Friday, November 29, 2013

Tampons and Sanitary Pads: A girl becomes a woman

With a new shiny handbag in tow, she enters the room in barely walkable heels, strutting her stuff as if it were her debutante ball. Her friends greet her, cooing at her long, wavy hair (thanks Digital Curl!) and the dash of red on her lips. For the rest of the meal, the girls expose their lives and their recent achievements. Coming home has never felt so, hmm... how should I put this? So competitive.

At the end of what seems to be a business meeting, the girls disperse into various areas of the mall. Some go straight to another restaurant to meet their beau, while others head to the parking lot to go home. Everyone is left with a new understanding of society. Now, everyone is one step closer to becoming a better woman.

In 2002, Britney Spears launched "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." Though the song has since been shoved into long nostalgic playlists, the message somehow remains true. As millions of people journey through this well-written path, the world often forgets that it is a process, a spectrum of possible moves in a structured game. We forget that there is a grey zone between girl and woman. Moreover, we no longer abide by societal rules, especially with the emergence of a culture that tries to rewrite the entire operation. As one travels through different countries, they will experience multiple choices that carry a set of consequences and advantages. For instance, the sheer difference between tampons and sanitary pads. A girl in the U.S. might be more inclined to use the former, whereas it is rarely the case in Indonesia. There is no universal script that takes one from being a girl to being a woman. Even if there is, it is a crude and flimsy generalization that is too ambiguous to pursue.

Moreover, the entire process is clouded by a larger equivocation. What does it mean to be an adult? When does one become an adult? With the advent of globalization, new rites of passage are created as others are laid to rest. Entering womanhood is one part of being an adult. Some would say that it is a much more specific, gender-determined journey to adulthood that is exclusive to women. I would argue that it would be faulty to say that it is only directed to females, as many members of the group have created and adopted other scripts. Therefore, I would cling on the idea that women, or girls, have the privilege to take on this pilgrimage towards becoming a woman.

The experience of having a change of scenery at a critical transitional moment is both a blessing and a curse. As I shift between two worlds, I have had to mold my script as best as I could to avoid retribution. Instantaneously, I wrote my own script, the "honest script" if there ever was one, and kept it to myself. To appear malleable, whilst navigating through different societies, is to be a target. Others shamelessly press their values against you, as they would to a rag doll or a ball of Play-Doh.

Sometimes, I wonder if life would be much better without societal pressure. Would we walk aimlessly, looking around for some sort of sign, or some sort of map? Or would we create diverging scripts? If so, would we fight for what is right and create a new list of rules, or are we capable of accepting and respecting each others' choices? Would girls be able to wine and dine without looking like an army? Would girls take the freedom of having no boundaries to their advantage or coward off in search of some sort of larger plan?

Sometimes, I wonder...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shave Your Armpits and Talk About It

Oh My God! 

"You can get away with it," she says, "-they're not rough at all."

My roommate of three days just glided her fingers on my "virgin" leg, examining the hair that covers the area. Minutes ago, my new group of friends had just asked if I was a feminist. This happened in 2010, when we were all naive high school students who just met at a pre-college summer program. That day, I hit a lot of firsts. It had been the first time a girl had touched my leg, the first time I had been called a feminist, and the first I had ever talked about fuzz with friends.

Three years later, I would have a similar, yet less candid experience with my high school best friends, girls whom I've known since 2009, girls with whom I spent hundreds of lunch breaks with.

"Do you shave?" one asked, hesitantly as she cuts her meal.
"Shave where?" the other answered. I am awed by the sudden shift from eyebrow waxing to hair trimming.
"Yeah, you need to be more specific or we might get into dangerous territory here," I said in between bites, trying hard not to drop any awful puns.

We spent another ten minutes on the subject, perusing different methods of "hair-care" from shaving to waxing to lasers. Though we kept a healthy distance from the entire Brazilian fiasco, we did glaze over armpits, upper lip, eyebrows, and legs.

