarding school; I had a summer picnic and stumbled upon mysteries to solve; I played lacrosse; I had new neighbours with tree houses; I was a girl with five siblings.

I could be anyone I wasn’t.
I could be anyone I’d like to be.

Over ten years ago, a friend of mine said that he wrote like crazy because he was afraid that one day, he couldn’t write anymore. At the moment, I couldn’t understand the sentiment, but as I grow older, I realized that I feel this way when it comes to reading.

The clock is ticking. I only have so much time, while there are still so many books I want to read. I can feel myself getting anxious when I think of how, for sure, I won’t be able to catch up.

I have a book-FOMO.
And I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

hanny
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In Indonesia, kopi hitam (black coffee) is made by pouring boiling water over coffee grounds (and, if you like, sugar). Stir as you need, then leave it for a while, not only to let it cool down a bit—but, most importantly, to let the coffee grounds fall to the bottom of the glass and settle there (yes, it is served in a glass, not a cup). 

Lately, to me, social media feels like watching someone stirring a glass of black coffee. 

It’s hot and loud and chaotic. 

The ridiculous amount of things trying to catch my attention reminds me of drinking a glass of black coffee immediately after stirring it: it burns my tongue, and the floating coffee grounds that entered my mouth makes me cringe and cough. 

For this reason, I have been thinking of leaving social media for a while. I started by deleting Twitter, then Tumblr, then I deactivated Facebook. I feel good about it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think that Instagram will be next, as I am not too keen on the direction they’re going. 

So here I am, waiting for the coffee grounds of social media to settle at the bottom—and once everything is calm, quiet, and unruffled, I am back to my blog. 

I realized that I keep (wanting to) coming back to this blog: a place where I feel like conversing with a close-knitted circle of people who share similar sentiments about life, instead of talking to a bunch of strangers who are in a hurry to board a bus. 

My blog feels like a home where I can invite my closest people to come over, while social media feels like a big party I am invited to. (You know how I, an introvert, feel about going to parties). 

Yes, big parties allow me to meet plenty of people, which can be fun for a while. However, I realized how I crave more for a one-on-one connection and a slow(er) conversation after some time.

Instagram starts to feel like that big party to me, where people only see you for a minute, exchange a few words, and move on to the next topic or say hello to the next person. We scroll so fast (Well, I scroll so fast). 

Faces, messages, and interactions are soon forgotten and buried away, the way our Google Photos becomes a photo graveyard. 

Recently, I read illustrator Rebecca Green’s blog post about her intermission from Instagram and watched Julia Bausenhardt’s video, ‘One Year After I Quit Social Media‘. I feel like they are talking to me. Alexandra Franzen wrote ‘21 Ways to Find Clients and Customers without Using Social Media‘. I nodded to most of her points.

My steps of quitting social media apps are gradual. 

First, I post less. 
Then, I stop posting but still reading, liking, or interacting. 
Then, I stop checking the app altogether.
Then, I deleted the app from my phone. 
Finally, I deleted my account. 
With Instagram, I’m still on my first step—but it feels like I have lifted a weight off of my shoulder. 

Now I see a vast difference between ‘I need to share, so I need to create something‘ and ‘I want to create something, and if I want to, I can share it.’ The latter allows me to slow down. It gives me the time and space I need to focus on what I want to create.

I’ve been enjoying these few weeks facilitating an intimate 3-week online workshop on Found Poetry & Collaging.

We’ve been working on our 12-page zine, featuring our takes on various Found Poetry & Collaging techniques learned during the workshop. This week, we’ll present our zine and share stories about our challenges, creative process, and things we learn about ourselves as writers/poets during the wrapping-up of this project.

I’m excited about it, about the fact that we’re creating a finished project together, challenging our creativity by imposing limitations and boundaries, and having conversations about our creative decisions. 

Interactions like this make me think of sipping a glass of black coffee together with friends in a small warung somewhere, accompanied by fried banana and vegetable fritters. 

