I am never one to celebrate birthdays — cakes, candles, gifts, presents, even an annual self reflection are a rarity. The way I celebrate my birthday has evolved from bringing cakes back in pre-school, to lunch treats during school years, and now a flurry of LINE stickers in my family’s group chat and short Instagram direct messages from my friends. There would be the occasional long cheesy post by the husband (then boyfriend), or sometimes the sweet messages from closest friends.

This year, however, was different.

For heaven knows what reason, since the beginning of this year I have been feeling very… contemplative. Very aware that my birthday was coming in a month’s time, and that it would be my twenty-fifth. I didn’t know why, but I just dreaded it so. No, it’s not because I’m a year closer to dying (because everyday when we wake up we’re one day closer to dying?) nor is it because I feel old — it’s just, like, if I can evade it, I would.

Consoling me like a good husband that he is, Andhika said the magic words: oh, it’s just your quarter-life crisis.

Okay, first of all, bold of people to assume that we’d all live to 100 years old (Cahya, get off twitter!).

Second of all, oh.

It first began as a simple realization that being twenty-five is not-so-young anymore. Twenty-five is that age when the world internationally recognizes you as a full-fledged adult: youth railcards in Europe ends at twenty-five, many of the youth competitions and conferences set twenty-five as the age limit, and no more $5 off for your museum admission ticket because hey! you’re not young anymore!

If the world could, it would send me a letter that says “Congratulations, you’ve passed your probation on becoming an adult,” magically delivered to my bedside table to be opened at 00.00 on my birthday. (It can be helpful if it can then send me a list of things I need to do as a full-fledged adult, starting with once-and-for-all clear instructions on how to do my taxes because taxes).

This realization then started to grow into fear and insecurity. You’re twenty-five now, my brain said, so you better get your shit together. I began comparing: the up-and-coming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (and many of the new wave of Indonesia’s hopeful/would-be legislators) is just four years older, many of the world’s innovative companies were built by their founders at my age, and so many others create a positive impact in the society by creating grassroot organizations, write eloquently on a cause of their choosing, voicing out injustice and the likes. Malala Yousafzai is twenty-one and a Nobel laureate (although to be fair, you can’t expect everyone to be a Malala). These people seeped through my brain and got me thinking: what have I achieved?

Turning twenty-five felt to me like a pit stop for me to decide whether I want to live the rest of my life as an ass-kicking, rocking person or as a passable, but nonetheless happy person. I spent my childhood till my university years thinking I would be…something, someone memorable. Forged by the reality of life and having traded views with people of different backgrounds, I have now realized that really, most of us will most likely be passable and mediocre — but by no means is it wrong, nor sad.

I guess I can attribute this to having matured, coming to terms that there’s so much more in life than having your name printed in the newspaper or a certificate, winning an award or being associated with superlatives.

As someone who has spent most of my life pegging my self-esteem and achievement on how young I am, it’s pretty shocking to lose this predicate. My life was full of being “the youngest” — two years younger than my peers, the youngest person in my class of 2010, the youngest graduate, the youngest employee in my first workplace, the youngest employee in my current workplace, the youngest person to be interviewed by this panel of directors I got them asking “I’m sorry but you’re 19, what the hell are you doing here working?”. Now I’ve run out of titles to be grabbed — there’s no pride and no such thing as the youngest person in this apartment block? There’s a bit of panic and stress seeing waves of new recruits at work being born in 1996. (Okay, that sounded more stupid in writing)

All of a sudden, I felt worthless and less significant compared to my glory days a few years back.

It took me a few weeks of self reflection (and frantic texts to friends — you know who you are) on what it means to grow older, what (or more precisely, whether) specific metrics measure one’s success in life, what makes me happy and such to be at peace with myself again. At the end of the day, there are no wise words to part or mindblowing revelations to make — it is just what it is. People grow old, you grow old and there’s nothing you can do about it but accept it. Embrace it. As a wise friend said, self-acceptance matters.

If I had to re-do my life all over again, perhaps I would whisper to my younger self to stop obsessing over age-based life targets and pegging your self-esteem to how young and achieving you are. Age shouldn’t define you and most definitely shouldn’t limit you on what you believe you can achieve.

Having this conversation in my head, I can’t help but mockingly jeer to myself that all this is just a sorry excuse for being mediocre and not living up to my high school dream of being “someone big”. To her I say: yeah and so what! So what if I fail or if I didn’t win a national prize by the age twenty-five — it shouldn’t, doesn’t and wouldn’t deter me to keep trying anyway.

Twenty-five is just a big, massive boulder on the road called life. And I’m not just going to make a u-turn or shrug as I find a way around it; I’m going to climb it and jump over it gleefully.

