Jakarta… Oh, I could never run out of a story about this particular city. It sits in a special place in my heart. Stepping into Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals, Jakarta is my New York. Having used to be the connecting port for trading vessels from Portugal, The British Empire, China and The Arabian Peninsula, the now cosmopolitan city never fails to make me wonder on how a sense of shared-identity can be a totem that connects people stronger than blood relations. With millions of people commuting in and out of the city daily, Jakarta can be a giant beast that eats your energy and spirit out. At the same time, this city can be a place where you could climb higher onto your career ladders or to find love. Here, it is easy to start a conversation with strangers and find yourself truly open up to each other, sharing your deepest concerns. It as if everyone was desperate to make a connection and find a harbour for their emotional journey.
As in my case, it was complicated. I landed on this western tip of Java island in 2013, taking with me a huge suitcase that contained a big dream for career development and of course, romance. The capital that used to welcome the old trading vessels is now home to many major businesses and multinational corporations. I learnt that when a person has the determination and skills needed, he or she can get where they want to be. However, the main wheel that carries her or him to the top is the ability to deal with politics, the art of human relations. Personally, my career journey was like a rollercoaster ride, embellished with high and low peaks. The city’s landscape demanded me to perform both intellectual and emotional exercise. I was pretty good at dealing with busy routines. However, disputes used to put me in a difficult situation as I tended to absorb other’s people negative energy when they became emotional. Whether I let it break me down or not, my best response was to disconnect with the energy source and thus, let my voice unheard. I once cried at the backseat of a taxi that was taking me home as I found out that my work was not appreciated. As for crying during a shower? Yes, I’ve had it too. My romance wasn’t that enchanting as I expected. I jumped from one relationship to another. At that time, Tinder was not the favourite dating app. So, my love adventures were mostly started from shared contacts of friends or colleagues, that I somehow managed to resonate with. The traditional dating style, however, taught me that the best romance people could have is rather created from a series of quality conversation that sparks interest gradually than an instant infatuation. Despite meeting several nice guys who could have become my future partner, I decided to drift away and focused on my career experimenting each day to tackle the challenges in making friendship with my peers.
I didn’t want to disappoint you with the storyline that seems to be an anti-climax, but eventually, I left Jakarta. After living there for a couple of years, I decided to pursue a greater goal by enrolling in a grad school. Thus, I packed up my bag and said goodbye to Jakarta landmarks that I loved to visit. Spending a year in England, I then returned to Indonesia. However, I chose to venture my career path in Bali until I felt ready to get back to Jakarta, which sometimes could turn to into a “Concrete Jungle”. Fast-forward to these days, I have relocated to this city. Yet, I found difficulties to re-connect with friends that I used to get along with. Distance and busy routines have become the unspoken statements letting us know that we now have different priorities. My effort to build new connections with strangers or peers at my new office was nothing but a bottleneck.
I noticed the fact that we cared about different issues and I am trapped inside a bubble of my big ideas that I desperately wanted to manifest. Meanwhile, my current peers prefer to cope with the life they have struggled to build in the city. I often ask myself whether the incapability of making new connections was to be blamed on me. Therefore, I tried to speak to many personal coaches to figure out any problem in me, many of whom, such as Lisa Bowen and Bibi Gratzer, have since become my good friends. I also read countless books and articles about personality just to find out that I am an empath. It means that I value one deep connection more than having hundreds of casual relations which subside as our interests change. I then understand why an individual is willing to travel miles away from their hometown to join a new tribe, simply because she and the tribe are like-minded. The oxytocin produced in my body didn’t do any bad thing. It’s just trying to protect me from being disappointed with the fact that I might encounter. However, once I found the right fit, the self-protecting mechanism tumbles down magically. Regardless of someone’s skin colour, culture or age, the sense of shared-identity becomes a powerful force that attracts me to create a meaningful relationship. I am currently involved in a research community where I share thought and ideas with like-minded people. Despite hectic schedules or aching bones, when it comes to promoting our shared values, we can journey miles away to meet up and spend hours for having an insightful conversation. There is nothing better that fills me in as making this connection. And it all happens here, in the city people used to call Batavia, as for me, is called New York! I once met Kerrie Phipps, a friendly professional speaker who is been working to help people like me to elevate their emotional intelligence. If you are on the same journey as mine, her piece of writing titled; Do Talk to Strangers by might come handy.
PS (Yes, post script never gets old, just like love letter): Me and my fellow communications specialist (Anna Delinois) is running a campaign to help providing stationery for students in need so that they can have more tools that help their intellectual development. Focusing our first work on a Sumba-based foundation, we encourage you to get involved by logging onto: https://gogetfunding.com/150-stationery-project-2/ and donate!
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