To a candle put off (the funny guy with the sad eyes)

Dead Poets Society

Like any other morning, I woke up earlier than my alarm this morning, a little perplexed by a dream I had. I remembered it vaguely; it involved a chasing scene I suspected having a correlation with The Walking Dead I’d been watching back-to-back the day before. I checked on my Facebook timeline on my smartphone only to find shocking news: Robin Williams is dead. I prepared my coffee, black and strong.

I don’t know Robin Williams in person, but I know he had done something very important in my life. That small highlight on my life timeline was when I was still teaching at the English Language Education program at a university in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I used “Dead Poets Society” as one of my teaching materials in my Drama class. We played the movie in our language lab several times, and I encouraged my students to rent the dvd from a local rental to further study the movie. I gave them topics they could choose from, such as character analysis, plot analysis, and symbolism, to be developed into an academic essay. It was 2001 or 2002, I don’t remember exactly; it was when the Internet was not as advanced and widely accessible as today, but it was the time when we, teachers, started to wonder why these younger generations seemed to develop impatience toward reading novels, textbooks, or any other longer materials.  I used films because films were definitely part of my students’ reality. Back to Mr. Williams, his portrayal of John Keating (easily a reference to the short-lived Brit Romantic poet John Keats) was bigger than life. Like little Todd, I was inspired. My Drama class students got inspired. They began to explore materials, both online and offline. They read. They quoted. They put down their ideas on paper. They learned from crosses and yellow marker highlights I made on their paper. They wrote essays they were proud of. I was proud of them. I learned one important thing from their initial laziness: TEACHERS SHOULD DEVELOP MATERIALS USING TOOLS THAT ARE CLOSE TO THEIR STUDENTS’ REALITY.

I went to work as I was supposed to, no longer as a teacher, of course. I threw jokes around my colleagues like I habitually do. I went to meet a travel blogger from New Zealand whom we hosted. We talked about how the Balinese lead their lives, about life twists, a book called The Journey of Souls, and Bali coffee. We didn’t talk about Robin Williams, but shortly after the meeting, I was suddenly reminded of depression, the silent killer: my own, years ago; a few family members'; a dear friend’s. We live a relatively happy life on the surface, but what goes on beneath is sometimes a wolf — conditioned, but not tamed.

Now, before you say that Robin Williams had done nothing to my life (that everything I felt was just an emotional outburst), think about the movies you remember he was in. How many of them gave you chills and touched your humanity? I think that exactly how he contributed to life: by choosing to be part of those moments when a fictional character is able to move something inside of the audiences. Through those movies, Robin Williams had made a decision after a decision to be an agent that helped us see how to be a better person. His portrayal of John Keating in DPS did that to me. 

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Like Neil in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams decided to leave the life he led. The funny guy with the sad eyes. I am sure that, like Neil’s, his death — and despite my own limitation in understanding such a fatal decision could have been made by someone whose existence had inspired many — will spark flames in others’ lives to carry on and contribute to life.

So I started to write again, starting with this one. I continue weighing a decision after a decision. Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. Thank you for your contribution to life.

On Sharing Online

 

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Certainly sharing something online has become a more and more common daily activity. I share, and even multi-share my selfies, pics of my food and office assignments, my blog posts, funny images, some-rocking-peep’s quotations on daily basis. I share interesting news pieces or practically anything that draws my attention and is, in opinion, worth sharing. What I post is mostly personal stuff; and by sharing them, I am more or less aware of the consequences of revealing some aspect of myself and that people may react differently to it. Funny comments, sarcastic attacks, retweets, likes, trains of conversations, or nothing at all — ready or not, I must accept that they color my social media existence.

Most of the time I am conscious of an image I want to project of myself whenever I post a material online. No, not so much because I am narcissistic (to some extent, hell yes, I love taking pics of myself and sharing some of them on my socmed), but because of measured social and professional consequences of who and what I am when I decide to share something online. Because people can read my professional identity online, I think I should behave responsibly online as well. I leave my accounts open so that people can look into my profile as they wish, and they will find that I don’t update on problems at work, or on how I feel about a certain coworker, nor would they find me an angry person by going through my online posts. There are certain times, though, when I blur lines between my private and social life, just to have fun with myself and let others see my silly side without having to make people think, “Oh geez, how could this company hire this witch in the first place?”

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How do I react to reckless posts made by my contacts? There is an excellent feature on Facebook and I love it so much I use it many times. If a post is annoying beyond belief, I will easily click ‘I don’t want to see this’. If the same person has a pattern of making stupid posts (such as controversial news pieces from god-knows-what media), I will unfollow or even unfriend this person completely. Life is too priceless, and your day is too beautiful, to be tainted by other people’s bitterness or weak judgment. It was when MH370 went missing and all social medias were flocked with shared updates of the search that I got really bugged with the fact that some people were mindless enough to share posts that looked more like a gossip than a reliable news piece. Of course everybody is dying to know, but, darling, let me tell you: it doesn’t help at all when your updates come from unreliable sources. 