Legs! Shaving! Girls! 
As I sat, drinking avocado juice stirred with chocolate and whip cream (a huge no, no amongst my friends), I wondered why it took so long for the topic to even emerge. A common subject amongst many of my American friends, shaving appeared to be taboo for so long that I, perhaps, even forgot to bring it up. Also, I had created my own regimen and therefore did not require any guidance or recommendations from my friends. Was it just a coincidence, or did culture get in the way?

During my time in the U.S., I realized how women's revolution and sexual liberation impact the most minute details of our lives. First, my roommates at Brown interpreted my untouched legs to be an expression of feminism. Second, it didn't take much bonding for us to actually get to the heart of the matter and explore much more intimate subjects, such as a shaving. In contrast, I think that Indonesians are much more reserved about these subjects. What we do in the morning, in the bathroom, or in front of the mirror, is off-bounds.

The contradiction on the theme of shaving is neither good or bad. To me, it just proves how different cultures can be, despite controlling for certain variables, such as age, gender, education, and socioeconomic status. Lack of boundaries often instigates the building of walls or bubbles, whilst the existence of an invisible wall, requires the extraction of certain bricks. Being too close to comfort is as equally inconvenient as being barricaded from one's small tendencies. Both can be the foundation of a long-lasting friendship, as well as a fight.

Perhaps, a little thing such as shaving proves how different we can be, depending on time, geography, family upbringing, and so on. It also demonstrates the dangers of generalization and stereotyping. Not all teenage girls bond over shaving or waxing together in the salon. Yet, not all teenage girls keep silent about the subject. Some are much more explorative and comfortable about it than others. Critical thinking is salient to understanding these minute, yet interesting phenomenon. But at the end of the day, as funny as it is, little differences such as these are what makes the world a colorful, exciting arena.

 * Author owns rights to all photos above

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fighting Over The Check: Society in its funniest form

Oh society, why do you make yourself so appealing?

The sheer hilarity of paying dinner has been swirling around my head just like a delicious soft ice cream would atop a cone. As tongues lick the final remnants of dessert on their lips and the "to-go" doggy bag arrives, eyes begin to shift nervously, while hands quickly reach for a wallet, a card, some cash. The waiter is blissfully ignoring our table, providing time for a little dance. One that is very well choreographed, the adults at the table begin to fight over the check. Meticulously practiced for years, the dance could either end in shambles or lip-tight agreement. 

A Pool of Intrigue
Union Square, NY

In our twenties, we split the check evenly, knowing that no one actually has the balls to cover the entire bill. By the time we enter the big 3-0, based on my observation, one begins to slide into this socially-constructed idea of hierarchy, whether it is based on profession, paycheck, education-level, or gender. Of course, the relationship between the patrons of the dinner table also factor in, as well as the whole debacle of who invited whom. Beyond forty everyone is used to it. No one really breaks a sweat when the check comes, as the choreography has become as familiar as eating dinner itself. 

Yet, when one moves from one society to another, things can get more than uncomfortably murky. In some countries, such as Indonesia, it depends on who you are hanging out with. Women who dine together without their husbands commonly split the check. However, when the husbands are present it is a whole different ballgame. In the U.S., the determinants lay heavily on the occasion and the relationship between members of the group. 

That's Why Some of Us Need Others to Pay!
Why am I babbling about the simple, albeit complicated act of paying the check, you ask? 

Well, one thing is true, the ramifications of a slip or two left feet can be diabolical. For instance, a man brings his family to meet a mother and son in a restaurant. All of the children are below the age of paying for the check. It isn't clear who invited whom. When the check comes, the man quickly pays for dinner, although it is the woman's turn to pay. Sitting there, you might realize the significance of paying the bill towards one identity. The man, I believe based on personal experience, would want to get the check because he is the man. Masculinity is tightly associated with the ability to support a family, as well as others. To provide is to be a man, so to speak. Therefore, to deny a man from paying could perhaps be seen as denying his masculinity. When we talk about it in that sense, suddenly it doesn't seem so preposterous for him to fight over the check on the dinner table. 

On the other hand, the woman may feel like a burden if this continues on regularly. Imagine having someone else pay for your son's and your dinner every single time you have dinner together. Wouldn't you feel like a heavy sack of rice? Perhaps, this is one of the more subtle indicators of women's awkward position in society. Although we are past the women's rights movement, women continue to be denied of paying dinner.