Happy twenty-five, me.

A lot has happened since the last time I was able to commit to myself to sit down, open my laptop, and jolt something down in this dusty, neglected site.

(To be fair I did write in other medium (hence not mentally burdened by the “write more” goal of 2017 I imposed upon myself) which you can find here. That bit is actually quite cool — I convinced myself to participate in a 15-days writing competition about energy, my field of work where I am passionate about, and apparently got selected as a finalist! Two of the articles I cross-posted on Kompasiana also got featured in their homepage, Twitter, and Facebook which made me excited and nervous at the same time, as these babies got viewed by thousands pairs of eyes. Anyhow, that’s a side story.)

Early last year I got engaged — and in the process of convincing myself that this isn’t a decision I would regret, I wrote down my thoughts hoping that those words would serve as a reminder should I start to falter and freak out (it did help, by the way).

To cut the story short (and no, I won’t delve into the vendor-hunting bits of it), we got married on the eleventh of November last year and as of writing we’ve been married for half a year (shy of one day!).

This is the clichéd part of the blog post where I say “time flies”.


If you ask me, then, how does it feel being married?

To be perfectly frank with you, it feels nice. It is indeed a very anticlimatic and boring choice of word, but it does feel nice.

I used to freak out at the thought of being committed to someone “for the rest of my life” (paraphrasing my engagement post), but many of these days when I see Andhika doing house chores or simply sitting there with his laptop open, I feel grateful that he’d be there for the rest of my life. (A-year-ago-me would feel icky typing that, but well as I said, you can’t logic your way out on this subject.)

It feels nice that someone understands that the number one thing you hate most is doing laundry, and that he’d willingly do it for you. Likewise, I have to understand that he has… different anatomy leading to sleep apnea and rendering you to wake up due to his loud snores.

It feels nice that you can discuss on which Hyrule shrine you should go to next, and hours later in the middle of the night discuss your Individual Development Plan for work and plan your careers together. Sharing notes and lessons learned from our own mentoring sessions are quite productive, too!

And as there won’t be rainbows without rains, there were, of course, down days — those that are more than petty fights over failed dishes and small daily annoyance. I think it’s inevitable — after all you are putting two people with different personalities together in an extended period of time. I still stand by my opinion from years back that these fights will only make you stronger.

We spent more than half of our married months so far being physically apart from each other. I got an assignment in Singapore (another big life update from the past year!) and have been working here since January. This role also requires me to travel quite a bit. Likewise, Andhika’s new job (in which he moved job partially to find a workable arrangement to join me in Singapore!) requires him to travel every now and then, too. This, on top of the first few months of the year where he was still based in Jakarta ends up in us meeting only on few weekends and not more. Some people frowned at this thought of me working abroad and us living separately — certainly not ideal for a newlywed, they thought. However, Andhika and I had agreed before getting married that the marriage should not restrict us in our career and that we’ll find a way to work it out. And after all, there isn’t one model ideal type of marriage and more often than not, overthinking about what others expect you to do don’t get you very far.

More than one person warned me that being married will limit and prohibit you — from reaching your goals, from taking daring decisions, from hanging out with your friends, … and the list goes on.

I would beg to differ. If any, I feel like it expands us. And in a crazier way still, I feel like it grounds us, giving us a firm standing — and in turn propelling you to roam, fly higher. It gives you assurance that there’ll always be something, someone there to return to and catch you should you fall. It strengthens and heals, at once.




Earlier today, through a private family event, Andhika and I got engaged. It was a simple lunch between two (later on, one! :p) families, followed by a sincere conversation expressing the good intent and our plans for the future.

For us, the decision to get engaged (and subsequently, get married) was not an easy, I’m-certain-he’s-the-one-upon-first-meeting kind of decision. It was a decision made over the course of five years — five years worth of dinners, discussions, and debates.

Andhika and I knew each other from a selection round for an ITB MUN team back in 2011. Months later, catalyzed by our love for museums and evening stroll to fetch a document we left in the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, we started dating. Since then, we’ve been together and witnessed each other grow from university students with awful hairstyles to office workers trying to make our marks in this world.

When we realized we’re already a fully-functioning adult, it can’t be helped that we ask ourselves (and peer pressure, and family, too), what’s next for us? Surprisingly, it’s easier to answer such question in career and goals-related context rather than in a romantic context. We are in love and undoubtedly have grown fond and dependent on each other, but we can’t quite figure out if, when, and how we’re going to get married. It was a topic that we usually shrug and dismiss, replying instead with an answer “the time will come, just wait and let it come naturally”. Only later did we realize that shrugging, dismissing, and “waiting for it to come naturally” is akin to, well, not letting it to come. Simply because the topic is in uncharted waters for us, we chose to put it on the back burner. Perhaps we were afraid (mind you, it was a big decision to make).

