randomness

How to Be Healthy During Quarantine

The Turning Point

Throughout my life, I was never what you would consider a “fit” girl. I never joined a sports team. I only once joined a sports club. During school days, I relied on P.E. classes and walking for exercise. During holidays, I almost never exercised.

I grew to be a bit chubby during some parts of my life. I was never confident with my body. I thought I was too big, considering how I am a bit taller than the average Indonesian woman already. Moreover, everyone from my mom’s family is small. So whenever I visit her relatives, they always comment on how bongsor, big, I am. Once an old woman in my mom’s village even said that I should get married soon, even though I was only 13, because I was so big compared to my peers.

In UWC, we follow the IB curriculum, which does not have a mandatory P.E. class. All it requires is that you take one club that is “Activity” related. However not all the clubs listed as “Activity” are rigorous enough to make you sweat. In my case, I took Dragon Boat and Balinese Dance, both of which are low-intensity activities. And I only took these for two semesters. Besides these, I almost never exercised.

What can I say? The IB is so demanding that it leaves little room for other things. School is always my priority. So for someone who is not used to exercising, and does not prioritize it, it means there will be no exercise. So in terms of my health, UWC was both hell and heaven. Hell because I wasn’t exercising, so my body was not the healthiest. Heaven, because I didn’t like exercising, so not being required to exercise was great.

However, at least I was walking (sometimes running) from class to class.

Then, something happened. It is amazing how impactful someone’s words might be for you, even though they might never realize its impact. The life-changing moment for me came during one groggy morning of Biology class. I usually come early, because I have breakfast early and then go immediately to class, so I have a little bit of time to chat with my teacher.

My teacher asked, “Sophia, what kind of exercise do you like?”

“I… don’t really exercise,” I answered sheepishly.

He stared. “What? But… you’re not gonna be young forever.”

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The Importance of Self-Love

I have learned that confidence is not thinking you’re better than others. Instead, confidence is about believing in yourself. It stems from self-respect—which can only blossom from self-love. But self-love is not always easy, I know. It is much easier to be critical of yourself. It is easier to feed your insecurities. To wallow in self-doubt.

Of course, I’m not against self-criticism. In moderate doses it is necessary to improve ourselves. The problem is that without self-love, self-criticism can often look like a monster, lurking inside you, waiting to pounce at every opportunity. It easily becomes too harsh.

Yet it is easier to be harsh on yourself. I know this well. It is easier to wonder what you did wrong or berate yourself for not working hard enough. As if luck didn’t have anything to do with the outcome. It is easier to compare yourself to others and wonder why you’re not enough. As if you aren’t already much, much more than enough.

Which is why we must work, day and night, to nurture ourselves. For self-love is a seedling in your mind that will only sprout if planted in fertile soil. That soil, my friends, is how we talk to ourselves. If we speak kindly and encouragingly to ourselves, that seed will grow into a shoot. For example, imagine that you have a fear of public speaking and you just delivered a speech to your classmates at school. Your knees shook, your voice trembled, but you still did it. Afterward, instead of thinking, “I’m sure everyone will mock me for that speech! I did horrible!” try saying, “I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to try!”

Then, our sprout must be watered daily. We must nourish it by treating ourselves the way we would treat a friend. This step is harder to do. It requires you to say “no” even when you feel pressured to say “yes.” It requires you to stand up for yourself when someone has pushed you down with their words (or actions.) Michelle Obama, for example, was told by her college counselor that she wasn’t eligible for Princeton. And yet! She applied anyway, and was accepted, because she believed in herself. Because her self-love was on the verge of blooming into roses. She wouldn’t let someone’s doubt tramp it down! She knew her worth.

Self-love also means prioritizing yourself. It is realizing that you can’t help your friend edit her assignment because you are already in over your head with deadlines. It is choosing to read a book on a Saturday night rather than going out with friends because you know you need time to relax. It is eating healthy, exercising, (and maybe creating a skin-care routine) because you know your body will appreciate you for it. This all might sound selfish, but it is necessary. After all, who knows you better than yourself? Who will you live with until death, other than your very own self? How could others understand that you have those deadlines or need that time to destress?

Most importantly, how can you care for others when you don’t care for yourself? Only when you are in shape, both physically and mentally, can you be there to support others. You must do the ones you love a favor by being the best version of yourself around them. And you can only become the best version of yourself when that little plant inside your mind is alive and healthy, radiating confidence and light from within.

 

Take care of yourself during these strange times.

