Happiness is the smell of rich earth and dew clad grass after a showery night; pink petals fluttering beneath a startling blue Kyoto sky; how my cat snuggles into my lap as it rains outside; the wind grazing my skin and the morning sun nuzzling my face; the taste of salty ocean breeze and the waves lapping at my sand-sunken toes; the soft dongs and tinkles of gamelan at a family’s wedding; harmonizing with the choir as we sing traditional Indonesian songs during the weekly flag ceremony at school. Happiness is the beauty of nature and music.
When asked about my reasons for wearing a hijab, I answered, “It’s what good Muslim women should do.”
The questioner was quick to respond. As she voiced her opinion of my textbook answer, I immediately regretted my words. The reason for regret was that I didn’t always wear a hijab. I might be what some people would call kerdus or cardboard, a negative term used to describe on-off wearers of the garment. Moreover, as my questioner pointed out, there are good Muslim women who don’t wear a hijab.
Then where was the fault? Did the reluctance to wear a hijab mean I was a bad Muslim? Or was there something inherently wrong in the statement itself?
This is the essay that got me a half scholarship to a Leadership Program in Australia. 🙂
Morning sunlight streamed in through the slanted windowpanes, bathing the classroom in a soft golden hue. Shuffling in with half-closed eyes, my classmates and I took down the chairs and rummaged for pencils and notebooks. Suddenly, the door flung open, and in came my 5th grade teacher, Mr.Rackowitz. As always, he greeted us all with those crinkled eyes and that wide smile which creased his face with lines. He stood silently for a moment, hands politely in front of him, with jet-black hair damp and square glasses perched lightly on his nose. It rose and fell as he talked.
“Good morning everyone!”
“Morning…” we yawned in reply.
A while ago, I entered a competition called Genius Olympiad. Thankfully, my essay made it to the final round. However, the trip to New York and back is far too expensive. So instead, I’ve decided to share my essay here. Hope it brings you a little moment of reflection… =)
I’ve always longed to see the “spirit” of nature. Oftentimes I’ve asked myself, what would it be like to feel the heartbeat of a forest, or to hear flocks of birds take flight across wide open fields? What would it be like to observe, uninhibitedly, monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the thriving Amazon rainforest? What kind of person would I have been had I grown up in a world of dark starry nights instead of artificial city constellations?
Then, in fifth grade, I finally found my own “deep connection” with nature.
It was one of those days where the sun shone and the sky blazed blue, scattered slightly with clouds. The breeze blew, bringing scents of warm soto, cow dung, and burning wood, curiously all mixed into one. Panting, I made the final leap through the air.
“Yes! I win!”
Face crimson with sweat, my friend Alia staggered behind and planted her hands on her knees.
“You… got a… head start,” she rasped.
“I did not.”
Pushing aside a hanging branch, we stepped into the shadows of the forest canopy. Here, it was a whole other world. Here, light danced in strange ways before us, casting its rays upon crawling critters on the forest floor and fallen fruits. Branches rustled and creatures scuttled. The air was vibrant with the smell of the moist soil that pillowed our feet.
Treading lightly, we weaved between slants of sunlight, when a boom suddenly echoed through the air.
Thud. Thud. The sound was constant, reverberating through the foliage. We stood rooted to the spot.
“Do you hear that?” I whispered.
Maybe I’ve mentioned it before, or maybe I haven’t. But something really different is happening in my life right now.
I’m in a boarding school. 🙂 The name of the school is Kharisma Bangsa. And so far, it’s brought me so many new experiences.
The first thing that I noticed when I came to this school was… well, how smart everyone was. To be honest, I regret my middle school days a little bit, because I did nothing special during those three years. Yet here at Kharisma Bangsa, everyone around me is smart and talented. In fact, in my block there are two people who won the science olympiad. One of them, Fadhila Mahardika, even went to international! Isn’t that so cool? My other friend who won the science olympiad is Eva Maisaramita Gayoris.
I’m so astounded by their achievements. And I feel so small next to them. What have I done in my life that I can be proud of? Why didn’t I do something extraordinary in middle school? How come I wasted it doing stupid, silly things?
However, it wouldn’t do to just sit and complain, would it?
I’ve made a resolution to myself that during high school I want to try to be the best person I can be. And I want to try everything. Like in that Shakira song. I want to participate in as as many competitions as I can, be really active in class, and still have time for having fun(hopefully).
I think that confidence is the key to success. You should have confidence not only in others, but also yourself. You must believe in your heart that you can be whatever it is you want to be. At the same time, you have to make sure that your reason is right. It mustn’t be for pleasing others or so you can get good grades. It should be because you want to be an inspiration, you want to help or motivate other people, and it should be for God.
I still hope that I can make a difference. In my heart I believe that I can. And I will always dream, and I will never stop dreaming.
Dedicated for my friends from Budi Mulia Dua Bintaro, angkatan ke-empat, ARVOISA.
The bell rang through the school corridor, signaling that yet another school day had begun. All 19 of us shuffled into class. We took our seats and waited for the teacher. There were 19 students in the Arvoisa generation- out of 60 students in total. We started school without knowing each other, or what would happen to us, yet during those mornings we drilled for the National Exams, I couldn’t believe how close we were to graduating. How far we’d come.
A while ago, I was trying my luck in applying for Phillips Exeter Academy. Yep. That extremely selective private boarding school. The school of Mark Zuckerberg and Dan Brown. That school. I don’t know what I was thinking. But, everything’s worth a try right? Heh.
Anyways, now that it’s all over and done with I decided to share one of the essays I wrote for that school. I don’t know if you’ll like it, but maybe you’ll agree. 🙂
Write a topic or activity about which you are passionate.
I have always loved words and telling stories. Through stories, you can open up gates to a world both so fascinating and awe-inspiring it cannot be much expressed through words. For years, people have always found magic in folktales and legends. Martin Luther King fought against discrimination using words, not force. Princess R.A. Kartini of Indonesia changed the minds of Indonesian women through her writing. Anne Frank gave us a deeper understanding of her struggle during World War I, which we would not have acquired had it not been for her diary. Writing is a vital part of life, just as much as eating and breathing are. Writing gives us documentation, in phenomenal ways that no technology can replace. Even human history was marked by the point when we began to record things in writing.
Writing has always been a big part of my life. In the corner of my room, I have a stack of dusty journals to prove it. Soggy as they might be from the rain that once leaked in, I like to leaf through them and see how much has changed. In the third grade, I wrote a novel titled Two Lives in One Girl, which was originally only a handwritten story in a journal. When I finished that book, and the one I wrote with my friend titled Heart of the Willow, I felt like I was on top of the world. I know that seems like such a simple thing to be proud of, but it turns out that writing a novel is hard work. It takes sweat and determination. Writing has different meanings for everyone, but anyone can agree that even though it is a grueling process it produces fruits that are so sweet to harvest.
I believe there is power in words. Words are important. With them, you can inspire, motivate, and change the world. That is why writing is my greatest passion. I find it amazing how you can express yourself and pour out your heart through written form, and even inspire others with it. I never want to stop writing. Someday, I want to change the world with this beautiful craft, the way my favorite authors Markus Zusak, J.K. Rowling, Madeline L’engle, Princess R.A. Kartini, Anne Frank, Jostein Gaarder, and so many other great authors have changed my world.