Another salient aspect of this entire situation is money. Money is the symbol of class, success, and even gender and race. Try over thinking the symbolism behind paying the check. It proves how money belongs to one person and not to the other, in one way or another. Furthermore it points out the haves and the have nots, whether it is money or privilege. 

The privilege to get the check is one that extends to our identity, and perhaps that is what makes it intriguing to observe and analyze. Again, society, oh society, how you make me so fascinated and funny hard to fathom but the sheer amount of facets that you embody clearly makes for a good, albeit complicated, conversation.
*Author owns rights to all photos above

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shocking Family History: The funny thing about being shipped off to the U.S. at seventeen

Determination is a funny thing, but family history is even funnier, I guess.

During the final years of high school as university brochures begin to pile up atop my cupboard and SAT daily questions begin to clog my spam folder, a question arose quite unexpectedly. Resembling a a Jack-in-the-Box that would inevitably jump out of the box much to my annoyance, this question intrigued me, which was much better than utter blandness. The question in question, ha (not very intelligently so) is "So, darling, I see that you are going abroad for university. Are your parents actually letting you go so far? I mean it's an awful lot of traveling. Also, it would be such a shame since you're their only child." Maybe it would not be so reminiscent of questions in the 50s, but doesn't Jakarta's social scene sort of mimic 50s decor?

Ugh! Why are you asking me all these questions???

Accounting for my status as an only child, many believed that my parents would never allow me to study in the U.S., which is practically on the other side of the globe. Funny thing is, 1) if I were a boy the question would never come up, and 2) if I were not an only child there might be some chance that it would not emerge. Yes, if I had something dangling between my thighs I would probably be shoved off to the States or somewhere further and far more brutal. If I were a boy with siblings I would even be thrown to the wolves. Maybe, if I remained a girl, but had siblings, they'd think that it was reasonable to ship me off to a closer foreign country. Whatever the combination, I sincerely believed that it did shock some people that my parents would send me to America, especially New York.

America is so far... No but, really though
Yet, coming back to the first sentence above, my parents and I were (sort of) determined to have me study in the States, even at a very young age. And perhaps this all had to do with family history. Three generations before me, my grandmother's brothers (literally) sailed to Holland, albeit together but still they were without parental guidance or a guardian. Two generations before me, my uncle and aunt began studying in metropolitans before they turned fourteen, again without parental supervision. I guess, I had the privilege of being born to a family crazy for education. Whether you're a girl or a guy, you were going to go somewhere far to study. Rarely did we own a car before turning twenty-five, despite the number of family members who lived miles apart from their parents and siblings for the sake of education.

Realize that every family treasures its own priorities. Your family may have other passion and rites of passage. For instance, I know a family whereby the grandmother would offer the granddaughters plastic surgery when they reach a certain age. There's another that requires its daughters to attend a debutante. To outsiders, these traditions would seem to go against nature, much like they did when they found out that my parents allowed me to study in the NY.

For a good amount of time we are shielded from other people's familial customs, but here's another thing for ya: wait till' you get married, then, maybe you have to understand or follow these mind-boggling procedures!

*Author owns rights to all of the photos above

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

50th Post: A celebration of my readers and pixie dust

After being in a research class, surveys have become an insignificant part of life. It loses it's irritating nature, adopting a blandness similar to bread sticks. You can do without them, but sometimes, for whatever reason, be it extra credit or to support a friend, you fill the sucker out. Well today, a friend sent me hers. For once, the questionnaire boasted a list of beguiling, yet familiar inquiries. Unlike most tests I had taken, this one revolved around determination and procrastination. It asked me how often I completed my goals within a week. Long story short, I am not one to linger. In high school, my friends dubbed me "The Project Dash," which referred to a game that requires one to be swift in serving customers at a restaurant. Though I often find myself a week early with my work and ambitious with my goals, rarely do I embark on a whim, such as this blog.