 

xx

Sophia

Brave New Year

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

-Abraham Lincoln

2018 ended with the sky bursting asunder in tears. Fireworks scantly glittered the black curtain of sky last midnight–before the rain hushed them to sleep. I lay under my covers, next to my cousin and little sister, just as last year. Except this time, no message from a special someone would greet me in the morning, wishing a splendid new year. So instead, dear reader, I’ll wish you one! 🙂

For me, 2018 was full of contradictions. There were countless beautiful new memories and experiences where I felt that God was giving me the best present in the world–yet perhaps just as many days where grayness filled my heart. 2018 was a year of growth.

To be sure, going to UWC was one of the most life-changing events that have ever happened. For that reason (and a few others), perhaps 2018 has been my best year so far. This year I learned about what it means to love someone–family, friends (old and new, far and close, young and not-so-young), special someones, and random strangers. It means trusting that they will be there for you, and carving out a space in your heart for them–despite doubt, lack of proximity, or even distance. I created bonds with people who I will appreciate endlessly for their kindness and patience in dealing with an annoying dork like me. 😛 I hiked for the first time in my life. I slept in a grassy field next to an Irish and an Australian in the Wu Gong Shan Mountains, where for the first time in my life I saw an unfiltered sky winking its twinkling stars upon us. I met people from all walks of life, and became their friends so that now the problems which seemed so far away from me previously now feel much more personal. I’d have to say, that is one of the best things about UWC–the things you learn from simply living and growing together with people, and of course, tolerating and accepting all their differences.

Thus, I want to encourage you to go beyond your boundaries. Step out of your comfort zone. To put it in terms of a hiking trip: you might be the last one in the team, you might be gasping for breath, sweaty, and scared beyond your mind, or you might feel dizzy as you look at how far the ground is as each step leads you to yet more thrilling heights–yet the view and the swell in your heart at what you’ve accomplished is so worth it. Besides, there will always be people willing to look out for you, and make sure you don’t fall. Trust me.

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Polar Ends of a Continuum

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.

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To Be A Traveler

To be a traveler is to follow in the footsteps of our nomadic ancestors—each new terrain uncertain but brimming with undiscovered possibilities. It is to be a rolling stone, constantly changing yourself to suit the environment around you, nature, circumstance and chance. Never is it the other way around—the way sedentary metropolitans build skyscrapers, burn forests for farming, and pollute the skies to suit them. Why do they not realize that it will cause a domino effect?

As with most things I know of, the situation is neither good nor bad. It is simply a constant stream of experience, upon which we row-row-row upon our boats of consciousness towards the next dream-like adventure.

However, having myself traveled from one continent to another—in both cases to live there, not just to tour—I’ve learned a thing or two about the ways of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not implying that I’m a wise sage or anything, simply a girl who knows what it’s like to pack up your suitcases and brace yourself for a new world with bizarrely different creatures, cultures, and conducts.

I grew up in two places. My mind and heart didn’t have preferences. It was a constant tug-o’-war between one country and the other—one which would often leave me puzzled and distraught during those years that they coin “puberty”. It wasn’t only the dichotomy between the two countries that left me so—one being a first-world nation, awed by the world, the other hectic and developing—but also the “big” thoughts, such as pondering the nature of life and the uncertainty of ever meeting my childhood friends again. But also, the Great Perhaps of it.

Scrolling through pictures on social media, you notice smiles and warm sunny days—the stars of said pictures being friends you once knew. I know of the wistfulness aching your heart. I know how it felt to turn glass-eyed at the airport, meeting relatives for the first time in six years. Only to cry yet again because you realized how different they were from you, how alien, because you were only a toddler then, and now a misshaped preteen.

However, to be a traveler is to have a novel view of life. It is to realize that you will never truly fit in, because you came from another place—while other people stayed in place. It is to develop a stoic attitude towards life, because, try as you might, you can never return to the past.

To be a traveler is to gain valuable experiences. With those experiences, you learn to understand the world. You learn about human beings—what brings us together, what we all have in common. You learn how to connect the dots of life, seemingly arbitrary at first. You learn that cherishing family moments is important, because they’re the people who will never leave you, while others come and go.

In the process, you might cry (for joy, for sadness); or you might laugh because you’ve finally found humor in it all. You might just become a better person—more compassionate, more thoughtful and understanding, albeit more sensitive. And in the end it’s all okay, because you’ve learned things that you otherwise wouldn’t have learned.

 

AFS Exchange Program Selection (2017-2018)

Ever since Sunday, 21st May 2017, there’s only been one thought clawing at the back of my mind. My performance during the AFS interview. I know it’s a silly thing to think about.

