actually, I prefer coming of age stories

This one might start off a bit weird. Last week, I got the chance to talk about quarter life crisis in a webinar. It was the first time I got to speak to a large audience after I graduated, and (not so) surprisingly I felt like it was harder to bear. I mean… the title behind your name holds another responsibility. It’s like… you’re somehow considered an “expert” in a way once you got your degree. You sound better than an undergraduate student, and you need to take responsibilities of whatever you speak out in public (until this moment, I still can’t fathom how people are able to easily speak about anything even when they’re not knowledgeable enough about it. I mean, I’ve studied for 4 years and I just feel dumber every waking hour… and I always feel like I need to watch out more of what I say and make sure I say the legit stuffs). So, in order to tackle these feelings, I dig more about quarter life crisis. I browsed and read some journal articles–I haven’t done that voluntarily in a while and honestly it felt great??? (no judgement here… just the love of learning kicking in HAHAHA)

Honestly, this quarter life crisis topic hits real close to home. And that fact surprisingly doesn’t make things easier for me. I thought, since it’s relatable for me, I’d be able to emphatize better with the participants, thus I’d be able to convey the message better. But really… it didn’t happen that way. It felt hard, maybe because it’s happening to me, and it’s not a nice feeling. Recalling all that stuffs makes me want to run away from them. But it needed to get done. And I got it done!

It took me a while, after reminiscing about the series of events that happened to realize that quarter life crisis itself kind of reminds me of another similar topic: coming of age. This thought came after I watched My Girl (1991) just recently this week. It’s been on my watch list for a while and I’m glad I made myself watch it (I’m not a big fan of movies. Weird, I know). I love it. I don’t know exactly why. I think it’s partly from the 70s setting. Or maybe from the wholesome friendship between Vada and Thomas J., since I’ve always found the concept of different sex friendship interesting (and perhaps, the possibilities around it as well). Or maybe… just largely the idea of coming of age which is the main theme of the movie. These kinds of movie don’t necessarily need a “main goal” to propel the story, they just go with the flow. We’re basically just brought to witness how the main character’s life unfolds, with several important moments highlighted, some character development, and that’s that. And I was highly entertained by it.

Now that I think of it, I’ve watched quite many coming of age themed movies. I greatly enjoyed The Baby-Sitters Club (2020) and I think it’s cool that I managed to finish watching an entire series. I enjoyed Umi ga Kikoeru (1993) too. And I’ve also told the world several times that I loved Little Women. It’s funny when I realized I actually enjoy watching the conflicts and whatnots of being a teenager, since being a teenager means dealing with some seemingly very childish issues. And I don’t like facing childish issues. Of course they’re considered as childish once you’re an adult; when you were a teenager, those were a big deal. Don’t forget about the angsty stuffs you used to get yourself in too, the whole nobody-understands-me drama.

I think, coming of age stories are also seen differently across cultures. When you take a look at Western movies, coming of age is mostly described as a phase when one transitions from a child to a teenager (or maybe this is just my references). The first of many things–menstruation, childhood sweetheart, loss, etc. While Japanese movies (and manga) usually center around the dynamic of high school life. You’re a teenager already, and you’re faced with many things as you walk into adulthood. Another distinct feature is that, the Japanese media usually portray teenagers learning about life by themselves–taking notes from their friends, mostly. Whereas the Western usually involve adult figures (or familial figures) who will “guide” the character throughout their journey. Maybe the difference is due to the different age range as well, but I think each of them is an interesting take on coming of age.

The real question now; how does quarter life crisis remind me of coming of age? They’re two totally different situations. They obviously happen at different times in your life. But I think, both of them are comparable in a way. Both of them involve a certain degree of crisis. It’s just… the way things rolling out that are different. Coming of age is more about exploring more possibilities in your life. It’s about learning to deal with something that’s once strange to you. You’re confused, but you’re excited. But quarter life crisis is… pure crisis… it’s more about feeling trapped and scared of what’s yet to come. You’re somehow less excited about growing up. You’re being hit by the bitter truth of reality. And often times, you don’t want to take that dose of bitterness in life.

