Part 1 — Denial and Anger
At 4:08 in the afternoon, I found myself seated in front of the local coffee shop, casually sipping my coffee. The atmosphere was charged with the wintry bite of December as I stared at a blank Word document. My mind was buzzing with thoughts:
“All right, let’s do this”
“The heck am I going to write?”
“What drives people to write? Why didn’t God just gift us with the power to read minds?”
“Help me out here, Charles”
“What if I make a podcast instead?”
“It’s been a while since I did this”
“Do I really need to share this?”
“Gosh there are too many ideas swirling around”
“Maybe I should plan it out, like talk about A, then B, and so on?”
“Ahhh right, why not let GPT do the writing for me?”
“You stupid c*nt”
“F*ck, it’s 2019 me all over again.”
Despite my initial determination, ten minutes later, I succumbed to distraction and spent four freaking hours playing FIFA when I got home.
Part 2 — Bargaining and Depression
Over the next four days, my productivity levels hit rock bottom — and by that, I mean I surrendered to my laptop screen, indulging in 2 to 3 movies each day. Surprisingly, some of these films effortlessly earned a spot in my top 10 of 2023.
Titles like “Past Lives,” narrating the tale of two South Korean natives separated in childhood, only to reunite as adults decades later; “Anatomy of a Fall,” delving into the intricate relationship between fiction and reality; and “The Old Oak,” portraying the aftermath when a group of Syrian refugees is resettled in a former mining town in the north-east of England.
Among them, “The Old Oak” really deepened my sorrow, particularly considering the ongoing Palestinian conflicts and the persistent ache I feel whenever I encounter a Twitter thread discussing it. Not to mention Indonesia’s divided stance on the Rohingya refugee issue. I don’t have any scientific and applicable solutions to these problems. Perhaps naively, I’ve always held onto the belief that we could be better, that both sides could be better.
Better at what? Honestly, I don’t freaking know.
2022 taught me that people stay the miserable bastards they are their whole life, but I’ve also witnessed change, both in others and particularly in myself. It’s the unpredictable nature of life that keeps things interesting.
And, with that mental model, I entered 2023.
Part 3 — Acceptance
On the fifth day, I was rushing to my desk and trying to finish this piece right after I finished watching Miyazaki’s opus, the Boy and the Heron — yeah go watch it, please. I’m not going to delve in deeper but I’m hundred per cent sure that the movie is Studio Ghibli’s co-founder’s semi-autobiography and his ambition to ‘hit-refresh’ his artistic journey. Simply because you would totally feel the distinction and uniqueness of this movie, alongside Mahito’s — the Boy — characterisation that seems to be the embodiment of Miyazaki’s past and present.
Beyond the typical themes of human violence, conflicts, and hope, the movie beautifully explores the struggle to heal from the profound loss of a mother. It’s a letter, a simple yet powerful expression of grief, bidding farewell and embracing the journey forward despite the scars and tragedy it carries. This one really hits home — I struggled to hold back tears right from the very start.
Another gem from this year is “Across the Spider-Verse.” Miles Morales, a Brooklyn teen laden with unmanaged loss and trauma, transforms from a friendly neighbourhood superhero to an interdimensional fugitive. Becoming a fugitive simply for questioning the path laid out for him versus the path he chooses — it’s quite messed up when you think about it.
Miles faces a conflict as he confronts what it means to be a Spider-Man. His fears, choices, all culminate in his evolution into the hero he aspires to be.
Both Mahito and Miles are a call-to-action. To loss. To grieve. To yearn. To continue. To live. It poses a question: This is how they lived — how do you?
Well, I don’t freaking know.
But one thing I admire about both Mahito and Miles is their audacity to go f*ck around and find out.
And that pretty much sums up how I lived my 2023.
I kicked off the year on a positive note — successfully completing my undergraduate studies on time and snagging my first paying job from a good friend. Despite enduring around four months of joblessness and existential chaos (quite the standard for a hopeless International Relations graduate, let’s be honest), I can still vividly recall the feeling, sometimes even yearning to go back to that period. Humans, huh? The reason was simple: I reconnected with old college friends and encountered some intriguing new people in between.
