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#4: Home Is in the Opposite Direction
It’s getting off, not on, the MRT at Stasiun Blok A. It’s going home to, not from, the “Deep South”
New me, I guess
So many things about Jakarta have stayed the same, yet I have never felt more like a stranger to this city in my life. For one, when I left in April 2021 — for Bali, like the cliche that I am — I had brought with me the relationship I have been in for a good part of the past 12 years of my life. When I came back 10 months later, uneven tan lines and all, I came back with the baggage, sure, but no relationship to speak of. Not to be dramatic but the morning of my Denpasar – Jakarta BatikAir flight late January 2022, I paid an extra Rp360.000 for overweight fees — must be all the extra self-hatred I had packed from overanalyzing the whys and what-could-have-beens. 🤪
Jakarta immediately felt different. The reasons vary, including but not limited to the fact that I didn’t have anyone to text my whereabouts to, because the person who I liked to keep in the loop about these kinds of things is no longer a person that needed to know this information. Our lives are no longer intertwined that way. It’s the little things: not stopping for takeouts at the mall, not buying the other person’s snacks when grocery shopping, ordering one instead of two of whatever used to be a shared favorite. Standing across from the Artha Graha building one day after exiting Pacific Place, I thought it felt so strange that no one cared about the useless fact that I was about to take a Bluebird, not a Gojek home.
I take a different route home now. Pre-pandemic, going home at the end of a night out would mean cruising through the Senayan end of Sudirman in the direction of Bundaran HI, or driving down Tendean and making a turn to Kuningan, but these days, home is in the opposite direction. It’s getting off, not on, the MRT at Stasiun Blok A. It’s going home to, not from, the “Deep South”, as I like to call any point in beyond limits of Senayan (which btw is still “Central” Jakarta, but I digress). The sights are at once familiar and new. Something about the state I am in right now feels oddly similar to the early pandemic days, in March 2020, when you thought you’d be working from home for one month tops, only to realize later on you’ve been ejected into a completely new reality. Whew. Feeling at home takes time, that much I know, and I guess I’m trusting the process. To that end, after three weeks of living in my new place, I woke up early yesterday to visit my new neighborhood coffee shop and get some reading in before work. Act normal, act normal, act normal.
New hope, maybe
It’s a bit of a mystery to me how after thoroughly considering my options, moving back to Jakarta managed to top my list of “best things to do right now.” I mean, it’s not like I had that many options, but some of them sounded more technically reasonable than being within close proximity to all of the feelings that I badly want to reject, the life I no longer had, yada yada yada. And I’m not even just talking about the relationship. Coming back meant returning to a city where many of my closest friends have moved away (“until after the pandemic” at first, which now really means indefinitely), a city where I’d once again be commuting to work from the office (except that omicron happened and scrapped that plan for the foreseeable future), where it seems one would have to jump through hoops to feel the slightest bit good (even more hoops now thanks to the absence of the aforementioned friends). Sure there is plenty that I love about being home: the plethora of comfort food I have at my disposal, the way the city simply refuses to quiet down at night, family, and even my aloneness. But I guess for the longest time I always associated growth and “progress” with leaving, so to find myself hoping for the same result by doing the exact opposite feels a little silly. Alas, here we are.
“I hope you find what you’re looking for” a friend texted on my first day back. Truth be told I don’t know what I’m looking for exactly? Here’s hoping my intuition hasn’t completely malfunctioned.