A Quarter-Life Crisis, Perhaps

Reading time: 4 – 7 minutes

I have refrained myself from labeling this as a quarter-life crisis not only because I am still two years short, but also in the wake of my disbelief to such sights. I had always believed that things like pre-menstrual syndromes are simply excuses made up by men who did not want to compromise to their women in arguments, as much as quarter-life crises are made up by young adults who cannot figure out what they want to do in their life.

In spite of that, I had come into realisation that a quarter-life crisis is perhaps what I am going through at the moment – or perhaps not.

Last year, I graduated from the university and signed off to become a full-time employee in a giant multinational company based in Jakarta. A lot of people asked me why I took the decision, which seemed strange to them. “I had always thought you were going to work in the UN or an NGO!” is something I had gotten used to hearing every single day in my first months of being employed, at least from the mouths of youngsters who are stuck in the same circles with mine. To be frank, the job that I possess is a job that could be enviable to some, not to mention the company I work for is a company that I really admire. However, I still could not keep that question from being thrown onto my face. Maybe because people already have expectations on what I should do in life.

I basically took the decision to work full-time because I have seen too many young ‘activists‘ or self-proclaimed pseudo-entrepreneurs trying to change the world without having a sense of reality and what really happens on the ground. I wanted to know how it would feel like to meet people in remote areas, to witness how they maintain a certain perspective towards current issues, and how they run their lives. I also practically had never been led by someone else, let alone having a boss. I thought that would have been an essential experience to be possessed, also to prevent myself from turning into a Ms. Know-It-All.

Long story short, I have managed working in a company for over a year now, something I had never thought I would ever successfully go through. Now here comes the trouble. By this point, most of my friends from certain circles have already graduated, or at least, signed up for graduate school. Other have started award-winning entrepreneurial pursuits, or successfully soared as talented ‘self-employed’ artists, writers, or film-makers. Yet, here I am, working in a company on a 9-to-6 job (no, it’s not an 8-to-5). Yearning for my pay day to come sooner, or for a day to run more quickly.

Sometimes it makes me ask myself, “What have I been doing in the past one year?”

It’s something that I constantly talk about to my significant other, someone whom I seek to console myself with. He has always been a hard worker, one of his qualities that makes look up to him. He’s started working part-time in high school to do the same thing until he’s finished university, to earn money to pay for his living costs and tuition fees. He then worked on two jobs simultaneously for a couple of years. Quoting on what he often says to me, “Be grateful of the job you have. I used to come home at 3 am only to find myself working again 4 to 5 hours later, to make ends meet.”

This evening, I re-told him the same story, that sometimes I feel like I have not been doing much, I have not been doing great things for my future like what my friends are doing. I have not been contributing to the country as much as I could, and as much as I should. I haven’t been…

This is what he told me,

“I think what you are doing: creating activations at work, writing books, selling ice creams, have tangible results. I could see you doing it. It is not something that could be gone through the thin air. It is not something conceptual anymore. I think, by doing so, you have been creating an impact in people’s lives, an impact that could be witnessed, which is not something that many people could do these days.”

And that got me thinking.

In IYC, we have always believed on the principle that anyone, any young person, should be able to positively contribute towards the development of Indonesia through his/her passion and interests — no matter what they might be. That the contribution should not be limited to activities in the field of politics and education, but also creative industry and economy. That whatever you like to do could be transformed into something useful for the community, only if you know how to do it, and how to see it.

I could not believe that I, myself, could forget to apply this principle in my own life. I have not done much, yes, but I could keep on pursuing anytime I wish to. Perhaps the way could be different with how my friends are doing it. Perhaps I do not go to Ivy League schools, or volunteer in political campaigns, but it can never mean that I am not allowed to go my own ways in creating my own version of “contribution” towards the betterment of Indonesia, can it?

But hey, perhaps this is just one of a useless ramblings of a recently-legal girl having both quarter-life crisis and pre-menstrual syndrome at the same time.

Or perhaps not.


That just happened

Reading time: 2 – 2 minutes

We grew up. Yes, that just happened.

Every single thing in life that happens so slowly, yet so constantly, never fail to brag to us on how we would never, ever notice that it had happened. Growing up. Finishing school. Falling in love. Losing a friend. Learning how to drive. Writing papers. Obtaining lessons from life. Then, we might go: what the hell? I’ve finished school already? 

