Thursday, 10 August 2017

Homecoming: Three Years Later...

To tell a story, I think it's best to start from the beginning. So let's start from the top! If you've been around here for too long, you might know that I used to live in Germany. I made the move in 2011, around a year before this blog came to be. This ended three years ago eleven days from now, when I decided to pack my bags and head homewards. I dabbed on the subject a little bit here and there, but I don't think I ever really went over it in great detail, so now—three years on—I feel like I'm finally at a place where I can talk about it without breaking down into pathetic sobs. Now, this will most likely be a terribly long post, so if you're not particularly interested, this might be a great time to click away. Don't worry, better and more cheerful content will be back soon.

THE START

The first time I was rejected by an art school—or four—was in the spring of 2012. It was the first time in my life I didn't know if I was good at what I was passionate about. Racing with time and bureaucracy, I didn't have much time to sulk and mourn my loss of confidence. Instead, I applied for a different, more theoretical branch of the arts: Art History. My theoretical scores were perfect and the major was less desirable, so we soon accepted each other. While the experience was fun and enriching, I couldn't help but to feel like something was missing. By the end of 2013, I made up my mind to apply to an art school again and spend the first trimester of 2014 holing myself up to work on my hasty portfolio.

At the same time, my father's office back home in Jakarta was having troubles. Money was scarce and it was time I made a decision. My father was very supportive; he gave me a choice. I could stay but had to find some other means of income meanwhile, or I could go home and put all this behind me. At the crossroad of my life, I made him a deal: if I got accepted to this art school, I would stay—but otherwise, well.

A month after the submission, news came to me. I didn't make it.

My father still let me choose, ready to waive my deal. But I was devastated—and maybe shouldn't be making any judgment calls. But something went through my head. Maybe it wasn't just about how good or how bad I was; maybe our tastes and styles are so different—Germany and I—that I'm not what they were looking for. Maybe I could find happiness in Indonesia, abandoning the life I built for the last three years. But I knew how much advantage I had back home. I could start again, but I wouldn't have to start from zero. And so, I was ready to go.

It still feels unbelievable how much support I received from friends and family upon delivering the news. My family believed in me so much, I cried. Firu didn't once reprimand me for my choices and it tore me apart. My friends refused to shame me and I was speechless. Here I was, throwing away the years of life I started to get accustomed to and people were telling me how proud they were or how brave I was. It was never an easy decision, of course, but I thank the stars for each time they didn't make it harder on me. And so, on 21 August, I walked into that plane, a bag on my back, Firu by my side, and I didn't look back.

THE SILVER LINING

The first time I walked into a plane to travel 11,000 km away, I changed my life forever. The last time I walked into a plane to travel that same distance, I changed my life again. But time never turns back, and the life I could've had if I hadn't gone to Germany or the life I could've had if I had stayed there—they were lost forever. Jakarta's changed and so have I, and it's only now that I realise that we may not be compatible anymore. Transition was direly necessary and it was quite a slow process, but it's coming along nicely.

Not only in the physical world, in the cyber world, my life was changing. I started to post more about my blog to social media, started getting more active on networking with other influencers, started making friends online more vigorously than ever, started posting my work everywhere. It has opened up so many doors for me: people started reading the blog more often (thank you, you guys!) and I got my first ever professional client (not an IRL friend or anything) and sponsorships in 2015. Psychologically, I felt more motivated to draw and create things, felt more adventurous and sociable. It wasn't long before—on paper—my life started to look so much better already.

On the flip side, there was definitely a strong silver lining to my homecoming. As soon as I got out of the airport, my family noticed something horribly wrong with my body. Something—despite the constant short of breath, the fever and the fainting—I dismissed easily. I was soon diagnosed with Tuberculosis—which you might have read about here, here and here—which in Germany would have called for immediate quarantine, but in Indonesia was not as threateningly treated. This soon became the official tagline we used to explain my homecoming to less immediate relatives and not-so-close friends—it was easier that way.

THE SECOND LIFE

In November 2014, I applied for a scholarship at an international university—at least they claim to be. In August 2015, I started life once again as a uni student. Earlier this February, I left that life behind as well.

Though brief and stressful, the experience of being a design student was fresh and fulfilling for me. Finally, I got what I always dreamed to do—I got to draw everyday. But money is still scarce. It didn't occur to me how much tuition fee would cost—and this uni was significantly pricier than the rest. I found myself constantly scraping the bottom of my wallet for some spare change for transportation and asking my parents for more to print my assignments—something as a 20-something-year-old I felt ashamed of doing. Slowly, I started to realise that the advantages the uni promised at the start weren't entirely fulfilled after all.

It was when a former neighbour of mine offered me a job in March 2016, that I was slowly getting more financially stable. It is a job that I treasure dearly and feel could resonate with my aspirations. But even that wouldn't cover the tuition fee—and the printing fee that went with it. Although, in time, the payment got better, the workload also multiplied. And soon I was drowning in a sea of deadlines.

So, at the end of 2016, I took the plunge and started the ball rolling towards my resignation from uni. Aside from the unfulfilled advantages, there were various reasons for this as well. I found that I wanted to create so many more personal projects right now, to actually put together a portfolio—without waiting a few years before doing so at the aforementioned uni. With the current work I am doing, it seems possible to go through life quite well-provided too. Lastly, at the age I'm at, I feel constantly guilty of spending my parents' money, instead of helping out financially myself. Everyone around me seem to mature considerably and I want to catch up to them.

And so, I left that life behind with no regret.

PERSONALLY

There isn't a day in my life when I don't wish I'd taken back the decision to come home. But if I trace my steps to try and create an alternate life for myself, I feel like I would end up being unhappy anyway. I wish I had had the courage and will to create art and seize opportunities back in Germany. Maybe then I didn't have to give up. Maybe then life would have been so much simpler. But to know what could have been is to ask of the impossible. So I'll just leave it at that.

Only recently did I realise that I'm actually happy; despite missing Firu and Kassel like a mad man, despite wishing I could explore castles and museums in Europe, despite not living independently in a different language. I get to do what I've always wanted to do: draw everyday. I get to connect with more people with the same passion and aspirations. I get to finally be financially independent—although not entirely, which is something I'd been wanting to do since I was 19.

And, yes, it may be true, that if I hadn't done what I did, I would've been happier. Maybe it's true that if I had chosen a different route, my life would've been so different right now. Who knows? All I know is that the choices that I made back then and the experiences I went through before are the things that made me who I am today. And I'm starting to like myself just a little bit more.

Thank you so much, if you've read this far! I always appreciate it!


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