Yes, I was that ‘busy’ during my college life, doing God knows what.
The first job is always a struggle, and incredibly tough. I faced new challenges every day, continuously pushing my boundaries. The struggle is real. My Business English wasn’t even that good, and I was well aware of the risks. Yet, I managed to just go for it, like, what could possibly go wrong, right?
I took a risk, and it paid off. I started repaying my family, even though the amount wasn’t substantial. I won’t delve too deep into this part, or else I might find myself weeping in a corner instead of finishing this passage.
I consistently tell my unemployed friends to embrace their “free” time and avoid overthinking. It may seem absurd, much like telling sad people to stop being sad, like? Bruh. Just bear in mind, that your moment will arrive, as you must hold onto the belief that everything happens for a reason.
You have to, really.
While I have a soft spot for cats, I freaking hate myself for having this so-called pet allergy. Like, it doesn’t make any sense. Strands of cat fur can give you fever, skin rash and shortness of breath? Grow the f*ck up.
Nevertheless, the harsh reality hit me when I impulsively attempted to pet a couple of Guinea Pigs back in mid-2023.
Frankly speaking, people could die of their cuteness. But in my case, it’s not their cuteness, but rather their fur staging a covert mission to choke me to death. Eventually, I gave them to someone, and I do hope they’re all still fine up to now.
Not long after, I decided to move from my old boarding house to a city about 30km away from Jakarta. “What’s the point?” my whole family asked. “Nothing,” I said — it’s just me trying new things.
This choice stirred frustration among some family members, deepening the rift between us. I felt the need for some tranquillity. That’s it.
You f*ck around, you find out, you take responsibility for the outcomes, and you acknowledge that there’s a reason and meaning beneath it all.
Yet, my impromptu journey continues.
It was a brisk November evening, and my body seemed to sync with the rain-soaked atmosphere, while my mind went on vacation to a some-sort of a deserted island. As I casually scrolled through my Instagram feed, a revelation hit me — Alvvays, the Canadian indie-pop band, was featured in the lineup for the Joyland Festival.
Suddenly, a lightbulb flickered in my mind. I fired up Google Maps and thought, “Holy hell, I’m actually near the venue” — the GBK Stadium. Checking their official website for ticket availability, the details are a bit blurry, but I vaguely recall the 1 Day Pass costing somewhere between 500k to 700k Rupiah. A bit too much — eh?
Considering I had work the next morning and harbouring a lingering disappointment from missing out on seeing Matty and the boys live back in July due to their apparent idiocy and imbecility — yeah f*ck em, I pondered, “Screw it, what could go wrong anyway?”
Without much contemplation, I rose from my seat, bid my family farewell, and headed straight to the nearest MRT station. Within 15 minutes, I reached the stadium, embarking on a stroll towards the festival site.
A gentleman in his 40s then approached me with a ticket.
“300k mas, this is the cheapest one there is,” he offered.
I negotiated, “200k lah pak, the show started like 2 hours ago, and there’s no sign of more people coming in.”
He hesitated for a moment before finally conceding, “Yaudah boleh — OK can.”
The transaction was completed, and within 10 minutes, I found myself nestled in the heart of the crowd, my heart cheering, “YOU REALLY DID IT, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF SH*T.”
The night unfolded into a spectacular experience. I returned home around 1 am, seamlessly sliding back into my regular routine the following day. No scars, no regrets.
These are only 1/4 of my “f*ck it, we ball” adventures in 2023. There are still more wild personal tales that, unfortunately, I can’t spill here just yet.
My confidence in embarking on these adventures comes from delving solo into the rabbit hole, ready to face the consequences without burdening others with my recklessness.
It’s perfectly fine for you to go to nightclubs, talk to the locals and indulge in drinks on weekdays. But do not freaking call me at 2pm and expect a rescue mission as if you’re a 10-year-old.
