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The Tirades of a Young Adult

ramblings on food, privilege, and why white people like to quantify their lineage

**Disclaimer: Some of these scenarios I’m mentioning may be applicable to other minority groups not based on race, but for the context on this post, I’m focusing specifically on people of color in the United States. I also talk a lot about “white people” but I hope everyone realizes that a.) it’s not all white people (duh), and b.) that these scenarios are caused by a systemic problem of white supremacy that white folks (and non-white folks) are complicit in, whether intentionally or not, and not caused by individual white people.

Tomorrow is mother’s day (well American mother’s day anyway). Holidays that center around families are always hard for me, mostly cause my family live far away. I’m sure for many folks who don’t have Hallmark-ready sentiments about their families (because of histories of abuse, displacement, or whatnot) also feel a certain hardship around these holidays. Please think of them as well tomorrow in addition to thinking of your mommas.

I was homesick today, so I decided to buy some corn, some condensed milk, some shredded cheese, and some rosé. When I was growing up, I used to eat boiled corn (off the cob) mixed with butter, condensed milk, and cheese. It was one of the best things ever, so why not use some comfort food to cure a little homesickness? Plus, rosé is always appropriate for any state of mind.

I’m not really sure why I’m writing this, but I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately. I mean I always do I guess, cause I eat a lot and I love food, but I think about food in the sense that it’s so much more than just that thing we eat to keep us alive. For many cultures, food is everything more than just sustenance. It’s one of the symbols of a given culture. The ingredients that go into a dish involves chemistry and history and geography and anthropology.

Indonesian food is amazingly savory. There are so many different spices and herbs that go into it because our geography allows our land to be used to grow these things. Some dishes take hours to make. My mom is the resident chef in my family. Most moms in Indonesia are, though not always. In Indonesia, food is how you show you care about someone. If you come over to someone’s house, their way of showing hospitality goes a bit farther than tea and crackers—often it’s a whole meal, often you’re pushed to get second helpings (and third helpings, and fourth helpings). That kind of culture isn’t exclusive to Indonesian culture.

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Went to an iftar with a family friend during Ramadan in Al-Salt, Jordan, and got to eat from this spread.

Whenever I get a chance to eat Indonesian food here in Seattle, it’s like a blessing. Eating sambal (chili sauce), smelling kunyit (turmeric), hearing sounds of meat being stir fried in a wok it takes me to another place. It takes me home. I’m sure that’s true for many people of different cultures as well. For a lot of racial minorities and diasporic peoples, eating a certain kind of food takes us to this collective consciousness that we have within our in-groups, near or far. If I’m eating Indonesian cireng (fried tapioca with spices), I’m most likely going to think back to my time in elementary school, peeking out of my school bus to buy them with friends from street vendors that storm the streets while all the cars are stuck in traffic. Many people my age may have this same train of thought too.

***

I went to a spoken-word poetry performance once, and the performers asked why white people food tastes so bland given the fact that their European ancestors colonized the world to take other peoples’ spices. Well it turns out, because of colonization, Europeans from the higher to lower class can get ahold of spices very easily. Being bougie-ass folks that the European ruling class can be, they don’t want to eat the same things that the poorer Europeans do, so they made “pure” dishes (i.e., ones cooked without spices taken from colonies) the It-food. The It-food is exclusive, the It-food is ~pure~, the It-food has none of those dirty peppers in it. And as in most places, what the ruling class does, everyone follows (think Regina George wearing army pants and flip flops, so obv everyone wanted to wear army pants and flip flops). So apparently that’s how we got Johns at Jai Thai eating Pad See Ews with 0 stars.

Food is chemistry, it’s history, it’s geography, it’s anthropology. Food is race, it’s class, it’s religion, it’s culture. But I wonder whether most white people would know that history of why chicken pot pie isn’t as savory as chicken massala. I wonder if white frat bros who gawk at a Mexican man selling elotes from his food cart on the basis of “that food is probably super dirty and unsanitary” realizes the irony of them eating at Chipotle twice a week. I hope the white people who judge the authenticity of a Japanese restaurant by the number of Japanese-looking customers recognize that some of those same customers may have been made to feel shitty by white people when they were growing up because their lunchbox contained tuna rolls instead of tuna sandwiches. I hope those white people have that kind of collective consciousness.

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Feastmode: About to eat Padang food back when I was in Jakarta in 2013

***

A few years ago my housemates and I threw a party at our house, it was a successful party, full of white college hipsters and Rainier beer-fueled fun. It was almost 3 a.m. and I was ready to turn in and call it a night. We had turned the party lights off and most people had gone home, except for a few stragglers. One of them was this white guy.

He asked: Hey, what are you? (Because there’s always that one white guy that asks that of POCs amirite)
Me, being tired and not really in the mood to smack basic-ass white people in the face: Uh, I grew up in Indonesia
Him: Oh cool, my grandmother’s 1/16th Korean
Me: Oh cool, you’re just another white guy to me tho
I left.

Sometimes I wonder why is it that so many white people like to quantify their ancestry. Why is it so easy for them to turn their lineage into simple fraction, as though their roots are so easily quantifiable and not at all based on complex histories affected by violence and displacement, among other things?

Maybe on some level white people recognize that most minorities have a collective consciousness within their in-groups. If I see another POC, we both will probably have personal stories related to how racism has affected us. Different stories, perhaps, but they have a common denominator of racism (also applicable to other minority groups affected by an -ism). Maybe some white people want a collective consciousness that’s related to ethnicity too. Maybe that white guy at my house party thought that he and I could have the same collective consciousness because we both have non-white blood in us. Except I have 100% non-white blood and him less than 6% apparently; except he probably doesn’t lose sleep at night specifically because he misses the food his mom cooks thousands of miles away (he could possibly lose sleep for other reasons); except he probably doesn’t get hit on by white guys because they have a fetish for Asians; except he probably doesn’t feel guilty for being able to speak English better than his mother tongue.

Maybe that’s why some white people like to say they’re a quarter (or whatever fraction) Native American, as though having a smidgen of Native blood (or whatever non-white blood) is the same as being raised in that culture, or the same as viscerally knowing the trials and tribulations and joy and inside jokes of that culture. As though being able to “pass” as white even if you’re mixed race isn’t also a form of privilege. Maybe ethnic pride isn’t the only reason why some white people like to announce that they’re 50% Irish, 20% Hispanic, 5% French, 14% German, and 1% Native American. Maybe it’s also because they want to forget that less than a century ago, their European ancestors pushed people who had even 1% of non-white blood to the margins through every method from not allowing them to vote, to making them drink from specific water fountains, to murder.

Maybe some white people just want to feel like they can #relate. Maybe they want to find other histories to relate to because the history that they should actually #relate to involve murdering and enslaving whole groups of people. And that’s understandable, who wants to acknowledge shit like that? But maybe white people should start if we are to get to a “post-racial society” that so many white liberals want. Black and brown people in this country already acknowledge that painful history (whether we want to or not), why not white people too? It seems that the “progressive” movement lately is like code for “waiting for cis white straight people to catch up with all the rest of us.”

