Searching for Meanings and Other Things in Between
What is the probability that your favorite famous person in the world — an actor, musician, athlete, whoever they are — will notice you? What are the chances that they will reach out to you and actually talk to you? The chances are so little and it is almost impossible. On the contrary, it happened to me several days ago. She may not be as famous as Candace Parker or Serena Williams, but she is well known on another level. One of my favorite famous person in the world happens to be a student athlete, a junior from University of Oregon. Her name? Satou Sabally, a German native that shares the same age as I do.
But let’s take a few steps back, shall we? Let’s start from the very beginning, and we will see how this experience ends up to be very important to a 21 years old woman.
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in the year of 1998. First child of two. As I grew up, I often hear my generation complaining about the fact that we are born in Indonesia and as an Indonesian. It was an early judgement, I assume. People in my society, that happened to be my friends, did not like the idea of that because we watched too many American reality shows. But at one point of my life, I hated the idea of that too. I was jealous of the American kids. But we can never choose who do we want to be born as, so there is no need to complain things that cannot be changed. Such a waste of time. Living in Indonesia is not the best thing but it is also not the worst. Of course we got challenges as the younger generations. We were about to blossom with greater ideas and innovations but the Elders seem to not care at all. I always think that they always had this mindset: “We have more experiences than the Youths so we are always right”. Indonesian lived in that term for quite sometime.
But the world evolves and here we are now, entering a new era of Indonesia. We started really slow. The government started to invite younger generations to be involved on decision making or to take part in the parliament. The government realized that in order to move forward, you need fresh ideas, fresh talents too. But to me, it does not affect me that much yet. If you are interested in technology, businesses, politics, or a more general fields of work, that might do well for you. But for someone who is taking industrial engineering as the major and trapped for almost four years not knowing what to do (read: me), that does not do any good. Fun fact: A lot of my friends that come from science department in high school, not lucky enough to get into medical school or top engineering universities, and not knowing what they want to do in life (yet), usually ended up taking industrial engineering as their major because the scope that we learn as an industrial engineer is as wide as the Sahara desert. And at the end of the day, our parents would wisely say, “just take industrial engineering as you will learn different aspects of an industry. So in the future, you can work on any field because you understand it all”. I am currently on my fourth year in industrial engineering and I can assure you that it is not that simple. It is very complicated. The regret is real. The stress is also real it gives me panic attack every once in a while. But after years of forcefully searching for my passion in industrial engineering, I can make a very general conclusion that I am not so good at calculation but I can do critical analysis based on theories. So I will go from there.
I went to my ethic class and my teacher explained Freud’s theory of human personality. Freud mentioned that there are three components that composed human personality: the id, the ego, and the superego. Those three components will emerge on different occasions in our life. The id is our pleasures which leads to desires, wants, or needs. But our pleasure does not always have to be fulfilled, especially when it involves other individuals. That is the moment where the ego emerges. The ego will make sure that we can fulfill our needs in a realistic way without harming others.
The last component, the superego, is an internalized moral principles that we got from our family or society since a very young age. It is called as our sense of right or wrong. The superego holds the key for us to act good, to help the id and the ego so we will not act only in a realistic way, but consider the idealistic way as well. The superego will help us to classified whether our action is correct or if we are forbidden to do that. If it is forbidden, usually it will lead us to feel guilty or ashamed. The classification of our action comes from our internalized morals that I have mentioned earlier. Those three components work dynamically and create balance in our life.
Freud’s theory about human personality explains a lot of my past behaviors. I could not remember the specific events that happened when I was younger but I always remember the morals that my parents have taught me. As a woman and an older sister, I have a role to be the leader and the example for my little brother. My brother is four years younger than me — and in terms of personality, we are a completely different person. My brother is a very emotional person. He gets furious so easily whenever he cannot do a task. He used to cry a lot when he was younger. And that was the moment where my father would say “Look at your sister, she never cries! Be a man, not a crybaby”. I believe those words have impacted my brother as much as it has impacted me, unintentionally. From time to time, it has always been a must for me to be strong and not showing my emotion to anyone. I always keep things on my own, because I got terrified whenever I started to be honest on my emotions to the universe, I have a thought that people would hate me for being weak. This behavior is destructive. My parents notice this but never really ask about how I am doing with life, and then it got worse. So I thought, why would I tell anyone about how I feel, if they never really ask and care? For twenty years I always feel like everything that has happened in my life is my responsibility, and for some reason, keeping things by myself has became a burden on its own.