If you care about your online credibility — because human beings are assessed in this manner too, nowadays — mind the sources you share your posts from, if what you post is an article or news piece. If you vent your anger online, and you think you can hide it by writing it in Swahili, please bear in mind that people do use Google Translate. If the post is light in nature, such as health tips and funny images, sources are less important than in the case of the missing aircraft updates. A note to keep in mind: we tend to take TIME’s or Huffingtonpost’s health articles more seriously than some teenagers’ magazine articles. Having said that, if you aim at entertaining, some cool sites like Buzzfeed have fun stuff to share on your contacts’ timelines just for the heck of fun (like the “Is Ryan Gossling Your Soulmate?” quiz).

End note: Follow any media you like, and start sharing wisely.

Tuesday Afternoon Reverie

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When life takes your hand to enter its torture chamber, let it be. Let it crush your particles it wants to crush. Let them die as their death marks the birth of those pink water lilies just outside your window.

If you are lucky — as lucky as I — I will take you inside and watch the water lilies grow, die, and grow again, playing our love recital.

2014 kicks off

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January 2014. I have given up making New Year’s resolutions. They’re useless and against the brevity of pleasure. Yet, I started off the year on a calm, slightly happy note. Nothing’s fixed, meaning that whatever I have is flexible for twists and changes. It’s like saying that your loving, sweet-smelling partner is planned to marry someone else he’s not in love with.

The cheesy last statement is not entirely figurative, I can tell you that now. The feeling of entrapment happens from time to time. Even though you have years behind you, still, you are left helpless when it comes around. Years only teach you to prolong your silence, holding back your anger a little longer. Years don’t teach you to be dead of emotions, especially when you were born with those intense feelings.

Exactly on January 1, 2014, I finished a pretty cool book “What French Women Know” written by Debra Ollivier. It compares and contrasts extensively between French women’s and American women’s views on love, sex, and morality. I called it cool because it is easy to read, matter-of-fact, and it is not afraid of being called stereotypical (the book scored pretty low on Goodreads, by the way, but I suspect it’s because most of the reviewers are Americans). Stereotypes can also teach you good lessons. I dare to say that because I believe most people I know are smart enough not to fall to petty judgments towards other people. I thought the book was cool because I am nearly as “messy” as the stereotypical French women described in it. “French women generally don’t strive for exalted standards of happiness, nor do they strive for exalted standards of moral perfection,” says Ollivier. There are peeps out there who think that mess is a preferable trait, or at least, they don’t give a damn.

A couple of days ago, I attended a wedding reception of a good friend of mine, an Indonesian, who married a French man. I assume my friend is already familiar with “French-ness” after knowing this lovely gentleman and being in the French circle in Bali for a couple of years. I assume she knows how to be messy and still appears fine. Well, I know she does because she is exactly the embodiment of that beautiful mess. And, as the night got late and the music got louder and the alcohol level got higher, my “dark passenger” got me under her control.

Days before that night, I experienced the expected pain of two people who see each other without commitment. It was a pretty messy stuff that involved a sleepless night and sickening dead silence before he came back to me on the next day, loaded with affection, putting everything back in order and me back under his armpit. Sweet, eh? Nah! In my friend’s wedding party, intoxicated, I was the one who stirred the calm universe with a betrayal (but how do you betray if you never commit in the first place? So I guess, it’s just a common-courtesy thing).

It is so much easier to blame it on the alcohol or ‘temporary madness’ for every mess you make. But think of this: cross the booze out of the story, will you still commit the “crime”? If it’s an attractive guy right in front of your nose (probably drunk, but attractive), and he’s into you, will you? Now, what if this attractive guy happens to be one of your best buddies whose darkness you know well enough? Will you?

I don’t indulge myself in extreme craziness, but then again, the question of “extreme” is very subjective. I don’t walk around showing my tits as I please. If anything, I embrace both my good nature and my “ugly” (sexy) side. I embrace the guilt and the pleasure altogether. 2014, 38 going on 39, comfortable in my own skin, and I keep juggling for balance in my waking, sober hours.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

In preparation of the new year

Agnes Herdiasti desk

Wow! It’s been ages since I wrote on this blog. I saw that my last post was in January this year. So, I have been dilly-dallying, so to speak, for almost one year. A lot of things happened in my life during that time and I did not post a single thing. Unpardonable, for someone who claims herself a writer!

