A work in progress.
Part One — the early years
My first clear memory was playing tag with my friends on the kindergarten ground. We were laughing and pushing each other off because we were trying to avoid being tagged. It was a lot of fun. Little did I know, I couldn’t go to the same kindergarten the next year.
They told me that I have always been a curious one, reading every signs that passed by whenever I go on a car ride and singing every song that were playing on the radio. Westlife was a household favorite when I was little, so it also grew on me; half of my childhood pictures are the ones where I got a microphone on one hand, most probably singing Westlife’s songs repeatedly.
The story begins the day my grandfather asked me if I can read something in the newspaper for him, so I did, successfully. For a 4 years old-ish girl to read at that time was a special moment, because no one was actually teaching me how to read properly, but I remember my father teaching me alphabets and numbers, occasionally. After I read those part of the newspaper, my grandfather asked me,
“I don’t think you need to attend kindergarten anymore. Instead, do you want to attend elementary school next year?”
I didn’t really understand what he meant at that moment, nevertheless, I said yes. At the age of 5, I officially attended elementary school, and as expected, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t really catch up with people who are older than me for the first few months. My family thought I could read, but there are people better in reading than I was. There’s always going to be someone better. So instead of focusing on getting better, my instinct was to make friends. I was the youngest in my year, literally the youngest among 2 classes consisted of 70 students. When I realized that, it made me feel special in a way, because I am used to being the youngest at home as well. I know all the benefits of being the youngest, so I just made as many friends as I could.
Then one day, my grandmother started to question why I never went home with the remaining of my pocket-money anymore, and innocently, I just blurted out that a friend asked for my pocket-money everyday. I didn’t even realize it was a form of bullying, because she was my friend, she asked nicely; although everyday but, she asked nicely. I was devastated, confused, when the next day she went home crying, as my grandmother talked to hers about the matter. It is still clear in my mind, the moment she and her grandmother passed by, crying on a motorcycle that was driven by her regular abang ojek. The look on her grandmother’s face though, she seemed ashamed, Why?, I asked my grandmother when I got home. She then explained,
“Putri, she was stealing from you.”
“But she asked for that money, with my consent.”
“Her parents already give her own pocket-money, that should be enough for an elementary student.”
“But am I not allowed to share with my friends?”
“A friend wouldn’t be stealing from you. You can’t allow that to happen again because that was bullying. You can’t just give all your money away just because someone asked for it.”
I realized that day, being the youngest isn’t always so fun afterall. I may appear vulnerable and easily manipulated. Though thankfully, I never really find any problem in socializing even in my early days. As I made better and more friends, I also become better at school; because school for children that age was all about having fun with friends. I successfully finished elementary school and ranked amongst the top 5 in my year for 4 consecutive years. That too, wasn’t because I was smart or anything special, I am just a good at adjusting. I remember, my best friend was a top student too, so, I naturally became more diligent as we were constantly playing and studying together. I also remember a little bit of the day we wrote on our class’ wall:
Putri masuk SMP N 139
Intan masuk SMP N 255
Which was then our middle school of choice right before we had our national exam; and just like magic, we got accepted to both of that school as precisely written on the wall. I sometimes wonder, will I still be able to find our writing if I were to go to my elementary school?
Anyways, aside from being academically active, I was always thrilled to get into any extracurricular like, traditional dance, The Paskibraka (Flag Hoisting Troops, I believe?), conductor, girl scout, dokter kecil, and many other school activities except P.E. I think those experiences have grown into me and made me the extrovert that I am right now. I did almost every activities that I was able to partake in, even when I was in University. Being exposed to many people and learning how to adjust to a lot of situation ever since I was little has made me more than just ‘the youngest’ or ‘the only child’, as I was normally titled at home.
In the end of my early school years, I had developed a liking to reading novels as I picked up ‘Kecil-Kecil Punya Karya (KKPK)’ series from the local bookstore. I was so intrigued on the minds of those young writers. After Astronaut and Doctor, being a Writer/Author/Novelist was my dream job for a long time. Although being able to publish a book is a very big deal that I still haven’t got the chance to (Even though — as I think about it now — there should always be a way, if only I was a little more serious with it).
So, that dream of mine has turned into a promise. The promise I made because I have been dragging it for too long. The long overdue dream of becoming a writer has turned into:
“I am going to publish my own writing, someday.”
I should really work to meet that ‘someday’ somewhere in the middle of this fascinating time.