One says that what makes a book special is its ability to bring the reader back from one memory to another. Surprisingly, Jhumpa Lahiri beautifully put Rome, New Delhi, Bryn Mawr, and Frangipani, all those details in one story; an unanticipated pleasure I can’t contain myself.
It is a future letter from 30 years old soul who is trapped in an early 20’s body. She is appreciating the effort of practicing thoughtfulness since the beginning of adulthood so she is on the right track to get the chance living a life that she deliberately defines.
Dear my younger version of me,
I thank you for having been busy being ‘you’.
To be aware of that “be yourself” jargon is not equivalent to “be different(-self)” is such a brilliant baby step. It is definitely okay to listen to 100 billboard song chart like most of people do, to buy clothes at reasonable price shop the 99% goes to, to watch films the common chooses to. Having average personal taste is fine because in the age of mass adoption, becoming cool is a hard work—thank God you don’t waste your time trying to be one. The universal hunger for differentials is ridiculous, indeed. Conformity now is about everyone striving for distinction in the same way. Being a nonconformist, like you proclaim in your twitter bio, is just politically correct.
To distinguish between what you think you are supposed to do and what you really want to do is an essential job, too. I am glad you realize that becoming one’s self is not to become someone else. For the path less traveled you courageously choose, for the stances less supported you fearlessly defend, for the thoughts less agreed you still confidently speak up, you do live a life, you know. Sometimes being socially disapproved is necessary when you’re building your (temporary) identity. Independence is about prioritizing what inner voice tells you and knowing when to forego the approval of others. Keep on exercising that.
Now I am checking few things you need to make sure you have done them in your 20s (or promise me you would do before your body hitting 30.) Do you fall in and out of love lightheartedly? If you still don’t, please do soon. Also, please get the happily-ever-after scenario out of your mind. It only exists in Disney’s. Realistically speaking, the only thing relationship promises is a break-up: boyfri(end) & girlfri(end), fri(end)ship. However, there is good in every goodbye, no? So, worry not. Remember that us humans are destined to leave scars. When things end, it’s okay. It hurts for a while, but then wounded scars will find their own way to recover.
Next, as you always grow a day older, do you make mistake better? For those willing to learn, mistake is an excellent teacher. Do focus on failure. It might be the way to success. The more lesson-learned experiences you share to your job or scholarship interviewer(s), the more valuable your post-adolescent period is. Mistake is an infinite source of interesting stories. It electrifies your ordinary life. It’s a humble reminder that perfection is a myth.
Let’s see how happiness is doing. I believe it is impossible to be consciously happy. Happiness is one of those things that may be recognized only retrospectively—after it is lost. Plus, happiness is never meant to be permanent. To close this letter, let me cite one of my favourite philosophers, Hannah Arendt, who writes this on The Human Condition (1958): ‘There is no lasting happiness outside the prescribed cycle of painful exhaustion and pleasurable regeneration, and whatever throws out this cycle out of balance—poverty and misery where exhaustion is followed by wretchedness instead of regeneration, or great riches and an entirely effortless life where boredom takes place the exhaustion … ruins the elemental happiness that comes from being alive.’
"It’s all fragile and fleeting, dear reader, but with this swing set, your child(ren) will be introduced to the ups and downs of human life gently and safely, and may also learn the important lesson of all: No matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around." (‘Desperately Lonely Swing Set Needs Loving Home’ on The Fault in Our Stars, page 124.)
Michel Gondry creates Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and it is a must-watch.
Siapapun tak bisa berbusa-busa bicara tentang visi misi pendidikan dan kesehatan gratis jika untuk soal mendasar (jaminan untuk tak diambil paksa, diculik dan ditembak di luar hukum dan dengan sewenang-wenang) tak bisa dipenuhi.
Untuk apa imunisasi gratis jika setelah dewasa nyawa seorang anak bisa diambil dengan percuma? Untuk apa pendidikan gratis jika setelah seorang anak jadi cerdas dan lantas mengambil sikap kritis lalu bisa diambil begitu saja dengan alasan mengganggu ketertiban dan mengganggu Sidang Umum MPR? Untuk apa lapangan kerja jika setelah bersusah payah membangun rumah hasil bekerja sekian lama akhirnya harus terusir hanya karena keyakinan yang berbeda?
— Zen RS, dalam Karena Nyeri itu Setiap Hari, Bukan Lima Tahun Sekali.
— Audre Lorde, on her black lesbian feminist’s work, Sister Outsider.
Cuaca bagi kami adalah metafora. Menanyakan cuaca menjadi ungkapan yang digunakan saat masing-masing pihak menyimpan hal lain yang gentar diutarakan.