I have not quite gone off track from ‘penmanship’ at all. In fact, my current job as an E-Marketing/Public Relations requires me to write a lot, but not in a way that I used to do. I do press releases, blog posts for companies, feature articles, website content development, and the like. I do miss writing fictions and poetry with full understanding that I will not be able to do those again with restlessness and bitterness usually required of those kind of writing. Not anymore for now. I have been standing in the light of business logic for quite some time, I’m afraid I have lost my edginess in “beauty” writing. But I guess that’s nothing to fret about. When you write, you write; and as long as you can write, you write.

Right now I am finally back in front of my laptop. Yes: laptop. As much as I enjoy playing with my supercool smartphone, I do miss the convenience of typing on a regular 10-finger-friendly keyboard outside my regular office hours, posting non-work materials. Here I am, accompanied by a flask of green tea, menthol cigarettes, and a slice of simple happiness. What’s more? I’ve got myself a new book — bookmarked on page 42 — I can’t wait to finish and get inspired by; scents of a lover; and loads of Christmas cookies. I’m ready.

Or rather, I’m ready for the unexpectedness. Its familiar smell is comforting and driving you mad at the same time. Life is mischievous, betraying you when you least expect it, but you have no option but to make friends with her, dance with her. Do you have your wish list at hand? Did you make your travel plans and moves? Did you set new targets while some of your old ones are still neglected?

No matter what feng shui masters will tell you on TV in a few days to come, put on the best smile on your face throughout the next year. As for myself, that is a promise I think I can keep.

The Tat Story – Part 2

I was relaxing at home, finally, after an agonizing situation – trapped in a traffic for an hour. On BlackBerry messenger and Twitter, many of my contacts complained about traffic in Bali. Earlier today I had a lunch with a magazine editor, and we agreed that Bali has turned to be more and more like Jakarta – talking about street congestions. Crazy Bali traffic! Tourists, isn’t it time to head back home? 

I was still ranting about the pain-in-the-neck Bali traffic on social media when my phone rang. “Komang Tatto” was written on the screen. It took me about 7 seconds before I answered. I was trying to figure out what business he was calling me for. Komang made a phoenix tattoo on my back in August last year (see my older post), and we hadn’t had any other contact ever since.

“Hullo,” I said.
“Hi, mbak Agnes, this is pak Komang. Komang the tattooist.”
“Hi, pak Komang! How are you, pak? How can I help you?”

My forehead was still frowning, squeezing my brain. What in the congested world of Bali did he call me for?

“Today I had guests from Jakarta,” Komang said. “They brought a picture of your tattoo to me.”

What? How come?  But why? I still could not relate.

“You showed them to me, mbak! Thank you!” He continued with his story.

Now I understand. This couple from Jakarta looked up on Google for ‘tattoo in bali’ and were directed to a blog post of mine that tells about my phoenix tattoo, its meaning, and the talented, tattoo-less tattoo artist who carved it on my body: Komang. I also wrote a short direction to get to his tattoo studio in Kuta. And today, I’m embarassed to say this, but thanks to my blog post with some SEO content technique, the couple now got a tat each on their bodies from the down-to-earth master. They are the lucky ones! :D

Komang called me to let me know that he was grateful. “Thank you for sending me the grace!” He sounded very happy. I was moved by his humbleness.

If you are thinking of making a tattoo in Bali, and Kuta is your whereabouts, you can find my friend Komang in his Mega Tattoo studio, just behind Matahari Dept. Store, Kuta Square. If you found yourself reading this blog post, you are the lucky one!

Now, don’t you agree that some tattoos are meant to be? Now, I believe there are reasons to stop complaining. Boy, I feel good!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Christmas 2012 – everything’s not lost

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Last Christmas was not as merry as it used to be when my grandparents and my parents were still around. My grandma usually prepared a special dinner: biterballen for appetizer, oxtail soup for one of the main courses, and pudding (to die for) for dessert. Grandpa played the organ and sang, my dad and the rest of us eating heartily. The house was stuffed by family members from Jakarta, my aunt’s family, and relatives. We made a cave from cement paper for the nativity, and we decorated a plastic Christmas tree. It was noisy – the pleasant kind of noise.

Years passed, one by one family members was gone, replaced by the new generation. The tradition lived on, year by year. Then it disappeared in thin air. My grandparents and parents were long gone, sustained by us who have turned to Dickensian characters void of the spirit of Christmas that we once had. My Christmas recently was reduced into just a slightly different day. I went to church, called my daughter and my brother, texted other family members and friends with “merry Christmas” messages, and gave small presents to few people. Oh, and I also bought myself some presents: a pair of glasses (because I recently lost the one pair I had), and a small tablet I named Olie. Apart from those, I did cry over what I had lost.

This note is my tribute to what I still have in this life. I am grateful that I have a beautiful and understanding daughter. It may take several lifetimes to return her kindness. I am lucky that I have three cool brothers who in their own ways look out for me. I am blessed that I still have an aunt, my dad’s sister, who represents a parent to me. From my mother’s side, I still have other aunts and uncles who once in a while reach out for me. Next year, if God allows, we will gather once again in a big family reunion. And… here in Bali, I have wonderful souls around me, some are angels, I believe, who never let me go astray.