The very first post 
Earlier this year, I began pondering on a name, one that would aptly explain all of the letters bottled up in my head. I even thought about the consequences to starting an online journal. Would it be too predictive of a twentysomething to start something a blog? Isn't it too mainstream? Imagine the risk of appearing immature, narcissistic, and worst of all, an airhead! Yes, all of those questions and concerns fluttered in my head and in my stomach as I journeyed into Blogger. In high school I had begun an online journal, which failed to be filled with consistent entries. But, truth be told, maybe there is something to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps, deep down, I had made up my mind about this blog. Maybe, writing in private and for others felt no longer sufficient. 

Admittedly, this blog had to crawl before it could tumble about. A few months after inception, it still had none but two entries. It looked sad. Really. Though I was tenacious and quick in nature, I did not have enough drive to rally up my wits and consistently produce articles. The good thing about modern technology is that one could start small and stay small, until further decision is made. 

Who would have thought that I would one day write my 50th post? Not me. 

One of Many Favorite Posts

The summer is the seasonal catalyst for change. Twentysomethings, New York University Class, was the benzene this blog required. A weekly assignment jumpstarted this forgotten and seemingly hopeless endeavor. Without it, I would not have reached this post nor the amount of readership that this blog has garnered. As someone who relies on herself too frequently, I have forgotten the meaning of serendipity, of external factors, be it pixie dust to fly or an unplanned variable that would push me to reach a goal that so long remained in the peripheries of my mind. 
Some Comments About KisahJika.Com - For #48
This 50th post is a tribute to all the little things that "accidentally" helps us succeed, as well as to the loyal and new audience of


Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Is a Piece of Cake, Or Does It Just Make Your Arms Hurt?

Written on a particular evening:

Earlier this morning, a friend left me with a compelling remark. She and I graduated from the same high school, contribute to the same online publication, and write. However, earlier today, she commented on how easily writing came to me, which lead me to question the validity of said statement.

Does writing come easily to some people and not others? What underlying mechanism differentiates those two groups?

Since I have yet found compelling scientific argument on the matter, I will resort to my own personal experience. (Anecdotes, such an understated form of rebellion).

Ironically, as a child I refused to write. Instead of devouring books and writing stories, I would draw. It took less meticulous attention than writing did. And perhaps, writing today feels as fluid as it felt to draw as a child. At that time, I was aware that my drawings would not be spared from judgment, while my writing would not. Instead, it would go straight to the chopping board. Much like teenage writing, children's drawing are acceptably cryptic. Maybe, that's the second clue, as time progresses and individuals go through the various developmental stages, they alter their hobbies according to societal expectations, as well as the biological changes that they have and continue to experience.

Moreover, as I aged I became inspired by much more complex ideas, ones that required advanced drawing methods. At that time, with the onset of essay writing for college applications and the SATs, my writing somewhat improved. Day-by-day I learned new words that helped me unravel the feelings and social dynamics I had so want to express through pictures. Back then, I also poured "my soul" (ugh, teen angst) into photographs, which still had its limitations. Alphabets and words and sentences somehow broke that wall. It forced me to expand my thoughts and write awfully long-winded stories that had insignificant yet smart-looking tangents. At the same time, I became engrossed in using metaphors and being able to disguise messages through a constellation of illustrations, funnily, of characters and subplots. Furthermore, it did not hurt to have all the support in the world to allow me to constantly type.

Writing had yet turned itself into my passion, instead it was merely a habit, a pragmatic solution to a convoluted mind.

Soon enough, I went off to college, a liberal arts school that emphasized on writing instead of tests. With enough nurturing, any plant can grow to a significant extent. After my first year, another friend told me that it was clear to her that Sarah Lawrence had rubbed off on me and my writing. Support, again, is invaluable, especially to someone who delves in the arts and literature, two fields that resemble the shooting range. Slowly I became aware of different styles of writing. The classes I took were both interesting and beneficial in that they exposed me to a wide array of books and texts that were mind-blowingly eloquent, simple, and direct in delivery. Going to the theatre as often as I do only pushed the me further. The usage of words in plays, poetry, music, and musicals made me a bit wilder than I normally am.

