Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writing Is Not My Passion: 'Cross My Heart & Hope to Die'

Normalcy, as I've mentioned one too many times before, really depends on the majority. For instance, to wear high heels on the daily is usual if you are middle-class woman (20s-50s), who peruses the mall or the office, or any place that are relatively flat and smooth, hence easy to walk on. Therefore, for this group of ladies it is normal to wear rather high heeled shoes. English would be a normal first language or mother tongue, if you were grew up in the U.S., but it would not be as common if you grew up in Indonesia (think of Indonesia as that giant archipelago and not its capital city).

Caution! Dangerous, controversial, undeniably honest territory!
Writing, I think, could be both normal and abnormal, depending on the context and setting. As enters its eleventh month, many people have left me messages about how well I write and how productive I am. However, what's more compelling is that many assume that I love writing. Even my bestfriends have gone to extremes to say that it is my passion. Yes, I enjoy writing, but I don't know if it is my passion. Some people are great at sports, others are great in math, and I'm good at writing. More importantly, context matters. After studying at Sarah Lawrence College, one of the most writing intensive schools in the U.S., I have learned and practiced to write numerous times.

Let me paint a picture of how the semesters that I have had thus far. At the beginning of the semester, the professor and I meet in conference to talk about the subject for the final paper, which varies in length from fifteen pages to infinity. In the next two months, I scour books and papers, as well as other forms of material, including film, music, and visual arts, to enrich my knowledge of the subject.

For instance, the first conference paper that I ever wrote was on the role of White individuals during the Nanking Massacre. In an attempt to analyze their actions and its impact on the victims, as well as themselves, I read several books and a few papers. Then, I started by creating an outline, before moving on to filling those sections out with arguments and examples and supporting material. Quotes and photos were used to further illustrate my point.

However, writing twenty pages is less daunting once you have done your research. In one semester, a student can write a maximum of three conference pages. Although it is possible, it is unheard of for a student to write zero or four papers in four months. Through the years, students at Sarah Lawrence develop a strategy to tackle their papers in time for break, by choosing certain classes, ensuring a healthy combination of seminars, lectures, independent studies, and thirds, as well as designing a suitable conference paper.

In addition to these lengthy papers, students are also required to write class papers, reaction journals, and even take exams. Several classes require its participants to do an oral presentation or create a portfolio. Although the possibilities are endless, writing is hard to avoid.

Some students write in their spare time, whether it is for artistic reasons, an internship, a publication, or just for fun. Many keep blogs of their experiences, while others are contributors to magazines and newspapers. Despite it's reputation as a writing intensive school, I have observed that no one really talks about writing all that much. We talk about it as work or a project, or a creative endeavor. Sometimes we moan about the amount of words we'd have to reach, but as I climbed up the different levels of classes (usually classes are specified as 'Open', 'Intermediate', 'Advanced', or 'Sophomores above' to reflect the standards of students that the professors are looking for), I realize that a ten-page literature review due in a month is deemed manageable by many students.

Seemingly, with time, SLC students train themselves to effectively produce quality writing effectively. So, is writing a passion? I'm not quite certain that it is. Yet, I do know that it is my preferred way of explaining myself to faceless figures. Maintaining a blog, for instance, provides me with the opportunity to spread my thoughts and present my arguments to a sea of people who have choices and preferences. In return, many family members and friends have been spared from listening to occasional rants or superfluous babbles about society or that weird thing I heard during lunch. Furthermore, it has given me the chance to meet new people and hear their thoughts on these subjects.

Uh-oh! Did I surprise you?

Think of it this way, if you were trained in statistics, you'd become fluent in running statistical models and conducting statistical analysis that it simply becomes second nature. You may not use it to express your emotions like I do, but you are more likely to use your skills when reading an article in the newspaper. At the very least you'll be able to whip up an analysis faster than someone who has not invested as much time and focus into statistics. Same goes with painting or film making or research. Repetition helps one acquire new skills that will become second nature to them in a matter of time.

Writing is more of a channel than it is a passion.

After being at Sarah Lawrence for quite some time and enduring several conference weeks (when most schools have finals week, we have conference week, which is one to two weeks long where many students type, type, and type their conference papers before the due date), writing has become a reliable method for me to think, develop ideas, analyze, express myself, make comments, as well as vent. People know what we know, and based on my education, I know how to write adequately, so not to make readers cringe or vomit. And for me that is a good enough explanation for me to continue writing.

Just because I write quite frequently doesn't mean that it is my passion. Of course, this warrants a longer discussion on the meaning and value of 'passion'. Whether or not writing had previously been a passion requires an entirely separate conversation. However, for now, please believe me when I say that writing is an extension of my identity that allows me to practice my passion(s).

Note: Fingers crossed, you don't feel that I lead you on. If I had previously implied that writing is my passion, do note that it was probably due to the fact that oftentimes I can't be bothered to explain at great lengths about this condition that I have and regularly resort to simple means of communication. Between me and you, I was way too lazy to spell this entire essay all out to you during said conversation.