And then there is my social life. People said that I am a cheerful and friendly person. I always love helping other people with my very best ability. Maybe it explains a lot of my astrological sign. I love making new friends and share opinions on this and that. I love digging into someone’s perspective towards the world. It always fascinates me. But I am lying if I say that I did not come home to exhaustion by interacting with too many people in one day. Because there were a lot of time where I paid too much attention to my friends and relatives instead of myself. I was so focused on what is on the outside rather than the inside. I forgot to take care of my own body, until the time came where I felt lost. I did not know who I was and my reason to live.
I did not realize that until September 2019. That was the first time where I felt like I did not feel comfortable living on my own body. Because of that, I always spent more than twelve hours outside of home, because my thoughts would start to haunt me down whenever I was home. I felt terrified with my own mind. But I also got exhausted by sitting for hours in a coffee shop, interacting with different type of people when I felt like not wanting to do it, or just by starring on my computer screen because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I did not do good academically. There were a lot of coffee and sleepless nights in between. I starved myself. I had a thought of wanting to die. I suffered more panic and anxiety attacks. I felt suffocated by my own suffering. It was very complicated, but I cannot express everything I felt in words due to limitation.
I started to open up to my very close friends and my teacher. It felt like I was dying but at the same time I was still walking, talking, and eating. It was a weird feeling. And I did not care of what others might think of me, my main goal was how I can get all the help I could so I can get over this phase of life as fast as I can. After several times of consulting with several friends, I realized that I am the one who needs to be the change agent. I was told to see a psychologist and hypnotherapist but talking will not help if I did not try to improve my quality of life. So I decided that I need to take a step back from reality and handle things on my own. I started to focus on myself a bit more. I started to read more books. I joined The World Economic Forum Book Club on Facebook and it is the best decision I have made. I explored myself more than I was before and I stumbled upon my old passion that I have left for years due to injury, basketball. I used to play basketball since I was in elementary school, and I got injured in 2014 that made me stop playing. I torn my meniscus and have not had the proper treatment for that. Since then, I could not operate my right knee to the best of its ability, I could not walk, run, sit, and jump for a long period of time. But I realized that no matter what happen to me, I will always have love for basketball. I love watching the game. I used to only watch the NBA games, but during this time I tried to expand the horizon and watch the WNBA games as well. And after years, the thrill is still there. My first love on WNBA is Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm. She is the real definition of the G.O.A.T. And then I started to explore more players and teams, and on December 2019 I have known all teams and players in the WNBA. But the most important thing is that I have found myself again from the most unexpected thing.
Watching the WNBA is more exciting than watching the NBA games. Yes, some of you would disagree with me and I am cool with that. I know the league is still quite young, and of course, a lot of people have said bad things about it, mostly involving women. Like the “go back to the kitchen” or “go make sandwich” joke, old ones. But for me, WNBA is where I learn more about the world. WNBA is not only about basketball, it is way beyond that. It really teaches you to be more than just an athlete. I got the chance to get to know some fantastic women just by watching their interviews, listening to their podcasts, and reading their articles.
The first two women that really got my attention are Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. They are sisters, both went to Stanford, first draft pick in 2012 (Nneka) and 2014 (Chiney), they went for a different beginning on their career but now Nneka and Chiney are professional basketball players for the Los Angeles Sparks. I love how supportive they are as sisters, as Nneka always said that “sisters are collaborators, not competitors”. I could see the excitement, proud, and love when Chiney talked about big sister Nneka — how Nneka has always been the real MVP in the family, how Nneka always helps her siblings to achieve greater things. From a podcast, Nneka thought me on how to handle financial stuff. Both Nneka and Chiney also mentioned how important it is for women to have a degree. There are so many things I learned from the Ogwumike Sisters and everything hits me right in the feels.