We’re not in a hurry. 

We have all the time in the world to wait for our coffee grounds to settle on the bottom of the glass.

hanny
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Maybe you’ve realized that you want to change direction.
Maybe you’ve had enough.
Maybe you won’t tolerate certain things any longer.

Maybe you have found something better, healthier, or more rewarding.
Maybe you no longer want to stay where you are.
Maybe you don’t care that much about what people would say or think anymore.
Maybe you want to be your own person.
Maybe you’ve tried or worked so hard, and you are on the brink of burnout.

Maybe you want to persevere somewhere else, for something else, with someone else.
Maybe you want to grow.
Maybe you want to expand your horizon.

Maybe you want to risk it.
Maybe you want to know if you can quit.
Maybe you want to see what can happen if you quit.

Because quitting is also an option.

Because quitting can also be a courageous act.
Because quitting can also be an act of self-care and self-respect.
Because quitting can be a great relief.

Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough.

Even if you quit, at least you’ve tried your best.
Even if you quit, you can always start over.
Even if you quit, you are still worthy.

———————

Accompanying #journalingprompts: Do you think ‘quitting’ can be an option? Why? Have you ever quit? Why? Or why not? In which way ‘quitting’ can be good for you? In which circumstances ‘quitting’ can be bad? Why?

hanny
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From time to time, we may find ourselves asking, “What is my life purpose?”

Some of us may be able to answer that immediately, some of us may not.

There were times when I thought I have found it: the answer to my ultimate life purpose–but then I looked into it closer, questioned it and I wasn’t sure anymore. So I searched again.

It became an infinite loop I could not escape.

I used to think that knowing my life purpose would be the key to deal with those times when my life seemed too calm or too chaotic (never truly satisfied, are we?). As if knowing the answer would give me all the assurance, motivation, inspiration, and permission to march through life, knowing for certain where I’m going and that I’m taking the straightest path to get there…

I almost forgot that in 2014 I learned about how we’d never find “the ultimate answer” because no matter what, we’d always have another question to ask.

That’s why in my January newsletter I told you that I just wanted this year to be the year of play: the year to explore, to reconnect with my curiosity, playfulness, and excitement, to do the things I want to do without worrying too much about what will come out of them.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, my mind went to one afternoon a long time ago, when I was still working full time. We were in one of our weekly team meetings at the office and we were talking about ‘role’. We were asking each other, what role would we choose in the office, if that role had nothing to do with our job titles, tasks, or functions.

Someone said, he’d be the clown, making people laugh with his jokes and funny impressions.
Someone else said, she’d be the decorator, making things look neat, pretty, and artistic.
Someone said, he’d be the problem solver.
Someone said, she’d be the cheerleader.
Someone said, he’d be the dreamer.
Someone said, she’d be the devil’s advocate.

“What role would I be happy to play in life today / this week / this month / this year / at this stage of my life?” 

When I think about it, this question feels lighter and more playful than what-is-your-life-purpose, but it can also give us a hint about where we may wish to go.

What role would you be happy to play in life?

What role would you choose for yourself at work, at home, at school, among friends, that had nothing to do with your assigned function, expectations, duties, or assumed responsibilities?

What role would you not mind filling?

When I asked this question to myself the other day, it was funny that what came to mind immediately, was serving food.

I have always felt a strange pull towards kitchens, cooking, and food, as you can see here and here.

I guess what I love about serving food is that warm and fuzzy feeling of making or preparing something for others and seeing them enjoying the things I make. It’s a lovely feeling to see the immediate impact of ‘serving’ and the experience of sharing: to see someone’s hunger is finally satiated, to get someone’s appetite back, to share stories upon rows and rows of pans and plates and bowls, to come out of of the interaction feeling full, nourished, and satisfied.

Funny enough, if I choose to see ‘serving food’ as a metaphor for what I do: writing, drawing, creating content, or just being present in life in general–I can see how the role is still somewhat valid.

