Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 13: Favourite things

Give us a list of your favourite things from 2013. Could be material items, food, people, anything!

In no particular order:

Interviewing Sharon Corr.
I have always been a fan of The Corrs, many of their songs were the anthems of some of the most memorable moments I had in the 2000's. It was only natural that I jumped into the offer to exclusively interview her when she visited Jakarta in September. In about twenty minutes, I went from being star-struck to inspired, as she talked about her many experiences and thoughts as a musician, a humanitarian, a mum, and a woman.

Taking candid pictures.
There is something challenging, yet compelling, when it comes to taking a picture of someone doing something without telling them to pose beforehand, knowing that I am about to make the moment immortal to some extent. 

Kindle Paperwhite.
After being in my wish list for far too long, I can finally own my very own e-book reader. Credit goes to Angga, who bought this for me when he went to the States earlier this year. It was almost like a birthday present, too, because I got it only a couple of days after my birthday. Yays!

Even writing the name of this food ignites my craving already. Buying it from Star Mart was almost a daily thing, then I started a new job in which not one, but two persons actually sell it at the office, willingly visit my floor and offer it right in front of my eyes. What else can I do?

Spending a week in Hong Kong and Macau with mum and baby sister.
It was raining for hours everyday during our trip, but we got to go to Disneyland, shopped like there's no tomorrow for a week, and tried delicious dishes at a halal restaurant nearby our hostel. Also, having people I hold most dear as travelling companions made me feel at home all along, only with different setting.

Van Gogh: Painted With Words
The BBC production has everything I want in a TV movie - and more. A documentary drama in period setting, check. Historical accuracy, because the entire dialogue was made from written documents, including Vincent Van Gogh's letter to his brother Theo, check. Benedict Cumberbatch, check. Completely awed? Obviously. My favourite line is when he talked about his infatuation for his cousin, Kee, "To love... what a business."

I discovered the Japanese multi-talented musician when somebody posted the music video of his song Katachi on Facebook, and I was hooked. Since then, I have been listening to his songs over and over again it practically became my anthem for the first few months of the year. One of these days, should I need a little pick-me-up, Rum Hee and Parachute never fail to put a smile upon my face.

This is a compilation of RA Kartini's letter, translated from Dutch into English. This book is an eye-opener, to say the least, especially because some of her written thoughts are unbelievably relevant after over a hundred years. Quote-worthy lines are all over the book, and one of my favourite is on gratitude: "But is it not a sad thought that we must be reminded of the lack in others, in order to appreciate our own advantage?"

A bouquet of white roses.
My two co-workers at that time, Achie and Fahmi, gave it to me for my birthday present. I still have it in its original shape. It smells like honey and I love it. Maybe, some time later, I shall make a pot-pourri out of the petals.

I get to wear this clothing item more often now, as I do not have to take public transportations to get to work any more. I enjoy wearing them as they are so versatile and I cannot get enough of them. Obviously, I intend to have more. There is no such thing as too many dresses.

Lactasoy Green Tea.
Cannot talk too much about it other than this: I would rather buy this other than any green tea blend/frappé drink from literally anywhere. It is THAT good. Plus, it is only about IDR 20k a box.

Hello Kitty travel pillow. 
When I saw it in a little store in Ladies Market area in Hong Kong, I grabbed it with no second thoughts. First, it is Hello Kitty - it has catlike ears and all. Second, it is cute. It may be white, therefore it might get dirty easily, but I can always sent it to the laundry when that happens.

Postcards sent by friends. 
I love sending and receiving postcards, although I don't really fancy the notion of "if I have sent you a postcard you must reply it". I have always wanted to display them somewhere so I can see them all the time, and I am glad to have as I dedicated a special corner for them in my room. If you feel like sending me one, let me know so I can share you my address privately ;)

Friday, December 06, 2013

Day 6: Blowing Out the Candles

You’re another year older!  How did you celebrate the passage of another year?  Did it turn out the way you had hoped?

I had rice-flavoured Cerelac for breakfast at my workplace, simply because I could. (Honestly, though, those who believe that this has to do with my, or anyone's, maturity, might want to Google a little bit more about what maturity actually is.) Did some work. Then the delivery man arrived with my order: assorted shiumay arranged in a cone shape, just like the traditional tumpeng, for everyone at the office. No candle to blow, but I did make a bit of birthday wish. It is safe to say that my colleagues loved the food, and the birthday wishes they gave me were truly heart-warming.

The holy workload called again after the lunch break. Sometime after dusk, my colleagues Achie, Fahmi and I went to a steakhouse to claim their free steak promo for everyone on their birthday. (Angga was not there because he was in San Francisco, busy mingling with Agnes Monica and all). One of the waiters at the steakhouse gave me a tiara-shaped head accessory "for the birthday girl to wear", he said. So I did. 