Everything’s not lost, as Coldplay puts it, and I am still counting up my demons. I still have a hope. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

What’s Your LinkedIn Profile Picture saying?

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Are you aware of what you’re projecting in your picture on your LinkedIn profile? Did you put up the same goofy avatar you put on Twitter? Hope not, because different social medias take different approaches. It is acceptable to put up a picture of you in a creepy Halloween costume on Facebook and Twitter, but it may not be a wise thing to do on LinkedIn.

Unlike Twitter that allows you to write basically anything you like under Bio section on your profile, LinkedIn and Facebook structure your profile based on first: occupation, second: education. While Facebook goes on in detail with these two categories, also with ways to contact you (similar to LinkedIn), it also offers much room for personal details , such as family members and relationship status.  These later details are irrelevant on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is meant to connect professionals around the globe.

Because of the space allotted for personal information and relatively high level of informality, it is not surprising that pictures FB and Twitter users put up on their profiles can be goofy, silly, scary, sexy, nonsensical, anything! You can even put up your dog’s picture. Unless your industry wants to project this ‘unprofessional’ image on purpose, stick to the basic, simple rule when it comes to putting up your profile picture on LinkedIn: look professional. Imagine that a company of your dream comes across your profile and… ! Well, everybody has every right to dream, right?

  1. Unless you are running a company profile on LinkedIn, show most of your own face on your profile. People tend to look at the eyes, because eyes can say a lot of things.
  2. Forget old-fashioned, unsmiling, photo-studio picture. This kind only projects rigidity and poor taste!
  3. We know not everyone is lucky enough to have good looks, but hey, who cares? Charm has little to do (if any) with the shape of your nose, the smoothness of your skin, or the thickness of your hair. Project confidence, content, happiness just enough. Who wants to hire someone who looks insecure, or, on the contrary: someone who looks arrogant?
  4. Embossed, sketched, color-inverted pictures wouldn’t help, would they? They don’t help you look better. Worse, they may attract a thought that you’re ashamed of how you look. Stop worrying about your less-than-perfect facial features. Don’t fret that it’s easier to look confident when you’re good looking either. Even when it’s true, at the end it’s your skills, expertise and attitude that people hire. And attitude is somewhat projected on your profile picture.
  5. You’ve been around yourself for so many years that you know your best angle. Play with it.
  6. Use a camera that generates good results and minimize retouching. Outdoor or indoor, it’s your call, but outdoor settings may project a warmer, ‘openness’ feel.

More and more employers nowadays check on candidates’ social medias to give them some kind of assessment on these candidates’ personalities. While a Facebook profile that depicts you in the middle of a party – projecting your active and engaging social life – may be desirable for some businesses, LinkedIn, on the other hand, is your mini CV. Surely you want the focus of attention is undividedly: YOU.

What is your current LinkedIn profile picture projecting? Is that the intended message? :)

Regrets, Part Two (did I tell you that they kill?)

"downtown lawrence kansas in black and white"

My previous post is a sketch on guilty feeling or regrets that I believe every human being has to some extent. Regrets have withering power that sucks up life energy in your marrow. They are friends to the gravity and can slow down your bounciness to zero.

Today I watched a CBS video that features Mel Greid and Michael Christian – the radio DJ’s whose prank on a nurse in London went horrendous. They were on air for the fist time after the suicide death of Nurse Saldanha was reported, expressing their regrets over what happened. In the last section, the reporter said that a survey was conducted to 11,000 Australians asking them whether they blamed the radio DJ’s for the death, and the result was 2/3 said the did not.

Does the statistics put Greig and Christian at peace? Assuming both individuals are normal people, I will bet my sanity if it does. The guilt will stay even if the survey resulted in 100% of respondents saying they’re not guilty. Can the curse of regrets be broken? Can the cycle of guilt-stricken death be cut off? Can time heal the wounds this time when the “crime” has claimed a life in such a terrible way? How else can Greig and Christian find consolation? Asking for forgiveness from the nurse’s children? That’s the least the can do. Elizabeth in Eat Pray Love created an ‘illusion’ (this is debatable, of course, depending on how you see it) that her ex-husband forgave her, despite their long and tiring marital dispute. That way she felt at peace and ready to start anew.

Does surviving from regrets mean escaping from reality? Maybe that’s what it takes to sustain guilt-stricken life. Do you pretend that everything is all right? When you have regrets in your life, you sometimes do have to fool yourself to put things back in balance. Problem is conscience is too smart to be duped. If you regrets are your debts, there’s no other way than paying your dues.

I’m sipping my apple-flavored tea, thinking of ways to be forgiven.