Sunday, June 26, 2011

Confessions of a 22-Year-Old

On June, 18th I woke up feeling great. It was my birthday. It was just the normal childish feeling that engulfs you when you know you’ve passed another year, you are older, and in a few moments everyone is going to say their best wishes for you. You feel special.

On June, 19th, I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about how on earth I could feel so great when I was turning older and my time was running out. My life just flashed in front of me: my failed ambitions, my square job, my deficit income. And I just cried my heart out, thinking about my choices and the time wasted, wishing that I could go back.

The truth is I almost hate my current occupation. I am still a trainee at the local government’s tax office. No much of anybody yet. My academic status is only from a diploma program (no offence guys). The monthly compensation I get from the government is just enough to cover my housing rent, but for food and expenses… well I’m still burdening my parents and family.

I stared into the future and saw the cramped possibilities. I could go to college again, two years later. An older me – that’s unappealing. But what about marriage? What about my family? Yes, I do have girlish fantasies. I always wanted to settle down at home and be a good wife. Unfortunately, the two ambitions were mutually exclusive for the projected period of time.

I always wanted to study my heart out in something I love and am passionate about, like literature and philosophy. I wanted to study abroad. I wanted to write and teach. Or go to law school and be a great judge. In the process, I wanted to keep inspiring people. But that night, I thought, “I am running out of time. And youth is escaping me”.

Back then, my school days were promising. I worked pretty hard. I got good grades. My teachers gave me support and plenty of assuring compliments. A kid like me thought innocently that they were the promises of a bright and exciting future.

Then my thoughts got back to the details of work. The mound of files. The untidy desks. The cramped workspace. And worst of all, the current institution forced upon me that was last on my choice list: the Tax Ministry. Dear God, I’m still not sure if tax is even legal in my religion. Worst of all is the unreliable system that is prone to so many atrocities. I don’t want to get stuck there. It’s already hard now. What would it be like in the future?

I was slightly ashamed of myself for the uncharacteristic complaining and pathetic crying. But I thought what the heck, yesterday was my birthday and I needed this time for myself. So there I was, sobbing to my best friend about my disappointment in my life and wanting to give up. I let myself be swallowed with the emotions. He tried to talk me out of the self-indulgence and gave me advices: “just live with it for a while”. “You can catch up later”. “Think of it as phase or stepping stone towards your dreams”. But you know what I ungratefully said? I told him to shut up. Haha… I already knew all those things. I told myself those things every day. Then I told him that at that moment I wanted to whine and be selfish, just for a while… And he let me (God bless him).

I continued thinking about how I desperately wanted to drop everything and start again with my ambitions. I could go to university again. I was sure I could do it. But on the other hand, I thought about how much time and money had been spent on my account and how much my parents had sacrificed. And it wasn’t just my parents; the government had been paying for my education, ensuring my job, and paying my salary from the taxpayer’s money. And I don’t think that anyone could guarantee that they were willing considering the fact that their money could’ve gone to other personal benefits.

I sighed. Why wasn’t the thought enough to console me? It only made me feel guilty. But it succeeded in shutting me up, at least.


A week later, I was sitting on my bed, sighing pathetically at the doctor’s bill from an appointment I just had the night before. I had been absent from work for almost a week because of a complication of illnesses (I prefer not to mention). I hated that I had to visit the doctor again. It was the fifth (sixth? I honestly forgot) time this year. The numbers on the bill were outrageous. But I had no choice since permission for an absence of more than 3 days required a note from the doctor in order to be valid. I also cursed silently to think about the current sanction for these absences: 5% of your monthly salary. Per day.

So folks, in Indonesia, the government punishes you for being sick with the same tariff whether you have a doctor’s note or not. They cut your salary when you might’ve been sick from working for their majesties butts and you have to pay for the doctor’s bills and the expensive unsubsidized meds in order to get well for the sake of working for them. Well okay, it is reasonable to not get paid for the days you don’t work for, but please cut us some slack.

