I have been thinking a lot of my past lately, my teenage life in particular. It was the most confusing time of my life, but also the most influential part. It was the time when I questioned most about my own existence and I believe it has shaped me to be the person I am today.
Born a native Indonesian, I remember my parents raising me with only little traditional values. My father for one is a man full of dreams. Fascinated by the West, he wanted to go to faraway places and taste a different kind of life than our own. He insisted his children to learn English at a very, very young age (5 years old, being my case), and at the time it was uncommon to do this. He wanted us to be prepared for something that wasn’t even in sight. But naturally, God works in mysterious ways. Little did I know that 7 years later my father’s prayers and wishes would be granted. We flew to England that very year and started a life that became the next crucial chapters of my life.
Adjusting to the new life was tough, although I had my father to thank because language wasn’t one of the problems. However, school was something I dreaded each day. I felt like a fish out of the ocean, plunged into open freshwater and learning to swim all over again. Suddenly I had to speak French, know all about English history, read Shakespeare, play hockey and learn scientific terms is English. Not to mention facing new friends who probably only thought of me as ‘the Asian girl with the weird, 15 letters long, unpronounceable surname’ (and having to spell it out each time someone needed it didn’t help either!). I was exhausted and overwhelmed. My grades slipped, my weight shot up, and my mood swings played frantically. I was a wreck and I hated my life.
Of course, being a teenager, I kept this to myself. I was a shut book and became my own refuge. Thankfully, I met a few open minded people who later on became my very good friends. I started knowing more and learning more about being ‘one of the crowd’, started to believe that my only way out of the mess was to become like them. I dressed like them, talked like them, liked the things they did, and the little traditional Indonesian values my parents had taught me faded away eventually only to leave mere traces. It was the price I had to pay.
Old friends (I was taking the picture!)
So you see, I think this story answers some of the questions I’ve been asked about my background. It may help to clarify the confusions to most of my new found Indonesian friends who I’ve met online and wondered whether or not I was one too. Or maybe correct wrong impressions that I wasn’t one because my art or writings portray the more Western part of me.
Now I understand that although brief, teenage years can be one of the most important stages in shaping a person’s mind and soul. That it greatly influenced the foundation of my point of views and the way I carry myself in life. Though difficult, it’s a lesson learned and I pray that I will be able to stand by my children when the time comes for them.