Another difference… just like what I’ve mentioned before, coming of age stories usually have these “adult figures”. I like to refer to them as “cool” adult characters who seemed like they never forget how it’s like to be a teenager so they can gently knock the window through the main character’s heart. This could be anyone–their parents (if they’re lucky enough), weird neighbor, teacher, trustee librarian, some random person they meet during the weirdest time in life, or in some cases, their soon-to-be stepparents. This “mentor” figure would usually help the main character to deal with life. While during quarter life crisis… you’ll usually struggle alone. Or with your friends (so it’s troubled people helping out other troubled people HAHAH). Well, you might learn something from… the Internet. Or somewhere else. But you have to get it by yourself, you can’t really have someone to be there and teach you about life and boom, suddenly all the problems seem so far away. That’s one very realistic way to see adulting, I think.

I know many quarter life crisis themed movies and series have started to emerge. I’ve almost never watched them, actually. And to be frank, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching something about quarter life crisis. I thought I would enjoy it, though… or at least, I would benefit from watching it since most of the time, coping with this so-called early adulthood crisis is really hard and I feel like I need a hand. But instead of doing that, I find comfort in coming of age stories. I wonder if I’m actually regressing to a previous stage in my life to cope with this crisis…

I honestly still think it’s weird for me to choose to run away from something that’s relatable. Maybe, I learn that relatable things don’t always comfort you, sometimes they attack you (since they’re too close to you). Even when it’s uncomfortable, it’s not that it’s unmanageable, though. One of the major takes in my previous webinar is that quarter life crisis can be seen differently. Crisis can actually play the role as a trigger to make you reconsider things in your life, thus motivating you to rethink your decisions, as well as getting you to learn about yourself more. Crisis can be a waking call. Quite the same thing happened too during your coming of age, but perhaps, quarter life crisis is just less exciting. It’s okay to lose excitement (it sucks anyway!). But it’s manageable. And the choice is all yours.

(I’d still choose coming of age stories, though. I’m not still really sure why, but at least I know they’re more fun.)

P.S. I haven’t written anything in a while, so it’s hard to get these out of my mind. But this actually feels good.

tale of uncertainty

just when i think that
crystal clear state of mind
and understanding
will put things at ease

the Universe slows down
to make sure we get things
on our hands
but grants us with nothing
figured out

so, I allow fate to take me to places
and surprise me with
another possibilities
“the Universe must be joking,” I once said
but honestly, I don’t mind
and I laugh along

for the first time, uncertainty
feels
bearable
to me.

2 a.m. talk

“Halo?”

“Tumben lu bangun jam segini. Apa emang nggak tidur? Atau mimpi buruk?” cerocosnya.

“Nggak sih… kebangun aja,” ujarku sambil memijat kepalaku sendiri. Beberapa kali malam mengetuk benak yang kutinggalkan saat lelap dan beberapa kali pula aku jadi terjaga. Tapi, ini adalah kali pertama aku tanpa pikir panjang memutuskan untuk menghubunginya dini hari.

“Oh, gitu.”

“Ngapain lu bangun jam segini?”

“It’s indomi o’clock,” tukasnya santai. Jika lebih serius mendengarnya, memang ada sayup-sayup denting garpu pada panci dan bunyi air yang menggelegak berbuih-buih.

“Jam 2 pagi Mbak, bukan jam indomi.”

“Jam 2 pagi di waktu gue sedang membuat indomi. Alias jam indomi. Fair enough.”

“Buset, perasaan baru dua hari yang lalu makan indomi.”

“Ya… nggak papa!” sambungnya dengan suara tawa. Ia terdengar malas mencari pembenaran lagi, namun di saat yang sama mengakui bahwa makan mi instan terlalu sering memang tidak baik.

“Kalau ngekost jadinya every time is indomi o’clock, ya.”

“Nggak, lah. Lu kira gue maniak indomi.”

You sure sound like you are.”

“Hu-uh, terserah, deh.” Aku dapat mendengarnya mematikan kompor, lalu menuangkan isi panci ke atas mangkuk–atau piring. “Bentar, ye.”

