Posted in Personal

The best feelings in the world

What is the best feelings in the world?

A couple of weeks ago I talked about one of the best feelings in the world. It is to genuinely feel happy for other people.

Another best feelings in the world, in my opinion, is a heartfelt hug. I didn’t notice the lasting impression and blissful sensation of a heartfelt hug until later in my life.

It was early 2013, I was in my late twenties when I first realized that this is one of the best feelings in the world.

Continue reading “The best feelings in the world”

Posted in Personal

The Lucky Ones

“Those who really have a difficult life, never mention ‘difficulties in life’,” my late friend once told us in a small forum of five.

This quote always reminded me of one of my best friend. Despite tremendous difficulties in her life, she always, always consider herself lucky.

She was born on February the 13th. People tend to associate 13 with bad luck, but not her. She managed to flip the bad omen into luck. Or, perhaps it was the way she see things, her point of view, a constant perception to rewrite her hardships into stories of sweet revenge.

Such as these word of hers:

Sometimes I regret why my legs are short, but then I smiled remembering how far I’ve gone.

She’s petite with unusual light-brown eye color and a strong determination to thrive. She is second to the last child in her family, the most successful and sharp-minded. Despite growing up in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, where education level was compromised, she got a scholarship to study Public Health at the best university in the capital of Indonesia and became an active member of Indonesian Red Cross. She got into an exchange program to the Netherlands, as a Red Cross volunteer.

To match her unusual eye-color, she chose occupation that was also quite unique. Instead of being a civil servant to fulfill her parents wish, she worked at a juvenile prison. She got a scholarship in the Netherlands and her experience in juvenile prison set her to pursue an unusual research topic that awarded her as the top 20 research paper of our batch in graduate school.

We were schoolmates at graduate school in Den Haag. During Ramadhan, unlike most of our friends, both of us didn’t come back to our country for fieldwork. We decided to stay together as a roommate and make the most of the holy month of Ramadhan. We lived at Sunneke, a beautiful and quiet boarding house surrounded by the crispiest air. She made sure that I woke up for sahur and I took care of cooking. That way, Ramadhan fasting and thesis writing were a little easier to handle.

I used to thought, as people grow older, it would be far more difficult to make genuine friendship. I was wrong. I found genuine relationship with her because we started off with brutal honesty. I was not afraid of saying straight to her face, as my roommate at that time, that she was a bit like a dictator. Perhaps bossy would be a softer and more appropriate word, but I knew she could handle my bluntness. She did.

She said, it was the first time anybody ever gave her such comment. She explained that probably her direct-ordering style stemmed from her time as an undergraduate student in University of Indonesia, Jakarta. Being in a metropolitan, you have to be very clear and straightforward in giving “order”. You have to be demanding. Otherwise, you would not get what you need. People in big city could be ruthless.

I could understand. Coming from a small city, I realized how different the situation was. It was perhaps like a battle of survival for her. Thank God I trusted her enough to tell my concern about her dictator-likeness. Since then, the rest was history. I am so glad that we met and found no need of inhibitions with each other.

As people grow older, I learn that some of them get increasingly insecure of themselves. They thought of themselves too high. They thought they are “more” than what they actually are. They are embarrassed of themselves as they are ever-trying to achieve what they thought ideal of that age bar. They are intensely fake because they know that perhaps they wouldn’t get there anyway. These type of people tend to have difficulties forming genuine friendship because they just want to show off, without anything that is actually worthy of showing off. They are frustrated and depressed.

My dear friend I wrote about in this post, is the opposite. I’ve never heard of anyone with such life calamities to take care of, yet she managed to sustain a “bring-it” mental attitude towards whatever troubles coming her way. She’s been through a lot but that didn’t drag her down. Despite life hardships that seems never-ending, although not always easy, she still found herself lucky. Lately, one of her struggle, that was to finance her youngest brother’s undergraduate education, had finally been paid off. She visited my hometown to attend the graduation ceremony and met by newborn.

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We still see each other whenever there is chance, given that now we live in different city. With her I could get one of the best feelings in the world, that is to genuinely feel happy for others. I followed through her life stories since our time in Den Haag to Jakarta, where we discovered the best street foods, casually exchanged our up-to-date life stories, and made jokes of anything overpriced. Those were reminiscence of my happy times with her and right now is another happy times of us. She’d been through a lot of struggle to finance her brother so I knew how happy she must be to finally see him graduate. I felt serene as I became so happy for her. She was also so happy for me with my newborn and it made my own happiness multiplied.

She truly is lucky at heart and it made me feel lucky to befriend such a lucky person. Here’s to more luck in our life!