Keangkuhan memecah jalan kami, kendati cuaca menalikannya. Kebisuan menjebak kami dalam permainan dugaan, lingkaran tebak-menebak, agar yang tersirat tetap tak tersurat.
"Aku cerah, sama sekali tidak berawan. Kamu?"
"Bersih dan terang. Tak ada awan."
Batinku meringis karena berbohong. Batinnya tergugu karena telah dibohongi. Namun, kesatuan diri kami telah memutuskan demikian; menampilkan cerah yang tak sejati karena awan mendung tak pantas jadi pajangan.
Cuaca demi cuaca melalui kami, dan kebenaran akan semakin dipojokkan, Sampai akhirnya nanti, badai meletus dan menyisakan kejujuran yang bersinar. Entah menghangatkan, atau menghanguskan.
—Dee Lestari, dalam Filosofi Kopi.
If crying is an absolute female’s instinctive mode of responding unbearable, unfortunate events, then I am excluded. Biologically speaking, if tears is unavoidable form to releasing negative emotions, there could be something wrong with my lacrimal gland.
It was on June, 2011 when I cried too much. It was D-21 before my departure to Jakarta. I cried every time I recalled both beautiful and painful moments that happened during my exchange year. I vividly remembered my eyes still broke into tears while I was waiting for the plane in Doha. It was exactly three years ago when I found crying, to some point, could be exhilarating.
Some of us do not cry easily when things are out of control and getting really, really bad. We do feel mix feelings with different degrees of fear, confusion, disappointment, helplessness. But, crying is not our way to express them anymore.
To recover from unwanted emotions, we need to “hit the bottom”. When crisis comes, a smart coordinating minister of economic affairs will ask his team; ‘did we hit the bottom?’ When we already did, along with the macro-economics policy interventions and the magic of market activities, the economy will gradually rebound. Analogously, this explains how we can actually get over the ongoing negative feelings.
My kind of ‘hit-the-bottom’ moment is when my intangible, internal element finally weakens my immune system so I get flu at weekends after a deadlines-free week. The hard-to-breathe part divides my focus that I have an unresolved problem. The fever keeps me awake at late night so I can read book that surprisingly reminds me that in life, the difficulty is crucial; everything worthwhile has to be earned.
However, unlike the recovery of an economic crisis that can be accelerated by external intervention, I am afraid that it won’t work the same to human’s mysterious cycle of emotion because the decision is in our hands. We are the only director of our own life. We are the ones who know when to say, “Cut. Cut the drama.”
P.S. Worry not. Time can be a natural healer.
Dear Animale Rationale,
Looking back to western history of The Dark Age, nobody can’t kill people’s natural drive to know more. The intrinsic wonder prompts us to ask why, to search for evidence, to rationalise clues. At the beginning, it leads us to series of assumptions. But then, when they are (scientifically) proven and approved by (certain scientific) communities, they become knowledge and later they are called paradigm.
It is stark that humans are striving for explanations on what we see, hear, and feel. Despite of the fact that I am living in a post-modern age, which generally attacks the high confidence of modern thinkers on human capacity to reason, I am now in ally with the last prophet of late 20th century philosopher Jurgen Habermas whose presupposition that human is rational being—who, to me, have myriad of possible options to just arrange a meet up, talk about stuffs so both parties can arrive at the same page.
Well, that is a short epilogue inspired by my classes, philosophy of science and philosophy of social, which I find some of them do happen in our daily life—at least, in my own life. I completely understand that there are moments when we’re out of words. We feel like none of vocabularies in any language we are fluent in can represent the recent confusion that occupies our minds. If it is about only yourself, then I’ll say, enjoy and take your time.
But, if it is related to other human being, say, your parent, your close friend, your undefined partner, etc., please, you have to decide when you are going to stop talking with yourself. You need to be aware that the other party is waiting for your explanation. You shouldn’t make her/him feeling down until they feel numb for you. You can’t let your fellow human being reaching the point where they feel helpless for no reason or finally considering the sadness as a daily digest.
You. Just. Can’t. Do. That.
If what makes you doubt to have a face-to-face conversation is because you really have no idea what to say, let me help you composing your talking points.
First, don’t ask her/him how’s life, as the answer is obvious: messed-up. Just start it with narrating what happens to you since the confusion comes and why it takes quite amount of time to make peace with it.
Second, explain what you want to do next (consequentially, it requires a total honesty; you have to be clear on what you really want. Just tell the truth.)
Third, ask your fellow human being to do the first and the second points. If she/he prefers to write their answers down on a piece of paper, let them. The last but not least, close it with having a good laugh about how random each of you handle the emotionally draining assumptions and actually survive with that.
Indeed, we need a drop of courage to communicate our misunderstandings so problem will be resolved and we can continue our life.
I wish you a good luck.