Meanwhile, the rest of my beloved colleagues are talking about remuneration and how it is so grand and how they love the respected SMI for it (a strange reason to love her). And while some of us are trying to cope and be satisfied with the current conditions, they are busy posting in the social network, whining and rambling about how it’s so unfair that GAPOK hasn’t been given to them. That their housing costs 50-65% 0f the monthly compensation and the rest isn’t enough to cope with. And that they are sick of the false rumors of its arrival and so they’re sick of waiting… bla, bla, bla… We haven’t even been allegedly acknowledged as PNS but we’re already asking for a sooner payment for of our work. Go figure.


Suddenly I felt ashamed of my own whining. Hey, I’ve been strong enough to cope. Why give up now?

I remembered all the good things. All the friends I made, STANEC, AKSARA… all the things that I couldn’t have had without this bumpy climb.


On June, 25th a text message appeared in my inbox from my junior:

“Mb..bsok final debate mnicomp nya.. we do really hope u’ll come. pagi kok..thanks a lot.

And that message made me spirited again. I remembered the valuable times adjudicating these spirited debaters, about what an honor it was to be asked for help by them. I remembered the “tumpeng” they made for my birthday last week. I remembered how they always listened attentively and gave me the overwhelming respect I’m not even sure I deserve.

Then there were the other marvelous hang-outs I had with the EXCOMIN, the late nights at McD’s, the heart-to-heart talks… priceless.

I also remembered all the competitions, the ceremonies, and the events I experienced during my time at STAN, between the school tasks and hard work I was obliged to complete to get me here now and I thought… things aren’t so bad at all.

Then I had a revelation of the things I used to see, not so long ago. About some things I had forgotten.

“There is more to life than meets the eye. We won’t always get what we want, but there are treats along the way. Enjoy the process. You might find that your dreams have already come true”.

There’s a saying that sometimes you can see an ant across the road, but you can’t see an elephant right in front of you (that’s not the exact transliteration but it’s something like that). The quoted words above have been written on a piece of colored paper, stuck on the wall by my bedside. I stuck them there months ago. Go figure.


I always wanted to be a teacher. In essence, I just wanted to help others learn. I realize I have done that and am still doing that at least in 30% of my time by giving lessons periodically and coaching for STANEC.

I opted to be a judge. In essence, I just wanted to be the one with the authority to judge. I realize I have done that and am still doing that in at least 15% of my time, every week, by adjudicating for STANEC. It’s totally rewarding (not entirely in the materialistic sense, of course).

I dreamed of inspiring people. I hope I have done that. And I still wish to do that, through the power of words that I am so fond of, in both speech and writing.

I just forgot how to be thankful. Lack of gratitude blinds you. Now that I remember, I can see that.

Everything is great again.

Everything is going to be okay.


“For you don’t have to be a musician to play music. You don’t have to be a teacher to help others to learn. Cherish the time you have, use it well, and achieve as much as you can.”

26th June 2010

4:06 am

My room.




  1. it's amazing how people in the same age like us tend to feel... worthless in life achievements : education, finance, relationship. have you got your salary? what have you done with it?

    i know it's cliche to say this, but you really have to be grateful for what you've got. at least, you live in the city where going everywhere is possible. use your weekends to go somewhere, feel life. i once read a book about traveling, it said : traveling is merely a way for us to feel 'home' again. as soon as i'm transferred back to jakarta, i won't waste my time to do so.

    and as you said, enjoy the process. seize the moment, and regret nothing.

    do not forget that we're still young.

    good day :)

    1. Your words are so true..

      yes, I made this post about a year ago. Halfway through the next year, I made the biggest decision ever, which might seem contradictory to this post, at a glance. Well.. I tried to be grateful. but God showed me another path.

      I hope that it brings no regrets..",

      Thanks a lot for your comment;)