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A WRITER'S LIFE

A WRITER'S CHOICE

Maggie Tiojakin follows her dream
'miracles work the same way the lottery does – there is a big, fat chance that you will never be chosen.'

Three years ago, I took a ‘leap of faith’ and left everything I had behind me. I was twenty years old; anxious to discover the world, and wanted – more than anything else – to embrace whatever it was life had in store for me. I held dear the images of men and women at the prime of their youth who had contributed to my world heroic stories of living against all odds; of figuring out the many ways the universe works; of discovering the truth and leading numerous love affairs with it. Never in my life had I been more ready and convinced that this would be it – the time has come: a journey must be done! Therefore, on one Sunday morning, as I was having breakfast with my father I initiated a proposal.
"You’re going to what ?" My father leaned back in his seat and demanded an explanation.
"I want to quit school, leave the country, and try my luck out there," I said. By country, I meant Indonesia. By school, I meant the university I had been attending for two years. By luck, I meant the supposedly brilliant idea I had emerged with to become a writer. Having been published by a national magazine for more than a couple of times, I thought, was a sign that I should take writing more seriously – even turn it into a full-time job, if possible. It was a childish dream that life was only as complicated as one made it which got me through the 22-hour flight from Jakarta to Boston. Life was simple for me: follow your dream.
Here’s what’s wrong with ‘following your dream’: Reality Check.

Three years have gone by and where, I wonder, did all the heroic stories go to? Sure, I’m living against all odds – and of course, by odds, I actually meant ‘sanity.’ I still don’t know the ways in which the universe works (somebody said it spins like an ice cream machine). Truth has come and gone through the images of ‘delusion’ – and the only love affair I’ve been committing is with my monthly bills.

Honestly, I don’t really much care about any of the above anymore. Life has taught me that people may believe whatever they want to believe, and no one will even bother to convert to that belief for the same reason that nobody gives a damn about which side of the bed we prefer to sleep on (unless we’re sleeping with them). Dreams are only as real as the nightmares that intervene your eight-hour rest. And miracles work the same way the lottery does – there is a big, fat chance that you will never be chosen. If I had taken a closer look at the whole story, mine and others, maybe I would have found the tie that binds each and every one of us together. It’s called luck.

It could have been immaturity, or ignorance, that had led me to the path I’m walking now. Often times I find it difficult to breathe, for the air is filled with such hope I can no longer reach. The days roll by like a freight train that carries our barren souls through the invisible tunnel of time, and at some point we are expected to make a stop, to take our luggage and find a home: to live. Yet I ride this train, constantly looking out the window, enjoying the beautiful view through the glass, never once leaving my seat. Envious of those who’ve found their homes.

Nearly six months ago, my father passed away. The last message he left on my voicemail was: "Please, take good care of yourself. I am a thousand miles away from you – if anything should go wrong where you are right now, I won’t be able to help you."
When he said "a thousand miles away" I had assumed he meant the distance that had separated us for a couple of years: the ocean that lies open between continents. I now realize that what he meant was the distance between heaven and earth. It had an urgent ring to it – the message he left me – like a warning of some sort which he had never successfully made me see. Five months after my father’s death, I was once again set for a journey – this time it’s final. I didn’t take a leap of faith, but merely a leap from everything that was the epitome of comfort and love. I broke away from the arms of my mother and brother; bid farewell to my long-time friends; and took the same flight which had first taken me to Boston three years ago.

My own vow resounded in my sleep – a vow I had pledged in front of my father when I told him I was quitting school. "I will make you proud," I said to him. Even today, I can’t seem to understand what had made me deliver that promise. Was it hope – or was it pure lie?

If I had been successful in anything for the past three years since I took the road which now separates me from my peers, it’s the ongoing affair I’ve been having with the city of Boston. I was held captive by its timeless beauty, the buildings that jut out of the ground and toward the heavens of the earth, the river that runs through them, and the fragile look of hope that some things are still worth the try. So what if my friends are making $50,000/year and I’m working 12 hours a day selling toys for barely half of what they make?
Like any other twenty-three year old in this city and beyond, I am admitting a certain level of difficulty in doing the right things and avoiding the wrong. The problem is: how do you know what’s right for you and what other people think is right for you? I call for honesty. The rest is just life happening for the benefit of some and the loss of others. Welcome to the real world. Check.

© Maggie Tiojakin May 22nd 2003
mathe_80@yahoo.com

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