Sesuai katanya, aku menunggu. Mendengar ia berjalan, meletakkan mangkuk–atau piring–di atas meja, lalu menarik kursi. Sejurus kemudian, terdengar suara lain, sepertinya suara suapan mi ke dalam mulutnya.

“Enak, ya?” godaku.

“Banget. Eh, sori yak, nggak bisa bagi-bagi. Daripada lo dengerin gue makan doang, mending lo cerita apa, kek. Gue dengerin deh, sampe mi gue habis. Sampe gue ngantuk juga kalau perlu.”

“Berarti cerita gue bikin bosen, ya? Bisa sampai ngantuk,” selorohku sambil memutar otak, mencari sesuatu yang dapat kuceritakan.

“Nggak, suara lo meninabobokan soalnya. Hahaha.”

“Yee. Dasar. Ngomong-ngomong, gue nggak punya cerita. Lo mau denger gue main harmonika aja, nggak?”

“Dengan senang hati.”

Aku meraih harmonika yang kusimpan di laci mejaku. Sebenarnya, sama sekali tak terpikir olehku untuk bermain harmonika, namun tiba-tiba ada serentetan nada yang mengusikku. Sambil mengepit instrumen itu di mulutku, aku meletakkan ponselku di depan mulutku lalu mulai bermain.

“Gimana?”

“Kayak jingle susu murni yang  suka lewat di jalanan, hahaha!” tawanya.

“Kurang ajar,” tukasku masam.

“Nggak sih, sebenernya nggak kayak jingle itu. Gue cuma bingung aja harus mendeskripsikannya gimana. Soalnya… aneh, ya, aneh. Aneh kayak rombongan sirkus keliling di dongeng-dongeng, jam tua yang berdentang tiga belas kali tapi hanya di waktu tertentu, halaman-halaman tersembunyi di deep web… ya… aneh, The.”

“Oh ya?” aku tertawa kecil mendengarnya. Ia selalu punya cukup banyak metafora untuk menggambarkan situasi apa pun; cukup banyak untuk selalu membuatku tercengang akan seberapa liar isi kepalanya.

“Ya…” Ia tertawa mengekor, sepertinya tak yakin harus tertawa karena apa namun ingin tertawa saja mendengar tawaku. “Dari mana tuh memang, inspirasinya?”

“Dari beberapa saat setelah pembicaraan kita berlangsung.”

“Ooo. Berarti, kita aneh, ya.”

“Itu pertanyaan atau pernyataan?”

“Pernyataan,” tawanya.

“Ya… mungkin itu ada benarnya. Tapi gue lebih suka bilang kalau kita hampir selalu terjebak dalam situasi-situasi aneh. Buktinya, keseluruhan isi pembicaraan kita sekarang aja aneh.”

“Tapi lo menikmatinya, kan?” godanya. “…seperti gue menikmati menjadi aneh bersama lo,” imbuhnya lagi.

“Tentu, lah. Siapa bilang gue nggak suka?”

“Memang ya, Tuhan bekerja dengan cara yang aneh. Dia menjadikan keanehan sebagai hal yang melekatkan kita.

Yang mana… aneh juga, tapi surprisingly, I don’t mind. Oh, look, the abundance of ‘aneh’ here.”

“Ya. Gue menikmati setiap situasi aneh bersama lo, Stara.” Aku senang menyebutkan nama depannya dan selalu mencari momen yang pas untuk mengatakannya.

Ia tertawa terbahak-bahak. “Me too, Artheo. Me too.”

Panggilan masih tersambung, namun kami diam selama beberapa saat. Setiap kali hendak berbicara, yang mampu keluar hanya dengusan yang berujung tawa.

Akhirnya, ia buka suara lagi, “Theo, lu bisa main harmonika pakai hidung, nggak?”

what i miss about you

I miss

the crumbled sound of  used oily plastic you keep in your pocket

the clinking sound of spoon and fork you forcefully stab to your fried chicken

the subtle smell smeared all over your jacket

the shared sound of bass thumping from the leftie earphone in my right ear

because they simply say

that you are

here.

dialog pinggir jalan

Mereka berjalan bersisian.