*Author owns rights to the photos above

Monday, February 24, 2014

Uncomfortably Liberated: The gradient of freedom

If you haven't noticed, I can be quite a bit of a talker. 'Bawel' or chatty is a word that my parents would often use to describe me as a child. Despite the fact, I am neither outgoing or extroverted. Rarely do I go up to a stranger and launch into a chat with them. Instead, I cherish in deep conversations with friends and family members, people who I have gotten to know throughout the years. Nevertheless, knowing a person is not enough. A connection is required to penetrate the layer of politeness and dive into a pool of criticism, honesty and brutality, even.
Freedom to Get Away!

When you're an introverted chatterbox, I find that you are also an observer and a listener. A lover of television and talk shows, I tend to sit in front of my laptop to watch the best of both worlds: in-depth YouTube conversations. A few days ago, I discovered Conan O'Brien's show 'Serious Jibber-Jabber'. The first episode I saw was his interview with musician, Jack White. Here, you can see the magic between two people who connect and know each other well enough to swim into the dark depths of the ocean. Restraints are loosened, so are censors. O'Brien and White pushed the envelope further and further, hence driving one another even further. As a result, they can hear each others' perceptions and collaborate on this train of thought that doesn't really mean much globally, but is still magical for members of the conversation, whether it is just them or also the audience members.

Early in the interview, White reminisced about his upholstering career, which ended with his rise to fame. He said that he learned to set three staples to stabilize the cloth used to upholster a chair. White muttered, almost to himself, "I looked at it as a way of limiting myself, so that I could create more of things, create more songs, because I'm so boxed in, my brain is forced to work with the tools that are at hand," then he continued on to explain that when there are too much at hand, too much money or too many possibilities, he gets "disinterested".

With modern society comes freedom. Today, the human race has more freedom than its predecessors. And yet, we have colloquial websites defining rules for living. We create lists to limit ourselves in how we behave, think and approach live. When I write, I create barriers for each character. Or when I do research, I try to make things as concise as possible. Freedom is dangerous, despite all the things that has been said to champion it. Freedom stops me from going further. I feel bored and unchallenged. On the other hand, when I have obstacles to overcome, whether it is a page limit or prohibition to talk about certain themes, I am more likely to breach them fervently.

Lack of freedom, I think, disillusions me, but it propels me to think of all the ways to overcome the wall, whether it is by jumping over it, breaking it down or creating a hole big enough for us to fit through. Maybe, that's why I love theatre, as well. Being confined to a room, means working with what you have, whether it is just three lights or no lights at all, or an absent apron, or not curtains at all. Limits trigger a wave of inspirations that fuel my creative processes.

Another thing is when it comes to too much freedom, one gets cocky and lazy. Maybe, this is just a ramification of being a homebody, but when I am told that I have to go to school my mind wanders to all the things that I can do in the meantime, yet when I have an empty weekend, I get tired just thinking about all the things I can do and remain at home, instead. Personally, with regards to staying at home, I like it that way, because that is when I am most productive, when I have an entire day to write, work, cook, and lavish within a concrete box.

Imagine all the possibilities!
Generally, freedom is one of those things that can be perceived as black or white. You either have it or you don't. You either want or you don't. Most of the time, as human beings, we champion freedom, just like we do critical thinking or adventure. Unfortunately, freedom is a spectrum that provokes a variety of responses. Of course, these responses are also heterogeneous depending on the individual, circumstances and environment. A person who is locked in may choose to try to find a way to get out, another may choose to preserve their energy by sleeping, while others may take up a hobby or an interest. In the wild, human beings also react differently. Some are prompted to run and roam free, explore the land. Others cower with fear at the possibility of being eaten alive. Others, choose to camp for the night and map out the stars to plan for another day in a new environment. Basically, as White later on said, "huge freedom to become an artist", means "huge responsibilities".

I guess the same goes with conversations. You can choose to hang out in a new bar and pick a stranger. Then again, you can always call an old friend. In different moments, we make different decisions. Freedom is not a matter of starkness, instead it is a range of possibilities that ironically, could limit you or liberate you in life.

The video was taken from YouTube:

*Author only owns rights to the images, not the video

Friday, February 21, 2014

Anak: Leaked

Like old photographs, experiences can be tossed into the fire, or kept in between the pages of our diaries as a reminder of the past. Another alternative would be to learn from it, to use it as a vehicle to drive you towards a particular destination. Personally, rather than learning form it, I scrutinize and break it down, which of course leads to a story or an article or a play. Here is another rendition of "Leaked Files", enjoy!


Had I ever suspected that senior year would be enmeshed with untied knots that, once, took up so much effort and planning, I would have just skipped it all. Well, actually, I am already skipping it, aren’t I? Being a twenty year old college graduate did not seem awkward then, however things change, perspectives transform into unforgiving creatures, all of a sudden everyone ogle their eyes at you when you tell them your age minutes after you tell them about your plans after graduation.