There was a time, in November 2019, where I regretted my life for not taking basketball seriously. I have shown interest on basketball since elementary school but I felt like I did not get enough support from my parents. So my relationship with basketball has always been on and off. I thought if I get a shot to attend a university in America, play in the NCAA D-I, I might get a chance to get into the WNBA and actually play as a pro. Deep inside my heart I know if things went differently, I would not be sitting here writing a story about my journey on finding myself, I might be sitting here writing a story about my journey being a student athlete in America, which might be less interesting. But I do not blame my parents, or myself, or anyone. I know God puts me in this journey today for a reason and I have to find that reason. I have to live my life to the fullest. I know God wants me to learn about the world in this way so at the end of the day things will get sweeter. I am not a religious person, but I trust God for my life.
I had the opportunity to celebrate my 21st birthday last December, and it became a huge deal. For the first time in my life, I did not take birthday for granted. I realized that I have wasted my life for twenty years, so I am not going to waste another twenty. I do not want to get through my life not knowing who I am and my reason anymore. I made a promise to myself on my birthday that I have to increase my quality of life in any way. And the main reason I want to get better is because I have found my happiness again, and I can tell you that I have never felt so alive until I started to dig deeper on women’s basketball.
In order to increase my quality of life, I should focus on things one by one. So my main focus is myself. I have to keep myself happy and positive so I get my WNBA League Pass (top priority!). I wake up early in the morning every day, clean my room and make my own breakfast, a good way to start the day. I would go to class with my best energy and my positive attitude to help me understand the subjects more. I also cut off my behavior on going to coffee shops and sit there for hours, and spend more time at home with my family or myself. I visit my great grandma very often now, one time I went there and got her oranges and she got really happy. Seeing her smile almost got me in tears. I try to avoid hanging out with too many people because I do not need the negativity that people might bring. This does not mean that I hate my friends, I just need more time for myself. And then when I get home, I start to connect with people on Twitter or Instagram, I listen to my favorite songs on Spotify and I am proud to say that I just made one of the best playlist in my life consists of African songs and it brings joy to my life! I dance to it every time. I should have done it earlier. I also would read books or watch basketball games. My favorite book that happens to be the one that help me during this time is Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho. This is the best book I have ever read in my lifetime. His words are beautiful and the book gives me a whole new perspective and understanding about the world. The book has helped me to become more human. It has helped me to appreciate everything that happens in this universe, the good and the bad. This behavior brings happiness and positivity and I do not have any plan to quit.
The second one is my role as the big sister. I really took this role for granted in the past. A lot of time me and my brother were just fighting over unimportant things. We did not communicate that much, we were just minding our own business. I hated that version of myself. Now, I really take Nneka’s words seriously. Siblings should be collaborators and the biggest supporter of each other, and that is exactly what I have been trying to do in the past two months. I try to help my brother with his homework, even when I could not do chemistry well but I started to relearn it again. I always make time for my brother whenever he wants to talk, so almost every Sunday morning we would go for a ride to our favorite coffee shop, grab a coffee, and talk. I try to respect everything he says and likes, he loves automobile and watches and he could talk about it non-stop but I have to listen although I do not quite understand that matter. The only thing that I want for my brother is for him to be happy and grateful for everything that has happened in his life. I have had my time for being ungrateful, and I do not want him to regret his life the way I did.
The last one is my academic. For the first time in four years in college, I have finally found my interest. I have decided that I want to be a sport analyst on women’s basketball or to work on the sport industry. I want to fight, speak, and stand up for women in sports. I want to be like Holly Rowe and Rebecca Lobo. I know my ability on making critical analysis, and I believe I can still work on my statistical skill during my final year in college. This field of work is, of course, not very common in Indonesia. And I do not think it will get better in the next five years. That is the reason why I said Indonesia’s moves to a new era will not affect me that much. So my plan is to create my own way to the WNBA and I will get there one day. This reminded me of what Nneka said in a recent article about how she connects with fans.
“I have tried to make sure young kids know you do not have to play to be involved. You see the glamour, the flashiness of what it seems like to be a top athlete. I am hoping my role as president of the WNBPA has allowed young dreamers to see you can make an impact in more ways than just playing.” — Nneka Ogwumike
Now with what Nneka said, I have fully gathered my consciousness on myself, and I will take every opportunity that comes my way.
