I’ve just turned 34. I’m saying this clearly, out loud and proud. How does it feel? Another year has gone by. I am getting older.

About a couple of years ago, my hazel-eyed, brotherly best friend had asked me what I’d like to do to celebrate my birthday. I remember saying no, I didn’t feel like it. Why? he’d wondered. I told him that I’d been asking God for the same gift for the past four years and He hadn’t given me that. In fact, He’d given something better and it would’ve been selfish of me to wish for otherwise.

God had finally released Dad out of his misery in 2014.

Now, why would I have been selfish to still want him around? I was mostly thinking about myself and what was in it for me. It’s true, it would be a good thing too. Ma would never have lost her soulmate. My siblings would be happy.

And my nephews and niece would just get to know their granddad even better too – and hang around with him longer.

I wanted him around for other things. To see where I am now and tell me what he’d think of me. To prove him that I’m okay now and that he doesn’t need to worry. I’ve finally fulfilled my lifetime dream and am still working on it. I’ve got great friends who accept me for me.

I’ve finally become more independent, like he’d always wanted me to be. I have learned to take care of myself better, even though I sometimes still fail.

I wanted Dad to see that I’m not a freak. It’s taken me a while – plus wonderfully-supportive friends – to help me to realise that I don’t need the existence nor the acknowledgement of others to validate my beauty and my worth. I’ll just have to be me and hopefully, someone right out there will come along. If not, perhaps God is giving me another ounce of patience to carry on while playing other roles.

I just have to be happy. I choose to be. I should not let negativity consume me, which is why my best friend had been – and is always – right about this:

“I know you love your father and I know that he’s sick, but that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating your life.”

I’m 34 and I’m not afraid to let the whole world know. I won’t disclose my age in social media. I don’t even care if everyone – even total strangers – know my birthday, as long as they don’t try to rip me off just because of it – like that unpleasant, so-called ‘tradition’ in Indonesia (which I think should die anytime soon!)

In fact, you’re supposed to shower them with gifts, treat them extra-specially, make them smile…anything. Well, even if you can’t give them anything, a genuine prayer for their well-being is already their blessing.

I’m aware that many aren’t that comfortable when it comes to disclosing their age, especially once you’re above 30. It’s even worse if you’re a woman. I’m sorry to say, society can still be brutally-judgmental. Why are you still single? In Indonesia, 34-year-old women are generally expected to have already been married and have – at least – two or three kids. Otherwise, they’ll keep on bugging you with their nasty, negative comments regarding what you still lack of – and simply overlooking your past achievements.

Then again, who are they? Every thing on this earth is given by God – from life, breath, money, family, friends lovers – with fortunes and trials in each. If you haven’t got any that they expect you to, then who are they to complain to you? What makes them think that their criticism shall fix what they perceive as your problem? Duh, it’s your life!

Looks can be deceiving. If you look younger, they praise you – but they may also not take you seriously. If you look older, they might criticise you for not looking after yourself well. You can never win with these people.

Do you see how society can bring such negative impact on you, especially if you’re not careful? That is why I should say: “I’m 34 and happy to be alive here. Good luck in wasting your time and energy trying to bully me and make me feel ugly!”


(Jakarta, 5/11/2015 – from The Couchsurfing Writers’ Club Gathering @MacDonald’s – STC, 8:00 pm onwards. The writing challenge topic: “Negativity”.)

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