If you want to f*ck around, leave people out of it.
My indie-coffeeshop-chilling 2019 self would also be utterly shocked to meet the 2023 version of me. Sometimes, taking the leap without a parachute and landing with all your limbs intact is incredibly rewarding.
“Woah, he jumps off a plane without a parachute and still alive; well then, parachutes are a scam! Ban parachutes!”
“Let’s follow that guy and prove that the government has been lying to us this whole time!”
The key to the guy’s survival lies in his exceptional judgment. He skillfully assesses the weather, wind, land contour, and other factors during that time. He leverages his resources, particularly his intelligence.
Develop your leverage to enhance your judgment. Expand your leverage by utilising the diverse resources you have. Resources can vary, and it’s not always limited to financial. For me, I consistently try to leverage my resources like social connections so that I could f*ck around later.
“Oh, it’s easy for you to f*ck around because you also have financial resources.”
I am not, and no, you’re missing the point.
In 2023 and even a few years prior, I am grateful to have befriended many people from diverse family backgrounds, including some who are crazy rich. At times, I find myself wanting to bang my head against the wall knowing how some of them continue to squander those resources.
Do I blame them? No.
It’s not me judging them, it’s me trying to understand why such a thing happens.
If we’re smart about using our resources, skills and time (leverage) and we’re really good at making good decisions (judgment), this country will return to its golden era of Majapahit.
Well, I guess f*ck it, we will find it out pretty soon, right?
Part 4 — Hope
What if this is a past life as well, and we are already something else to each other in our next life? Who do you think we are then?
Hae Sung from “Past Lives” knows all too well that when he decides to fly 14 hours from Seoul to New York to meet his childhood friend (read: lover), things won’t be the same as 20 years ago.
The movie relentlessly questions what one would do if someone from their past, especially their first love, reappeared later in life. Would your perception of this person change? Could they still be a lover, or would friendship be possible? What impact would it have on your current relationship? Would you always be left wondering what life could have been like?
Each of them understands the consequences, but to hell with it, I guess. After decades of absence from each other’s lives, they reunite. Does it end well for both of them? Well, spoiler alert, of course it doesn’t! The hell were you thinking? Go watch it and let me know your thoughts tho :)
Morally, I am Mahito, I am Miles, I am Hae Sun, and I am this 22-year-old guy who always looks for an adventure in life and puts his smug head up and says, “is that it?”
2023 has likely been one of the most fulfilling years of my life. I took risks and had the opportunity to spend some brief moments with people who have profoundly impacted me throughout my life — will write about this soon as well, I hope.
I always believe that things take time. Even when you have all these pieces in place, there is an indeterminate amount of time you have to put in.
You have to enjoy it and keep doing it, keep doing it, and keep doing it. Don’t keep track; don’t keep count.
This is not to say it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s actually really freaking hard. It is the hardest thing you will do.
The individuals I encouraged to ‘get out’ are those I genuinely believe will blossom into someone extraordinary, achieve something meaningful, somewhere significant, very soon. You hold immense potential, truly. Nowadays, it’s hard for me to find that spark in others. Yet, it made me reflect — what’s wrong with simply sitting in front of the local coffee shop, leisurely sipping your coffee, and finding solace in the moment?
There’s no problem with that; chill the f*ck out.
The age of AI is coming at you real fast. And your real resume is just a catalogue of all your pain and suffering; you’re in the moment of truth when you’re in pain. It’s a moment when you’re forced to embrace the reality the way it actually is. You can only make progress when you’re starting with the truth.
Keep doing whatever the hell you do. Find your way, and please, pretty please, go f*ck around and find out. You want to try your luck in CPNS? Go for it. You want to prepare yourself for post-graduate studies? Go for it. You want to cheat on your bf/gf? Screw it, you do you. You want a job in a big four? Haha lol go! Or perhaps, you want to marry a prince? Good luck!
Building judgment is very hard. This is where both intellect and experience come into play. And where do we get our experiences? Correct, it’s definitely from…