Only then did writing become my "signature." After several turbulence, tons of time, and a stack of abandoned drafts did I began to write consciously. Following a series of opportunities, I realized the importance to consistently write, as well as write publicly. Now, I continue to contribute to several online publication, whilst persistently entertaining you through this blog, which would not have taken off without the insistence of a teacher. Writing, though stressful at times, allows my eyes to constantly seek inspiration (and I think it has definitely made my life much, much more delicious).

P.S. Writing is not for everyone. However, the jolt that you feel is out there, somewhere. Whether it is filmmaking, costume design, aerodynamics, editing, or being a mom, there is something for everyone, right?

*Author owns rights to all of the photos above

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sleeping at 8 PM in Your 20s

Sleeping is innate, yet subtly socially constructed that once you realize it your head goes "Woah!" or something like that.

As a child, your sleeping habits are most likely determined and maintained by a small group group of people: parents/guardian and yourself. Little autonomy is granted to the child. "Bedtime" is often well-calculated, factoring in today's activities, as well as tomorrow's, and other variables, such as food intake and the length of nap time. Every so often, when opportunities arise, this fixed time slot deviates, whether it is due to a late-night party, jet lag, or a sickness.

How time changes... by Tiffany Robyn Soetikno

With time, however, bedtime experiences as much change as the individual does. During a divorce, a child may sleep less because the parents are fighting audibly somewhere in the house. With the birth of a sibling, the child may not have as much cuddling time with his parents or guardian. With a death in the family, one may not be able to fall asleep as swiftly as he/she would if they had just gone to an amusement park.

Age also factors in. Before thirteen, I would sleep at 8 PM. Then, slowly, I began sleeping at 9 PM. Some nights, whilst in my teens, I would sleep at 10 or 11 PM. But rarely did that occur, especially on school nights. I successfully avoided pulling an all-nighter throughout high school and am still going strong even in college (knock on wood!) Rare nights, I would sleep at 4 AM, especially when my friends stayed over but that really only happened a few nights per year.

Much like other aspects of life, sleep often comes unappreciated.

About ten months ago, I began having trouble falling asleep. Personally, I don't mind waking up several times in the middle of the night as long as I could fall asleep swiftly. A constant dreamer, I cherished nightly visitors, perhaps even more than my real adventures. However, in February it took me more than two hours to fall asleep. Slowly, I learned to sleep at an earlier time, in order to factor in the time that might be lost. I would sleep at 8:30 PM and wake up at 5:30 AM, feeling rested and alert.

Unable to Sleep! by Lili Liong

After nights of good sleep, my productivity increased. I was able to read books quicker, write entries more frequently, and finish my assignments faster and better. But, clearly, it is not socially apt for a college student to be sleeping before 11 PM. I would leave events early or avoid watching evening shows. I started going to the city at an earlier time in order to get back before dinner. Though I had a strategy set in place, I also felt it tugging on my ankles much like a ball and chains would. Even so, whenever I deviate, I would rarely successfully reach the quality of sleep I wanted. So, I continue living  this abnormal lifestyle. Yes, I am a baby and a grandma, as I sleep for long-periods of time and sleep earlier than people my age should. Yet, again, to each it's own.

Sleeping is both an intimate and a social act. Or it can be.

People judge me based on my schedule, but they won't be by my side, singing lullabies when I have been squirming in my bed for hours, unable to fall asleep.

So, here I am, a twenty-year-old who sleeps before 10 PM and, believe me, I am a much, much happier person that way.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Dangers of Reading: The political ramifications of choosing, experiencing, and discussing a book

I had a friend, once, who would come to school holding a book. She smiled as I asked about the item in her hand and proceeded to righteously announce, "Well it won the Pulitzer and it's on the New York Time's Best Seller's List!" I never really understood that: the whole phenomenon of buying a book based on reviews or its popularity. Reading a book, as it were when I was in high school, appeared to be a enjoyable obsession that was rarely allowed to be had due to time-constraints and life's daily demands. Being able to quietly sit and read had become so esoteric that I had zero intention to spend it consuming words that I can't personally invest in. Little did I know, I was making a louder and far more controversial statement than merely refusing to read a piece exclusively for its achievements and praise.

