When I went back to my hometown in Indonesia, I was invited to my high schools (both Junior and Senior) and asked to motivate the students there. I was asked to do the same in my elementary school when I went back to Indonesia before as well. I feel honored, of course, but sometimes I’m not sure if I have the right to do that, like, am I entitled to motivate those students? For what? Because I got a scholarship abroad? Because I am now pursuing my Ph.D.? Because I’ve traveled to many countries? I’m not sure because…to be honest, I don’t think I’ve been successful enough in life, like, for instance, I don’t have a lot of money so I can’t be sure if I will forever live prosperously and I will still have to secure a job after I finish my Ph.D. I still don’t own my own house (not that I plan to have or buy one, though). And while marriage is not really my measurement of so-called success, I know for some it is, and here I am still single at this age. So I don’t know if my presence will be motivating or, on the contrary, discouraging and even demotivating.
But, well, my hometown is small, many people are not rich, most are farmers or merchants, and not many can or not many aspire to continue their study to the higher levels, either because of financial reasons or simply because they just don’t know if they actually can or are allowed to dream. I remember this saying by Trevor Noah, and it hits me so deeply. He says, “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.” (Not sure if I used or wrote this before, but…) This quote is so sad but at the same time true. It might sound like an excuse, but, really, despite being a student with all A-s during my senior high school years, I couldn’t dream of having a profession like a NASA scientist or a CEO in a big company, simply because I didn’t know that they existed, I didn’t know it was possible. I didn’t know that someone like me could also have the opportunity shall I have wanted to. I couldn’t even think of enrolling myself in a medical school, aiming to be a medical doctor or a nurse because I’ve heard that the tuition was expensive. Though I was not confident that I would succeed in getting in, still, even if I managed to get it, I wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition. There’s no guarantee that I’d get a scholarship, and my parents were not rich so I didn’t think I’d be able to do it all. Even if I had to do a part-time job, I didn’t think I would be able to make it. So, yeah, to some extent, certain majors are only “for the rich”, or (perhaps), “the privileged.”
So yeah, while I am not sure if I can be motivating, demotivating or even discouraging, if somehow my presence can help broaden their views, allowing them to see more dreams, letting them know that they can have the same opportunity, and if they consider my getting scholarship abroad, pursuing Ph.D., and traveling to some countries a success, then I’ll be more than happy to share my stories with them. And actually, I don’t mean to be conceited, but I wish I could visit more schools and share with more students. I want them to know that, while it’s not guaranteed, it’s possible. I believe that if they can believe it’s possible for them, then they won’t give up. They can treasure their hopes and dreams and actually make efforts. I’m not saying this without reasons. I mean, they can’t dream of something if they don’t know it, right? They won’t bother making efforts if they believe it’s impossible for them, right? That’s why… I might be useless and worthless, and after finishing my Ph.D., I might still be jobless, but, really, I always hope that one or more people I share my stories with will be motivated, inspired (if not too conceited to use these words), and be more successful, useful, and helpful for more people than me. While I can’t deny that I do feel happy when they seem amazed by my stories, or when I think they look up to me, it’s the thought, or rather the hope, that after I talk to them, somehow they can create their dreams, go for it, and successful in pursuing it that thrills me more and makes me happier. And this is because…
My background. I know I can’t say that I’m poor now. While I’m not that rich rich rich, to be honest, now I have enough, much more than I used to have. (I guess I wrote about it before?) But I was “poor” back then. Well, I am not sure what it takes for someone to be called poor. My thought at that time was not that I was poor, I just thought that’s how my life was. True that I could not buy many things when my friends my age could, but I still had something to eat and a place to sleep too, so I guess I should be thankful, no? Not trying to portray schadenfreude here, but there were people who didn’t even have a place to stay, right? About how poor I was? Well, both of my parents didn’t finish elementary school. They were just peasants, farmers without their own ricefields. They worked on someone else’s farms. And they had to wait around four months (for the harvest time) to get paid, and once paid, they had to manage the money so we could use it to live for the next 4 months. That’s if the harvest was good, if it’s not, well… (Luckily, later they learned to save and rent some farm to work on their own and life got better). My house? Well, my house used to have, literally, soil (or ground?) as the floor (i.e. it wasn’t cemented). Our walls were not all bricks, some of it was made from woven bamboos. We used to not have electricity. We used one egg for the whole family, etc. Well, something like that. And yes, I lived that kind of life during my school years (it’s improving as time’s passing by, though).
So yeah, I kinda want to share with those who can relate to me, and even those who have better life than me, that “I was that poor, but I was lucky and could finally get scholarship abroad.” Well, of course, I boasted a bit about my “good” life abroad and my traveling experiences. After all, it sounds more enticing and interesting than my study itself, right? But I really want them to have more options. I want them to believe that despite how their life is, things are possible. It’s not guaranteed, and perhaps they have to work harder than some if not most, but at least they know it’s possible if they (at least) study hard. I just don’t want them to lose hope.
I’m not giving them false hopes, of course. I don’t want to give them ideas, something like “If I can be like this despite how my life was back then, then you can too if you try.” No, I don’t want them to feel pressured. Because when they do try hard and somehow are unlucky and can’t get a scholarship abroad like me, I don’t want them to feel like a failure, because no, they are not. I just want them to believe that, if they want it, they can always give it a try, it is always possible, and if they are lucky, they’ll get it. Again, it’s not guaranteed, but it’s possible. That’s the message I want to pass to them.
Also, while I have mentioned some professions before, I don’t mean to say that one profession is more noble than another, no. And while I seemed to mention that studying abroad is such an achievement, again, I want them to know that it’s not everything. I want them to believe in themselves and be proud of what they can achieve, i.e. that whatever the profession they decide to take or have, even if they don’t study abroad, as long as they do it honestly and actually contribute, no matter how small, to someone else or even to bigger societies, then they are successful people. It’s because, again, what matters more is not what we can brag about, but how helpful we are in this life. (For reference, maybe you can read: Being a part of something bigger? I wrote it here). And I don’t want them to feel insecure, embarrassed, or limited by their parents’ occupation, especially those professions our society tends to look down on. I want them to feel proud because, actually, we need each other, we complete each other. These are the kinds of messages I want to share with them. I might have lost hope with most adults or boomers in my country, but if somehow I can inspire these youngsters, I feel like maybe I can hope for a better Indonesia in the future.
But, well, about being a motivator, am I entitled? I don’t know. But it just makes me happy when people think I can be motivating. Imagine someday they are successful, bring good changes into the society, and say something like, “When I was in high school, there was this person who came to my school, and she inspired me…” Well, I know it’s too conceited and insincere of me to hope for such rewards. But I sincerely hope that my sharing with them becomes useful for them. I can only hope, can I not?
Well, though I wasn’t financially privileged, I did and do have my privileges, though. But I guess I will save it to post next week?
PS: It’s late, but, ugh, happy birthday to me 🙂