Siang itu seperti biasanya hanya dihabiskan mereka berdua. Gadis itu menyesap pelan-pelan sekaleng minuman sarang burung dingin kesukaannya, sementara pemuda itu menenggak habis susu pasteurisasi yang amat digilainya.

Are you happy now?” tanya pemuda itu, sementara ujung kotak susu ia jepit di antara telunjuk dan jari tengahnya. “Happy for what?” Gadis itu membalasnya dengan pertanyaan.

“Ya, lo lagi senang apa enggak saat ini.”

“Dari semua hal yang bisa lo tanyain, kenapa harus itu?”

“Yah,” Pemuda itu menggaruk belakang kepalanya, “Lo lagi minum minuman kesukaan lo yang kata lo susah banget didapetin di gerai-gerai minimarket, bukannya harusnya lo senang?”

Gadis itu tergelitik untuk mengamati kemasan minumannya. Ia tersenyum sambil menggoyangkannya, merasakan isinya terantuk-antuk membentur bagian dalam kaleng. “Gue nggak pernah berpikir kalau gue senang, mungkin karena gue terlalu senang.”

“Gue senang ketika gue pergi terus make batik yang bagus,” ujar pemuda itu tiba-tiba. “Gila, kalau gue udah kaya tiap hari gue mau pake batik.”

“Gue senang kalau pas gue pulang ke rumah malem-malem terus kelaperan, nasi di rice cooker masih panas.” Gadis itu menyahut sambil terkikik geli. “Sederhana banget ya, yang gue mau.”

“Ya, emang kita nggak perlu repot-repot juga sih, buat jadi bahagia.”

Dua orang itu kembali melanjutkan perjalanannya di tepi jalan. Angin bertiup malas, butir-butir pasir diterbangkannya semaunya. Mereka sama-sama sadar perjalanan kali ini hampir mencapai akhir.

“Jadi, hal apa lagi yang membuat lo senang?”

“Lo masih mau tau juga?” Gadis itu mulai merasa sedikit terusik, namun ia hanya mampu menyuarakan tawa lebih jauh. Pemuda terkaribnya itu kadang seperti mainan gacha yang tak terduga. Atau mesin jackpot di kasino.

“Ya. Gue sadar banyak banget hal yang gue nggak tahu, bahkan tentang apa yang bikin lo bahagia. Dan gue pengen tahu lebih banyak lagi hal-hal yang bikin lo bahagia. Gue harap, sih… gue salah satunya.

That way… gue boleh jadi pacar lo yang pertama?”

.

A/N: Well, you definitely didn’t ask me that way! But I’m still glad I said yes. Oh, cheesy me. Jangan tanya lagi gara-gara apa, ini gara-gara temen gue ada yang jadian (lagi).

[365/365]

afterlife or oblivion?

As my grandmother lays on her death bed, thoughts upon death starts churning inside my mind.

Ever since I was a little child, I’ve always thought that death is something sacred where people mourn over the dead. When it comes to the word “death”, I immediately think about a funeral where everyone is dressed in black. Rain pours lightly, and they stand under their umbrellas to say goodbye for the last time. Favorite bouquet of flowers that symbolizes things are also put upon the tombstone. But what I see now describes almost the contrary; that death is not just a time when you’re supposed to express sadness and grief.

Death is also about management and preparation, because the dead ones can’t just be left there to finish their duties in real life in order to reach afterlife, right? Death is also a semicolon in life because when your loved one eventually stops breathing, there’s no reason to stop your life there, too.

I guess that’s the tough part in encountering death-related events.

Speaking of which, another thoughts of mine is that which one is better; having another life after death or just die into oblivion, where death means the end of everything?

Of course, having faith in afterlife actually makes people have a reason to do nice deeds. But it seems that they’re being overshadowed by the things considered sinful. There are probabilities that people might not feel have lived their whole life passionately due to gaining their ~ticket~ to a comfortable afterlife.

In another hand, dying into oblivion means that people have no worries about what kind of fate waiting there to judge how they have lived their life. But it also states that there aren’t any motivations for people to be nice other than common sense.

Unfortunately, not all people manage their common sense well (this line is after some long convos with friends) and that’s probably why, we need guidance in life.

This guidance is called religion.