            I am standing in front of a random hat store with my “big” sister’s latest boyfriend. Alright, she is not a slut and should not be portrayed as such. From the window, we, her boyfriend and I, can just make out her and the rest of the group trotting around the wooden clad store, trying on both beguiling and ordinary toppers. He places his backpack on the floor, the dirty New York concrete, and we proceed with the conversation. He’s at the end of his twenties and I just began mine.
            “Ah… do you think we’ll be able to reach the restaurant in forty minutes?” he refers to the rest of the group, all hip and within drinking age. The sky is dark and I am just about ready to go to bed. I’ll explain why I have the propensity to begin incessantly yawning and walking into objects and buildings at merely eight pm in the evening.
            “Yeah, sure. I mean we need to get going but it’ll be fine,” I say, clearly on a tightrope. I am her “baby” sister and I am closer to her than I am to him. Allies are produced through these intricate details of the human relationships. Although the man and I shared the same loathing towards tardiness, we also shared she, who mediated this entire crossing of lines. We continue talking, seamlessly so.

            “Wait, what do you mean at seventeen?” he puts his hands in his pockets. We were just talking about moving to New York City from the respective geographic areas we had once lived in.
            “I moved it her at seventeen. Imagine coming to New York at seventeen, that would have been suicide…” I admit to having a tendency to be needlessly dramatic.
            “Oh yes, you are only twenty. And you’ll graduate next year? So young!” he utters, in between puffs of his electronic cigarette, basically having a solitary dialogue by now. 

*Author owns rights to the photos above

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I am an Only Child, and I am Diseased by It

"Being an only child is a disease in itself."
                                       - G. Stanley Hall

Who am I kidding? After twenty years and a few months of being one, I have learned, ignored, seen, and accepted that a portion of society is prejudiced against only children. Nature has taken its course, just as it did with age, gender, and race. Yet, the thing with weaknesses is, when life gives you lemons, make a lucrative fruit store out of it. Yes, yes, I may have taken a particularly capitalistic route when it comes to my status as an only child, but hey so far, so good. 

In the past few years, more and more of my friends are having children. I didn't mean to alarm you. What I meant was most of my older friends, those who are five or six years older than I am, are currently with child or have already popped one or two out. Oftentimes, when they meet my mom they'd ask what she thinks about family planning. Common questions include, "Why did you only have one child?", "Was it anything biological or was it purely based on your preference?", "Don't you think raising an only child is harmful for the child itself and not to mention society?" One of our family friend recently said that he regretted having only one child. He said that ideally he'd have two. When asked why, he said that maybe his son would be better off. Of course, his wife rolled her eyes several times and looked at him weird. Then she sighed and admitted to wanting a girl. 

The number of children a couple has is surprisingly political. Historical, national security is closely connected to birth rates, not to mention the gender of the child. Policies are made in various countries in an attempt to control birth rates. China, for instance, implemented the one child policy in 1979. Other nations, like Japan, have made considerable changes to encourage an increase in child rate. On a more micro level, there is a definite social stereotype against people who were raised as only children, as well as parents who choose to only have one child. My parents, for instance, were pressured by several relatives to have more children for a number of reasons, including eugenics. 

One thing that makes the thought worthwhile is the amount of discrimination only children face. Deemed as being more privileged than other children, in terms of the resources available to them, only children are generally dubbed as spoiled brats. There isn't a year that goes by without someone discounting my achievements and competence due to my upbringing as a single child. This blog, for instance, has been perceived as a result of the amount of freedom and training my parents had given me in English, writing, and creative arts. And to be honest, they have definitely hit the bull's eye. Even today, I am spoiled, i.e. my reputation to be a go-getter and ambitious; I am bossy, which surprisingly translated to my competence as an editor and stage manager, which does not necessarily require one to be imperious; and I am socially aversive, i.e. I spent Valentine's Day writing all day long. Come on, if everyone is going to expect you to boast maladaptive traits, why not capitalize on it? 

So, to those who ask whether it was a mistake to only have one child, I would say it depends on you and your child, just like it did with my parents and I. Additionally, let's avoid making sweeping generalizations about a particular group of people. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," as is aggressiveness, loneliness, brattiness, and bossiness, which have become common labels for only children. Each individual has the power to categorize these traits as negative or positive. Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I have learned that the elements that made my childhood extra unique were the ones that prepared me for life. For example, as an only child, I'd spent a third of my vacations in meetings and with my parents' friends. 

When there is only one child sitting in the table, grown ups tend to forget that there is any at all. So, as an observer, who has learned to remain silent in these situations, I spent the entire dinner absorbing information that did not really pertain to my life as a child. Did I need to know that the world was going to crumble financially in 2008? Maybe through the news, but at the dinner table, over ice cream? Give me a break! Shouldn't I be running around Disney Land, instead of going to conferences to follow my parents around as they negotiate all day long? At the time, luckily, I was too amused by the characters that my parents were spending time with to really snooze off or throw a tantrum. For an eight-year-old nosy eavesdropper, three hour dinners equates to a trip to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and trust me, I looove chocolate. Having the privilege to listen in and also enjoy the entire experience provided me with a good foundation for me to work professionally, contribute to a visiting team of fashion designers, as well as do research. 

