Personal

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AS A CHILD, I love gifts. On my birthday each year, I would get many presents wrapped in colourful paper, and a cake with candles to blow.

My parents, who claim were not spoiling their children but actually did the complete opposite, never failed to get me gifts. If you happen to visit my parents’ house in Jakarta, you’d notice four full cupboards of barbie dolls, poly pockets, legos, stuffed animals, puzzles, comic books, and other stuff. Amazingly, even after their youngest child (read: me) has gotten married, those stuff are still there.

My grandparents have showered me with presents too. I remember getting traditional Chinese music instrument, kites, clothes, toys that walk, toys that talk, and my most prized possession (at that time): a PlayStation 1.

I love tearing the paper, opening a box of surprise that I hope I’d love at the first sight. Sometimes, of course, I don’t.

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YESTERDAY, MY MOM CALLED, asking what I was doing. I was in the middle of steaming my homemade custard buns, so I hung up the phone and Facetimed her instead. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to just show her what I was doing.

She told me that she was going out of town for the weekend, and filled me with news and gossips on family and friends that I had missed since I moved back to Melbourne.

Then she asked, ‘How’s the job hunting? No reply yet?’

Erm, no. Not yet.

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MOST QUESTIONS ABOUT ONE’S life revolves around two things: relationship status and employment status. This is especially true for those who are in their mid-20s.

I know, because after being asked about my married life, the question that follows is this: What are you doing now?

Depending on who’s asking, I would answer differently, ranging from: unemployed, slowly getting into the job market, or enjoying life. And they are all true. Actually, the latter is the most accurate description of the three.

I am what you call a stay-at-home wife. I don’t have kids, but I stay at home. Thankfully, my dear husband is (currently) okay with this.

A typical day for me includes being kissed good morning by the husband before he goes to work. I’d wake up at around nine, then proceed to make coffee. I’d wash the dishes, then open my laptop and browse the net. I’d have leftovers for lunch. Then I do a bit of cleaning, laundry, or anything else that needs tending to. In the evening, I bake, or drink tea while reading a book. At around 6, I’d ask when the husband is planning to be home, and cook dinner. We’ll then eat while watching TV.

‘Aren’t you bored?’ a friend asked.

Of course not.

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Dear Poy,

Today would be one of the last times that you’d sleep beside me. I know, many times I’ve complained of my inability to get a good night sleep with you kicking me every three or four hours. But now, as I sing you to sleep (and yet you still refuse to close your tired eyes), I begin to feel a pang in my heart.

Today would be one of the last times that I’d get to sing you to sleep.

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I’ve always dreamed of being published, yes, but I haven’t had the chance to dream of being on air.

Nevertheless, the opportunity came along for me to talk about my book on UFM 947 radio, a Jakarta-based radio for mothers (yes, their target market is 25 to 35-year-old women, most of them moms), and I had so much fun talking on it.

Honestly, I prepared next to zero. I have no idea who the host would be, what questions would be asked, nor the tone of the talkshow. Since I knew nothing, I decided it would be better to just do nothing. I jotted down some points I’d like to talk about, then I went to sleep.
But when I walked into that studio the next day I realised that I didn’t need to prepare a thing, as the radio host has masterfully prepared the segment to be as smooth sailing as possible. If you listen to the talk, you’ll realise how much effort he has put into researching this book—he literally read the book from cover to cover, picked the juiciest bits to talk with me about, created a storyline for the 60-minute segment that covered everything, and was able to make me at ease throughout the talk.

Really, I couldn’t have asked for a better host.

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I’m a proud person.

How proud? Well, I’ve immortalised my tendency not to ask for help in a chapter on my book. Yes, it’s that extreme.

On that chapter, I wrote about my reluctance in using ‘connection’—for example my father’s or my friends’—to get a job. I argued that if I’ve gotten a job due to someone’s help instead my own ability, I would forever: a) be indebted towards the person and b) be questioning my own skills as I don’t know whether I’m good enough for the job.

So I rarely ask for a favour.

And if I do, I’d make sure that the favour is something that’s easy to do for the other party—something that’s not going to take too much effort for them. Something like asking for information.

But apart from those information-seeking questions, my lips are sealed.

Yes, I’m odd.

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I feel like writing. At the same time, I don’t feel like writing.

I feel like reading. But at the same time, I don’t feel like reading.

Have you ever had that feeling? Of wanting to do something desperately, but at the same time rejected the very idea of doing it? Then you’re contemplating whether you should do it, toying around the thought of actually doing it, only to back out to make a cup of tea, to turn on the television, to listen to another song. You procrastinate, although you know very well that you’ll think about doing it as soon as your head hits the pillow tonight.

You’ve never had that feeling? Lucky you. I’ve had this feeling like twenty times in a day.

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Some years ago, I went through my closet and took out clothes that I couldn’t and wouldn’t wear anymore. The ‘couldn’t’ clothes were easy to choose: most of the things that didn’t fit should go. I said most, because I was definitely still keeping that dress that I haven’t worn even once because I’ve gained weight since. One day.

The ‘wouldn’t’ clothes were more complicated. I know there were a lot of skirts that I’ve outgrown, but they were still in perfect condition. And I’ve probably only worn them twice my whole life. Not to mention the t-shirts and baggy jeans that have gone out of style.

After a few hours of deliberating, I’ve finally made my decision. It wasn’t bad—I actually managed to take out two tall piles of clothes, which were going straight to the donation bin.

Then Mom came.

My mother saw me tidying up, so I asked her to go through the pile, just in case. ‘This one’s still good,’ she said, taking out the red tank top out of the pile. Then she noticed the baggy jeans and made a disapproving look. ‘That one’s quite expensive, you know,’ she said, putting it on top of the red tank top. And so on.

In the end, three-quarter of the clothes went back to my closet.

That day, I learned two things. One, is to never show Mom that you’re doing spring cleaning. Two, is that the original hoarder in the family is my own mother.

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Coffee in hand, I proceeded to write an email to the wedding band that my fiancé and I just saw yesterday. Yes, we’d like to put a deposit. And can you recommend the singers that would fit these songs?

Then I copied and pasted the song list that we had created, and told the band manager of our first dance song choice.

I hit send.

Okay, one done.

Taking a few more sips of my coffee, I logged in to my bank accounts and transferred money here and there. I looked at the transaction record for the last few days and checked if they were correct. They were. I switched to Facebook and scrolled through some updates. Oh, it’s a friend’s birthday today. I sent a happy birthday message.

Okay, another done.

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Parents with young children, I understand you now. There’s no such thing as enough time.

For the past few months, I feel like I have a kid. The kid is my three-year-old nephew, who has ten times the energy of an almost twenty-five year old. He could climb up and down the stairs, jump around for ten minutes and run around the house without even sitting down. Me?

Well, I’d have stopped chasing him after the second stair-climb.

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