|Standing and heaving on a rocky crater of Mount Slamet|
I couldn’t see time as I was blanketed by perfect pitch black inside a uv-proof tent my friend recently bought who was also sleeping soundly next to me. Quite the opposite, I couldn’t really sleep well that night. The fireworks were too debilitating. I forced myself to peek to see them but it was pointless as the mist covered the surrounding was too thick. Additionally other campers mostly still got up and cheered the year changing to mark the significant change whatever their heart desired. They were screaming and clapping in joy ignoring the mountain coldness. I was being too laid-back to even desire a change in 2018. Let alone join their march. I fixed my sleeping bag I was wrapped in, closed my eyes, and tried to shut my mind. I needed to rest as I had to get up at 4 am to go to the top of the mountain. But the restless mind wouldn't shut if it wouldn't. Was it the Puntang coffee I drank that afternoon? Was it the sound of my new found friend who was shivering in a tent in front of ours? I already gave my extra jacket and socks to him but he still was shivering. His shivering voice was too strong to ignore. I wondered why his tent-mate was still sleeping in peace.
Normally, I was an easy sleeper. I slept while standing on a bus, while sitting on a motorcycle driven by someone else. Was it because my body too worn out? I was done hiking for ten hours to get to the first camping spot, additional two hours to where i was now, and expected to walk for more two and half hours to the top. I had no idea why i stayed awake even though I had closed my eyes. While dissecting the thoughts for the sake of an answer, the other tent’s inhabitants woke up already and talked loudly to get us up. I grabbed my phone and checked the time. It was almost 4 am. Time slided faster on a mountain.
This was my time wrapping last days of 2017 on Mount Slamet. I had long been away from mountain this past year and become unfamiliar with the pain. My legs were swollen, my shoulders got hurt, and my soul was trembling. Not that I stayed passive for the whole 2017, I still did exercise though: running, swimming, even doing menial works that peaked to be the ultimate highlight of my 2017. But it couldn't be gainsaid that for the first six months in 2017 I had stayed in Sydney, I didn’t have any opportunity to go sporting. Yes, 2017 was highlighted by my so-called career break to go backpack in Australia and how I failed slash survived miserably.
At four am we were getting ready to go to the peak. The air was freezing cold to the bone but I didn’t give up walking to keep my body warm. Though after an hour, I was panting uncontrollably. Physically tired, an exhausting moment like this always successfully triggered a question:
why the hell am I doing this?
A question that was too general and almost implicitly depicting remorse, a question that was assembled with another fact-checks and follow-up questions that built up to something so strangling yet relieving. A train of thoughts that moved so slowly piercing piles of memory I had kept intact and composed. They were unfolded one by one as I walked little by little. One memory fresh and easy to recall undoubtedly was the minutes to 2017 that I celebrated in Sydney. It was so easy to flow as today was the fresh start of 2018. Well, I have never been a big fan of any sorts of celebrations but on the last night in 2017 I hurried to the Sydney Observatory Hill after finishing my shift in the restaurant at 10 pm. I was alone until I met my friends who were working selling NYE merchandise there. I could go back to my apartment and went sleep. But I chose to stay. I wanted to be there. That night, as people were chatting and roaming around, I sat down a big tree and grabbed a book inside my bag. I was finishing Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. A girl came to me and was curious about the book I was reading. To be blatantly honest, I got her point. When people were so captivated with NYE celebration in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, why a boy was holding a book under a tree with a foldable star shaped light? She was from Mauritius and spoke French (my eyes suddenly got so bright). She was together with her friend to witness the spectacular fireworks but she felt tired so she sat down on the grass, leaving her friend wander alone. We paired up that night and swapped e-mails. But nothing went further after that. It was just a moment. Like a moment when I tried to collect my long gone hope and prayed that maybe 2017 would be a good year after all. Turned out, 2017 was not good at all. Contrary to my wish, it turned up so bad, at least in my perspective. That place, though, became my personal sanctuary to go to whenever things went wrong. A serene place at night it became to indulge myself in books, sleeping, and learning to get drunk.
Memories like that always lingered closely in my mind. They were easy to provoke and reform in many kinds of manifestations: people, place, and time. In a glimpse, they were also visible in coincidence, emotion, and thoughts that universe had conspired to recall. I challenged myself by questioning the definition of a good year. Is it a time when everything runs smoothly as I want? Is it a time when everything turns out to be better than the previous years? Good that I desired according solely to my perspective which led me to feel so incredibly naïve. Like, life’s good. Adventure’s good. Self-discovery’s good. You’re good, we’re good. Good had placated an overrated functionality in my dictionary.
Relatively speaking, if I had to choose the worst year, I’d pick 2012. That year, I graduated cum laude, got masters scholarships, had fulfilling part-time jobs, and was surrounded by people I thought loved me. My inner circle cursed at me when they thought I didn't show any slight gratitude for it by crowning 2012 the worst because they perceived that it seemed so good for me. It seemed so good except it was not. I was taunted by an inner turmoil that pulled me down deeper to the abyss of despair. I doubted my self-determination. I hesitated in doing almost everything. I was deliberately questioning everything: my faith, people around me, and my existence. Things I should have been grateful for were jaded into something that I could snatch right away. For a few months I lost weight, quit my fave sports, and only locked myself up in my room. These made 2012 simply the worst. Now 2017 was topping it.
When I reached the top of Mount Slamet, I walked a bit farther from my friends to look around. After few minutes roaming around, my eyes were gradually welled with waters. I almost convinced myself that it was because of the sulfuric smoke. Suddenly my knees became so frail and my weight doubled. I groveled into the ground and those waters from my eyes were flowing without my permission. It was first day of 2018 and I broke down already.