Last summer, many of my high school friends had their first internship experience. During one dinner, the entire table nodded as one girl shared how terrified she was to step into an an office and join a team of well-established businessmen/women. Deep down, I realized that not everyone spent their long weekends in the office, running around sending mail, or stayed up late, looking through applications (which is highly unprofessional), whilst compiling them for review. Not everyone has gone on dinner meetings or watched a presentation in their spare time. 

Just as always, I was missing out on a common link that bound many of my friends, who had siblings, together. They'd reminisce about fighting over the remote control or sharing clothes with their sisters or brothers, or sitting together in a flight with their siblings. It is only human to not experience every single phenomena in life. What's more compelling is that it is only human to improve ourselves based on our respective experiences. Some of my teammates in high school complained about my bossiness, but I'd complain about their inability to focus during meetings or complete their delegate tasks. At the end of the day, as cliche as it may sound, diversity completes us. By having contrasting experiences, we could create an effective machine to overcome numerous obstacles. 

Truth be told, sometimes I wish people would just stop being prejudiced. Yes, I am bossy, socially aversive, and bratty, but I hope you'd learn that by talking to me, spending time with me, essentially getting to know me. Don't run towards the opposite direction because you judged me prematurely. Who knows maybe we'd make a great team for selling lemonades? Maybe we'd make better rivals, instead. At the very least, if you are going to be prejudiced, don't let your perception hinder you from what could potentially be something wonderful, or from a mistake that you are required to learn from. So, the next time a girl or a guy says to you that they are an only child, don't forget to think about the endless possibilities ahead of you, whether it is an expensive and irresponsible night out or a chain of lucrative fruit stores. 

*Author owns rights to all photos above

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The 100th Post: Phew that was close!

"NO!" My mother and Oma would simultaneously say. With a great grandmother who died at 93 years of age, I often wondered if I would ever reach or even ever dream of hitting the 100 mark. My mother and Oma certainly refused to even go near that number.

During the fourteen years I spent at Santa Laurensia School, my parents would joke how generous I was with my grades. Instead of getting perfect scores, most of my marks were in the nineties, even less. Soon or later, I wondered if they were right to say that subconsciously I avoid getting hundreds for some unknown reason.

Here's to hundreds of articles ahead!
At seventeen I began my time at Sarah Lawrence, a school that is infamous for their lack of grading system. Without letter grades or numbers to measure my performance, I perfected my art, whether it was in psychological research, theatre or neuroscience. I felt liberated to truly be the best that I could be, even though I spent a good amount of time explaining to people outside of the SLC universe about teacher's evaluations and the liberal arts education. 

So, what is it about 100? 

Why I am cutting myself short from a socially constructed notion of perfection? 

Almost universally, turning a hundred years old, being part of the top 100th, reaching a hundred on a test, amount of subscribers, number of pages, or in pounds, is a good thing. Even, racing a car at 100 km/h without crashing is considered to be an achievement. 

Now, at a hundred posts I can say that turning a hundred might just be better than I thought it would be. Though, I am not a hundred percent certain (Hah!), I pat myself on the back and massage my tired hands. I am satisfied with what I have written and the responses that have trickled in, thus far. The journey has been rocky, trust me, when you don't hear so much as a squeak, and all you can see are numbers, your mind begins to play tricks on you. 

Grand Central Let's Me Know That I'm Home
The station celebrated it's 100th anniversary last year!
Some moments, this blog seems futile, other times it oddly excites me. This 100th post would not have happened without those who respond and the other whatever hundred people who read it daily. The unknown, as I hope many of you have learned, is a peculiar source of drive. 

Finally, as my writing teacher once said, reaching a hundred is an accomplishment in itself. And for once, I will surrender and take her word for it. 

*Author owns rights to the photos above

Monday, February 17, 2014

5 Lil' (Tech) Things That Make My College Life Easier

In Fall 2011, I moved into an old dormitory from the 1920s. The doors, locks and the lighting seemed reminiscent of its time. As much as I basked in the luxury of living in a "vintage" room, I insisted on spending the first few days of school shuttling back and forth to Bed, Bath and Beyond, a retail store that sells bed sheets, lamps, pots and pans, as well as "college stuff". One part of living in the 21st century is that we are one step closer to commercializing every single moment in our lives. Certain amenities were created especially for dorm rooms, which of course made the transition much easier. Even though, today's college experiences is not without it's difficulties, the little things in life symbolizes the stark differences between the past and the present.

Before I move on with the list, it would only be appropriate to begin by talking about Sarah Lawrence, in particular. A late comer, SLC was first introduced as an all girls school in the 20s. Today, for a majority of SLC students, Bates is where we complain about bad food, search endlessly for obscurely named class rooms, and share Nutella milkshakes. In the late 20s, this building also housed maids' quarters, laboratories, and art facilities. Perhaps, this explains why one of the most prominent meeting rooms at Bates is still called the "Painting Room". Nevertheless, almost a century ago, SLC girls were able to bring maids. Nowadays, the closest thing we have to maids are a paid laundry service, which is not as popular as our infamous laundry rooms, where socks go to die and jeans go to disappear. With time, comes change. In the mid-60s, SLC became co-educational. With men on campus, comes conversations about gender assigned bathrooms and an increase in athletics, which remains to be a hot topic to this day.