"So many books are published each year that, without some guidance and suggestions, any ordinary person would be unable to sample them," wrote Keith Oatley (2011, 5245/7005). How are we supposed to choose the perfect book for the perfect tea, to be read on a perfect nook in the perfect cafe, when there are so many options to choose from? On a pragmatic level, yes we do need to have some sort of guide, whether it is the New York Time's Best-Seller's List or a book recommended by a friend.

However, inevitably, whilst falling into these habits, we are making a political statement. In holding the book that was, say championed by a renowned author, we are complying to a socially constructed system that divers from the text. Instead of absorbing the text based on our own experiences and surrounding, we are walking towards a position, which is often ideological in nature, set by the critic or whoever compiled the list. As a result, unfortunately, we are incapable to digest the text in a new and, dare I say, authentic way.

Well, then, Ms. Cynical, how should one choose? What is the "right" way of selecting a book? For starters, as a generally pro-choice individual, I would say do what you'd like as long as you are aware of its ramifications. Consciously, know that when you purchase a book that was on a best-seller's list that you are siding with a certain party. Personally, I am the peculiar kind of reader. A political statement in itself, I roam through a bookstore or library beginning with the featured pile of books, before quickly walking towards my favorite section, be it the Sociology section at Kinokuniya Plaza Senayan or the Children's Book section at the Strand. There, I would survey the options. Within minutes I am pulled towards a certain area, where I would then go through the books based on title or cover (another political statement).

Over the years, I found that narrative and voice are two very salient elements of a book for such a lazy and picky reader like me. Knowing my flaws I would read the first chapter just to see how things go. Much like a first date, I surrender to the flow of the writing. If it fails to engulf me then it would immediately find its way back on the shelves, if not then it will soon be a tattered poor soul of a book on my nightstand.

Forbidden books is another example of a political statement, no?

Reading is, perhaps, one of the most intimate, yet social activity. How we choose, read, and speak of them expands our personal space and intertwines it with other people's bubbles. It allows us to be ourselves, but hands us the opportunity to access others' thoughts and experiences. An elegant contradiction, the books we read have the propensity of caving us in, while slowly freeing us from the barbwire that we, once, planted.

As for my friend, I think, she found her strengths in valuing such achievements and coveted lists. She learned pertinent skills to promote book reading and generate a social entity from the solitary act of reading.

*Author owns the rights to all of the photographs above

Oatley, K. (2011). Such Stuff As Dreams: The psychology of fiction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

IndonesiaMengglobal: Proud to Be Different (So much for originality!)

Can't believe it's been five months since I first contributed to Indonesia Mengglobal. Earlier in the week, they published my latest piece on being different in school. Yeah, yeah, what's so special about that? Well, funnily enough, in a school whose motto is "You're different, so are we..." I still managed to go through some pretty awkward situations, even to this day. For me, personally, it is because I am Asian, and oftentimes the only Asian in the room. Furthermore, I come from an "obscure" country in Asia called Indonesia. 

There are only two or three Indonesian students at Sarah Lawrence, how much support can one get? So much for Indo Mie parties, right? Anyways, I thought that it would helpful to whip up some sort of list intended for those who experience the same situation. Feeling different is a part of life, a very normal part of life, but there are still strategies to overcome and make the best of it. 

If you want to know more, please click on this link: 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fearful Soldier/Actor: Instead of healing, time amplified the haunting of the soul

The Portrayal of Artistic Fear
"Actors are like soldiers. The soldiers fear the enemy. The actors fear the audience. Fear of failing. Fear of forgetting, fear of art. Olivier ended up terrified. If you sat in the front row you could see him trembling,"

Fear is life, sometimes.

I remember my first semester at Sarah Lawrence. I sobbed as my parents called from the airport to bid farewell, but then I stopped and carried on. The first semester felt the most uncertain. Luckily, I was the most fearless I had ever been throughout my time on campus. For the next few semesters I could barely wait to graduate and abandon the loathsome biannual dose of homesickness and desperation. Each day I would wake up in whatever room I had fallen asleep in, wondering why I am not in my own bed, underneath those glow in the dark skies. With each day I became more and more debilitated by this engulfing hollowness of being much too far away from home.