When we finally sat down and talk about what we’re going to do about this “marriage thingy”, a lot of questions pop in my mind:

  1. Aren’t I too young for this lifetime commitment?
  2. Do I really, actually love him, or is it just a matter of habit to having him around?
  3. Holy cow, I’m gonna be with this guy for the REST OF MY LIFE. Is he really the dude for me?
  4. Will I still be the Cahya I know today? Will my friends steer away from me? Will I still be able to have an impromptu solo lunch at Yakinikuya?
  5. Do I get to achieve my career goals? Will I be limited in any ways?
  6. People say once you get married you’ll lose all the freedom in the world! You won’t enjoy life!
  7. and the vilest of them all… do we deserve better partners?

When faced with difficult questions, I resort to the way I’m most familiar with: being my own devil’s advocate. After many monologues made during the hour-long drive to-and-fro the office, I wasn’t able to find enough solid answers not to get married, and was apparently able to note down more practical reasons and benefits of getting married (jokingly to my colleague: “it seems like a decision that can bring a higher overall IRR to my life”).

Some of my closest friends could testify my worries and doubts I had about choosing a life partner. After all those lengthy discussions and video call, trying to contact different friends with different personalities, I realize that there is no single person I can consult to give a silver bullet for all my questions – eventually I have to decide on my own, take a leap of faith, and just… go with it. After all, I believe that there could not be a person so perfect at any given time, as the definition of “perfection” evolves as we do. It’s not in human nature to be fully satisfied with what we have, hence I reckon that at some point in our life, one should just be selfish and decide for one’s self  on the grounds of what feels right (which, by the way, can also mean not to get married to someone at all. You don’t need a “marriage” to complete you. Someone is not less of a person without a spouse or a partner. Just a PSA.). Anyways it’s intangible emotions not a science on how to fly men to Mars — you can’t logic your way out of this subject.

Being with Andhika for the past five years wasn’t always a smooth and enjoyable ride, but most of the time I was happy. Seeing myself as an independent woman, I’ve always thought that I want someone who will not limit me and respect my personal space and goals, but is still able to love me whole. Thus, I consider myself lucky to have found someone who can be my punching bag and trash can, and at the same time my biggest supporter.

Claire Underwood of House of Cards once said this, affirming its position as my #1 favorite series:

We’re two independent people who have chosen to live our lives together

which I think smartly summarizes how I contextualize me marrying Andhika (go Claire!) (we don’t aim to be a despotic White House couple, though).

I believe that this decision will not negatively alter who each of us is today and what we aspire to achieve in the future. If any, it will positively impact me as I will be able to live with the person I love and provide emotional support for each other. Create synergies and climb the mountains we want to climb together. Walk side-by-side as we unravel life’s challenges and pleasant surprises.

There are days where I still have doubts, and I guess in a way I’m grateful that I constantly question about things around me. It put me in a state of non-complacency and drive the hunger to better our relationship and the two of us as a person.

Eventually, I realize that as much as I’m afraid of the commitment and consequences that entail, I am equally excited to officially live my life together with Andhika, even more than what we have thus far.

So, yeah, we put a ring on it!

This post is a part of my 2016 reading commitments.

Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk adalah sebuah novel karya Ahmad Tohari yang ditulis tahun 1982, awalnya dalam edisi trilogi. Singkatnya, novel ini menceritakan tentang seorang gadis bernama Srintil yang menjadi ronggeng dari Dukuh Paruk, tentang perjalanannya menjadi seorang ronggeng seutuhnya dan setelah menjadi sangat terkenal, bagaimana keadaan politik di tahun 1960-an mempengaruhinya.

Mungkin judul ini terdengar tidak asing — karena memang, di tahun 2011 karya ini diadaptasi menjadi film dengan judul “Sang Penari”.

Saya pun membeli novel ini kira-kira tidak jauh dari tanggal promosi film tersebut. Jadi, yah… buku ini sudah terletak di rak saya kira-kira lima tahun! Hehe.

Ketika saya mencoba membaca lagi novel ini, saya jadi ingat kenapa lima tahun lalu itu saya tidak jadi membacanya — bahasanya lumayan berat. Jujur, saya tidak terlalu banyak membaca sastra Indonesia, dan sudah lama sekali sejak saya membaca novel berbahasa Indonesia.

