Blisters

Pains are subjective.

Anybody who have ever gotten a brace before would have gotten a blister too somewhere within their process of adjusting their teeth.

It could be from the new bite, or usually from the wires and metals that are in your mouth.

With the inner side of your month getting in contact with them consistently, it scratches and stabs the tender organ consistently.

And this is not even counting the times when the dentist wrongly snapped their tool with their small scalpel, causing bleeding inside.

What's interesting is how, after undergoing all that struggles, a new bristle after it won't exactly trigger a huge reaction.

Blisters used to be really scary for me as a kid.

Because it affects any parts of your activity. 

It hurts when you drink water. It hurts when you eat anything.

It hurts when you talk. It hurts when you are lying down to sleep.

But blisters after the entire process of brace become much less scarier.

And at a certain point, given enough prompt by people around you, it becomes a symbol of twisted pride instead.

Where your pain become a weird identity you tell other people. 

Or even, as a device to undermine others' experience about their own blisters.

Especially those that didn't have braces.

"You won't know how much it hurt for me back then".

It completely steal the stage from the person who's currently hurting.

To highlight your own pain. And to push your story forward.

And these pains let you bond with people who have similarly went through the same thing.

Or even masquerade as one with the same description that matches yours.

It's a story of shared struggle, even if you're not entirely sure how their experience went.

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A late start

I think I was quite underdeveloped in terms of having hobbies that I can pursue given my heavy emphasis on utilities before.

Where activities were valued by the priority of their needs vs their fulfillment.

This strict prioritization prevented a lot of simple enjoyment that comes from activities that might not yield immediately beneficial results.

It's quite late, but maybe it's quite a good goal to start the acquisition of new hobbies from now on.

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Anywhere but here

"I was sad" - it took me so long to be able to admit these words, to hear them coming from myself.

I had a counseling session in the past and this was one of the simple realization that I had at the time. The words carried so much weight that many things finally start to fall in place. I hated to be called anything but happy, to not be "okay" or to feel that something is wrong with me. To find that something is indeed broken and I was displaying them outwardly shamelessly.

And all this while I unconsciously found myself digging deeper into escapism over time, refusing to acknowledge that I was unwell. I drowned myself in fictional works where I felt validated when I discover characters who's suffering from similar or worse situation. I couldn't bring myself to cry, so I let these imaginary entities cry for me, laugh for me, and find companionship for me.

In this increasingly divisive and ruthless world, I wanted others to understand my inner feelings and the pain I accumulate. And since I couldn't find the compassion I sought, I turned the other way. I couldn't accept that reality is this bleak and unforgiving with people so unwilling to listen and share their worries in fear of judgment. The pages of a book, the screen of the TV, the emotionally somber songs were all a safe haven where all this won't have to happen. They're places where I get to wallow about my thoughts unrestrained. They brought me to the highest peaks and lowest trenches at my own control, restricted only by works I could find and consume.

What finally forced me to confront this was when I put a complete stop into escapism as part of my attempt to understand myself better. Instead of hoping for these imaginary one-way para-social activities with no reciprocity or solution, I started talking to therapists and counselors who helped me to process my thoughts. What prevented me from confronting this before was the fear that at the end, there's only an unbearable loneliness that awaits me. It wasn't until I had enough support network that I gathered the courage to do so.

As an end note, it's both enlightening and terrifying that as a social creature, we're able to dream up our connection to other people and completely substitute them with the strength of our imagination alone.

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Updated mindset

I had a lot of realization lately from processing my experience with certain situations, but it's safe to say that I will optimize for these two things moving onward:

  1. Take action
  2. Stay comfy


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Sunday morning cartoon

There was a time when I have to go to bed before 10PM to wake up for school at 6AM. Saturday nights were exciting because there's no school the next day, I got to sleep late. Those times were often spent watching whatever movies or shows on TV together with my family.

But I still tried to sleep on time to catch the cartoons airing the next morning. There was no replay or purchasable CDs of those shows back then. Missing a single episode means I'd have to wait for another week for it, so Sunday became the most important day of my elementary school life.


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Qualification as shortcut

I have seriously considered obtaining advanced degrees 3 times in my life.

They were born out of the desire to identify, to conform, and to exploit.

  1. I wanted to get a master's in public policy to feel as cool as the Harvard grads I met in college (2014)
  2. I wanted to get a master's in human computer interaction to pass the requirements for a Facebook role (2016)
  3. I wanted to get a master's in business administration to bypass the managerial career ladder (2019)

They're hardly noble intentions. Education is theoretically meant to assist one in achieving something, usually knowledge or qualification. But what I was trying to leverage was not the mastery nor the training. It was the institutional branding and its ability to create a narrative around myself. It was an attempt to bring myself closer to this ideal figure of man inside my mind. A possible migration then, is an added bonus together with the higher pay. The extended optional practical training (OPT) duration remains the most viable method for foreign nationals to legally work in the US while bidding their time for H1B employment visa or a green card.