Time is, more often than not, described as a healer, but not for me, not in that instant or this.

Much like Olivier, as time passed on, I became more and more afraid. The slow, yet inevitable reduction of optimism is rather a function of age, I suppose. As one passes through life, they see unimaginable scenes, both good and bad. Instead of mere paintings on the wall of the Louvre, we pass through the hallway of life and are bound to experience more than a handful battles and victories. At ten, I assumed that I would learn from my losses and adapt, somehow become a better person for it. Little did I know, in a mere decade or so, I would be maladaptive in behavior. With the passing of time, I became more afraid of what is to come, despite the fact that my life, many would think, have not started yet.

Circling back to Kay's monologue in Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art, after a while I developed an immense concern of losing the instincts that I once relied on to get me through the day. With each semester that followed, I realized that I would not regain the fearlessness I portrayed so well during the first four months of college. Fret not, I would graduate soon enough, move on to other opportunities soon enough, live through other fears soon enough. And soon enough, also, I would be back in the safe and oh-so-comfortable confines of my childhood bed.

Unfortunately, reassurance decays, especially once it is submerged in the length of a lifetime. Perhaps this is just a premature concern that would inevitably (hopefully) dissolve, but somehow I sense that it would haunt me throughout my existence, as it did Olivier. So, what is a twenty year old supposed to do, especially with science's persistent promise of a lengthy existence? Come up with a solution or an antidote, at the very least, wouldn't you say? Use the time left, however long or short it may be, to figure out some sort of mechanism to handle this unsettling truth.

You see, as convenient as it may seem, an ending has yet to matriculate, as I trust that the journey is long, that this soldier or actor is far from seeing a white flag or the lowering of the curtain. If we're both lucky enough, there might be a second installment, as life often promises.

*Author owns the rights to all of the photos above

Bennett, Alan (2010-09-14). The Habit of Art: A Play (Kindle Locations 1542-1544). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PTSD Research: How scientific discoveries shape policy and culture surrounding mental health

Recent findings in PTSD research demonstrate that one’s response to trauma relies on both the intensity of the trauma, as well as the “complex interplay of past experiences and genetic factors” (Wallis, 2008). Scientific discoveries are always a thrill, especially ones that further our knowledge of a particular condition. In one sense, researchers are now able to generate new treatment approaches based on the new evidence, however I wondered how this revelation would impact policies. For instance, prior to the discovery of ways to eliminate and/or subdue this gene, some individuals may not be allowed to join an army due to their genetics predisposition towards PTSD.

Policies, in a way, are pragmatic responses to various changes. Alterations in policy would hit larger issues. Take the policy above, it shows that the result of a study has the potential to limit certain groups of people from pursuing their ambitions and practicing their rights, which could be interpreted as discrimination. One of giant questions when it comes to research in general is how do studies inform policy?

Another concern with regards to this discovery is the potential for gene deletion or deactivation. In the last class we discussed the possibility of minimizing, even to the extent of erasing certain mental conditions, such as manic-depressive disorder. We spoke specifically about this issue in terms of reproduction i.e. should a person who is aware that he/she has a mental disorder have children, although there is the risk of passing those genes to the next generation. 

Clearly, based on our conversation, we agreed that such a move would change the landscape of mental health, as well as deprive individuals from their characteristics, both good and bad. On the other hand, suffering from a mental illness or condition could be crippling. This dialogue brought to another question of how should and could researchers address the complexities of their studies whilst striving towards their goals, whatever it may be.

This week’s set of readings instigated more inquiries than I would have expected, however it successfully outlined the multifaceted nature of mental health studies and research. PTSD research, for example, shapes policy and the culture of mental health. On a side note, these issues, as pertinent as they are, clearly require a comprehensive team with a variety of background, which is in itself a challenge to coordinate. Yet, would it be possible to have these conversations in schools and share it with other academic bodies and research institutions to trigger a larger discussion? 

This short article as a response to these readings:
Genes and Post-Traumatic Stress, Claudia Wallis, Time Magazine, March, 2008.

