how Jakarta is not an ideal home, but it signifies a start so i’m taking it
In this Open Column submission, Fadiah Wadud writes (in lowercase) a memoir of her mundane process and struggle to adapt and grapple toward a mechanically loose but simultaneously tied urban society.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
for the longest time i thought i had nothing significant to say, until i couldn’t care less anymore because if i had to stomach this alone any longer, not even the words of my heroes would be able to save me. if there’s anything that could help me solidify what i’m feeling right now it’s my own words, if there’s anything i could rely on right now it’s my own words because who am i if not the all-time-high intensity over my inability to afford subtlety, so welcome to Fadiah Wadud’s third column in Whiteboard Journal. thank you for reading this far, are you still here?
i’ve been yapping about how i hate this city, not in the Billie type of way (maybe a little) but in a way a white collar would (am i, though? a white collar?). all i know is i’m just another working class trying to survive Jakarta. i was about to wait, ‘i’ll write about my year in Jakarta’ i said to a few friends who were lucky enough to hear about the complaints over my moving just throughout the sweet amount of four months ever since my last CGK destination flight but imagine this, i’m just two steps out of my L13E bus—my second ride after the KRL from Pondok Ranji station to Kebayoran—that i realized i had had accidentally left my keys in the laptop bag that i purposefully left in the office which i did to save me some weight for the commute to work the following day. so, here i am twenty minutes later still waiting for my go-sent unit’s keys outside of my building with the most uneasiness that i could only vomit out in the form of sentences because my real acid reflux after today’s three shots of espresso shall be postponed until i am safely arrived at my own bathroom.
this uneasiness has left my innards churned that even a bowl of Soto Ayam Lamongan i devoured at 7 pm i intentioned for dinner is not enough. i need to have more dinner, the hunger is here again. it is hard to conclude that this urge is a pure creative force when you’re neck deep in your ovulation phase and you are in no possession of another human being’s projection of desire, but anyways, i’m not here to talk about love, not in the Richard Siken type of way (maybe a little) but in a way Sheila Heti would (will i be able though? to mimic her?) or maybe not to talk about anything at all. maybe i’m just wasting everyone’s time or maybe i simply am just making a point about literally everything. not everything has to have a point, or maybe the point is that even my on-going yapping about literally nothing such as this is the exact point, that everything is important, that even my non-substantial chains of words have an underlying meaning, that this only means i can actually afford a certain amount of depth. but enough of the brain-rotting LOLs of paragraphs, i will try to actually say something for once now.
where was i,
when people asked why did i move here the only valid answer i could offer is, “i just feel like it’s time. i need to see it for myself, how it feels to actually live there not for a mere visitation or for so-called fun” but it never crossed my mind that i needed a solid three months to finally be able to say no to friends invitation to dinner after a workshop on Saturday evening because i need to go home for some disco nap so i can attend my friend’s gig at 11 later at night and not feeling weird about it. this is my life now, a little glimpse of it but this is how i live life now. maybe it does not sound any different for many of you but this wasn’t my life back at home, this wasn’t my life during all of my extended trips, this wasn’t even my life during the past three months i moved here. it’s either i go straight to my friend’s gigs right after work or i went home and do not go out anymore. i never knew the exact reason why until i texted one of my dearest friends saying, ‘i think i finally understand how people could afford a set of routines’.
forgetting that i am now pushing thirty is a problem not only me is having, i want to believe. two solid years of our most productive years are being robbed by the pandemic and with its ever-come-back or seasonal public fear, there’s no way we’re escaping the ghosts of it and it includes still processing whatever happened in 2019 stylishly late realizing that it is four years later now. the months i spent going away from home right when commercial flight was permitted for the sake of making up for those two years i spent in isolation is one of the very main causes i am being a very slow learner to extensive committed changes and needing a lot of sweet time of adjusting for this thing called routine. last month of 2021, the whole middle to late 2022 all the way to early 2023, i was never home. a month here, two weeks there, a weekend here, and two months there—i was in a visitor mode all the time. not a traveler, i don’t want to call myself that. although does not sound as glamorous, a mere visitor was what i am. i am entertained by the different sets of scenery, that’s all.
i think everything went downhill when i was forced to go back to my hometown, the first pandemic hit. i had a life, a set of routines i was familiar enough to navigate within the cold weather Bandung was still possessing. similar to this weather in the midst of Bintaro’s first rain after months of thick polluted air.
my life in Bandung was a phase i was not ready to let go. i spent my entire young adult years there, for me it was supposed to tell a story about my becoming but before i even learned to put some decent sentences together i am suddenly back home, leaving years of my life packed in boxes to be sent out months later onto the place i don’t recognize anymore. i’ve been struggling to solidify my definition of home ever since. sure everyone i love was there, sure i had everything i needed, and sure for any logical mind there was nothing for me to worry about but i couldn’t seem to make peace with the fact that i no longer had the power of cruising towards the ocean full of unknowns with the handful of courage to find the meaning just by my own.
if you’re wondering about my uneasiness, i am calmer now, this is the next day and i threw up my whole dinner. don’t worry, i had some more right after. screw the acid reflux.
growing up an only child, i am no stranger to solitude but i never knew true loneliness until my first month here in Jakarta. i finally understand how this city turns its people into the loneliest of beings, how seru has become a whole standard of how a planned activity should go as if nobody actually afforded an actual depth and how everyone seems to be needing quick fixes every single time. ‘but you were also lonely and sad before Jakarta’, the sound all the way from Melbourne echoed in my Kuningan office parking lot because i can’t wait another hour of commute to call one of my dearest friends and deliver my disquietude of the day, “well it was different. my loneliness and sadness before Jakarta was all of my own, it came from the inside and i was just embracing it.. but this time, this current one is not the same. people are continuously disappointed by others, by things outside of themselves over here. these people are restless, they don’t know which way to go but they have to keep going”, which is followed by a few seconds of numbing silence.
i asked for this. my beloved family back home never wanted me to go, if anything they’re confused over my decision and excitement leaving the genuine embrace of people who surely are loving me for me. they’re still questioning up to very now, for every call Mother would try to lure me over the fact that if i was home with her i wouldn’t have to work as hard, that what we’re having although not much is still enough, that i wouldn’t have to worry about a thing, that they wouldn’t have to worry about a thing, about me. their definition of progress is different from mine, while theirs leans toward conservative practices (which i have learned to respect) i must say mine is pretty cerebral. apparently, therapy was just not enough, i needed to go. Father was kind enough to assure the smoothness of my moving, so he stayed with me for two weeks straight and left after he’s sure that i’m all settled and comfortable. it wasn’t 24 hours after his departure that i broke down in the living room. i cried good cries every day for the next two weeks even though i am the one who asked for this.
DAY ZERO: THE RESTART
God forbid i hate mediocrity because a life of routines seems to be so tempting right now. not to say that i lead the most interesting life, as what you have read i actually am leading a very mundane one. for an extrovert i only party with friends and acquaintances i’m comfortable with, i enjoy reading without spectators of an audience, i could drink alone and i prefer to stay in tuning into the romcoms i’ve watched for the billionth of times or cry for hours in a phone call with my long distance friends as what i’ve usually been doing for the past three years, but i’ve always found myself envying my sporty friends (those who seem to have time to run at GBK after work) and i always said i will join them but never did. although i still have not, i think i might really be able to see myself doing it anytime soon. i know “routine” does not really mean “mediocrity”, nor does it translate to “non-fun”, but it demands a significant degree of repetition which often results in boredom–but if it means i could feel at home and start to build my own personal rituals, make a life out of myself no matter where life takes me after, i think i could be okay with that.