***

I often get the sense from some white people that they think that racial minorities having a collective consciousness with members of their own race equates to having privilege. Like how men think that women having signals with their wing-women at bars for when an interaction with a man has gone sour is equal to having “female privileges,” as though they don’t recognize that those signals were necessary because of a culture in which saying no to a man can mean violence in response. Sometimes I hear from some white people that black people are privileged for being able to say the n-word. But is it privilege when they have to reclaim a word that used to be used to justify their murder? Isn’t it that when you have to reclaim something, that means that that thing was taken from you without your consent to begin with? Is it a privilege to be a victim of stealing? That’s a new concept to me.

Maybe people of color in America have a collective consciousness because they are constantly told that their experiences are the “other” whereas white is the “default.” That growing up eating mac and cheese is part of “childhood,” but growing up eating rice is part of “Indonesian childhood.” That eating dim sum is a “Chinese thing” but eating fries is just a “thing.” Maybe people of color in America have a collective consciousness because they recognize that they don’t come from an Anglo-centric land, but Anglo peoples have to some extent wrecked it all the same. So most POCs acknowledge their histories, their communities, and the culture from which they stem because they need to. Because the group in power (i.e., whites) won’t acknowledge that history for them. Is it a privilege if we have to do certain things for ourselves because otherwise those things will be erased from history? Maybe if some of these white people would like to also have a collective consciousness relating to race, they should acknowledge their own histories first, systematically and personally. Even if that history is filled with systems being devised to take things from other groups, time and time again. I get it, this whole mess of crap that is racial/cultural relations in the US is not the fault of individual white people, it’s a systemic problem. But wouldn’t it be nice if more of them listened to POCs on how to solve it?

making art while brown: when you’re expected to have essays to back up your rage

Before I begin pouring my thoughts onto this page, I wanted to say that I’ve been tempted to start a semi-regular column (presumably called “making art while brown”) just to highlight my experiences and conversations I’ve had regarding the experience as an artist of color trying to make art (specifically dance) in white-ass Seattle. Not gonna promise anything though, cause schedules and things tend to pile up and I tend to overwork myself (which I’m trying to get better at). But I’ve always appreciated writing about my experiences as a way to analyze it and how it fits into larger societal privileged/marginalized dynamics. Hopefully by pushing myself to write more about it, it can make me a better activist/artist/writer/person. If you are reading this and would love to have further conversations about it, trust that that feeling is mutual, and there’s always an open invitation for such productive discussions. That aside, here goes:

I’ve been really angry lately, and for lots of different reasons. Chances are if you’re someone with a marginalized identity, and you’re not part of the white-cis-het crew, you’ve been angry a lot at the way these power structures treat you.

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image from “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

In my last post, I wrote about the frustrations that come with being an artist of color in the predominantly white Seattle dance scene. I wrote about the frustration regarding and fear of being tokenized as a person of color, of being put in a box because I made the choice to deal with my identity as an American-Indonesian in a performative work, of being dismissed because I consciously decided to address my distinctly non-White upbringing. I talked about it again recently with one of my bffs/my emergency contact/honorary sibling for The Murmur Journal. The bottom line of this frustration is not that I’m scared of being criticized for my art, but that it sucks that I’m the one worrying about being tokenized and essentialized as a person of color as opposed to people (mostly white people) just realizing that tokenizing/essentializing POCs is not OK.

After that performance, of which you can watch below, I got a lot of really supportive and insightful feedback, none of which tokenized my experiences. If anything, a lot of the conversations I’ve had with viewers had to do with how other folks managed to layer their own experiences on the work, and that led to a lot of beautiful revelations on humanity, on relationships, on imaginations.

But then came the review. To be clear here, Sandi Kurtz is a respectable dance journalist/historian in this city, and this post is not a form to attack her in any way, but I do want to add my two cents to her review on SeattleDances (for which I also write reviews/previews). She wrote:

“The work could be seen as an affectionate nod to Ruth St. Denis, who used elaborate costumes to help create her faux-ethnic solos, or just a happy coincidence—either way, the two seem to share an appreciation for the effect a truly stunning costume can have.”

Ruth St. Denis is a renowned choreographer, but she’s also got a record of being problematic, mostly because she created art in an era where it is “trendy” to create Orientalist, appropriative works that fetishize non-Western cultures (other examples of this: Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, and many other choreographers of the early 20th century—or even later, Doug Elkins for example—that do make “faux-ethnic” dances). The idea that someone would compare me to a choreographer who gets accolades for appropriating and fetishizing cultures that aren’t theirs offends me greatly. My work is and has always been an earnest way of dealing with my identity, and yet the only record of that effort is a person (of considerable privilege) comparing me to a choreographer who tokenize cultures like mine because it’s “exotic” and “ethnic.” It’s as though the assumption of my only goal was to “combine Eastern and Western cultures” in order to be “edgy.” It’s not. I am brown. I am ethnic. That informs not just how I make art, but also how I live my life. I do balance Eastern and Western cultures on the daily not because I want to be “fresh” and “unique” and “cutting-edge,” but because it is something I have to do in order to survive. It’s something I think about daily because if I don’t, the overwhelming guilt of finding yourself complicit in white hegemony as a person of color is unproductive. If I don’t think about it daily, I risk of losing the (non-Western) cultures, nuances, values that I grew up with that is so crucial to my current existence. Obviously I don’t expect viewers who don’t know me to get that (because duh how would you know right?), but I think that statement just needs to be put out there in the world.

video: wali panca at Velocity’s Next Fest NW: Utopia

But I’m not writing this post to talk about that. I’m not in a place where I feel like I need to respond to the review. What Sandi wrote is her opinion and it’s valid (maybe problematic, but still valid), and what I wrote above is my opinion and it’s also valid. As Kurt Vonnegut said: “the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people be right about things and still not agree.”

Instead, I wanted to analyze my anger. After I read this review, I was considerably angry because months earlier, I had written about this very subject. To quote from my previous post:

“The thing is, white-cis-straight people make stuff based on their past life experiences all the time, and they don’t have to worry about having that experience fetishized the crap out of itself. Because their experiences are considered the default, therefore relatable. Mine’s foreign. It’s exotic. …

The thing is, I don’t need people to think a certain thing when they’re viewing my work, I’ve never thought that ever. That’s the beauty of art right? Viewers get to layer their own experiences on it. But it sucks knowing that some people are going to put you in a box because they just grew up differently than you. And somehow you’re the one that gets stripped of your complexity, because the white hegemonic system makes it real convenient to do so.”

In my interview for the Murmur Journal, I elaborated even further:

“I was worried that people would think, ‘Oh of course it would be this ethnic thing because this is what she knows.’ … there’s always that nervousness. You just think about what people’s intentions are. When they ignore you and don’t ignore the white person next to you, you wonder about their intentions. There’s a lot of self-analysis that happen. What’s frustrating is that you worry about their intentions but they don’t think about your intentions. They often just rely on stereotypes. … That’s problematic.”