This is not an ancient artifact, though email certainly makes it look like one.
As you can imagine, the college experience has evolved. Nowadays, big stores in the U.S. have an entire section dedicated to college life. Certain clothing brands, such as Under Armor and Brooks Brothers produce apparel pieces with names of colleges attached on to it. For instance, you can buy shoes with a logo of Harvard on it or a sweatshirt with the SLC mascot attached. College memorabilia has become a large part of American society, allowing people to express their sentiments publicly.

Yet, today I will talk about the little things in life that I have gone to appreciate after three years of college. As a freshman I came to the U.S. totally blindsided. In the back of my head, I was certain that things would be alright. I forgot to think about the sleeping situation or worst, the bathroom conditions. Am I supposed to wear flip flops each time I take a shower or what? The little things, for an anxious person like me, matters and yet I still managed to shove it under the bed and out of my consciousness. Funny thing is, what I have learned whilst compiling the list is that most of the things that have helped me so far are essentially technological in nature. Some of it are not as tangible as others, making it much easier for me to ignore it until today.

1. Laptops. When my parents and I toured college campuses, my mom used to reminisce on the days of desktop computers and floppy disks, then my dad would insist on how lucky I was to be going to college today. Personal laptops have only made school much easier. Of course, I didn't believe them until I was stuck in because of a snow storm and I had to write a paper. Instead of walking over to the library in the freezing cold, I was able to finish all of my assignments while staying warm.
             As a couch potato, it never entered my mind that I would spend the next four years without a TV, one that I could carelessly flip through and hog for an entire afternoon. Actually, I dodged that panic attack because I had my laptop to act as my TV. With all the programs available on-line and on-demand viewing, I was home free. Of course, this brought on other ramifications such as not socializing, but when you are jet-lagged, you will thank your lucky stars that How I Met Your Mother is just one-click away.
           Laptops also maintains your privacy to a certain degree. It allows you to save all of your belongings and precious drafts without the hassle of floppy disks or USB drives. Even with all this ease, we still lose our damn files hours before its due. Fudge!

Notebook? This is a notebook! I don't get it!
2. The Internet. Believe it or not, merely a decade ago, Internet was not available to most college students. Even if they were, you could only access it on communal computers. Today, whenever the WiFi slows down or pauses completely, everyone freaks out like it's the apocalypse. Well in some ways, it is the end of the world, isn't it? Nowadays, I can go to PubMed or PsycINFO to find articles from way back when. Certain scholarly materials are also available online first, before it is published in a journal.  There are so much information out there that we have to learn how to specifically maneuver the Internet. When researching articles for a literature review, we are briefed especially in order attain above the standard texts.
           Beyond academia, the Internet has allowed for more effective communication. In the past month alone, New York experienced three snow storms. Without the Internet or another technology advancement, such as text messaging, schools may not be able to reach its students in time that school is cancelled. On each floor of my freshman year dorm, there is a communal phone. Rumor has it these phones were used to connect professors and students. However, one could plainly see the endless possibilities for miscommunication, as anyone could pick up the phone whenever it rings or it would not be answered at all.
           Other advantages of the Internet that I believe, pertain to college is that it provides timely information to incoming students, is a gateway to additional extracurricular activities, and connects students whenever they are in need. If I had a penny for every person who announced on facebook that they needed a hug ASAP...

3. Cell Phone Culture. In high school, cell phones were strictly prohibited. Students had to place their phones with a teacher at the very beginning of the day and pick it up afterwards. However, in college, cell phones are everywhere. And with the assistance of today's smartphones, students are able to refrain from taking notes and choose to snap a photo instead. Cell phones are also used to look up certain material in the middle of the class, especially when the professor goes on a tangent, which he/she has clearly failed to prepare for. Ultimately, when used for "good", these devices help us in becoming more effective students.

4. On-line Shopping. Bronxville, where SLC is located, is quite rural, however we still have a tiny downtown and we are only forty minutes away from Manhattan, tops. Nevertheless, as a shopaholic with chronic back pain, due to scoliosis, I have opted to go shopping on-line. It saves energy and could also save you some bucks, as many online stores offer regular promotions, including free shipping. Online shopping might be seen as an extension of the Internet, however it has not caught up in other parts of the world that remains connected by the world wide net. American culture, or American college culture, I believe, fuels the growth of the online shopping industry. Today, it is hard to find a store that isn't available online. Now, if only they had an online shop for Indonesian condiments and snacks!