Sometimes, we might want to ask why, why did time betray us? But then, where have we been all this time – when life was happening in our life? Yet, we will try to go back to words, pictures, conversations, memories… to relive what happened, to relive what we thought we have never experienced. But we have. Though we might forget to realise it.

You know what comes up next? The thought of realising that sometimes, words delude us. Nah, often times than not, they do. So do pictures. Memories. Conversations. Trying to encourage us to live in the past. To go back to school again, learn to drive again. To grow up once again.

Better yet. Most of us want to fall for its beauty. We want — in fact, we yearn to be deluded. But, would you? Would you sacrifice your real present to be deluded with what you thought was so good you would never ever experience again?

I probably wouldn’t.


Little Notes of Life

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

An afternoon in Firenze, Italy

I am a great believer of the saying that getting lost allows you to (re)discover yourself. Thus, I travel a lot, and most of the time alone. Sometimes I understand myself better when I get lost between historical buildings that are also landmarks of a city; and I get to love the person inside me stronger when my feet are enjoying the sand and the salty sea situated on one of Indonesia’s coasts. Today, I just finished a 10-day trip to Italy; spent a few days working and the rest, basically, wandering around the old city. Wondering about my life, being drowned amongst the crowds in front of the Spanish Steps. Imagining of the things that could have happened, or could not have happened. Recalling the events that have built my life up onto this moment and made me meet the people I’ve shared my life with; and the (expected) events that did not really make it.

The year of 2013 has just been here for roughly 45 days, yet so many things have come up. Plenty of things have happened, and most of them have given me a bunch of lessons to be learned. I think it would be very important to take note of them. As a reminder.

I was once a very rational person; I used to assess almost everything with my logic to give my heart a thick shield. To prevent it to be broken once again, especially when I have run out of glue to fix it. But then, love happened, and things changed. They changed a lot. But, at times, we just got to go back to square one. And start over. And be rational again.

One day, I might have a look at these notes once again; simply to prevent them from being forgotten. Consider this as a manifesto. Well, I love manifestos. I thought, someday I would have to write one like that. Perhaps that one day is going to be today. (Although these notes would probably only account a bit of it.)

Why don’t we give it a try.

Feelings are often real. But the words we use to express them, most of the time, are illusory. So, carefully think about the words we choose to use. Never say “I love you” just to create an illusion of feelings, nor to make our counterpart love us. The worst of “I love you”s are those that are not wholeheartedly said. Therefore, when you say it; make sure you mean it.

Being young is not only about leaving a mark in the world. It is also about letting the world leaves a mark within us. May it be through an event, or even more, through a person. So go. Fall in love, make mistakes, break your heart, and probably start over.

There is no such thing as “unrequited feeling”. However, perhaps, the level of requital that we get might be higher or lower than our expectations. (Perhaps it’s best not to expect anything at all, and let it be a surprise. Let life surprises you.)

When God takes away something you (thought you) have, usually you are going to get something better. However, be grateful of what you have at the moment. Keep it. Protect it. Or you might end up losing something that matters the most in your life. (And try not to regret when that happens, especially when you have failed in protecting it. Let it wander to a better place, a place that would keep it safe.)

Never fall in love in your sleep. What usually comes as a dream might suddenly show up as a nightmare. Since then, your sleeps and naps would never be the same anymore. Be in love while you are awake. Be in love knowing the risks you take, the ‘dangers’ you will face. Be in love with a person, not the idea of him/her that you have projected yourself. Be in love with a person, not the idea of him/her that he/she tries to project for you to believe in.

(Always) believe that there is probably a person out there who deserves to get the best of you. (You might meet him/her soon).

The only person in the world who could make you happy is yourself. Before others. (I usually compliment myself with ice creams too, though. Ice creams make me really happy.)

Most of the time, feeling exhausted also means that you have not make your life wasted for nothing. Keep going.

The worst feeling that you could ever possess to someone is the feeling of possessing him/her, as if that person is completely yours. Because you could never, ever “own” a person. You could only be happy when the person you choose to be with also chooses to be with you.

Words might hurt you, but words shouldn’t. (this one’s courtesy of Adriano Qalbi)

Last, but not least,

Be happy. Because you only need yourself to be happy, and because you can. Allow yourself to be happy. With or without someone else. Isn’t it such a great feeling to realise that we can be happy on our own? As soon as we have allowed ourselves to be happy on our own, then we can be happy with another person.