And I felt that that very concern of being put in a box was manifesting right in front of me. And I was upset that even though I saw it coming, I’m still upset about it. So then I had conversations with people I love about it. At one point, my significant other asked me:

“Do you think you’re gonna write a response to it like Au Collective did with the review of you guys’ show?” (For reference, read here, here, and here)

Maybe some people would consider this post to be that response, but I don’t consider it as so. Honestly, I didn’t want to respond (and I still don’t). It takes so much time and effort and courage to express your frustrations and anger as a person of color to a white audience, and I constantly wonder who benefits from that time and effort and courage.

And that’s exactly where the problem lies. We as marginalized peoples (whether POCs, femmes, queer folks, trans* people, differently-abled folks, religious minorities, and many other intersections thereof) constantly have to summon up courage just to be angry. It is as though the white-cis-het-masculine hegemony expects us to summon time and effort and bravery and guts to face our trauma in order to craft eloquent essays to explain to them why we are angry with this system. And for whose benefit is that? We know why we’re angry, so surely we won’t be the ones primarily benefiting from such an ordeal. Most of the time, if we don’t calm ourselves down enough to explain our rage, we risk being seen as the “angry black and brown people,” or the “angry queers” or “angry activists” or whatever the stereotype is. And lemme tell you, that’s not a fun stereotype to be put on you.

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image from “What Happened, Miss Simone?”

Here’s where the conundrum lies though: being angry is sometimes necessary, because things should make you angry because we should, in general, hold ourselves to higher standards as to how we’re treating other human beings. South Asian trans* artist/poet/human being extraordinaire Alok Vaid-Menon says so eloquently in an interview:

Q: Oftentimes there is a narrative of negativity imposed upon activists and anyone who is outraged by the reality of the world. We are encouraged to “think positively” and operate with Hallmark-ready sentiments on our hearts. People also don’t like being told they’re wrong or that their behaviors contribute to violence—that word alone really scares people. You use the word “rage” a lot in a way that suggests it’s positive or productive. What does that word mean to you? Why is rage important?

A: Oh gosh, I think rage is so beautiful and awe-inspiring. Rage means intensity, honesty, confrontation. It’s gotten a negative connotation, but I think it’s actually necessary because so much of this world is about desensitizing us to everything, making us numb to our own pain and the pain of others, and sometimes people need to be awoken to the fact that there’s something worth fighting for.”

It is so important, but wouldn’t it be lovely if marginalized peoples are also given a space to be angry in their own ways, to not have to validate their anger for the benefit of privileged people. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we don’t have to be tired of being angry, much less sick of being tired of being angry? I’m honestly so sick of being tired of being angry. At one point, I wished I didn’t exist as a woman of color in a country ruled by white men, and that’s a hella scary thought, honestly. On the one hand, I know that if I’m just apathetic to these injustices, I won’t win because then I’m just being complacent, and that’s no good. But you need energy to be anything but apathetic, and if you do choose to resist (by being angry or critical or whatever), there’s still the risk that you won’t win, because the hegemonic system is not made for marginalized peoples to win. So here we are, back at where we’re started: between a rock and a hard place.

If you are an artist of color, or even just a person of color who don’t consider yourself an art-maker, I would love to know how you navigate this conundrum, how you hold space for other people, while simultaneously holding space for yourself to resist and be angry yet still take care of yourself. I’m all for using art as part of that effort, cause I think art is a necessary part of navigating this conundrum. But what if your art becomes entangled in that conundrum? Then how do you escape that and look at it critically while still making sure you don’t burn out? I would genuinely like to know, what’s your relationship to rage?

xo -i

?

making art while brown: to POCs whose art is de-facto radical

I’ve always known that my existence will always be political. I don’t think I understood it in those exact words growing up, and I don’t think I understand it in the more concrete ways in which I do now. I just know that there is a specific mold that society prefers people to be, and I don’t fit in to that mold. As the years go by, that becomes clearer.

What mold am I talking about? Well, one that’s forced by patriarchal, heteronormative, white supremacist, ableist ideas. As a brown woman, I for sure don’t fit into that mold. When structural systems of power depend entirely on this mold, existing as yourself outside of that mold is in and of itself a struggle for power. It’s political.

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Many people who know me also know that I was born in Texas, but grew up in Bogor and Jakarta, Indonesia. I moved to Washington state when I was 15. First to Vashon, then Auburn, then Seattle. That wasn’t a very typical coming-of-age experience, for an American nor an Indonesian.

As a kid I was really active. I still am as a dancer, but when I was younger I loved playing sports. I did Karate and Tae Kwon Do, was on the basketball team and later the soccer team, and had a brief stint with the swim team. Being outside in a tropical region means the sun shines really bright and for the most part I was always tan (I was already dark-skinned to begin with). When I was younger, before I was even 10, I think, my aunts would say to me: “It’s okay that you’re dark-skinned now, your skin will get lighter when you grow up and you’ll be pretty.”

Growing up, I didn’t really have dolls that looked like me. I had Barbie dolls, and Barbie dolls weren’t brown and small and queer back then. They’re still not.

When I was in elementary school, I had a few guy friends, and each one of us had nicknames. Mine was “ant,” because to quote them, I was “small, black, and stupid.” They were joking about the stupid part, because they knew I was smarter than all of them, but I was still the small, black girl. (It’s funny looking back at this now because now, Black to me is a very distinct identity that I very much don’t posses, but in Indonesia if you weren’t light skinned then you were considered “black”)

Throughout most of my primary school years, I understood that I would not be called “pretty.” For some reason, the Indonesian words for “pretty” or “beautiful” were often reserved for people who are light-skinned. If you were dark-skinned, the go-to words were “exotic” or an Indonesian phrase that directly translates to “black and sweet” (”hitam manis”).

When I moved to the US, a lot of people in Vashon didn’t know where Indonesia was. One girl asked me: “Is that like near India?” Or they would ask the all-time favorite: “I know Bali, do you know Bali?” because that’s the only thing they’ve heard of Indonesia, and they heard about it from Eat, Pray, Love. Yawn. Yes, white girl, of course I know where Bali is. Good for you for being so cultured.

During this past Thanksgiving weekend, my Indonesian friends and I went to Poulsbo. On the ferry to Bainbridge Island, we sat at a booth on one side of the ferry. Everyone on every other booth on our side in the cabin was white. This white lady was going booth to booth to register voters. She took a look at our booth and skipped it. We were all brown. I am an American citizen who has voted in every election since I turned 18. The lady didn’t even bother to ask.

Once, after a discussion in my dance history class on cultural appropriation within dance, a white girl friend of mine asked “Why can’t dance just be dance?” She proceeded to look at me and said “I know why you think it can’t, but I feel like dance should just be dance,” as though it’s my fault and my problem that I can’t get over the politics within things (even dance! gasp!)