5. Take Out. As hard as it is to believe, take out was invented by mankind, just like restaurants. New York City is well known for its around the clock Chinese take out. However, when you live a few miles away and still have a range of options, your diet will be way better off, or worse. Hmm... During my first year of college, I managed to avoid complaining about cafeteria food. After a summer at Brown University, I appreciated the range of options I had at Bates, yet by sophomore year, I was fed up. I didn't really have a kitchen to cook and I was unable to tolerate continuous meals at the cafeteria any longer. Here is where take out comes in handy. Despite it's limited options, Bronxville has some Italian restaurants, Pizza parlors and Asian food places. There was enough choices to satisfy my bored stomach. Without take out, I'd probably developed a darker attitude on life earlier than I have.

College experience is often lumped together, despite its multifaceted nature. These are just some things that I found handy during my time at SLC. Others may agree or disagree, but I think we have had our own love affair with technology. Moreover, with love affairs comes break ups and fights. Obviously, technology has its downsides, but I am certain that my college experience would be totally different without it.

*Author owns rights to the photos above

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Crippled in Venice: Valentine's Day Series 3

Here is the final installment in this year's Valentine's Day series. Each year, on February 14th, millions of people unite in the celebration of love. Though, we may have our differences, generally we make space for love in our journey to eternal happiness. Through the media, education, and literature, we create scripts of how our lives would prevail. Many a times, girls would pine for their knight in shining armor, whilst boys search for their damsel in distress.

Of course, the tale is rarely identical, but there seems to always a red thread that runs through all of our stories. In many ways, for some this story can be a dream, for others it might have already taken its course. With time, we change our fantasies for better or for worse. Some moments, we surrender to the bitter taste of reality, while others we remind ourselves to appreciate each day that passes. Perhaps, that is the best thing about Valentine's Day. In addition to uniting us in this man-made, historically based, myth of a festival, it highlights our live's and choices' distinct trajectories.

This is a dream that I had written a year ago. Though the characters may have changed or the goal may have shifted, I think it lays witness to the way appearances deceive us.

Long Awaited Dream

I start writing at dawn, which seems rather romantic but is, instead, a symptom of growing up. My fingertips quiver on the keyboard, hoping to be transported back to dream land. I miss dreaming in the dark. Of course daydreaming is within reach but it is never quite the same as dreaming at night, is it? So this morning, I dream of dreaming.
            Outside it’s quiet, it’s nearly 5:30 AM in the morning and yet the mosque hasn’t made its daily prayers heard. I roll over to see an imprint on the bed and far more pillows than I had started with. The sound of running water creeps into the room. I get up, knowing that a full day is ahead of me. Without hesitating, I walk downstairs and prepare breakfast. In dreams, I won’t need help from the maid or have a nanny for the children. Morning smoothies and packed lunches for everyone! Let’s admit it, I will never be a health freak, but you know, you try to provide what’s best for your loved ones.
Finishing my first cup of hazelnut latte I could hear the sound of the engine roaring from the garage. In dreams I actually enjoy walking through my extended primping routine, carefully picking out the perfect brush to apply the perfect color to my eyelids, cheeks and lips. After, I put on the clothes that only in dreams do I take the time to carefully layout the night before. Now it’s nearly six, grabbing his and her workbags I quickly walk over to the car. Baby Shoes wakes up and starts fumbling around his/her own room. With a yell, Mr. R reminds the little one to get ready. Within minutes everyone is in the car, with their extended belongings, long itinerary and heavy heads.
 A few years ago, before I had all this, I listened tirelessly to older friends complaining about the daily struggle of juggling marriage, family and work every single day. They pine over the single ladies who, apparently, have enough time to complete a morning workout, head out to work and still go out for a couple of drinks at night. Well, call me an old soul, but even then, I dreamt of having a balanced life with a caring and understanding partner, a loving child and a smashing career. Perhaps, that is too much to ask for.
Enveloped in a blanket with the AC turned on high, you rarely realize what it is you’re doing until the following morning. That’s the beauty of sleeping alone. I wake up from my dreams in a heap of pillows, which are all mine. Being nineteen and conjuring up thoughts of the future may seem unhealthy but being prepared has always been my reliable ammunition. My laptop is opened beside me, ready to slam the floor. I carefully close it and tuck it away, readying myself for a new chapter.
It’s almost the end of a busy day at work. In dreams, Mr. R and I continue to communicate through either a blackberry or other alternatives enabled by social media in between meetings. At lunchtime I pick up Baby Shoes and drop him/her off at after school lessons. I continue on with my day, juggling paid office work and non-profit endeavors. Just after five, I climb into the car and pick up Baby Shoes for good. “We’ll be home any minute”, I text Mr. R. Clearly it’s been a long and tiring day.