“Move on! Get it done and forget it.”  — everyone, literally.

But, I’m not the type who moves on so easily. So, in this post, I will be mainstream and cliche and talk about my experience thus far in the AFS selection process, like so many other bloggers have done. ^^

And for those of you who are reading this in preparation of your own AFS selection test, then good luck! May the odds be ever in your favor. 😉

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New Years Reflections

Hi internet explorers!

This is a little bit late, but today I’d like to write about 2017 and the daunting, exciting 361 days left we have ahead of us… before the year changes again, I mean.

A friend of mine says that we shouldn’t really celebrate the new year, because our new year is the Islamic one. By we she means Muslims, gang. While she may have a point, that’s a little bit extreme, isn’t it? It’s not as if I was getting drunk and partying only because it’s a new year. Instead, I believe it’s the perfect time to reflect on what you’ve done so far in your life. And what you plan to achieve this year.

Some people feel like the New Year is pressured with social obligations. Mustn’t we go out and make the most of the new year with our friends or family, or kiss that person beneath the fireworks? But it’s just another day. The only difference is, we’re restarting the cycle. It’s been ingrained into our minds to live life in cycles. That’s why we have rituals, festivals, birthdays. It’s a renewal of the soul, in a sort. You can read more about this in Myth and Reality.

Anyways, you might be wondering. Why did I put a picture of cherry blossoms up there and not fireworks or something? The most honest answer would be because I think it looks nice *cough* I took the photo *cough cough* . But, I could formulate two other answers for you. First, because it reminds me of the trip I took to Japan with my family at the beginning of 2016. We move through time in moments. The best moments are fleeting. So we record them in pictures, journals, and blogs. We’re obsessed with memories, aren’t we? And when you need to move on from something or someone, sometimes there’s still a nagging at your brain as you remember… and remember… Is that why it hurts sometimes to be human? Because we’re so preoccupied with memories we let them devour us, let ourselves obsess over them. Until we’re weak and crumpled on the ground, heavy with memories.

Wait, wait. How did I get so sidetracked?

Whales, let’s move on. The second reason I’m making off the top of my head. It’s because flowers symbolize cycles, don’t they? Withered, they fall to the ground, where their seeds scatter. And before you know it, they’re shooting out buds and growing into tall, lovely trees. In turn, more flowers fall, carrying seeds- regenerations.

So, that’s what the new year means to me. How about you?

 

NOT IMPORTANT THINGS

This year I have three resolutions:

  1. Study hard & passionately. Get all-A’s. (okay, okay. You might think of me as a nerd or whatever, but this is very important, people! Try asking anyone, “Do grades matter?” “Well no they don’t, young lad. Not at all!”)
  2. Get out of my comfort zone and have a new experience.
  3. Be happy so that everyone around me is happy 🙂

20 “Homemade” Gifts

  1. Showing the person your secret thinking spot
  2. A song by you
  3. Poetry
  4. Dinner/lunch/breakfast cooked by you
  5. Home-baked brownies, cake, ice cream, milkshake, etc. – made by you, of course
  6. A book you wrote!
  7. Movie night
  8. An old heirloom(this is very romantic, but make sure it is actually of worth and that you won’t get into any trouble by giving it away)
  9. A drawing/painting that you created 🙂
  10. A photo album filled with you and that person’s memories
  11. A scrapbook/book of memories
  12. A collection of inside jokes, (or quotes or song lyrics that are special to you both)
  13. A sweater/any article of clothing(if you can, you know, knit)
  14. Origami
  15. Teaching something(like how to make origami cranes)
  16. A book someone else wrote!
  17. A box of memories (I’ve done this one before. I made the box using a shoe box which I covered with old book pages. Inside I put little things that were special to both of us) 🙂
  18. Something you invented
  19. Knowledge – there is no greater gift than knowledge
  20. A garden

The point is that the best gifts are the ones which you create wholeheartedly with your own hands. You can also give a gift by sharing something special to you.

Writing About Writing

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.

doodling in words

And yet, in the end, the kids of 7B would still erupt into a frantic craze of yelling and play. I wonder if we would ever learn to be quiet and disciplined and motivated. The way the teachers want it. Sometimes when it rains, the classroom would turn dark. Combined with the sound of the powerful torrents outside and the howling wind rattling at the windows, the room became something like a clown’s version of a haunted house. The chatter was like that of monkeys rampaging through forest canopies. A parade of shouting and chaos. It was a jungle. Meanwhile, the teacher sat at the front of the class, waiting patiently for the class to quiet down, fanning herself to keep cool in this wretchedly hot room.