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One time I was reporting on an event on climate justice, and I was shadowing some canvassers who went around Columbia City to get the perspectives of marginalized, low-income, racial minorities on how climate change issues impacted them. I was shadowing canvassers who were interviewing a Black, homeless veteran. He didn’t answer the questions they asked right away but instead proceeded to wonder out loud about my ethnicity. He said “You can’t be Indian because you’re not dark enough, but you can’t be Vietnamese because your skin is not light enough, but the Vietnamese women are the most beautiful, so what are you?” Upon knowing that I’m Indonesian, he said “Ah, a Polynesian princess. Your ancestors must be beautiful.” I went home after and cried.

Every time I go back to Jakarta now, it’s always hard to switch languages at first, and from time to time the tiniest hint of an American accent would slip. My friends would call me a term that translates to “foreigner,” but it’s only used when referring to white foreigners. I was never a fan of that. When I go back to Seattle, I’m still the foreigner because I’m brown and Indonesian and have an “exotic” name.

Why am I writing about all these stories? Well, I recently made a dance piece that wasn’t explicitly about these stories but is very much influenced by these experiences (and more) and how they affected my worldview. It’s going to be premiered next week. It’s scary as fuck. Not because I don’t think people are going to like it or that it’s not going to be good (because I don’t really care about the first one and I am confident that it’s a good piece), but because I know there will be people watching who will put me in a box.

Seattle is a very white city. I’m not a white person. I’m reflecting on my experiences as a person of color who juggles these identities and these ideas of home as an American and an Indonesian. I’m using non-Western music, the title’s going to be in Old Javanese language, and I’m brown.

The thing is, I’ve never done this before. I’ve never explicitly put these ideas about my identity on stage before, despite always juggling these ideas in my brain, writings, and everyday conversations. It usually just filters through in my stage works. Everything I’ve made as a choreographer up to this point has always been a work of research: I explore universal concepts, I investigate the experiences of others, I analyze discourse on certain things. I still do all of that with this work because that’s always been my process, but there’s a very personal and very sentimental element at play here, because in a way, I’m blurting all the things I’ve written about above—and more—in the piece, but not explicitly and the viewers won’t really know it (and that’s okay). It’s time I put these ideas on stage.

The thing is, because Seattle’s a white city and the tastemakers in the dance scene are mostly white and grew up influenced by a North-American perspective on what home means and what growing up was like, they won’t get how hearing the sound of traditional Indonesian gamelan makes me feel like I’m in 4th grade, learning how to play the instruments. How that reminds me of childhood and innocence. They won’t get how the highs and lows of sindhen vocalists make me feel like I’m being sung a prayer that keeps bad things at bay. How that makes me feel safe. A lot of people will think it’s just “ethnic” music. People may think, “Of course she would make something like this she’s Indonesian,” and proceed to think that I’ll be the go-to for Indonesian knowledge and only that. People may not know about how frustrating it is to feel foreign in the places you call home, how guilty you feel when you find yourself complicit in white hegemony as a person of color. Some people may think that I’m just trying to be edgy in trying to “blend Eastern and Western cultures.”

The thing is, white-cis-straight people make stuff based on their past life experiences all the time, and they don’t have to worry about having that experience fetishized the crap out of itself. Because their experiences are considered the default, therefore relatable. Mine’s foreign. It’s exotic.

The thing is, I don’t really know why I’m writing all this. I’m writing this at 2 a.m. after an 8-hour stint of covering the news at work. I’m anxious and nervous and excited and drinking so much wine, just like any choreographer would be a week before a premiere. I’m not writing this to be preachy or offer a solution. I’m writing this because some people in white Seattle are going to watch my piece and exoticize the hell out of it and I’m the one worrying about it, as opposed to them realizing that that’s not okay. And that frustrates me.

The thing is, I don’t need people to think a certain thing when they’re viewing my work, I’ve never thought that ever. That’s the beauty of art right? Viewers get to layer their own experiences on it. But it sucks knowing that some people are going to put you in a box because they just grew up differently than you. And somehow you’re the one that gets stripped of your complexity, because the white hegemonic system makes it real convenient to do so.

Any artist presenting work has a million different things in mind, and there are a lot of inherent risks within that existence. For many artists, those risks are why they became artists in the first place. But if you’re an artist of color, and you’re putting your experiences into a work and acknowledging your brownness or blackness, there’s a seemingly inherent risk: That people are going to watch and some of them will think “Of course they would make this, this is what they know,” as though it’s your fault for not “getting over” your existence as a person of color and not instead joining the white artists that are out there “objectively” researching elusive ideas. That’s real frustrating, and that’s not a sustainable art-making environment.

But I don’t know, I guess at the end of the day, we as people of color are going to just deal with shitty systems, whether in art or politics or economics or whatever. And we’re gonna stick with each other and support the hell out of each other in the process. In the words of the late, great Mark Aguhar:

“It’s that thing where the only way to cope with the reality of your situation is to pretend it doesn’t exist; because flippancy is a privilege you don’t own but you’re going to pretend you do anyway.

And yet despite how dreary it may feel, it’s also kind of empowering in a way. These words from musician Meredith Graves really speak to me:

“For most of us, [combining art and activism is] unavoidable. As long as art, like music, remains predominantly a cis-straight-male scene, any art made by a person who doesn’t fit those parameters is a form of activism. It’s not that you have to be overtly political or run around on stage screaming like I do—you can make quiet, dreamy music or weave or do silent performance art or just insist on existing in volatile spaces, and it’s still an insanely radical act. Giving yourself permission to exist is both activism and a form of art.”

I guess now that I think about it, I’m writing this for the black and brown folks out there making art and I just want to say: you’re not alone, and you got this.

-i

strong feelings on being the "sad artist"

I despise the idea that in order to make good art, you have to suffer.

Sad art is valid art, but it doesn’t always mean good art. To make art that’s effective and impactful, you have to be restless. There’s gotta be something that makes you restless, something that’s just dying to come out — whether it’s something you want to say, change, do, you’ve just got to be thinking of something.

Everyone’s been sad. I’ve been sad. I’ve made art because of it, and not just dance. I’ve made art to survive the sadness. I’ve experienced sadness for a variety of reasons, from breakups, homesickness, identity crises, fear, anger, and even empathic sadness for a group of oppressed people whom I don’t even know personally. I’ve been having a lot of that kind of sadness lately.

I’ve made art based on all those kinds of sadness because I was restless each time. It’s funny how I’m just noticing now that my most effective and fulfilled works has been works that interacted with the world. It’s not just a recount of some isolated, personal incident (like a breakup, for example), but the grander, more universal human experience behind it.

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It’s foolish to think that when you’re an artist, you don’t need to know about the world around you: the people you interact with, the people you walk past on the streets, the history of the places on which you walk, the narratives of lives you’ll never touch — those that are miles away.

A lot of young artists seem to think that just as long as we have feelings, we can make art because art is subjective. Yes, and no. Sure, art is subjective, but we are not the center of the universe, and our art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It interacts with the social, political, economic, and cultural truths around us, whether we like it or not — especially when there’s an audience for our art.

