In this edition of Humans of IISMA, Felice reminisced her spiritual journey during her time abroad that shaped her into a better person.
They say that knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. It is a cliché statement, I know. But, it took a short semester in the Netherlands for me to realise that there is some truth to it.
Before IISMA, I used to be a person who hated the way life was flowing. I guess you can say that I was always afraid of what is coming in life. I used to be someone with acute social anxiety, and I admit that I passed a little too many thoughts and judgment about my surroundings. It grew a tad bit scarier when I realised that this was something that I could not control, and this stressed me out. I was trapped in the past; I couldn’t enjoy every moment I was experiencing.
To put it into perspective, this issue was a manifestation of my years-long battle with depression. Having casual conversations with other people – even friends – was something that I truly could not enjoy. I was often self-conscious as I did not even have adequate energy to physically take care of myself., And due to my irrational fear on the things that I couldn’t control, I found myself becoming socially inept. To some extent, I have to admit that I was good at hiding this struggle of mine. They did say that we have to fake it until we make it, right?
But truth be told, my life was completely and utterly a total mess. And this was simply because I consciously let my fear deciding my fate.
Then came along IISMA.
Out of all its academic and social perks, I never thought that IISMA would give me a life-changing spiritual journey. And along the way, I came to realise that IISMA gave many people that well-endowed opportunity – I was not the only one. Through numerous facets, IISMA slowly helped me lift my irrational fear of people. For starters, I was able to many people that along the way came to truly care about me and never judge me for who I was or how I felt. The random conversation with two of my IISMA friends, Bima and Ele, in our accommodation’s kitchen was the one that I vividly remember. It was during that candid conversation where I declared my intention care less about other people’s opinions that are irrelevant to my self-development, and that I will try to genuinely enjoy and live in the present. I think that I have been doing well so far in this practice. I became less obsessed with what other people think, leading me to attain more time to connect deeper with my inner self and state of mind – entities that the old Felice would never have acknowledged nor respected.
I am entirely positive that IISMA has enriched me with abundant life lessons that I would not trade for anything else. How else would a stuck and clueless being suddenly transform into a much wiser soul that enjoys the world for the way it is. This odd process of metamorphoses guided me to reassess my explosive temper, guiding me into becoming a companion that is more understanding, tolerant, and accepting. Throughout this healing process, I meditated on certain core aspects that I believe are the source of my discomfort.
1. Time – or its sub-concept that we know as the “present”.
One must admit that, growing up, modules on ‘tenses’ were something that we constantly came across with during English lessons. The blatant segregation between the past, present, and future was something that is quite peculiar once you come to think of it. Because, at the end of the day, the past and future are illusions, and that the only thing that truly exists is the present. This way of thinking is famous in multiple beliefs throughout the globe, and it is also this way to thinking that has helped strengthened my sanity.
During my IISMA days, I was “compelled” to genuinely feel and enjoy every moment as the exchange semester only lasted for 5 months (considerably a short period of time, I must say). I will never know when I would be able to experience those precious moments again; traveling around Europe with good friends, cycling together under the rain, being showered with snow falls, studying together in the kitchen, going in a flag parade with other international students, and many more. It might be once-in-a-lifetime, and I should truly live while they lasted. This way of thinking has been inculcated within me even until now. Life is short, the moment is the present, and the present is what you have only.
2. The people-pleaser curse.
Come to think of it, people are easily sucked into this spiral of people-pleasing simply because of one thing: judgement. We judge ourselves because, whether we would admit it or not, we are heavily judging other people. We have created this set of standards that we want other people to exceed, but we ourselves are still unable to fullfil those standards. It creates this malfunction in the system because we dissect ourselves with checkboxes that not everyone actually cares about. We are making our lives harder just because we judge and judge and judge.
That is why it is so important for us to stop judging, and this will lead us to stop forcing ourselves into pleasing everybody. There is no point of changing one’s selves for the sake of other people’s pleasure – unless we are truly putting other people in harm’s way. I have come to realise that when we least expect it, the universe will bring in new people into our lives – people who sooner or later will truly care about us despite all of our flaws and mishaps. And due to this understanding that we will be loved, we must also love others as well. We must be the one who accepts other peoples’ flaws and weaknesses, acting as a friendly tap in the shoulder whenever they have strayed into a path of self-destruction.
3. The overdoses of happiness.
Life would not be as colourful as it as if we are constantly happy. It is the rough jabs to the gut and heart wrenching screams that make happiness gain its value. With this sick equation from the universe, I have come to realise that this takes away the entire point of making ‘happiness’ as one’s final destination. Instead, happiness should be treated as long awaited pitstops in this journey called life, in which we take the time to rest in its safe-havens and embrace its wholly feeling. And when we leave that pitstop, in which we drive back into uncomfortable feelings like pain, sorrow, and utter sadness – that is when we have to use all of our strength to drive through it. Over the dark clouds and pass the barren lands, keep on driving until you find another happy pitstop. Do not drive too slow because you will completely lose sight of the journey’s beauty, but not too quick that you make the pitstops your destination.
Being homesick, missing your friends and family back home too much up to the point you cry ceaselessly – all are truly normal reactions when you are in a foreign place. Nevertheless, being trapped too long in the sorrow would not bring any good; it would just hinder you from making the most of your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are always undesirable moments and feelings in every period of life. However, feelings and emotions are constantly changing, and most of the times through the most unexpected ways possible. What matters is how we handle and face those uncomfortable feelings and emotions, in which we face it wisely, equipped with mindfulness and self-awareness that we will develop along the way. No matter what kind of circumstances we are in (including when we study abroad), it is important for us to constantly maintain our sanity and regulate our emotions so that these would not easily disturb the way we live our daily lives.
Note: That realisation also encouraged me to take a meditation class in Amsterdam with a really wholesome meditation teacher every once a week!
4. Physical manifestations of our fear.
It is true when people say that studying abroad is a life-changing experience. However, this statement only works if you are fearless enough to do things that you thought you couldn’t do and step out of your comfort zone. I learned this the hard way when I decided to do a solo trip to Switzerland. I had many fears embedded deep in my head. What those fears were, I cannot remember – they were all jumbled into this big ball of insecurity that would not leave my conscious. It was when I decided to just go for the hell of it that I realised how my fears were nothing but imaginary. I was able to plan and execute my trip meticulously, despite having fears of missing a thing or two or simply conscious of my clumsy self. I braved myself to streak casual conversations with some strangers that I met, participated in international student gatherings, initiated conversations, and made life-long friends. Simply speaking, I came to realise that the limitations that we think we have are often imposed by ourselves, our irrationally scared mind.
Having undergone this life-changing spiritual journey, my IISMA days were among the moments that I would cherish forever. The immense self-growth that I – and even my friends – embarked were astonishing, which I am beyond grateful of. People do not lie when they say that being part of IISMA means you are throwing yourselves into an adventure of your lifetime that requires you to be brave and bold. It sounds scary, I know. But once you are in this foreign arena of life, I promise you will get the hang of it should you let yourself be free.
Created by : Felice Valeria
Felice is a Fresh Graduate from the Department of International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada. She is passionate in reading, writing, travelling, and connecting with people.