Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Book of Life

The Book of Life

When I was a fresh graduate working in Penang, I used to miss KL. I missed the nightlife, my circle of friends and the convenience of suburban PJ. Penang to me was one chaotic mess of a city. Perhaps I was too young and ignorant then to appreciate the many charms of the island state.

Jakarta, in comparison is a much bigger mess; but surprisingly, at this point in my life, I'd rather choose Jakarta over KL as a place to live. I've raved a lot about Jakarta and have also given up trying to give rational explanations to justify my liking for this city, comparing it instead to the state of being in love. It could be due to certain prejudices of mine or it could be a reaction against certain things that I dislike about KL. I cannot and will not pin it down.

Leaving a place can sometimes be as painful as breaking up a relationship. It feels like a part of you has been yanked away, leaving a certain vacuum inside the soul. I know I will have to leave Jakarta someday, and I know I will do so with deep regret. Until that day comes, I will treat every day I have in Jakarta with a sense of gratitude.

These days I also look back on my time in Penang with great fondness. Being my first job, I learnt a lot professionally: My experience there soon led me to a career in IT--one which I'm still engaged with in a love-hate relationship. On a business trip to Sulewesi earlier this year, I stayed at the city of Makassar: There, the narrow streets, the Chinese shophouses and the hawkers by the seafront reminded me a lot of Penang and brought back many pleasant memories.

Penang was the first chapter of my working life. My second chapter was set in PJ and KL. I had made a decision to come back to KL because I studied here and had always thought KL to be the place where I'd make my living. I felt like I could finally could embark on my "real" life.

Those years in KL were intense years, filled with emotionally and professional challenges-- it was an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. It was then that I developed the core group of friends which I still keep until now. We all made mistakes and grew up together during those years. But certain unexpected turns in my career soon led me to open a new chapter of my life in Singapore.

Thinking back, Singapore was like my sanctuary. I was happy being based there because KL was still close enough for me to come back as often as I wished. Life in Singapore was quite blissful and I got to travel a lot across the region as part of my job. Those were good years and I had a chance to rectify and correct some of the bad habits I had acquired in KL. Being outside the country also gave me a better perspective of my life and I was able to reflect back on my time in Penang and KL with greater clarity and insight.

But Singapore brought me to a point in my career where I developed a certain fatigue towards the IT industry. It was to an extent caused by the sheer madness of the dotcom boom and all its excesses. The euphoria and the ultimate emptiness of the entire affair left me drained and disillusioned.

Jakarta gave me an opportunity to open up another chapter in my life. Again, distance and separation from my previous existence brought a certain clarity to my mind. I am now able to see what's really important in my life and where my future really lies. I've broadened my circle of friends and contacts tremendously and have found new interests here to pursue. Jakarta has been good to me.

I know the book of my life is still being continuously written; more chapters will open up. But when will the present chapter come to a close? Only time will tell. And I shall turn the pages slowly, one at a time.

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