And perhaps even these intentions are duly acceptable after all to survive financially and socially. A person seeking to improve their welfare through upskill-ing is a cause to celebrate. Economically it helps to supply highly proficient labors. Individually it gives a sense of accomplishment and a promise for a better future for one's family. Despite all this, what I found to be problematic is how I've kept lying to myself by subconsciously accepting the notion that learning is only possible through a formal admission to exclusive programs. Perhaps it's an even bigger lie. I did not want to learn. I only wanted to acquire what's needed for me. What I was seeking was permission to call myself a professional or somebody with an authority.

I once told a friend how I did not believe in any edtech startups. They all eventually converge into a body that issues certifications and offshoot licenses in an attempt to be profitable. An online platform that generously charge $5 and offer unlimited courses is often seen bleeding while an institution that certifies you for $500 is oppositely thriving despite its questionable background. The latter's value proposition is a brand new entry at LinkedIn and the ability to give yourself dubious titles like Scrum Master and Financial Adviser through one-time webinars. They're convenient, and the only reason I can imagine they're so successful is because it fulfills a purpose. It satisfies a need.

In retrospect, that's what a traditional institution have also became: a gatekeeper of qualifications. But sometime this is by design. You don't want surgeons who call themselves one after a single workshop of cutting and stitching a wound. You don't want self-branded architects who try to build actual houses because they have built LEGO models on weekends.

The above examples mirror what I was trying to achieve when I considered getting my master's. It's a sobering realization: I was a pot calling the kettle black. I, too, wanted a quick and relatively painless way to justify myself in a field where performance is relative and outcomes are unbelievably hard to track. It's a shortcut, a mere hurdle to jump with unbelievable rewards at times. Simply breaking into the right circle earns you recognition and opens many doors. People pay attention to you now. People actually pay you better too. And despite all this cheat-like benefits you're still playing by the rules officially. I mean look, you got some Ivy League certs to show! You're indisputable!

There's an argument to be made where fields like policies, HCI and venture building are still areas I am genuinely interested in, but they hold surprisingly little weight compared to the reasons stated above. I don't go out of my way to put hours into practice to learn about them. I enjoy them to a certain degree, then I realized with minimal efforts I could milk them by posing as an expert. The only thing stopping me each time is a sliver of last-minute rationality and participating circumstances. This way, the important process in democratization of learning is then meaningless to me as long as I still hold such primitive mindset. That formal qualification are merely tools wielded for my narrow-minded purpose. I'm writing all this to create a reminder for myself: the 4th time I attempt to do all this shit again I should put learning first and benefits second.


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Bottomless pit

There exists a hole inside all of us.

It hungers for offerings. It seeks to be appeased.

And yet the more it's filled, the wider it ever gets. 

It's an all consuming, Sisyphean abstract.

We call this pit by many names of the old.

Some bemoan it as greed. Others worship it as hope.

They're but false labels by human's fabrication;

Concepts beyond the cavity’s comprehension.

Its domestic oddity springs exclusively from within.

It does not question why it exists.

It does not ponder why it grows.

It does not doubt why it persists.

Therefore all sins lie on man to decode its purpose.

A godless slave, charged with a flawed acumen.

To futile banishment or unforgiving coexistence it paves the way.


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Physical isolation

I always dread the time when my lease is ending, because I have to confront the decision to either stay/move to a new place. In Jakarta, leasing an apartment typically involves a 12-month contract to be paid upfront, which makes it a huge financial and geographical commitment since location affects how we live significantly. This is esp harder during the pandemic where we have to spend most of our time indoor and quality of living becomes an additional aspect to evaluate.

So in H2 2021 I decided to begin the search early. I spent months looking for alternatives to my current place that also fit my budget. The premise was simple: I needed more space for a kitchen. For the past 2 years I was living at a 30+ sqm studio with 0 layout. This makes cooking very challenging due to how the smell would stick everywhere. So I thought a 45+ sqm 1BR with separate kitchen area would be perfect for an upgrade.

But despite the extensive search I ended back at square one. This is because any places that fit the above criteria are way beyond my budget by 100%+. It's too high of a price tag for a single kitchen (lol). On the other hand, I realized that most units I reviewed do not have a decent balcony at all. They're typically nonexistent or mostly an afterthought, and they face either north/south to ensure consistent lighting throughout the day. The scenery is practically unchanging.

In contrast to this, my current balcony is way too spacious for its own good. It faces west overlooking the city skyline with a great view of the sunset everyday. It also has glass walls that bring in excessive amount of light in the afternoon that makes the room too warm at times. All this makes living in this place hardly boring. 

This comparison made me realize how my balcony has helped to prevent that claustrophobic feeling of staying in for extended duration without feeling too isolated. It's a hidden criteria I didn't consider and it changed how I continued my search. Further site visits also made me realize how floor levels mattered more than I thought, e.g. staying closer to the ground allows one to see the plantations around the building and their slow growth throughout the season. 

All these findings helped to make my decision to renew my lease as long as the pandemic lasts.

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Groupings

The world seem to be filled with people who fall under either one of these characteristics: 

  1. Those that are outstandingly smart; e.g. researchers and scientists
  2. Those that are very very hostile; e.g. dictators and terrorists
  3. Those that are plain weird; e.g. fanatics and hobbyists


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