Some time later after that, I had a dinner with my mum and baby sister, some other after-office meetup with friends from different circles, then a lunch with my dad (not really in that order). 

There was not really any party or anything fancy, but the best celebrations are ones that includes food, friends (and/or loved ones), and conversations.

Another highlight of the day: Ery, a member of the volunteer team I worked with at the Global Youth Forum last year made me a thoroughly thoughtful video, compiling the birthday wishes from the fellow volunteers. I was overwhelmingly touched with the effort of everyone involved. This reminded me about how genuine and invaluable some presents can be, and I loved every second of it.
I cannot really recall what I hoped for on my birthday. It is good, I suppose, because I ended up not over-think about how some things did not work out. All things considered, though, it was a good start.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Day 5: Challenge

Did you take on a new challenge? What was it? Is there any challenge you deliberately avoided? What do you want to do to challenge yourself in 2014?

(Note: this will be a long post.)

On New Thrills
The word "challenge" has a special place in my dictionary. I believe that challenges come in many ways, but the way we handle them depends on how we see them at the first sight. For the past several years, I have learned not to label things as neither "difficult" nor "easy", but simply "challenging". Apparently, such state of mind helps me to take things in a more lighthearted and welcoming manner, with no unnecessary over (or under) estimation.

I am pleased to say that I did take a new challenge this year, which may even be life-changing. Starting over a career was particularly challenging, especially because I used to be so unsure about how good will I do in journalism. To finally being able to do journalism works in a regular basis is apparently very fulfilling, and I cannot be happier. 

My (at that time) prospective boss were right after all, when she said to me in the final interview, "Working here, you will encounter plenty of challenges along the way. I know you would like it, though, because you seem to like being challenged." 

True, there is something about challenges that I simply cannot get enough with. Maybe it is the sense of accomplishment, or possibly the rush of gratification for simply trying and giving my best shot. Challenges give me something to aim for, and they elevate my self-esteem once they are done.

On the other hand, I believe that challenges can also be alarming, that is if one takes it by incorporating others’ achievements into their benchmark, ending up with them making comparisons. I agree with Kristin Neff, Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, when she stated that comparing ourselves to others has been a means to generate self-esteem, and it is not seen as good enough to be average.

Arguably, this is how we start being the worst critic for our own self.

On Making Comparisons
According to social comparison theory, we compare ourselves to others in an effort to make accurate self-evaluation and produce further self-enhancement. Nevertheless, I have always felt uneasy with the notion "If others can do it, I (or you) can do it, too". It may sound discouraging, as the statement provokes the spirit of competition and conquering challenges, yet I could not really reason such discomfort, until very recently.

Comparisons may be a promising source of motivation, but it feels personally awkward for me to determine my self-worth using others as points of reference. Often times, instead of motivating, it gets me questioning my own worth, and eventually drags me into the abyss of self-doubt. 

It is not so challenging to say, "Oh, I am nothing compared to X, she is effortlessly good-looking, she has a GPA that lands her the job I have always dream of, she had been travelling to every destination I put in my "places to go before you die" list, she can get her hands on things I want to own but can never afford, her non-academic achievements are unbeatable, and look at that gorgeous boyfriend of hers…" and it goes on.

Apparently, there are two kinds of comparisons: upward (observing those who seem to have it better than us regarding qualities that we desire) and downward (observing those who seem to have it worse). Thomas Plante, Ph.D., former President of Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality of the American Psychological Association,furthermore explains, "We often feel better about ourselves and our lives when making downward comparisons, and feel bad about ourselves when making upward comparisons."

I believe that the core problem of comparisons comes down to the concept of gratitude. Many of us have been taught to be grateful "because there are a lot of less unfortunate people out there". I never quite able to grasp this concept, because what is the point of being grateful for your own life if you have to firstly take a glimpse of others’ just to be able to do that?

Even as a kid, I was happy to have a lollipop in my hand not because my other friends did not, but because I could taste it and it tasted good. Under that notion, should I then be grateful for my lollipop because I had it and others did not, even if it was because they prefer chocolate or ice cream to lollipops?

Sometime in 2013, I realised that measuring own strength and weaknesses through other people’s achievements is simply unfair. It is a losing battle, because I have always been aware that each individual in this world is unique, yet somehow I forgot that it contributes to who they are and what they could be.

Instead, it would only make me pity myself for being unable to be what others are, or to get what others have.On another hand, even if I want their accomplishments, but would I be able to walk on their shoes and die trying?

The Upcoming Challenge
To encounter self-criticism as one of the possible harms of comparisons, Neff coined the term 'self-compassion’, highlighting two problems that stop us from obtaining it. "One, when we criticize ourselves, we reinforce the illusion of control… It’s scary to admit how little control we sometimes have. Two, we really believe that we need self-criticism to motivate ourselves… [W]hen we are in a self-critical place, this is the worst possible mindset in which to do our best," she affirmed.

