I am aware that the title of this writing sounds so negative. Ironically, I am a teacher. Of course, I love it when my students get good grades.

However, I think we’ve all been in this system for way too long that it gets merciless everyday. I mean, look at us now. Why do you think corruption in this country is still going strong?

Hail to social media. Whether you like it or not, it helps you to catch up with the things you miss – and also litters your timeline with rubbish you do not wish to deal with in the first place. It is a digital version of Pandora’s box. Take it or leave it.

Or course, there are ways to salvage, separating the junks with what you prefer to pay more attention to. (Well, even if it is just another form of junk or you cannot tell the difference as long as it interests you, then so be it.) Limit the news feed. Limit those who can see your posts or leave anything on your timeline. Block if necessary. You take control of what you choose to see. It is just that simple and easy.

Treat it as if you are playing jigsaw puzzles with more pieces, more possibilities.

Now I understand the frustration when people pay more attention to negative things instead of the opposite. Local media plays a more prominent role in this, sadly. Oh, yeah. People love drama. Tragedy sells better.

I do not understand why young, talented jazz pianist Joey Alexander from Indonesia has been portrayed differently by local and foreign media news. The foreign media portrayed him as perhaps the most sought-after child prodigy that jazz has not seen in a while.

Here, the focus was more on the fact that…young Joey did not return home with a Grammy.

What have we all become? One of the posts about Joey Alexander’s coverage news featured a nicely-put perspective on the reality of this country:

“Welcome to Indonesia, the home of negativity and the place where (majority of the) people only care about results but never pay attention to the efforts. Where, again, (the majority of the) people still punish failures.”

(Tengku Omar)

As usual, you are more than welcome to view this man a bitter cynic. However, I totally agree with him. I cannot pretend that what he was stating is not true.

This is why I have never really been a school fan as a child and a teen. Do not get me wrong; I have always loved learning new things. I still do. I just despise the system, where all they care about is your good grades instead of how much you have learned by heart and whether you have enjoyed the journey itself, the learning process.

I remember junior high, when they split classes into two distinctive categories: the aces and the regulars. The brains and the averages – and even the underdogs. My older sister was one of ‘the brains’.

Guess where I had been back then. Even some teachers had bluntly commented: “Why can’t you be more like her?”

Beats me still. Why are Persian cats fluffier than local cats here? Go figure. Children are different from each other, even if they are from the same parents. Even identical twins are not clones to each other.

By the way, that was a polite comment to avoid bluntly telling me that no, I was not as smart as she was. Lucky her, having her intelligence measured by numbers.

Yet we still wonder why students cheat on tests and copy homework from their peers. No, it is not always laziness nor ignorance. It is insecurity, worry, and fear. Being scolded and judged as ‘stupid’ for not understanding the same lesson like those who (seem to) get good grades (often effortlessly) is a possibility. Sad but true.

How many talented musicians out there who can make it into international award shows like The Grammy? How many who have gone unnoticed, underrated – despite years of training, passion, and faith that someday it will bear fruit – that they are destined to be well-known and respected artists?

Can anyone in this country do what Joey has done? Perhaps he did not expect to get such a rare opportunity that night. Perhaps he was doing it for fun, out of love and passion for music.

Awards, grades, and other types of acknowledgment and appreciation are the bonus. It is nice to be acknowledged and praised, but what is your next move, then? Are you just going to set your life on a pause, basking in the moment’s glory, hoping it will last? Just stay there, boasting about the same old, but long gone victory that somehow still pleases your ego – while others are moving forward to something else, something much better?

What if next time you fail? How do you handle the fall? Is it with grace…or rage?

What we often forget is that nothing lasts forever. Things (and definitely people) change. We are all replaceable. You may think you are all that one moment and want the whole world to know and praise you as such. Worst of all, that makes you think you are entitled to put others down, especially those you think have made such grave mistakes or just are not good enough in your eyes.

Next time, who knows? Anything goes. People are never as forgiving as God alone, especially with the social media where they can praise or condemn anything and anyone they like. Criticise without offering sound solutions. Play God and be holier-than-thou.

If you think that you are all that, then good for you. However, this world is in desperate need of something more than just your self-affirmation and (so-called?) impressive face value. Life is not just about your good grades and personal glory.

What can you do? What do you want to do? Will you?

Enjoy the journey. Mistakes should be lessons to learn, instead of just a valid reason for harsh punishment. Perhaps you will learn more about mutual respect and how it should be earned, instead of demanded.

Hopefully, you will not have to bend over backwards just to impress people badly that you feed others to the wolves, just to make yourself look good. Will not that be your insecurity at its best or – should I say – worst?



(Jakarta, 20/2/2016 – 6:30 pm)


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