Bahasa yang Ahmad Tohari pakai bukanlah bahasa yang sehari-hari kita dengar, ditambah lagi terdapat kata-kata serapan dari bahasa Jawa dan bahasa Sunda sehingga pembaca yang bukan merupakan penutur bahasa-bahasa tersebut mungkin akan merasa kesulitan membacanya. Saya pun juga harus mencari di google beberapa hal, misalnya saja tempe bongkrek. Latarnya yang berada di tahun 1950-1960an di kampung terpencil membuat penggambaran sedikit sulit — tapi, disinilah menurut saya menariknya Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk. Walaupun menantang pada awalnya, namun pendeskripsian Ahmad Tohari sangatlah detil, sehingga latar tempat dan waktu terasa nyata.

Bahasa dan penggambaran yang ia pakai pun sangat… vulgar? Dalam beberapa kalimat dan adegan saya bahkan kaget! Karena sungguh, saya tidak mengantisipasi hal-hal tersebut. Bahasa dan adegan tersebut tidak halus, namun bukannya kasar — seperti apa adanya, telanjang. Di satu sisi terkadang sangat dapat diserasikan dengan penggambaran Dukuh Paruk sendiri: sangat simplistis, jujur, mesum, dan udik.

Hal lainnya yang saya sangat suka dari novel ini ialah penggambaran karakter. Masing-masing karakter begitu kuat penggambaran sifatnya sehingga sebagai pembaca, kita dapat berempati dan berpikir sesuai dengan jalan pikiran mereka — dan sungguh, menurut saya, sebuah novel fiksi dapat dibilang sangat baik ketika pembaca dapat berempati dengan karakter cerita. Dimulai dari Srintil kecil: mulai dari kegenitan masa kecil hingga jati dirinya yang sensual namun tetap elegan, hingga matang dan keibuan. Rasus: segala kebingungan dan perdebatan yang ia hadapi pun dapat kita ikuti.

Kejadian-kejadian di tahun 1960-an yang menjadi topik utama di karya ini baru dijelajahi setelah kira-kira setengah buku. Setengah awalnya lebih fokus kepada pengenalan latar belakang dan karakter, dan bagaimana Srintil menjadi seorang ronggeng seutuhnya.

Disinilah menurut saya salah satu aspek novel ini yang membuat saya kurang sreg — terkadang alurnya menjadi seperti bertele-tele dan membosankan. Walau pendeskripsian yang detil menjadi aspek yang menarik, jika terus dipergunakan sepanjang cerita, terasa seperti berlebihan dan menjadi membosankan. Dari segi alur pun terkadang saya merasa banyak sub-plot yang dirasa tidak terlalu memberikan arti atau nilai tambah terhadap keseluruhan cerita.

Namun, secara keseluruhan, alur cerita dianyam rapi oleh Ahmad Tohari, membuat pembaca tetap penasaran membacanya dan ingin tahu apa yang terjadi dengan Srintil berikutnya — dan bukan karena hanya romansa klise seperti novel cinta remaja. Ditambah lagi, pembaca dapat melihat dan mengikuti betul perkembangan sifat dari diri Srintil, Rasus, dan masyarakat Dukuh Paruk.

Dalam kasus saya, saya sampai merasa harus mencari teman berdiskusi atau bercerita ketika saya selesai membaca novel ini. Dan tidak banyak novel yang dapat membuat saya begitu bersemangatnya mendiskusikannya dengan orang lain ketika saya selesai membaca sebuah karya fiksi. Dari sinilah, menurut saya pribadi, Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk menunjukkan kekuatannya: ia adalah sebuah karya untuk dipikirkan lebih lanjut, untuk bahan diskusi, untuk bahan refleksi.

Ever since middle school, I’ve always responded “reading!” excitedly when asked what my hobby is. This is true, as I found reading as a means to escape daily routine and be immersed in an entirely different world (I’m a hardcore fictions reader, mind you), despite how cliche it may sound.

However, some reality check. Ever since the boom of articles and “10 most [insert a random adjective here] [insert a random category here]” lists on the net, I have to admit that I haven’t been reading as much — in fact, the amount of books I read in 2015 can be counted with my one hand only.

Having realized the importance of reading to enrich your mind in a deep and thorough manner (something the bite-size internet articles are not able to offer), as well as training your brain on how to effectively deliver messages, I have committed myself to read more this year, be it fiction or non-fiction books.

I set my goals realistic: at least one book per month. I don’t assign a specific genre or ratio of fictions & non-fictions. For a start I just need to read. Period.

So far, entering the month of May this week, I have read four books and currently reading a fifth one, targeting it to be finished by this week! It’s a small number, but it keeps the wheel turning.

This is going to be the list of books I read over the year, and this post will be continuously updated throughout.