A lot of artists my age seem to think that as long as they have feelings, they can make art, and oftentimes, they equate those feelings to sadness, so they wallow in their sadness to keep the “creative juices flowing,” so to speak. They stay depressed for a prolonged length of time in order to suffer in the name of art.

That’s foolish, and that’s not a sustainable way to make art. Depression is a very real thing, and it’s nothing to glamorize. I’ve spent many days trying to fight off those demons and sadness so it doesn’t consume my life, so that I stay mentally healthy and able to function. I know other people around me with the same demons or even go through worse things. They fight it every single day. It angers me, then, when artists my age think that when they’re sad, they should keep being sad because now they’re part of the sad kids club and no one understands them. So now they’re somehow on a different wavelength than everyone else — a supposedly better one because it’s less crowded.

I don’t for a second doubt the validity or reality of other people’s sadness. That’s not for me to judge. But when many use the cloak of depression to make “good” art, I wonder about what that does to those who are actually depressed, who struggle to get out of bed most days or even think of harming themselves because of their depression, and inexplicably told by people around them to “just get over it” when so-called artists claim the cloak of depression and is enamored for it. Are these artists then appropriating depression to make art? What are the ethics of that?

I lament the fact that so many artists, and particularly artists my age who have only so much life experience to reflect and make art on, think that art is so subjective that the only way to make good art is to sacrifice their mental well-being. Impactful art comes when it effectively communicates the human experience, even if it’s just one sliver of it.

Art is subjective, but it also has the ability to interact with the world around it, and therefore the artists and art-makers should do so too. Go outside, talk to people, read the news, be aware, fight ignorance, learn new things. The world isn’t perfect — there are plenty of things to get restless about. So get mad, get confused, get happy, and get sad. Make art about your anger, confusion, happiness, sadness. Make art about your experience of being human, and someone somewhere will be able to relate to it. But just remember than in this world we live in, the idea of “good art” relies so much on monetary values and values of popularity. Those things aren’t worth sacrificing your mental well-being.

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the tirades of a young adult ix - an analysis of airplanes, holidays, and home

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At the Tokyo Airport
by Koon Woon

Cold juice, cold Mt. Fuji,
A child alone dining.
Empty plane, empty heart.

Vast auditorium.
Hearing six tourists talk
About America.

Six bites of hot chicken.
Six swallows of cold juice.
Six hours, America.

Child alone, lonely child,
Here, six lotus petals
From Buddha, Mt. Fuji.

Where are your friends, your friends?
Where is your family?
In Buddha’s lotus palm.

Man alone, lonely man,
Where lies your loneliness?
In the mist of the world?

I literally started tearing up when I read this. It brought so much nostalgia, fear, sadness, joy, and just a whole jumble of bittersweet, confusing thoughts and feelings. At the core of everything, this is about homesickness peppered with missing the feelings I get when I’m on and/or near airplanes. Being on airplanes have always meant that I was going to some form of home. My trips back to Jakarta mean that I would visit familiar faces and places, feel some bittersweet nostalgia, and contemplate on where I’ve been and the person I’ve become. On the other hand, my trips back to Seattle mean that I would be home, be able to go to the coffee shops I always go to, see the people I always see, do what I always do, and live my life. Somewhere between that, I would change and grow and learn. Oftentimes I wouldn’t realize what I’ve learned or how much I’ve changed ‘till I actually do go back to Jakarta.

It’s funny how homesickness works for me. During regular days, I usually get homesick because I miss my parents or my cats. During summer breaks when I’m in Indonesia, I would get homesick cause I’d miss my regular reading spots and the coffee shop baristas that know my name. I’d miss the people I usually spend time with, the dance studios I go to, the broken-down couch I usually flop on after a long day of dancing. I feel like for me, and for a lot of people who’ve had similar experiences, it’s a never-ending feeling. It’s like no matter where you are or which home you’re in, there’s always that ever-present threat of homesickness, feeling of missing something, and not ever feeling completely whole. You’re always trying to do this weird dance; you try to weave in identities, experiences, languages, transnational spaces. You’re stuck in this limbo of two cultures (more challengingly, in a society that fears ambivalence or ambiguity). But despite the challenge, you do it anyway, because otherwise you’ll lose a part of yourself.

I usually go back to Jakarta either over the summer or winter break, though I’ve only gone there over winter break once since I moved to Seattle. Still, the homesickness is always multiplied over the break because everyone goes home for the winter holidays. As much as Seattle is home for me, so is Jakarta. That’s where my parents, family, and childhood friends live. Yes, I do have family here (my sister’s here, but I’ve found I have so many more relatives by circumstances than blood relatives in the states. I love them, but I usually never realize that until the winter holidays. Funny how life works, huh?). This time of year, most everyone get to feel what I feel whenever I go back to see my family: a mixture of confusion and awe at how such different characters and personalities can actually be related (for better or for worse) through a combination of miraculous selections of genes and simple fate. Whether you love or hate your family, whether they’re shitty to you or not (I myself have been privileged enough to have a loving family, but it’s important to recognize that some people don’t have that privilege and amazingly, they survive regardless), I don’t think you can’t not be in awe of this fact. Usually I get over it pretty quickly, but sometimes I still do feel envious of people who get to go through those weird moments with and feel those weird feelings about their families.

As silly as this might sound, I do miss airplanes, because being on airplanes means I should expect tears some 10,000 feet above sea level no matter how cheerful I was before that. Looking out of airplanes as the plane took off means I have a few minutes to take in a sight that I could only see once every year (if life permits). Obviously these don’t happen on some airplane trips, but it happens often enough that it becomes the first thing I associate with airplanes. Entering an airport to check-in means you’ve just went through a process of packing and/or unpacking, with maybe some not-so-pleasant life reevaluation thrown in the midst of the process. Being at airports during layovers means that you get to say you’ve been at some foreign country, if only to experience its culture through something resembling more of a bathroom quickie than a night of lovemaking with foreplay and shit. The seemingly countless hours on a large, enclosed cylinder with complete strangers mean you have so much time to reflect and to think (a.k.a. the worst things to do when you have so much thoughts and feelings). Being on airplanes mean you’ll watch really good and really bad airplane movies, and then after the x-number of movie, you get sick of them. You’ll hate airplanes and being on a 10+ hour flight more than anything in your life. It seems no matter how often I go back and forth between Seattle and Jakarta, I will never stop noticing these little things and the flood of bittersweet thoughts that come with them. As level-headed as I am most of the time, I will never stop romanticizing the trips home — whichever home I’m going to. This past summer, I went home for just three weeks. I thought I could do it and not romanticize it. I went home, hung out with my friends and family (plus cats), went and danced at my old studio, visited places I usually visited, and more. It was a nice, relaxed, low-stress trip. I thought I wouldn’t get attached, and, more importantly, I thought I wouldn’t cry. But as the plane took off and the towering buildings turned minuscule, I started bawling like a baby. I thought I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. It was supposed to be like a one-night stand, not saying goodbye to a lover only to be in a tragic long-distance relationship. Yeah, all of this is melodramatic, but it’s valid.

