How Living a Nomad Life Led Me to Find a New Self-Image and Awareness

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During my brief time of being nomads in Jakarta, quite often, I received criticism from my inner circle, telling me that I have made a mistake by moving out of the comfort zone. When hard time hit, frequent questions they had bombarded me revive, compounding in my mind and making me believe that I did make a mistake by moving into the big city. For them, walking out of home to pursue my own dreams is something absurd and even selfish. In their small world, a child doesn’t own a dream as she or he lives the dream of the world or the community she or he is being born into. Shall she or he brave enough to move, this bold decision should come with achievements, which is mostly measured by financial success.

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As in my case, my first years in Jakarta was nothing than financial bankruptcy. I was having a trouble to keep up with the life-style this big city has to offer. My savings was running out fast and the pay check that I earned from my first job couldn’t cover the expenses.  Instead of being rich, I became penny-less. In those days, it was easy to give up and coming back to the comfort zone was a snap action that I was ready to take.

However, I’m grateful that I didn’t take the chance and decided to bear it a little bit more. Had I let my self trapped into the pitfall of people’s opinions, I couldn’t have gone this far, having an amazing experience that more valuable than a financial success. Had I listened to those chatters, I would have ended up living in a city where I couldn’t grow and transcended the subjective reality the humanity is living in. And yet, before I go further telling what great things I have earned from my defining decision to move out of my childhood home, allow me to go back to those days when there is nothing led my way than self-confidence.

Two years ago, I departed from my home town Makassar with an ambitious and naive goal to achieve. Armed with my confidence, bachelor diploma and a resume stating one year of working experience, I was convinced that I could conquer the 485 year old Batavia. My plan seemed to be well-structured and my mind was determined. It takes several months before I realised that the armour was inadequate. There was something missing in it. I then embarked into a soul searching and found out the few things that changed the course of my life. It was started with faith.

Before coming to Jakarta, I have no faith. It might vary among others when it comes to the word faith. Some people consider faith as an intuition, some people perceive it as a sign, and some people symbolise faith with God. In my case, it was vague. I was brought up in a religious environment, I was made acquaintanced with God since my early age. However, my relationship with Him was not smooth. Occasionally, I doubted his existence. I did not believe that Allah, the way Muslim called their God, saved me a greater plan than my dreams. In my contention, my personal goals were superior. Setbacks that I had in my life have been a great contribution to my disillusionment with the divine power. Things were getting worse when I had to deal with uncertainty in a daily basis. Being aware that human is a Zoon-Politiconist (No offense to Aristotle by adding the suffix) and our incapability to control universe, made me lost. I was alone and blamed God for being ignorant of my anguish. As though sailed in an ocean with my wrecking boat, I was compass-less.

Not letting my self to sink, I tried to talk to a friend. Our bond as nomads and Buginese (a tribe in South Sulawesi, Indonesia) gave him a leverage to advise me. From this connection, he managed to crush my pride down saying that I was too serious and even arrogant in taking life. He then introduced me to a word “Tawakkal” which basically means reliance to God’s plan. He also told me that practicing forbearance is the key to survive in the ocean.

At first, It does not make any sense. The phrase “It wasn’t meant for me” does not in my dictionary. I could not buy the thought of letting go my ambitions, my goals and my awesome plans simply for making a connection with an entity that I don’t even know. Nevertheless, this contention changed gradually. Slowly but sure, I learnt to do the daunting task to have faith. It was impossible but forbearance started to give me peace. In tranquility, I was in charge of my emotion. I was able to fuse my logic and my passion into a more positive outcome. With a sincere intention, doors opened. Chances came as my granted prayers. And Batavia eventually became my quest.

Batavia Cafe
Kota Tua (Old Town)

Following the journey, I found another missing piece through the flicker of beauty of my origin. Being far away from home, induced my longing to Makassarese cuisine. In Jakarta, where almost everything gone western, non-Javanese traditional food was a bit of challenge to find. On top of that, my profound love with blue water and white sand of Bira (a well-known bay in the outline of Bulukumba Regency – http://www.sulsel.go.id/content/pantai-tanjung-bira) revived a burden-less childhood memory amidst the hardness of living alone. The Bugginess culture and traditions that I have been neglected for ages, inspired me to find self-authenticity. I was proud to claim myself as a descendent of the Nusantara great seafarer and pointed the grand Pinisi as a symbol of my dignity. During my short visit to home, it was nice to hear Bugginese country songs warming up my family’s living room or just hearing my father sings the verses while shaving at the house’s terrace. Bring in fashion into this journey, my sense of dressing begun to admire the taste of ethnic style. Songket, a traditional fabric from South Sulawesi, became my favorite cloth to hit the street.

Sarung Tenun Sulawesi Selatan
Songket of South Sulawesi

Despite having through a deep soul searching, I wasn’t 100% change. The independent person with global mind is still there. Yet, at that time, a strong grip of identity and new self-image were constructed. I was no longer a hater to the hundreds of years of family traditions. I started to respect the decision of my relatives who chose to embrace the socially-constructed culture, especially the young ones. I even dedicated a few days off working to fly back to Makassar for attending my cousin’s traditional wedding. A proverb stating that we value our origin more when we were far away, was suddenly true to my ears!

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Cousin in her wedding day, accompanied by “Passappi” (a young bridesmaid)
Father and Uncles
Father (In the center) and Uncles wear traditional outfit

Couple of years ago, I had no interest in knowing the history of my home country. Yet, living in the city where historical momentums are too vivid to ignore, I started to spend time in looking back to the living proofs of the old days, when national heroes voluntarily pledged their blood and flesh to guarantee freedom of the country’s future generations.

Museum Sejarah Indonesia
Museum of National History
National Museum from a Distance in Sunday
National Museum from a Distance in Sunday

Within the quest, my self-esteemed boosted. I found courage in speaking my mind. I have been fond of writing since I was in High School. But, it was’t until this period “Perseverances” was born. Before leaving my comfort zone, I had no guts to publish my writing unless to my closest friends. I used to keep my thoughts on papers and save them in my closets. My opinions were busy confronting each other only in my mind, without a prospect to be unleashed. Nowadays, through Perseverances, these ideas imparted to the world. All these changes that I consider as a self-development wouldn’t have happened if I chose to listen to the criticism. Once, on my way to work, I witnessed a real creativity forged by misfortune. The effort of how two kids fought against poverty and transformed adversity into an artwork shook me to my core. If the two kids can survive the criticism, why wouldn’t I?

Dropout kids try to learn and foster on the street
Dropout kids try to learn and foster on the street

Indeed, moving out of the comfort zone wast easy. Quite often, the terror barriers urge us to run back to the place where I start. To make it worse, judgements from the closest ones and even the inner critics tell me to give in. Yet, what lesson I would have had shall I chose to stay? Setbacks and criticism are painful to take but the new self-Image and awareness that I gained from having  through the process were amazing pain killers.

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