  1. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk – Ahmad Tohari
  2. Lean In for Graduates – Sheryl Sandberg
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
  4. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
  5. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
  6. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling
  8. Feminist Fight Club – Jessica Bennett
  9. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

P.S: I will also post a review/post-reading note/reflection in separate posts

Four winters, forty eight full moons (technically we don’t have winters but for literature’s sake just take it as it is…)

We can count our blessings in numbers: forty eight months, nineteen cities, eight birthdays, seven countries, six companies, three continents, two degrees, two universities, one car – you name it.  Numbered milestones are used as a measurement of how we have been and how we’ve changed (hopefully for the better) for the ­­past years. We have evolved from a frugal university students into interns-trying-to-make-things-work and finally an aspiring young professionals (or at least that’s how we wish we are) and on the process, shifting our ways of communication and responding on the process.

Keeping numbered achievements also feel nice – it makes people feel valuable, achieving, successful. Isn’t it nice to put statistics and color-coded map of the world?

I invite us to highlight the fact that it is less about the numbers and the successes, but more to the things we have gone through in order to keep the wheels turning and the counts up. Behind “nineteen cities”, for example, lies endless bickering on where to go and which transportation we should take and behind “six companies” lay week-long discussion on career paths and self-development (in which each of us plays an important role) plans. Behind three anniversary blog posts lay spiteful LINE messages (which usually mean I miss you but I’m way too high in my ego to admit such) and numerous fights hidden by those shiny numbers. These are the things that matter, even more so than the numbers – because they were the ones that made us grow and made us who we are today.

In the fourth of the fourth day of the fourth month (basically, fourth anniversary), let us shy away from the past milestones and instead, look ahead.

It is no time to boast on what we’ve done – it is time to think on what we are going to do. What are we going to do next and how should we shift ourselves so that we fit to each other’s missing puzzle piece? What have we been lacking and how will we address them in order to make things work on the long run? What have we done well and would they still be relevant in the future? Have we been focusing on the right things? Aren’t these the questions grown-ups supposed to ask themselves in a mature relationship? After all, we’ve grown, haven’t we?

There are lots of questions to ask and consequently, lots of answers to be sought.

And I believe we should try to seek those answers together.

Happy anniversary, more to come!

cahya 5

P.S. thanks for tolerating me at my worst

P.P.S. On another note I really think I’ve had too much self-development trainings hence lots of self-reflection questions.

I was afraid.

I will be lying if I tell you that yesterday, when a terrorist attack in front of Sarinah happened and afterwards, I was not.

I was afraid. I was afraid that there could be another bomb, that there could be more lives taken, that there could be more mothers out there that lost their sons and daughters, that there could be more children that would have one less parent.

I passed Sarinah in the morning of 14 January 2016 on my way to a meeting in Bunderan HI area, where my taxi stopped in the red traffic light and people getting off the busway en route to their office. It was a normal morning. I even thought of going to the Starbucks that morning. So, having learned later on the day that the very normal crossroad I passed through was the ground zero for some open gunfire, bombs, and grenades, it was nauseating. I lost my appetite for lunch that day, and was surprised that such thing could happen to my city.

It was also surprising for me how my fellow Jakartans reacted to the attack. It was initially fear (obviously, especially some of us were in the vicinity of Sarinah), and then a sense of unity (for which I applaud), and then spirit to “fight” back (for which I really admire). The hashtags came, from #PrayForJakarta (which I personally think, wouldn’t really affect the exchange rate) to #IndonesiaKuat (strong Indonesia) to #KamiTidakTakut (we are not afraid).

Being in the digital age that we are, of course there are plentiful of memes and stories that arose, the most famous one being the satay vendor that are seen 100 m away from ground zero, already selling the food with a lot of customers waiting for their plates to be served. The point of that post was to show that we, Indonesians, are not afraid. And the day will continue to be normal afterwards.

But for me, the day didn’t. I have calmed down, but I kept my alertness up. If the agendas were not urgent, I didn’t end up going.

An attack did happen, a bomb did blow up, people did die – these are the reasons why I refuse to laugh about the attack.

What I thought was: yes, I should not be drowned in terror because that’s exactly what terrorist attacks are for, but I should not also be careless and take the attack lightly.

And I am writing and sharing my two cents just to spread the message to my fellow Jakartans, we do stand together and united, but please, please also keep in mind that yesterday was real. Although arguably in a smaller scale than what happened in Paris, it was still a terrorist attack. Please don’t let your guard down, please always be mindful of your safety and security.

I’m not trying to exaggerate anything, neither am I understating it.

A terrorist attack is not a small matter.

Stay safe.