I wouldn’t ever have felt any of this had I not board that plane four years ago when I first went to the States. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post had I not packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends, family, then-boyfriend, and everyone else. Uprooting and traveling; it’s hard, it’s fun, it’s enlightening, it’s exhausting, it’s weird, it’s scary. Now, sitting here writing this at 12 a.m., I realize that it was necessary. Funny how life works out, huh?

xx

-i

the tirades of a young adult - viii: don't shoot the label-maker.

Hullo mortals!

It’s finally Spring Break people, which for me is a little piece of heaven because I get to take a breather and do some leisure writing! (Cheers! Confetti! Fireworks!)

Before I start preaching on this page, I do want to share some happy news with whomever is reading this right now: I got casted for the UW Dance Department MFA concert! (More cheers! More confetti! More fireworks!!) Basically, the MFA concert is where the grad students in the dance department get to choreograph their own pieces and the undergraduate students get to dance them. After a not-so-encouraging audition process (to be honest it’s not that I screwed up my audition, it’s just that the others were so good), I was jumping for joy (only in my head though) when I saw my name on the cast list. I was basically all smiles for the rest of the day. Now, obligatory life update aside, let’s try to weave this news in smoothly with what I'm really trying to say in this post.

Two weeks ago, I had my first rehearsal with my choreographer Natalie, and she was just the darlingest person ever. For our first exercise, the dancers had to create gestures that depict how we view various aspects of our lives, such as family, childhood, education, and even things like political affiliation and religious beliefs (or lack thereof) –– of course I can’t name every little detail here, because I do want to respect Natalie’s creative process. Anyway, before we make gestures that depict how we view these things, Natalie always asked us to explain a little bit about it first. For example, I am the youngest of two children, what do I think about being the youngest? Or, I was raised as a Muslim, what do I think and how do I feel about it? Or, how do I feel about my age, or height, or my college major? These were only some examples of the things we discussed before we made our gestures about each of them.

To be honest, I loved being able to explain these aspects of my life, and I think the other dancers do too –– though I don’t know if we love it because of the same reasons or not, but we still enjoyed it. For me, I loved being able to explain myself, because not only do I get to talk about myself (don’t you look at me that way, just admit that deep down everyone loves to talk about themselves ok. We’re egotistic, it’s human nature, deal with it), but I get to explain it in my own terms, therefore challenging whatever pre-existing judgments or stereotypes there might be of these various aspects. For example, there’s always a pre-existing judgement for the youngest child, for the Muslim or for the Atheist, for the 18-year-old or the 23-year-old, for the liberal arts majors or the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors, for the liberals or the conservatives. These pre-existing judgments are usually summarized in one word: a label. These labels then put a person’s characteristics into defined categories, putting a person’s complexities into a discernible order. 

The truth is, humans are programmed to arrange things in the world into categories; it is how we make sense of the world. Labels make it easier for us to give order to the seemingly chaotic world. It helps us remember categories, and what those categories stand for. Throughout all aspects of life, there is always a constant need for a set definition –– are they men or women? Are we lovers or friends? Is she a classical music junkie or a hardcore scene kid? Is he a jock or a science brainiac? Do they like boys or girls? As my dance mentor Amy O'Neal said, “humans are scared of ambiguity –– they’re scared of the unknown.” I think truer words were never spoken. Because of this fear of ambiguity, we always rely on labels to define something, anything, everything. However, more often than not, we forget that we as humans are complex (or we forget that other people are just as complex as ourselves; a case of Us vs Them). All of us require more than a single word to define who we are as a person. In Natalie’s exercise, all the dancers in her piece who participated explained all the aspects of their lives, and that explanation is never just one sentence, let alone a single word. By being able to explain ourselves, we get to explain ourselves in our own terms in relation to these labels and these categories, therefore making really clear who we really are.

So yes, labels are useful and necessary to make sense of the world around us. But it is just as necessary to remember than no human can ever be defined by a label consisting of one word. We as humans are never just a single word, we are public libraries filled with volumes of novels and encyclopedias. Our stories are rich, intricate, and textured, so much so that no word can ever do it justice –– no matter how appropriate that word might be to a person’s specific characteristic. We should never define another human being by a label, nor should we ever let a label define us. Labels are a shortcut, a timesaver, an easy way out. But despite it’s easiness, never forget that for every shortcut we take to define a person, there is always a longer, richer, more scenic route to take –– an infinitely rich and beautiful explanation that aptly shows a person for who they truly are.

 

xx

-i

 

the tirades of a young adult - VII: on writing.

Greetings, mere mortals!

It has been a while since I post an actual adequately written blog post. I have been slacking on blogging but what can I do? School is just way too cool, I can’t resist the temptation. I have to hang out there all the time, you know?

Anyway, it’s Friday and I am so excited for this week to be over, but I’m definitely not excited for next week, which will encompass my last batch of exams, articles, and final papers. Thankfully, that means no classes during finals week! Huzzah!

Obligatory life update aside, let’s bring the conversation to what this post is actually about. I am writing a post about writing. I know. So meta, right.

Over the past few months I have been overwhelmed with papers, articles, tests, and short-answer-response assignments. One thing they all have in common is their written form. This should come as an excitement to me, right? I mean I do love to write. It is what I aspire to do, so I basically have nothing to complain about, right? Wrong. I’m human. I complain. You’re going to read my complaints. Deal with it (abandon hope, all ye who reads this!).

Over the past few months I have done a lot of writing, but not so much leisure writing. As you whoever follows this blog knows, there has been a shortage of poems and blog posts and whatever other written shenanigans I usually post. This bothers me. Not because I’m worried of losing followers or “relevance” if I don’t keep up with content or anything, but because I feel like I’m losing touch with my love for writing. Each of the aforementioned written assignment has its own rules, and rules are by its very nature, constricting. Of course, I can’t do anything about it, I just have to suck it up and do what I got to do.

But I do miss leisure writing. I miss the pleasure of stringing words together to form sentences. I miss looking up words in the dictionary cause I’m not sure what they actually mean, or typing sentences into Google to see if the grammar is correct (good grammar and vocabulary comes with a price guys). I miss doing all of the above voluntarily. I miss not having to receive my writing back with scribbled notes in the margins. But most importantly, I miss loving writing. The satisfaction, the freedom. The tucking and tugging and polishing of the commas, the periods, and the pretentious semi-colons.

Why do I write? I write to draw lines in the world I live in. I write to learn about what I’ve learned. I write to share what I’ve learned. I write so I can say what I want to say without having no one interrupt me. I write so that I can make my message heard in the best possible, near-perfect way. Isn’t it humbling to know that we as humans have such imperfections in our daily lives - the way we walk and talk and think and do - so much so that the only way we can say exactly what we want to say in the best possible way is when we scribble it, polish it, and nip-and-tuck it? For me, it’s humbling to be reminded that I can’t plan my moments and dialogues. It’s humbling to know that life will never be as perfect as it is in writing. But then, it’s comforting to know that I can write. That I can plan moments and dialogues when I’m writing them. That I can have these little moments of perfection as an escape from this disorganized world we live in.