I had never expected that 2017 could be really ruthless. I learned the hardest way to accept disappointments, failures, and heartbreaks. I learned to try letting go. Letting go of the people who forged different path really got me struck dumb. They chose their way by leaving and it was their right, I kept reminding myself. People who once lifted me up at my worst had also left me, either by their free-will or destiny. The latter one was emphasized by the true nature of eternal separation. I grew unhealthy fear of imminent death that separated me from people I felt so belong to. Last year was marked by a few deaths in family and also my close friends’. Apparently I still eagerly refuted the fact that in the end we were going to be left by people we care and love. And one day we, too, were leaving. I was so stubborn that it was so self-inflicting.
The memory attached to me left a mounting gap between someone’s existence and a remembrance of them in this world. I had never imagined that someone’s eternal absence could affect me tremendously. Yet the loss alone left a permanent hollow in my heart. Another thing that weighed me down was relationships I’d sustained with my friends were collapsing as time went by. Even the closest ones, they parted their ways. I discovered that I was deeply anchored to the memories of my life. So when a particular thing changed, I began to feel insinuated by the new memory.
Why someone I knew had become a stranger in a sudden. Why they concealed so many things that was actually hurtful in the end.
The indignant fury was so suffocating when there was absolutely nothing I could do to prevent that from happening. I thought I silently accepted the uncertainty left hanging under my sleeves but apparently it was still painful to grasp the whole uncertainty itself before my eyes. I thought I knew a little bit about life but I didn't.
It was true that I was fond of aloneness. I had grown accustomed of it through my upbringing. I did not budge my time alone. Surely I felt a few stings of aloneness slash loneliness but only to make me realize that I was not entirely alone. But in 2017, I had felt a different aloneness. Long time ago, no matter how alone I got, I always felt so secure because aloneness was always an imaginary room I could escape to and I could get out of anytime. Whenever the aloneness became too consuming and suffocating, I’d just ring my close friends, siblings, or even my parents. This was because I always had safety net with me. They were my safety net. I lost my safety net and was gulping in obliterating confusion. It was like when I called them by name, none of them was answering. This had grown an acute sense of loneliness deep in my heart. The aloneness I once recognized so alluring became an unsettling strangeness that I loathed the most. I saw the world in a gloomy filter. My anxiety kept me awake at night whenever I was alone with my thoughts. There was part of me grew dominantly that made me used to not getting in touch with people I knew. I kept things reticently. My thoughts sent an insolent impression about me to my surrounding. I rather did everything on my own. If I couldn't do something, I’d leave it as it was. When someone moved a step closer, I basically moved two steps further.
I gradually absorbed the idea of having an ongoing struggle with loneliness emerged by unbearable loss. I dug on how some people had been so struggling with their own loss and it was so heart-breaking. I could relate to them because I had never felt so alone, lost, and loveless. The fact that I realized I was utterly alone was invalidating my optimism right on my face. The long unfathomable grief and inconsolable melancholy was holding me so tight I tried so hard not to get lapsed into the deep depression.
When coping with life, time was a determinant. In my case, essentially it was my nature that I couldn't keep myself being consumed greatly so long by this kind of melancholy. Sun always rises. There were minuscule parts of me that I still held onto. I read lots of psychological text-books and people’s story about loss. I tried to lighten up my weight by expecting nothing from people. I tried to recover. I tried. I didn't give myself up.
This was my resilience. I was profoundly grateful for this. I kept moving no matter how small my steps were. I still believed there was always a silver lining behind every bad thing that happened. It was like pointillism where I had to move myself away at a certain distant to gain a new perspective on something. This whole time, I was so self-absorbed that I perceived everything happened to me was all about me. While I was smashed over and over, I still didn't comprehend what this all about. I still don’t. Maybe life was getting utterly devoid of meaning. Maybe life kept producing new narratives to make me believe that there is indeed a better time.
Why do we cross into each other’s path and leave some traces to eventually find out that we’re meant to diverge? What would remain of me when I am gone? I incessantly asked these myself.
These questions inevitably stoked deep insecurity about my existence. I was sure enough I would not find the answers between ruminating the past and pondering the future. But, only thinking wouldn't get me anywhere. Perhaps just keep moving would get me somewhere someday.
Whatever it was, I also learned to forgive those who hurt me and seek forgiveness from those I hurt. I thought 2017 was all bad but to give it a fair judgment, not all was bad. At least I learned first handedly that when some people leave, the other ones come in. It goes the other way around. When I leave people, the other ones come into their life. It was only the matter of a realization of a repeated cycle of opening and closing the doors.
I learned to smile at strangers and talked to them. Not only a merely small talk, but also things I was curious about without even crossing their privacy bubble. I learned to scuba-dive and realized that how a different world could exist without me even knowing. I learned how to befriend again. I learned how to get alone again.
I came to a conclusion that I will never finish my lesson of accepting the unbearable loss and how to bear living with it my entire life. I will never finish my lesson to appease my bottled up anger slash sorrow that was compiled of rhetorical questions about life and whatnot. I will always be in an interminable journey to seek scattered parts of me I hadn't discovered yet.
If this was the end, then this was. If not, it was not.
Then I was grateful that I was still standing, heaving in one piece. The gratitude that took me become as small as rocks scattered around the crater of Mount Slamet, as warm as the sun ray that breached through the mist.
Before going to Mount Slamet, I accidentally landed on an article telling Soe Hok Gie who had also climbed the same mountain. He once said,
“Kita tak pernah menanamkan apa-apa, kita tak’kan pernah kehilangan apa-apa.”
Thank you, 2017. Thank you. This is my closure.