This post was written in 2020 when life seemed very vague and somewhat directionless to me as a fresh graduate, living abroad in Amsterdam — and whose orientation year visa was soon expiring. If my memory serves me right, I was staying over at a friend’s place and couldn’t sleep even after spending the evening talking. I started writing this on my phone while my friend dozed off to sleep.

It is 00:45 on a Sunday and the raindrops keep pouring. It makes for a peaceful ambiance to fall asleep in. But as for me, it makes for the perfect mood to pause and reminisce.

Some recent life experiences have made me re-think what I stand for. As days, weeks, and months pass by I sometimes feel like I am growing, but there have also been days where I feel like I am stuck. Oftentimes, at night, I tend to look back on my summer vacations. This is when highlights of the past hinder me from wanting to move forward — that is probably why I often feel ‘stuck’.

I have been living abroad in the Netherlands for almost four years now. But even throughout these times, I still like to think back to when I am home (i.e., Indonesia). Am I homesick? Will the reverse feeling happen when I am back in my home country for good?

As I am writing this, I am looking back on my summer vacations while I was still enrolled in university. In 2017, before flying home to Indonesia, I volunteered at Best Kept Secret and enjoyed watching Arctic Monkeys, The Internet, Vince Staples, Wavves, and many more, for free. I then went to Yogyakarta with my family. In 2018, I stayed in Jakarta and had loads of fun. In 2019, I graduated and took my mom on a mother-daughter trip to Rome, Italy. This trip was especially meaningful because I paid for the tickets, tourist bundle (i.e., this tourist package thing), and accommodation using my hard-earned part-time job money. Why Rome? I simply wanted to have a Roman Holiday in the summer— partly inspired by the movie Audrey Hepburn starred in, even though I never really got around to finishing the movie. Once back home, I went to Yogyakarta but had a very different experience from when I last visited in 2017. 2019 was a great year, despite its ups and downs. It ended up becoming one of the best summer vacations I ever had.

I have always thought of myself as someone who is independent, who can tackle any obstacles alone. I have always thought that I am resilient and that I would persevere through any hardships. I have always thought that I can make myself happy as long as I have my ‘me-time’ to unwind after the going gets tough. But now, I am thinking back on that last point.

It turns out, people need people — people need each other. Independence is, of course, still important, but do not let that become an excuse to be alone. Relationships are needed. An individual needs to have a family; a person needs a home. Thoughts, feelings, and emotions should not always be kept on your own — you need to let it out to the person/people you trust most. Now, I am realizing that as the years go by, and with every summer vacation, I am starting to open up and grow.

I am reminiscing about how joyful I was during my summer vacations. Yes, I had problems but, as of now, they are mere ‘buzzes’ in my memory. Generally, I am a very nostalgic person — I like holding on to memories that have profound emotional impacts, be it good or bad. Again, because of this, I feel stuck at times. Sometimes, I refuse to think this way and treat this nostalgia as a moment of gratitude.

Memories tend to be bittersweet, but I choose to think that they have served more of a positive effect on me. The new people I have met throughout the years have helped overcome my struggle of being ‘stuck’. The way I communicate with them; integrate with their surroundings; learn from their past experiences; spend quality time with them. These are signs that have indicated to me that I am becoming more and more comfortable exiting my comfort zone. I would like to think that I learn and grow from experiencing new things with new people, and for that I am grateful.

There are so many different personalities out there. If I have learned anything from my years living abroad is that I should not be afraid to ask questions and keep conversations going. Don’t be such a stuck-up, just go with the flow. That is how I have put myself out there and let myself get immersed in whatever life throws at me.

Now, the year is 2022 and I feel funny reading back on my reflection. 2020 was both a dull and thrilling year for me — with the Covid-19 pandemic being a big factor in my life experiences at the time. The reflection above was written during a point in my life when I was intensely applying for full-time jobs both in the Netherlands and Indonesia, the latter being the safety net. It was before I knew I would be working and living in Bali for a solid one year — as of now, at least — in the middle of the pandemic.

I find it really funny how I am at a completely different stage in life right now, but the confusion and mixed feelings about my own personal growth still remain. I guess this is what is meant to happen when you’re in your twenties.

PS: I am not sure if there was even a clear structure to this reflection. I thought of framing this entry around themes of personal growth and nostalgia.

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