Rising from the Ashes
I was just three years old when my rich dad left my late mom and my big sister for another woman. Ever since that day, my father never visited us nor gave us a penny. My mother became a breadwinner while she let stranger students stay in our house for free.
As an abandoned kid, I had low self-esteem due to constant nasty criticism and harsh words from neighbors as well as my extended family, who shamed us four our “pathetic” lives without a father. I never received any support nor encouraging words except from my mom. Nobody could see the worth in me. None of my colleagues gave me a chance to speak up, let alone provide a room for me to do anything. They wanted me to follow their way without questioning it. Hence, I was invisible in Indonesia and felt worthless. I tended to blame myself for every wrong thing happened in my life, which led to my deteriorating health.
The turning point was when I started pursuing my PhD in Australia in late 2016. I was so excited to finally have the priceless time to read and write my thesis for three years, since I did not have those privileges in my home country. As my desire to learn was silenced before, I suddenly became so alive in embracing my power when I had the chance to satisfy my desire to attain knowledge.
Realizing the short time of my PhD study, I spent almost every single minute of my time in my office at the university to absorb knowledge about my thesis as well as other things that interest me. I realized that I had taken the risk to be alone because I was so engaged in reading and writing. I enjoyed my different yet empowering new way of life, and I began to find out who I was.
However, my habit invited resentment from the majority of Indonesian friends; they judged me for simply being a different person. I chose to stop explaining and decided to be true to myself, instead. I forgave them but minimized my time interacting with them. I believed that I was enough; to protect my positive energy, I chose to surround myself with friends from foreign cultures who could see my worth and lift me up.
Their warm welcome as well as their genuine willingness to accept me the way I am has been a trigger for unstoppable growth, emotionally and personally. Even I was surprised to experience such rapid changes, but it has been given me more peace than I have felt before in my life. I have been evolving amid rejection, jealousy, and oppression. The feeling of being loved has had an enormous impact on my existence. It empowers me to believe in myself to make my crazy dreams come true.
I have never-ending ideas to serve other people; I have the power to implement them one at a time while I keep working on myself. I have been organizing a writing circle for international students to improve our writing, and I encourage them to write down their experiences, acknowledge their feelings, and inspire future students to be the best they can be.
Even though I was afraid to write, I decided to deal with it. My decision to embrace my fear of writing set me free, for I can be vulnerable without worrying about being judged. I am also organizing a free food project for less fortunate people, including students and homeless individuals in Armidale, despite negative comments from friends. I also mediate students’ expectations and the university’s betterment policy, even though I still speak up with a trembling voice during meetings.
There has never been a dull moment in my life during my time in Australia, regardless of challenges. I have been embracing all the fears that held me back before, due to caring support from new friends from various cultures in Armidale. I have claimed my own voice, and I am happy to be fearlessly, positively different.