During an interview in 2004, someone asked me this difficult question, “You’ve been a writer, lecturer, flautist, and actress. So which one are you?”
I pondered for a while. I’ve always wanted to seize all the parts, like Bottom the Weaver who wanted to play the lover, the lady, and the lion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve even tried painting, believe me. I was my high school’s artist, making posters and working on the year book's design, and a few friends really thought I studied Graphic Design after we graduated. I didn’t pass the FSRD ITB entrance test, so I quit painting, rather broken-hearted. Similarly, after four years fighting with my father for always coming home at midnight after my theatre rehearsals, there was no sign that my acting could be extraordinary. So I gave up doing that one, too. Finally, I decided to give up playing music after 6 years of study, realizing that I didn’t make any significant progress people had been expecting since my classical duet performance in Graha Bhakti Budaya, 1996.
What I’m still doing now is teaching and writing. I love sharing ideas with my students, but the actual reason why I decided to teach at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia in 2001 was research. I had always been dreaming of publishing my research papers in academic journals and presenting them in conferences (duh... sad but true, I’m a nerd). So writing is the root (of all evil? Hmm... Forgive me, students. I love you but sometimes grading too many papers could rob my sanity).
I’ve always been doing it. Writing. I published my first short story in Bobo magazine when I was eleven years old. My mom was hysterical when she knew I chose to write detective stories (with irrelevant plots, of course) instead of studying for EBTA/EBTANAS. I always said to my elementary school friends that I wanted to be a writer (well, after considering some respectable professions like astronaut, chemist, and... fashion designer?). As I grew up, my writing took different forms too. In Junior High I wrote some sweetie-pie-teenage love stories (stealing some ideas from Lupus, I admit). In Senior High I was crazy about Chairil Anwar and his Byronic tendencies, so I wrote Indonesian poems. In the university, I started writing poems in English because I was brainwashed each day to read English literature. Since I didn’t read many Indonesian books at that time, I felt alienated by the language. Thank God, working at Female Magazine--- yes, the glossy capitalist icon; been there, done that --- has brought back my connection with Bahasa Indonesia after the four-year amnesia.
Now, either for money or for self-satisfaction (or both), I do write. I write articles for magazines, booklets, and coffee-table books. I write essays for journals, book launching/ discussions, and conferences. I write short stories for the newspapers. I write poems for myself. I write extremely long e-mails for my bestfriend, Nadya. I write testimonials on Friendster. What’s worse, I was assigned to teach at least five Academic Writing classes each semester!
Writing is my first love, and it has stood through the test of time.
So here’s my answer. Among the many things I do and the various roles I (have tried to) play, I consider myself a writer.