So, for the time being, I’ll be playing around with this role.

Let me know what role you’d happy to play this year!

P.S. If you’re a lover of zine and cats and all things handmade with love, you may want to subscribe to Koran Bulan, a digital zine by @hairembulan, or get some lovely handmade stuff she made at @pondokserbaaneka or order her embroidered linen clothes at @SunandMoon.id – while doing this, you can also help her to care for some rescued cats. Read the story about the latest rescued cat, Yin, here.
hanny
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What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you would fail?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you can’t make money out of it?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you won’t be great at it?

I wrote in my journal that 2021 will be my year of PLAY. After such a heavy and tumultuous 2020, I realized how much I missed living life with a playful attitude: being spontaneous and silly, doing things just for the fun of doing it, being curious and full of wonder.

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, Calif, said, “Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice. Over time, play deprivation can reveal itself in certain patterns of behavior: We might get cranky, rigid, feel stuck in a rut, or feel victimized by life.”

Last year, I had been so focused on ‘understanding my purpose’ and ‘being purposeful’ it made everything felt heavy. At the end of 2020, I felt so overwhelmed I had a little breakdown.

I started questioning why I should continue doing the things I do if they don’t produce tangible results; if there’s no direct outcome.

But I forgot some things.

I forgot that life is more than just producing tangible results and direct outcomes.
I forgot that you can live a good life even if it seems like you don’t understand (or confused, or unsure, or unclear about) what your purpose is.
I forgot that ‘to have fun’ can also be a purpose.
I forgot that ‘to play’ can also be the answer to the question: “WHY?”

I realized that I had forgotten how to play.

So, this year, I want to learn to take myself (and my work, and my art, and everything else) less seriously.

Lately, I find myself asking these questions while working, designing stuff for my shop, having a call with a client, washing dishes, walking at the park:

  • Can I make it a bit more fun?
  • Can I inject more playfulness into it somehow?
  • Can I find something to help me enjoy it more?
  • Can I drop the importance of it and focus on having a pleasant time?

 

Most of the time, the answer is yes.

“What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome,” Brown said. “To benefit most from the rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to incorporate it into our everyday lives, not just wait for that two-week vacation every year.”

So, if you know that you will fail at it, won’t make money out of it, and won’t be great at it, what are the things you would still want to do anyway?

Do it.
Let’s play.

hanny
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Dear friends,

2020 has challenged us in many ways, collectively. Some of us may have been ‘forced’ to spend more time with ourselves, more than ever. For some of us, this can also mean having to stay with things that don’t feel right, things that annoy us, scare us, tear our spirits down.

It isn’t easy to stay where we are when we can’t really go somewhere else or do not have many options to do so.

So, instead, we go deeper.

We embark on an inner journey to face the things we used to be able to distract ourselves from, things we used to be able to run away from, things we used to be able to push aside. This year, we sit with them, we stay with them, we look them in the eye, and here we are.

Despite everything, we’re here, still here, still trying to understand what this year has shown us, on a personal, collective, and global scale. This year, more than ever has shown us our true nature. Our fears, our dreams, our weaknesses, our strengths, have been brought into the spotlight.

Do we still respect, like, and love ourselves (our circles, our job, our environment, our friends, our families, our communities, our world), when we truly see them, when we have to sit, stay, and look at them without running away or turning our head the other way?

I hope, whatever the answer is, it would give us a reason to step into 2021 with a purpose, a mission.

Maybe the Path is still dark and we can only see a glimmer of light to take one step ahead without really knowing where we are heading; but it’s okay, too. It’s okay to just take that one step for today, and another step tomorrow. Also, do remember to look up from time to time because, in the dark, the sky lit up the stars, unrolling the map of our Souls.

May we find our brightest North Star guiding us to where our soul yearns to be.

I wish you a gentle 2021 with much love,

hanny
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Hanny illustrator
Hi. I'm HANNY
I'm a published writer, a creative content consultant, and a stationery/blog designer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am!

hanny

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