But that’s not all. When I write, I express myself so that others can learn as I have. There’s a beauty to the vulnerability one shows when one puts the abstract thoughts into something as tangible as the written word. This vulnerability is what invites the readers on a journey into the writer’s thoughts. In turn, the readers will emerge from that journey with their own thoughts, their own ideas, but nevertheless influenced by the writer’s words.

But then again, what if no one’s reading? Who cares? I mentioned above that I write to learn what I’ve learned (meta-learning. I’m all about the metas today). This is another reason why I love writing, it allows me to reflect. Who cares if others learned anything from what I’ve got to say? Who cares if there are any “others” at all? In the end, when I write something, the one who will reap the most of whatever I sow is myself. Period.

So yes, I’ve contradicted my own argument with that last paragraph, my thesis is unclear, and the structure is incorrect; what, no inverted-triangle introduction? No rectangular body of arguments? No triangle-structured conclusion? Guess what? No one’s gonna scribble those comments on the margins of this post.



xx

-i

the tirades of a young adult - VI: being all philosophical and shit.

So hi world, I haven’t been writing a lot lately, which is kind of sad on my part, but I have been doing a lot of counterfactual  thinking, which is basically a snobby way of saying that I’ve had the words “what if?” repeated in my mind an infinite number of times.

See I went back home this Summer, so naturally I saw a lot of familiar places and faces, which ironically is now somewhat familiar (for more on my thoughts on homecoming, see one of my previous posts). I promised myself I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it, and I think I didn’t either. I enjoyed the comforts of home and savored the company of good people, leaving me more grateful of them than ever. But even so, I always feel like there’s an aura of melancholy about the act of looking back (or in my case, with the addition of actually going back), even when I’m not looking back to a particularly melancholic period in my past. Just the feeling of being surrounded by things from the past kind of makes me wonder what would’ve happened if I had done something different. Where would I be? What would I do? How would I feel? What would’ve happened? How would the people around me feel? I think the possibilities are too many to count, and the emotions associated with each possibility are too overwhelming to be thought of at the same time. I think we humans are not programmed to look back, cause looking back makes us realize how helpless we are in this world, how there is absolutely nothing we can do to change anything.

You see, I believe in destiny, and not because I’m some lazy-ass dumbo who is just gonna wait for things to happen to me instead of making them happen. I believe that we humans have the capacity and freedom to make things happen, to some extent. However, I also believe that the timing and the nature of what actually happens is not for us to decide. I believe that we are just pieces of a bigger puzzle, waiting to be moved and put in the right place. We are just bugs trapped in amber.

I think this point of view is a rather ambivalent one. On one hand, if we humans are to choose our own fate (and not believe in a collective destiny), what would happen if we made the wrong choice? What if our decision to eat at a Thai restaurant instead of an Indian one could lead to World War 3? (Okay that’s kind of a long shot, but hey, it could happen). I think the pressure would be too much that way. On the other hand, it’s also a rather sad point of view. If we do decide to believe in a collective destiny, then we are voluntarily choosing to believe that we are just pieces in one big chess game, waiting for the next move, and getting ready for the inevitable fate that is the end. What a sad and tragic truth, don’t you think?

So in my train of thought, I mulled over the implications of my point of view. By that logic then, we are also setting God (or the Higher Power or what have you) up to be both a protagonist and an antagonist, depending on what happens to all beings in the finish line. The thing is, we can’t know until that time comes. We can’t know whether all our lives are a means to what kind of end: a horrendous genocide or a peaceful withdrawal of all armed forces in places of conflict. To me this is kind of like living life with mixed feelings about a Higher Power yet still leaving oneself at His mercy. I guess in the mean time, all we can do is just sigh, take a deep breath and live, while hoping that in the fullness of time our existence will be a part of something beautiful. Maybe - just maybe - that’s what the Almighty wanted for human beings to do all along. Alas, I guess we’ll just have to see.

xx

-i


image source: “You Are Here” by Sammy Slabbinck

the tirades of a young adult - V: faithfully questioning.

So hey, hi. I haven’t written a lot lately, but that doesn’t mean my brain has stopped churning ideas. In fact, the old Grey Matter has been busy with the toing-and-froing of thoughts lately, thus I shall pour some of those thoughts here, just because.

Lately my mind has often wondered to the spiritual realms, so I think a lot about God. I wonder about His existence, about His mercy, about His judgement. Sometime ago, I think it was in grade school, a teacher told me that if man were to try to find God, then man would go crazy. Now, I don’t know whether this specific piece of knowledge is true or false, but it managed to scare me, I must admit. I get curious you see, and about a lot of things that can’t really be explained by science and/or facts alone. Now don’t get me wrong, I have never ever doubted His existence, I am just curious as to how He exists. Some say He is up above watching over us, others say that He is inside all of us. I prefer to believe that He is somehow inside of me, that He is connected to me in such a personal way and that I’m just His little buddy. I prefer to believe that He is somehow inside of all of us, but every so often, there are human actions that causes me to believe otherwise.

Another thought that often occurs to me is the God-and-man paradigm itself. During my growth and development, I have heard a lot about this paradigm. Some say that God controls humans’ fate, but to what extent does He control these fates? Does that mean He controls our choices as well? Or is He simply aware of it, yet let humans control their own fates? If the former is true, that is, He controls our choices, then wouldn’t the concept of Heaven and Hell be somewhat unfair? Or isn’t it? Then again, if the latter is true - being that He let humans control their own fates - then that leaves humans with such a great power; the power to be their own Gods.

Then there is the third question, why? Why are we here? Why did God put us in this world? Again, a grade-school teacher of mine taught me that God created humans because He wanted to spread His love. I accept this premise at the time, but now I’m not so sure. If He did wanted to spread His love, then why did He seek to punish those who defy Him and His rules (again, through the concept of Hell/redemption)? Is there even a Heaven and a Hell?

All these questions, and still so much more. At times, I even get minor migraines from having all these notions just buzzing through my consciousness. I guess, all you need to do is believe, isn’t it? Once you have faith in something, then that something will be apparent to you despite its actual existence, or others’ grasp of its existence.

But then, what happens to those who choose not to believe? Who or what do they turn to? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those who choose not to believe, but as every aforementioned question proves, I am merely curious. If one does choose to not believe in a higher power, then what guides them through life? What/whom do they pray to when they need comfort, or safety, or even reason? Life is tough enough to face even with a little faith, let alone no faith at all. But in the end, faith is to be believed, and to believe in one aspect of a faith is to believe its other aspects. Isn’t it?

Alas, this particular train of thought of mine may have no end, so I shall leave it here, or else the migraines will start kicking in. Maybe, just maybe, what my teacher said is right. If man were to search for God, they would go insane, for maybe He is an ineffable concept which only needs to be believed in. Just have faith in Him, and trust that He is there, and so He shall be.