Nemeroff, C.B., Bremner, J.D., Foa, E.B., Mayberg, H.S., North, C.S. & Stein, M.B. (2006).  Posttraumatic stress disorder: A state-of-the-science review.  Journal of Psychiatric Review, 40, 1-21.

Ursano, R.J., Zhang, L., Li, H., Johnson, L., Carlton, J., Fullerton, C.S. & Benedek, D.M. (2009).  PTSD and traumatic stress: From gene to community ad bench to bedside.  Brain Research, 1293, 2-12.

Gilbertson, M.W., Shenton, M.E., Ciszewski, A., Kasai, K., Lasko, N.B., Orr, S.P., & Pitman, R.K. (2002).  Smaller hippocampal volume predicts pathologic vulnerability to psychological trauma.  Nature Neuroscience, 5, 1242-1247.

Halgain, R.P. (2009).  Issue 8: Should memory-dampening drugs be used to alleviate the symptoms of trauma? In Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Abnormal Psychology. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

*Author owns rights to all photos above

Sunday, November 3, 2013

SLCspeaks: Studying abroad broadly

Some days I feel like being silent, other days I just want to scream and shout and endlessly speak. And sometimes I have the words bundled up at the tip of my tongue...

Here's one thing that's been jumping at me for the past few months: does being an international student in an American college constitute studying abroad? And, man, was I glad that it got published at SLCspeaks, one of my favorite, if not my favorite on-campus website.

Through "Studying Abroad Broadly," I got the opportunity to explore the nuance of studying abroad and the differences that appear beyond technicalities. A personal observation, the article should not taken as an entire blanket rather than one square on a quilt. Hopefully, it sorts things out for some of you or is an interesting read.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Sucks: Confessions of a Halloween Lover

Halloween is lurking behind most shopfronts in NYC, trying real hard to suck me into buying an entire outfit that is (most likely) too crazy or revealing to be worn a second time. As a child in Indonesia, I remember being a bit sad and insecure for being a witch made out of leftover fabric and cardboard, whilst looking on at a fabulously dressed spidery girl with mesh and tulle and all that is wonderful about Halloween. In high school, I based my school presidential electoral vote on the possibility of there being a Halloween Ball. I was a Halloween freak, to the point where I chose to scare the life out of guests by having them walk through a haunted house before arriving at my sweet seventeen.

Be a Princess for Halloween?

Each year, as my personality changed, my Halloween costume plans changed. Before turning eight, most of my costumes, which were actually worn on my birthday (October 19, close enough to October 31), were inspired by Disney Princess. Please keep in mind that this is Indonesia, where not a single Disney store ever existed. On that note, being away from a physical sanctuary where Halloween is outlandishly and traditionally celebrated, perhaps, made it that much more enticing. As a girl growing up in Indonesia, where Halloween is practically banned or ignored, I craved for this forbidden apple.

Ideas for Haunted House?
In 2011, when I finally resided in the U.S., I had some spark inside me to create a makeup look to celebrate the occasion. However, that flame soon fizzled. By Fall 2012, I could not be bothered to think of a costume idea or even go out trick or treating. This year, I could feel some development in my rate of excitement, but it is definitely insufficient to get into an elaborate costume, slap on makeup, and walk out the door. Maybe, if the night isn't that chilly, I would make an appearance, but it seems quite unlikely at this moment in time.

So, what changed? How did a girl, who was so obsessed with a celebration become so dull? Is it really an issue of the forbidden fruit? Is something so near, so repulsive? I would suggest that it has everything to do with my identity, the one that attracted me to the school that I currently go to. As a hipster (yes! I said it, alright!), the appeal of celebrating Halloween died down when I realized how mainstream it was. Nowadays, the rules and expectations of Halloween has sucked the fun out of it. People demand a certain amount of effort in your costume and behavior. Suddenly, a holiday that seemed so rebellious is packed with limitations.

Perhaps, I need a refresher course on how to celebrate Halloween. Perhaps, I need to reorient my perspective on how to have fun on October 31st. Perhaps, I just need to find a way to break all of the unwritten and invisible rules.

*Author owns rights to all photos above