In the past few months, I had tried to sit quietly and start writing again, which all led to multiple failed attempts. It wasn’t even an effort to write something worth posting publicly – just anything in general. Whether it’s in my laptop’s drive that will never see the light of day, or in my phone’s Notes app, let alone this blog. I was always either in the middle of something that required a lot of attention, or was never really in the right mindset to pour my thoughts and heart out even though what I did most of the time were thinking and feeling.
So this is me, attempting once again. In the days leading to Eid Al-Fitr, where naturally my desire to do work has diminished significantly and I probably couldn’t be bothered to catch up with things I know I eventually will do post-Eid, so one of the few things I could do to avoid feeling like a complete trash is to be back writing again. Here’s me sitting down in a rented apartment I just moved into around three weeks ago, still in the heart of the city I have never been a fan of despite all the positive thoughts I’m trying to “delude” myself with i.e., South Jakarta, with my husband.
The past few months, I have been nothing but swamped with work. Particularly since my return to Jakarta following my one-month vacation in May. My life has been revolving around my job and that only. And it has been a roller coaster of various moods and emotions, from tired to proud to drained to elated too. I did get a lot of things done and achieved, thankfully, but at what expense?
I have not talked properly to my closest friends in weeks – even months for some. My sibling is working on his undergraduate thesis, in a field that is somewhat close to my career, yet I could only pop in to check on his progress and help him polish his presentation or thesis draft every once in a while. Working from Jakarta again after two years of living in my hometown also means much less time to be with my four-legged furry kids, i.e., adorable pet cats. Things are also loosening with some of the people I met during and had kind of regularly talked to following my UK vacation, since the time zone difference itself has even been a challenge from the start.
Even little, seemingly-overlooked privileges such as going to bed when you feel that your body needs to rest without the crippling anxiety about not finishing your to-do list for the day yet, taking the time to scroll aimlessly on your Grab/Gojek/Shopee app to choose which food for lunch and supper today without guilt, enjoying a long shower with your favourite fragrance of body wash without worrying about having to immediately jump onto the next things on your calendar, or watching a couple of episodes of silly, wacky TV series just for the sake of it have become luxuries I am not always able to afford.
London, June 4th, 2022
As I typed these, I was sitting at a very unusually quiet corner at London Gatwick Airport, waiting for the first leg of a series of long-haul flights that would bring me home. After 32 days of being away from home for my “ultimate solo bachelorette pilgrimage,” a.k.a. post-pandemic solo revenge travel, my reality slowly brought me back to Earth.
That day felt much quieter than the previous 31 days. My eyes were still a little damp from all the sobs that lasted for hours last night. I was definitely sleep-deprived, and also felt bizarre – in a couple of hours, I would be leaving all the faces and places that have provided me not only a shelter to sleep at night in the past month, but also to build my own temporary nest among the foreign and unknown.
The past month had got me high on life and love – and it had been way too long since the last time I recognized those feelings of appreciation of what life could serve and offer. I forgot how much joy one can absorb and digest. I did not remember that there were a few better parts of me which had been asleep for quite long that I barely recalled even existing – and they had awakened again in the past month. There was a spectrum of emotions and feelings I hadn’t experienced in a while, and it was such a lovely pleasure to welcome those rainbows, butterflies, and even thunderstorms again. It was everything but numbness, unlike the preceding two years of surviving the strangest years of everyone’ life.
Actually, guilt may not even be the correct word for it. Guilt seems to imply that there is something wrong to be admitted, but for this particular situation, I don’t think that there is. I just haven’t found the exact term, and guilt feels to be the closest to what I’m currently feeling despite missing a certain justification.
There is this specific pattern that being in isolation had brought me to, which I’ve noticed more over the years. It began when I was still living in Edmonton, where oftentimes, especially during winter when everyone couldn’t be bothered to go outside and be in a -20°C weather, I would spend so much time alone that it forced me to only interact with and process my train of thoughts. As much as the loneliness felt miserable, funnily enough, there was also a good outcome that is being able to understand myself and my surroundings better despite the unpleasant process.
During the pandemic, even though I’m not quite literally alone since I’ve been back in my parents’ house to live with my family, being distanced from my partner, friends, or colleagues who were the people I’ve drawn closer to in my adult years, has somehow also brought the pattern back. I was never the kind of person who needs to regularly talk to or text other people as most of the time I can enjoy my time alone, and with the added fact that we’re not obliged to interact every day, the habit of overanalyzing things finds its way back to me. As a result, I have also added a category in this blog called the Pandemic Pondering to document my contemplations.
And while it seems that I’ve been experiencing explosions of ideas to write about recently, it seems to be more of a collection of sighs and whines instead of some fruitful revelations – although I would also argue that some of it does contain quite a bit of enlightenment in my self-discovery journey. I’ve been treating this blog as my primary source of therapy, and I do appreciate that some people sometimes swing by to remind me that I’m not alone. Nevertheless, I would still joke to myself that I should probably edit the tagline of this blog from “words, whimsies, wanderlogue, and whatnot” to also adding “whines” in front of it. (Well, shall I?)
Akhir tahun ini, umur saya akan menginjak angka 28. Artinya, lebih dekat ke kepala tiga dibanding 25 – yang biasanya adalah batas usia untuk masih pantas disebut young adult. Agak aneh, mengingat kalau saya bertemu dengan orang-orang berusia dua puluhan awal saya masih suka berpikir, “Oh, masih satu generasi lah ya kita.” Hingga saya sadari, adik saya sendiri usianya sudah 21 tahun saat ini, dan kami bahkan lahir di milenium yang berbeda! Bahkan mungkin saya adalah salah satu acuan baginya saat memikirkan contoh figur orang dewasa. Yang dianggap dan diharap sudah bisa memegang penuh kontrol akan hidup masing-masing beserta segala tanggung jawab dan konsekuensinya.
Padahal, salah satu yang paling sulit dari menjadi dewasa bagi saya justru adalah mengelola self-control. Tahun ini sudah tahun keenam saya hidup tanpa rutinitas dan jadwal yang ditentukan oleh sistem, namun rasanya saya masih tergopoh-gopoh dalam memegang kemudinya.
Among other things, which are mostly the awful ones, the pandemic has strangely helped me reevaluate many views in my life. One of them is the realization that the common mindset of “work isn’t meant to be happy, it’s meant to be done so you can use your paycheck to afford things that make you happy” may not only be outdated, but also a little peculiar. I used to live by that motto, thinking that it doesn’t matter if I have to spend more than half of my awake time every day dealing with things that are less interesting than my leisure activities. Because at the end of the day, I get paid for it, and I can then use my income to afford things that not only I genuinely love about, but also won’t be able to afford otherwise, such as travelling.
But I never noticed how sad that idea might sound, until the pandemic.