Enjoy your February. It’s my favourite time of the year, usually. I hope it’s going to be yours too.


Unleashing Indonesia

Reading time: 4 – 7 minutes

6 months ago, a program of McKinsey & Company called Young Leaders for Indonesia commenced. I have been honoured to be able to join the 6-month program involved by 60 participants from a variety of universities in Indonesia and Singapore. The program is very competitive, and I was surprised that I was accepted as one of the attendees. At the first day the forum, it was unsurprising for me to witness the brilliancy of other participants. All the intelligent wit, high-achieving nature, and aspiration to unleash Indonesia — or at least that’s how McKinsey label this passion.

The program was divided into three forums. Each of the forum contents a specific theme, and even more specific modules. Forum I was called “Lead Self”; Forum II was called “Lead Teams”; and Forum III was called “Lead Indonesia”. McKinsey & Company shared many modules, including the problem solving framework used by McKinsey & Company, integrity module, etc. They also invite high profile leaders, including Tri Mumpuni, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Anies Baswedan, Sandiaga Uno, Aldi Haryopratomo, Pahala Mansury, and plenty others in each forum.

In all three forums, we got the chance to meet many leaders with similar profiles. A lot of them used to work in consulting or auditing firms, namely McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, or KPMG. Many of them used to work or are still working in banks or financial institutions like J.P. Morgan, Saratoga Capital, Goldman Sachs, or Bank Mandiri. Plenty of them left Indonesia to the U.S. to get an M.B.A. (or even PhD) degree, then come back to Indonesia to become Senior Vice President of something, Vice President of something, or CEO of something else. Some of them choose to work in the government, mostly in the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight.

It was also not a surprise for me that most of us then became unsure about what we would like to do for the rest of our lives. A participant used to want to be a lecturer so bad; but then she changed her mind and applied for McKinsey entrance test. Another participant used to want to work in a social enterprise, but then changed his mind and want to work in a private equity instead. A lot of entrepreneurs-to-be shifted directions to be consultants; and vice versa.

And then, I realized, for some moments, I sensed that what the “leaders” have said, no matter how high his or her level is in the company or institution, is usually the same with what my mother and father said, or with what my friends said about life. Even without such experience like what those ‘leaders’ possess, they still say similar things.

I felt like I have met many younger leaders who are as inspiring. The people who did not have to go overseas to say that they have achieved something in their lives. The people who just enjoy what they do. The people who have the guts to do what they love–regardless what other people say about it. Regardless of how much money they make, or how many years have they served in the position.

It was the moment that I began to understand, thoroughly, that: no, you don’t have to be a CEO of something to be recognized as a leader. You don’t have to be a management consultant to prove to other people that you are smart, a hard worker, and a high achieving person. You don’t have to work in a certain delivery unit to contribute to your nation. You just have to do the things you love; and do it well. Do good deeds to others through your passion. Build the nation through what excites you–which probably make building the nation excites you too. That way, you’ll never get tired of doing things only to impress people. Instead, you’d be happy to be able to follow your heart and intuition.

A father is a leader too. So is a friend. Other people might not realize it, but we should. For every big changes should start within the smallest circle. A family. A relationship. A friendship. A group of friends. The smallest groups that eventually form a big nation populated by 240 million something of people.

If getting to know about a variety of industry and developing strategy is your passion, work in a management consulting firm. If helping people through medical consultations is your passion, be a doctor. If sharing your knowledge, giving learning materials, and delivering lectures is your passion, get a masters degree and be a lecturer. If making people laugh brings joy to yourself, be a stand-up comedian.

Nobody has the right to look down on you just because you are doing the things that you love. Even if to them it seems less prestigious. Being able to follow our passion is a luxury. Therefore, if we have the chance too, I think we should pursue it.

We don’t have to be under the spotlight to give an impact in other people’s lives; and we don’t have to do something just because we want other to recognize our existence. Our choice might not be the best one, but make sure we make the most honest choice; for a path chosen now is the path that we’ll get to go on for the rest of our lives.

Thank you, Young Leaders for Indonesia, for the lessons learned.

How would you like to unleash Indonesia?