….Right?


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“Faith and doubt both are needed - not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.

       -Lillian Smith

xx

-i



Sidenote: I understand that faith is a personal and at times, a somewhat sensitive subject, so let me just say that I write this post with no judgment whatsoever to whoever is opposed to anything I say. In addition, I apologize if there are anything I wrote that may have offended the readers. This is, after all, just my two cents on life. X

the tirades of a young adult - IV: one step back, two steps forward.

I received great news today, one piece of news I have been dying to hear since God knows when: I got accepted to the University of Washington! The one university I have been dreaming of getting into ever since my visit to Seattle in 2010. Upon receiving this information, I felt a humongous weight lifted off my chest. I sighed with relief, and praised the Lord over and over again in my mind. Dear God, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let me take you to the beginning of the story. In eighth grade, I decided that I would leave my beloved home country for high school and subsequently, college. After that decision was made, my parents arranged everything for me. In my junior year, I left the harrowing traffic and bright city lights of Jakarta for the modesty and quirk of Vashon Island, a small island near West Seattle. I stayed with a family friend and went to a public high school. I made friends, went to parties, and joined clubs; in short, I got a taste of the “American life.” But then after only 1.5 trimesters, my host parent had to change her priorities and informed me that I can no longer stay with her and her family. In other words, I had no other choice but to go back home to Jakarta.

I was heartbroken. I was not ready to just up and leave my new life. Most of all, I was slightly embarrassed. I had said goodbye to my friends, my school, my life in Indonesia only to return after only four months when I initially planned to stay there for…ever. Naturally, I refused to go back to Madania, my previous school, therefore my parents and I revised the game plan. I was to be enrolled in a homeschooling program that would let me take the National Exam along with the class of 2011, allowing me to graduate one year early. As it is with life though, there is always a challenge. I had to learn 3 years’ worth of physics, biology, chemistry, math, English, Indonesian, and civics materials in only 6 months. Dayum, right?

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t excited at all. In fact, I was somewhat depressed at the time. I was so used to studying in school and meeting with people everyday, as opposed to studying at home only with a teacher. I kept asking myself, how did I go from studying abroad to being home-schooled?

Then of course, after being depressed due to lack of human interaction, I discovered that God works in mysterious ways. Because my new “school” was literally as far as a trip down the stairs, I had much free time. I utilized this time to learn things that I might not be able to learn had I stayed in a regular school. I learned ballet, contemporary, and jazz. Even though my dance background was neither exceptionally extensive nor consistent, I was able to excel. I got a chance to perform, express myself, and even found a new passion. In addition, I also went to museum exhibits and arts performances in order to extend my grasp of art and culture. Last but not least, I cultivated my writing and photography skills. One of the lessons learned: one can learn so much by not being in school, if only one had the will and the time.

Long story short, the time came for the much-feared exam. I did my best, and hoped for the best. When I found out I had graduated, I was more than elated. 6 months. 3 years’ worth of materials. 7 subjects. And I did it. God threw a hurdle at me and I managed to jump over it with grace.

Afterwards, life became somewhat of a breeze. I enrolled myself in Green River Community College and got a chance to go to school again. I made friends, gained new knowledge, and got good grades. But most of all, I developed a new perspective on life. It turns out being in such control of myself during the homeschooling really helped me get to know myself and mature in the process. That’s life, I guess; get knocked down first, learn lessons afterwards.

During my time in Green River, I also applied to a few different universities, one of which was the University of Washington. By this time, I had discovered that I had a profound passion for writing and was actually considerably more than adequate at it, thus I aspire to be a journalist. The UW was definitely one of my top choices, and I was really nervous that I would not be accepted.

But after all is said and done, here I am, with an acceptance letter in hand. Looking back, I would not have changed a thing, cause as I have discovered, everything happens for a reason. Seeing everything in perspective now has actually made me feel like this is some kind of closure. Maybe it is, too though. For so long, getting into university was a need I had to fulfill so badly, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could succeed on my own, despite whatever halts I faced in the process. Now I am ready for a new beginning, a step into what I hope to be a bright future.

As my mom always say: when faced with an obstacle, take a step back, get some perspective, then take two steps forward. Time to move on.

the tirades of a young adult - I

Hello Earthlings, I have decided to put my two cents on life into writing. What does that mean, you ask? It basically means I’m gonna rant, and any post entitled “The Tirades of a Young Adult” is just me ranting and expressing my unstable adolescent feelings through written words. In addition to the writing, I might even add a picture or two. Feel free to scroll over absently, read earnestly, judge bitterly, or run away madly as you please. This is my first post, have a nice day.

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I have come to the realization that I am a hippie. Not in ways that some people might assume, though. When the word ‘hippie’ is said, an image comes to mind: 60s and early 70s, the “flower child,” bohemians, stoned white guys with beards and bandanas holding hands with chicks in long skirts covering unshaved body parts – not me. I don’t mean hippie as in literally (although I do love the bohemian style of the 60s and early 70s), but I mean as in the values that hippies espouse. Hippies are known for their anti-conformist movements which promote peace, love, individuality, and all things I find beautiful. Although the changes those movements brought weren’t always for the better, I still think Hippies’ values are valid, if not encouraged. Their values shed judgment away from the mind, thus leading the mind to think as it chooses, uncaring what other minds think or choose. Lately I seem to adopt this idea of “I do my business and you do yours,” which is a good thing I guess, it keeps me out of trouble. I think because I think like that, it surfaced as a behavior; in other words, I mind my own problems and try my best to not judge. Based on my observation, people then start to make assumptions: they think I’m naive or scared or “just following the current” or whatnot, but I simply just don’t care, you know? I do what I want to do, and so far, it has made me really happy as a person, as a human being. It has made my family happy that I’m happy. It has made life worth living. I am very grateful.

For the past two years, most of the problems I have had to deal with simply involve myself, meaning it’s not some fight between me and a friend, or fighting parents, or a school suspension. For the past two years, all the problems I have had to deal with were just the Lord putting hurdles in front of me to see whether or not I can jump over it with grace and fluidity. Well, dear Lord, I may not be the most fluid person out there when it comes to jumping hurdles, but I like to think that I jumped through those hurdles with grace. I might sound a bit cocky here, judge as you please, but yeah. Even at times when I’m really depressed and drowned in disgusting self-pity, I think I’ve managed to maintain a level head; you don’t see pictures of me drinking my sorrows away or scars from cutting my wrists or Facebook/Twitter posts telling the world wide web how “I hate my life” or “I’m the saddest person on Earth” because there are no such posts, pictures or scars. In the end, by maintaining a level head, I think I managed to learn a thing or two, which helped me mature as a person. In addition, I think the ups and downs throughout the years was what made me adopt this hippie, minding-my-own-business positive attitude. I’m a lucky girl, and I am very grateful.

In the end, I managed to get out of the hurdle-filled racetrack unscratched, unharmed, and with a new perspective on life. “You have your way, I have mine”

Bring it on, life.

xx

-i