Posted in Personal Musings

The Jeremy Project, Pt. 1

Last week, I stumbled upon one of my junior high school friend. She didn’t change a bit. She looks exactly the same like when I saw her the last time, around 15 years ago. She still got the same child-like face, with a small pair of eyes, small nose, small lips, small straight and soft hair in a ponytail. Her petite figure could easily made people think that she’s a school kid.

As she walked down the stairs of the oldest mall in my hometown, I greeted her.

“Hi, Prama!”

She brought a massive backpack on her shoulder and seemed to be in a hurry. She didn’t say anything, not even looking at me. So, I gleefully asked again,

“Hey I am your classmate from junior high school. We were at class VIII together. You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I do remember your face. But I forgot your name,” she said.

“What are you doing, where are you going to?” I asked without hesitation.

“I am taking a half-day work shift and I just reported my presence to the boss.”

“Oh, so you work here?”

“Well I work in this area but not at the mall,” she reluctantly explained.

“Okay,” i thought ‘how did she end up working in this area, what kind of job, etc. etc.’, but somehow I didn’t ask the question. I didn’t want to come across as rude or lack in sympathy. Instead, I asked her, “Do you want to see my newborn?” I didn’t know why I offered her to see my baby. Who knew? She might be interested. We hadn’t met for a long time, there’s a lot of catching up to do, and this might be a good start.

“Where is your baby?” she asked me her first question, regarding to my question earlier. She might not be interested at all to meet her nosy long-time-no-see friend and just wanted to walk away, quick, and end the (perhaps) uncomfortable encounter with me.

“He’s in Optik X with my mom.” I assumed she might have known already that the optic was located just inside the mall, ground floor. I thought it wouldn’t create such a hassle to walk perhaps 100 steps max to see my precious and spend 2 minutes max to at least see him and then got back to whatever she was going to do. But how I was wrong.

“I am sorry. I am in a hurry. I have to get my bicycle.” So, she’s riding a bicycle. I commended her on that. I knew where she lived and I assumed she still lived there with her parents. It’s not near from the mall. Why didn’t she ride a motorbike like any other people in this town? It’s saddening me to imagine her petite figure and childlike face had to go through danger on the road every workdays. I knew how hard bicycling is, I was riding a bicycle myself during university days. But maybe I underestimated her. I still thought she’s a 13 year old little girl from junior high school who needed to be protected.

The thought of her daily struggle on a bike consoled me from the fact that she probably didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Who knows when will we meet again? I am not going to be in this town for a long time. But she didn’t know my backstory. I also didn’t know her backstory. The difference was I wanted to know and she didn’t. Perhaps each of us thought of ourselves as the “normal” one and the other one as a “weird” human who had a problem. I might thought of her as distant, cold, unwelcoming. She might thought of me as annoying, unnecessary, not understanding. Or maybe she thought I was going to sell some Multilevel Marketing products.

She didn’t even think that what she did could make me feel unwanted. She was so preoccupied with God-knows-what. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it was the way I approach her. I should’ve asked “how are you”, so she might have a chance to explain what’s going on. But I thought that question was such a wishy-washy and people just replied “Oh I am fine” every time.

I should just stop over-thinking. Right there.

I didn’t know why I felt like I lost something. Some imaginary, one-sided, past friendship maybe?

I was demanding some sort of acknowledgment or recognition of the good things that I’ve done. I thought I did something noble by accompanying her during junior high school. Do you notice that on every school there were some students who were kind of isolated and nobody wants to be with them? Prama was definitely one of those students, I don’t know why, but because of that I decided to befriend her and really see her as a person. I was probably the only schoolmate ever to visit her house and witness her fondness of her turtle pets. Well I shouldn’t expect anything in return anyway.

If only she knew that I cared for her so much. I was the one who wrote her a fake love letter and put it in her school drawer. A letter on fancy paper with seven pink hearts on top and poetic words of secret crush. The letter made her smile so widely, a smile never seen on someone so shy and quiet. After school she talked to me giggly on our way to the bus station. She tried to guess who wrote the letter. I knew I lied to her, I wrote her a fake love letter. But it was all worth it by the look of her sparkly eyes.

There’s something about solitary students that make me want to take some action. I called it “The Jeremy Project” from Pearl Jam’s song, Jeremy. I will elaborate more on this in the next posts: what it is, how it started from an experience I had during elementary school, etc. Bottom line is, in this project I would try to be friend with solitary person who are rejected and singled out by all of their peers. I got some best friends from this life-long personal project. Yet some of were also caught as a pathological liar or someone with other mental disorder who needs help from professionals.

It was indeed fascinating to learn a wide range of human character. But lesson learnt, at least from Prama’s case, I should’ve known that such friendship would not last, because, it was not based on an equal relationship. I felt like I was doing a favor by being her friend. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t work out. Genuine friendship could only happen between equal partners.

… to be continued.