I believe that, although comparisons may still be relevant to some extent, it is time to start looking inward, to appreciate who we essentially are, the particular life and experiences we have, and what are we capable of as an individual, among other personal highlights.

Making peace with our own self, I suppose, is a lifelong challenge. Nevertheless, acknowledging this feels liberating, because I know that I have better alternative than to succumb to the (subjectively) vague concept of motivation and gratitude. Now that I am aware of the vicious threat of comparing myself with others, and how it interferes the way I am being genuinely thankful, I establish this notion as my main homework in 2014.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Day 4: 20/20

Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present. Is there one moment you wish you could do over?

Sometimes, nay, often, I believe that I did not work hard enough, well enough, whole-hearted enough, it makes me feel like going back to the past so I can do it better. But since I cannot, because even in time-travel related movies it is an illusion, let me take this thought into a different light and make a totally hypothetical point.

Earlier this year, I had a job interview with a prominent print media. To be one of their reporters used to be my dream job back in college, and after a few selection phases, I was there for an one-on-one interview with an executive editor.

I remember he commented on my look, and said, "If you were to work at my place, you might not be able to keep dressing up like this. You will be taking public transportations and chasing deadlines every single day, you will not have time to spare to touch-up."

I still believe that he may be right. After all, he was the one with more experience. But he may also be wrong, because he has never put any make-up on and been clueless on deciding what to wear in the morning, before leaving home and seizing the day. 

I am not sure if my answer at that time has enlightened him enough, that I believe that looking shabby should not be a prerequisite to be a newspaper journalist, and what matters more is to be presentable so your sources will not look down on you because of how you look. I would love to have a(nother) shot to tell him that.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Day 3: Brave

What was the bravest thing you did in 2013?

Bravery is a strange thing. I had to look it up on Google to find what it actually means, and I ended up not only finding entries on what it means literally and what people have previously said about it, but also myself even more confounded.

I have written something on this matter, actually, but I do not think it is not quite relevant with today's prompt. Besides, there are a lot of reason to be afraid that I have encountered this year, and some of them linger up until this very moment.

On the other hand, I believe that bravery does not come in bulky size or in form of a big, strong man who saves the world. Sometimes, it presents itself in small, virtually undetectable things, but they are things that actually matter.

Maybe, it is like when I told my mum that I have just interviewed an ENT specialist and talked about respiratory allergies. I hinted that having too much stuff in the house means more dust mites, which is one of the most common allergens. I encouraged myself to say, "I think we have a little too much."

Surprisingly, she responded, "Yes, I think you're right. Let's get rid of some stuff."

Monday, December 02, 2013

Day 2: Shine

What was the best moment of 2013?

I know that in order to have something started, something else has to end first. Probably, though, sometimes I wish for some things never to end, making me forget what I have initially known. 

Parting is such a sweet sorrow, Shakespeare wrote, and I know it is. Especially when it is a surprise farewell party, with cheesecake and some of the best co-workers in the world included.

I remember when I laughed tearfully with the people I lived this moment with. I believe that people with whom I can laugh so hard I cry my eyes out are some of the nicest people to be with, and I have found them then. Working with them was a pleasure and an honour I wish never to end.

It was like an amicable break-up, that I know will happen eventually. I felt relieved that it happened anyway, because afterwards, I returned to the path I always knew I was meant to take: journalism.

Disclaimer: this was not the actual strawberry cheesecake. Photo taken from here. Fahmi did an awesome job filming the moment, but I am so private I will not share it :p

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Day 1: Start

Where did you start 2013? Give some background on this year.

As I began 2013, I was in the heart of the capital city, spending the New Year's Eve with my mother, who came all the way from my home town. There were fireworks and music, but there was literally rain on the parade and the car-free night was awfully packed with people. It didn't matter much, because we then decided to go back to my lodging, located only ten minutes walk from where we were. 

I had a pleasant mother-daughter date in the afternoon. It felt nice to be able to take her out to lunch and dinner.

But you are not here to read that kind of bland description, are you?

At the beginning of the year, I remember feeling a void, as I realised that I was living in a borrowed heaven. I knew that the clock was ticking, and I did not like it. Knowing what was coming did not help me preparing for it, because instead, I went frantic.

I kept on telling myself that things can only get better, and in the meantime, I just need to make the most of what I had. However, I guess that at that time I was not convincing enough, because I did not believe what I said. 

Also, I believed that people can never really be ready for anything. As something happens, one got to do what one got to do, and make necessary adjustments along the way, as long as you stick with where you are going.

It brings back a little bit of bitterness actually, to reminisce and write about what happened. Nevertheless, I am glad it happened, because it made the rest of the year so much more palatable. 

Well, you know, like dark chocolate.

Photo taken from here.