life

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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The World in Color

Sometimes I see the world through its reflections

in the murky puddles on the ground

in wayward mirrors casting distortions

or even shadows jumping from behind.

 

Sometimes I see the world in true proportions

Without any of the crazy contortions

And when I do

—although it’s rare—

I pause to take a snapshot with my eyes

Relish the moment of that rare exception

so I’ll remember it

even when the world subsides.

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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.