Dinnertime is rarely an occasion as we sit together with the TV on for sound. Mr. R’s not home yet, a meeting, perhaps, or a late dinner. I make sure that Baby Shoes’ and my homework are done. Quickly Baby Shoes is tucked in and I open a bottle of wine to fuel a night of writing.
In dreams, I write on and off, it’s rarely a main objective. Instead, the dream is made up of a medium sized cozy house and a family, weekly extended family get-togethers, monthly art viewing, and yearly family vacations proceeded alone and without a tour guide. Getting lost together, wouldn’t that be grand? Walking along the paths of Venice, looking into people’s windows, or going on a road trip around Sulawesi?
Amidst all this thinking, I hear the garage doors opening. Sometimes I wonder if it would ever become awkward. Should I say something or just continue writing? A coward at heart, I select the latter. Soon we’re both in bed, ideally, we’d talk about our day and communicate. But often that isn’t how it works, my head is full of ideas as well as worries, and I’m sure his is too. So we turn off the lights and snooze off.
Even though it is a dream we still fight sometimes, but never with punches or kicks, just words. I prefer fighting, rather than staying quiet and quitting, especially when it comes to relationships and people that I care about. Maybe, in dreams, a rule is to sleep in the same place even during a fight or to never sleep when the fight is resolved. In my reality I listen to my friends fighting over a missed daily phone call or an inadequate anniversary gift and I wonder if they realize how much they are throwing away.
Maybe I’m just na├»ve, maybe I’m just jealous, maybe I’m inexperienced. But in dreams we will communicate even if it’s uncomfortable because the end goal is to grow old together, old enough that we are unable to walk through Venice or tolerate long drives. Then what we are left with is each other to smile together and tease each other and hold each other’s hands. I guess the dream is both simple and huge, it’s just to have someone there to love and care for and someone who’d love and care for me in return. 

*Author owns rights to all photos above

Friday, February 14, 2014

Going Out With The Sky: Valentine's Day Series 2

"When you've got no boy/girlfriend to appreciate on February 14, the next best thing is to love something else," one of my friends used to say. Well, today, I woke up quite early and started skimming through old essays that I had written in high school. After eliminating several cringeworthy teenage love stories, I settled for a tale of the sky, which I wrote in twelfth grade. Going against common logic, I decided to keep the essay as it is. I have not changed a single word, or eliminated a single misplaced coma. From what I can tell, I wrote the piece as an expression of my love and concern for the sky that blankets us constantly. I am aware that this is not a conventional Valentine's Day post, what with all the absence of kisses and heartache. But, hey, aren't we suppose to appreciate nature, each and every day, including V Day?


The sky hides secrets that the world would never come to learn. Timidly swaying against the outside universe, swooshing to create the sound of silence, it quietly stares at the meadows and the people, protecting us from dangerous solar rays produced by the sun. Unlike any other shelter, the ceiling of the earth is made up of various layers known as the atmosphere. It contains numerous vital gases such as the oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and helium, but there are so much more depth to this blanket than just the stars and the clouds. The many layers of the world’s blanket include, the daily routines that bore it to death, the yearly birthday that it spends alone, the rainy days that symbolizes its sadness, the colors that it shows, and the value it brings to the human race.
Unbeknownst to the citizens of the world, the sky is the eternal stage for nature’s magic show. In the morning, the baby birds wake up and chirp at the sky as if saying “Good morning!” Later in the day, the Spanish pray for a good siesta followed by a festive fiesta. Then, the day ends with a bang as fireworks explodes above Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle. When the sun sets and the moon rises up in exchange, and the people close their eyes, the sky stays alert just like a street lamp in the middle of the night.
When the clock strikes 12 on the last day of the year, the sky blows its candles just like a birthday girl who’s just had a princess themed birthday party (would). “Aaah! What a year?” It says out loud trying hard to reveal its exhaustion against the sounds of fireworks and screams of those welcoming the New Year. Every year, the sky would learn that people are too busy to take a moment to appreciate its wonders.
Once in a while, the sky cries, launching micro droplets of rain onto the earth’s surface. Boohooing along with the screams of the thunder. It begs and begs for a friend, asking lightning to zap anyone for its keeping. But, every time a person is stroke by lightning, the sky is only left with a burnt corpse who can no longer speak nor make eye contact. Once the “menstrual” cycle ends, the sky is healed again. Then when it has fully recovered, it may present the people with a special gift, perhaps a rainbow or a bunny-shaped cloud. Sometimes at night, the sky might even send pixie dust to the nice children of the world. In the winter, when the air turns into Freon and the lake freezes over, it might feel guilty from sending freezing wind to earth, causing the streets to be covered by a slick layer of ice that might provoke trucks to slip into a small Prius on the highway. Therefore, it might curiously deliver a box of white fluff to the top of a roof, pieces of soft snow on a child’s head who is walking to school or a Popsicle on those who need a wake up call.