Today is February 2020, and I have never felt so positive about myself. Everything seems to be so light. I have been digging more on women’s basketball and learn more about it, I started to get into NCAA too but mostly focused on the PAC-12 conference. I follow teams such as the Oregon Ducks, UConn Huskies, and Stanford Cardinal. I dig deeper into the college players and see their true potentials, how they could fit in the WNBA if they go professional at one point. One day I watched the Oregon Ducks game and immediately got fascinated by the one and only, Satou Sabally. We share the same age, but my goodness look at where she is right now. A world class basketball player. I call her “Poetry in Motion” because her movements and foot works are beautiful. She is a walking bucket. She is Oregon’s everything. And I got motivated even more every day because of her, weird isn’t it? Because the WNBA 2020 season has not started yet so the only games I watch is the Ducks’. I always question myself, why can she be so great at the age of 21, and I am still here? So she becomes my motivation that helps me to get up in the morning every day and to put a smile on my face. She has helped me to get better, and whenever I feel like losing, I know I can start again each morning. Because that is what she does every game, if she does not play well today, she will get better on the next game, and the next game, and better, until she finally reaches a new milestone in her career. And I believe whoever helps someone breaths easier needs the appreciation, so I did. I sent her a message on Instagram. I was not hoping that she would reply to it, my goal was just to let her know how impactful she has been to someone and how she has helped me to get better. And on February 11, she replied. I was shacking. All I can say is Satou Sabally is very kind and I am very lucky. She reminds me to always be humble to anyone. She even shared her favorite quote that said “the two most important days are the day you were born and the day you know why”, and I still think about it every day. I cannot wait to watch her game live and meet her in person at one point of my life because I have heard stories about how friendly she is in real life. It is funny to think how God allows me to cross path with Satou, someone far away from my reach. But small things often bring the biggest impact in life.
I am grateful that I experienced hell in 2019 and I would not change a thing. I am lucky that I got my family and friends who got my back and front so I can keep going on and on and on every single day. I am glad that I did not give up on myself. Now I understand my reason and the meanings of my life. Even if I am destined to die today, I would not regret a thing. I have come to a point where I feel peace inside myself and if anything happens, then it is meant to be that way. I just hope when my journey ends in this world, I have brought lights and have impacted people’s life in a good way.
Each individuals have different journey, different obstacles and challenges through life. Some experience it now, some might experience it later. But the time will come and we should all be ready. I am sharing this experience to help any of you deal with phases of life. I realized that a lot of us mostly focus on the big things and tend to forget every little things that happen in life. A lot of us would complain on how bad January has been without remembering the fact that we survive each day — we get a chance to eat and sleep at night.
Live your life to the fullest while you can. Get out there and try new things. You will never get the chance to explore new world if you are too lazy to try.
Pay attention to little things. Sometimes happiness comes in an unexpected form so stay alert.
Find your passion. Never feel ashamed for the things that keep you alive. Keep doing it. Embrace it.
Read more books, as you will discover new places you thought did not exist.
Fight for yourself. I realize that if you really want to get somewhere you got to make up your mind and work like hell until you make it. And if you feel like losing, you know it is a process of getting better. Take pride in your scars, as scars speak more loudly than the swords that caused them.
And dream. Dream so big, you get uncomfortable telling small minded people.
People think that this is unimportant but changing your behavior helps a lot. Control everything that you can, like time management. Set your priorities and your goal daily, stop procrastinating. Get enough sleep. Start your day early in the morning. Go out for a run, eat your favorite breakfast, put the brightest smile on your face, and greet whoever you meet on the street. Your positivity will radiate to your friends and the universe — and with a simple smile, you have made someone’s life easier. Never underestimate the power of little things. Always give opportunity for small changes to take on your life. Believe in those changes as they will help you to arise and bounce back. Believe in yourself and the universe. And if things go wrong, it is completely okay to feel disappointed, but always remember to get back on your feet. Because while you are complaining on your social media, other people are working like hell to achieve their dreams.
I never expect I would ever get back on my feet because of basketball and the people that have worked really hard behind it. Happiness really comes in an unexpected way. So to end this story, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my favorite human beings for always reminding me that I am more: Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe, and Satou Sabally.