A Labyrinth of Questions


I end this year as I started it: feeling melancholy. 

Around this time last year, I was still living in Jakarta, but the feeling of having to bid farewell to Indonesia soon already cast a shadow on my mind. I often caught myself thinking: will this be the last time I’m eating at this restaurant, the last time I’m having an in-depth conversation with this particular friend, the last time I’m hanging out at this bar, enjoying a couple of drinks?

When you have lived in a city you loved for more than 11 years, saying Goodbye is a weary, long and heartbreaking process. 

The first thing I obviously noticed when arriving in Germany in March was the extreme temperature drop of around 30 degrees, and I bought stacks of heat tech shirts and stockings from Uniqlo. Still, the weather didn’t dampen my mood so much because I knew that spring - and eventually summer - was around the corner.

And what a summer it was! While everyone started to complain about the heatwave after a couple of days, I couldn’t get enough of the burning sun (I know, climate change and all that but still - I was so grateful). I loved taking long walks in the city, exploring parts of Berlin I had never seen before or already forgotten about; having the luxury to do so while working as a freelancer was something I greatly appreciated.

Then came the time of the World Cup - usually a happy time in my life, but this year turned out to be quite different. And I am by no means talking about Germany’s utterly horrific performance and early exit. These things unfortunately happen. No, I am referring to the blatant ugliness around Mesut Özil that divided the entire country and sparked a heated discussion about racism, integration and immigration. It was a debate that touched me deeply at my core, for different reasons, but mainly because it hit very close to home. I tried to argue with people, both in the (often) dark and twisted world of Twitter, as well as with friends and family in real life, often to no avail - and honestly, it was emotionally draining.

The tensions surrounding immigration were reignited in late August in Chemnitz, and I sat in front of the TV, deeply shocked that these riots (and thankfully, counter demonstrations) were happening some 260 kilometers away from me, in a country - my country - that should know better because of its history. 

Facing the current state of the world often made me feel helpless and desperate, and therefore I found it extremely gratifying to join the mass demonstration #unteilbar in Berlin in October; instead of simply voicing my opinion on social media or to my friends, I could actively march for a good cause, and more than 240,000 people from all over the country were taking a stand with me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

After being spoilt with the hottest summer in decades, inevitably autumn and winter came, and with it - slowly - my melancholy. As the days got shorter, the skies more grey and the sun hardly ever showed its face again, I suddenly longed to walk through the streets of Jakarta again, to breathe in the air after a heavy rainfall, to feel the painful yet sweet sensation of a foot reflexology treatment (and being able to afford it) and to spend some time with people who are so dear to me. 

My iTunes playlist began to indicate an increased rotation of songs by The Cure, which is always my last warning sign. The Cure’s music has always been a loyal companion through my heaviest, most melancholy of times.

Over the holidays, I was down with a heavy flu and spent a lot of time on the sofa while my parents and sister went out for dinners and Christmas parties. I found myself reminiscing about the last 12 months, which quickly turned into a more general wonderment about life - I tried to remember the person I was at the age of 15 or 20. What dreams did I have then? Did I work hard enough to make these dreams come true? In some ways, I think I can answer this question with a firm “yes”. I know I have led a privileged and happy life so far, but why was I suddenly feeling so lonely? Like my own life had passed me by? 

Was it the right decision to move back to Germany, to a country where I don’t always feel welcome? But then again, would it have been better to stay in Indonesia, where I might not be welcome anymore in the future? My seemingly endless battle with the notion of home, roots and identity started to rage once more.

You can lose yourself in a labyrinth of questions. I didn’t find all the answers. But what I have come to realize is this: I am lucky enough to be in a position where I’m free to decide what to do next and how to live my life. I’m truly thankful for that and I plan to carry that feeling of gratitude into next year, regardless of grey skies and cold winds and those pangs of homesickness and loneliness. 

PS: I’m also planning a trip to Jakarta.