Just like the song “True Colors”, we can always see the true colors of the sky. Ever changing silhouettes and filters of tinted colors decorate this blanket just like Christmas lights would on a Christmas tree. Sometimes it’s red like a newly lit fire. Other days, it’s blue like the ocean. Once in a while, hues of magenta lights up, turning the sky into a girl drunk with love. On the other hand, when the sky is sad and lonely, a thick layer of black velvet veils those colors.
 Without this warm blanket, the earth would certainly perish. Just like a pimple breakout on a hormonal bloke’s face, endless showers of meteorites will slowly ruin earth’s complexion and there won’t be any safety net to reduce the diameter of those meteorites. With nothing but a hole above the skyscraper, men will freeze under burnt tree barks and under metal shelters when the temperature dips below -10°C. Some will die from hunger and others will learn to eat the young ones. Mothers will have to bury their newborns under an oak tree, to avoid any cannibals from finding them. Children no longer have to worry about getting their first kiss nor getting straight As, since their minds will be consumed of starvation and the cold. In the summer, when everything is bright and sunny, people will no longer play in the torturously hot sand; neither will they jump into open swimming pools. Meanwhile, men would bow down before the almighty sun, begging mercy before getting themselves lit by the piercing rays. They will conform to the ancient, cavemen ways, worshipping the sun gods and not The Divine. Yes, we will look away from God. In exchange, they will obsess over the water and resources, which used to overflow the land. They’ll spend prayer time to hunt a newborn baby in the woods, hoping to successfully eat both the young and its mother.
At that dark time, the elders will nostalgically wish they could turn back the clock, to a century when the sky still exists, when they were still kept warm by that fluffy blanket. Nevertheless it will be too late by then. Thus it is crucial for us to appreciate our blanket. In anticipation of tragedy, we should always remember to praise the sky and everything within it. Whether we’re being stuck in traffic or tanning under the sun, we should always smile at the sky and thank it for everything we have. When doubt encircles you, always imagine a world, naked without a blanket to cover it, a world starved and burnt, a world in peril. Then a revelation will truly find you amidst the chatters of question marks. And the world will live as one.

English Reading & Writing

*Author owns rights to the photos above

The Carpet, My Lover: Valentine's Day Series 1

This piece needs not introduction other than: tomorrow is Valentine's Day and I felt like publishing several pieces revolving what has been argued as one of the most, if not the ultimate, consumeristic day of the year (wait, did I mix up Valentine's Day and Christmas again? Damn it!).

The Message on The Wall
This art piece was created by the fantastic and multi-talented Christiaan Pfeifer
Heimbold, Sarah Lawrence College

My Carpet, My Lover

Problems, I don’t really have any problems with problems, if you know what I mean? It seems very reductive but it isn’t, really. I just don’t have any issue with being stuck in a rut or being faced with dilemmas. Actually, I just roll with it. That is the one reward for being uptight. It takes me approximately my entire existence to plan and schedule events or dinner parties or just the perfect moment to say hello to my crush. Then it takes me another entire existence to think about the various possibilities of things going wrong, perhaps the train is delayed causing a domino effect on tonight’s schedule or someone gets an injury, or the hot rollers aren’t hot enough to create perfect ringlets. Afterwards there’s a list of other things I need to accomplish, things that are often overlooked by most people I know. All of my friends aren’t uptight or as uptight as I am. To be honest, you can’t have too many uptight people in the same room, because being uptight should not be normal. After enduring the special process I’d like to call ‘calculation’, I take a deep breathe and go on with my perfectly planned out day. Things may go wrong but I don’t freak out. Why, you ask? Well, I have taken into account enough if not all of the different wrong turns and possible avenues to take in my head, creating a catalogue of damage control approaches. Nothing could really get past me, really. Maybe that’s why I look so cool under pressure, especially when I succeed in controlling my nervous, bobbing knee. But there is one thing in life that I never plan on: love. Unlike most things in life, it takes two to fall in love. How preposterous! I know, I know, that as human beings we need others to survive. I am totally onboard with that agreement, I mean, aren’t we all? We agree to work together, whether we like or despise each other, in order to survive. Yet, rarely do we do it just out of selflessness. For instance, kill ourselves for another person. Actually, selflessness comes from love, it truly does. Unfortunately it takes two to be in a relationship, you need to be in love with person X and he/she needs to be in love with you. Well, that is clearly my ideal relationship. I don’t calculate falling in love because I can’t plan out another person’s life or make sure that the person that I have fallen in love with falls in love with me at the right time. Imagine my shock when I did finally meet that person at the perfect time just a few years after sorting my life out. I had completed my graduate degree and built a theatre as well as a thriving business. My life was in order. It was the first time in my life that I felt content living a solitary life. In my own apartment in a safe neighborhood, just a few steps from the subway, I could feel myself sinking into my body, taking in the smell of coffee and being certain that I would never need anyone to make me as happy as I was then and there.

Now, I have to constantly prevent myself from squeezing my fist too tightly. If I do, you’ll leave me for eternity. A few hours ago, no, a few months ago my perfect life was gladly destructed by your entrance. Foolishness and empty dreams permeated through me, as I opened the door and let you in. Now, all I have is an empty broken vase scattered all over my carpet. A year ago, I would immediately freak out if I found my carpet to be forever ruined, tainted by death. But now, I can’t even stop myself from breaking down and sprawling my body on the carpet, instead of picking up the vacuum cleaner to conduct a vigorous attempt to safe it. Eventually, I did take out the machine, made sure that it was clean, installed a new filter and vacuumed the carpet. I wanted to keep you still, somewhere, in a container, even though it goes against everything you stand for. 

Body. Cremation. Dust. Everywhere.

*Author owns rights to all of the photos above