Sunday, September 21, 2014

Does Money Break You Down?

It's been really long time since I wrote. Nothing has been interesting to share. However, how a coffee conversation could turn into something inspiring or a long story-telling is always a wonder.

I had a coffee time today with ex-students of mine and eventually we had girls talk about how sometimes women had to compromise many things in their surrounding in order to prove their worth financially.

It's often that we are faced with some drawbacks financially and when it happens, we start cursing, we starting blaming life, we start blaming others, we start feeling that life is not fair, and we start fighting it back to change everything in a snap. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. If you want to fix yourself financially, the first thing you have to do is accept that you are in deep shit (if you indeed are), and second, stop sitting in self-pity and try to work things out to get the hell out of there... because if you want, then you can. 

I am not going to tell you that it will be a cake walk and that once you are out of the suffocating trap, you would be a millionaire (in few cases, this might happen, though). If you really put your mind into it, at least you could have your life a bit more organized and understand which to prioritize and which not to.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous post, going to India for further study has been a life savior to me. I didn't go there as a young girl who were born in rich family who would get large amount of money from my dad as my monthly expense. I didn't go there as a young girl who had everything and only went there for additional degree next to my name. I didn't go there as a young girl who was happy to cloud 9 to get a full scholarship. I didn't go there as additional fun that I could travel and see new things. I went there as a defeated person. Something happened in my life that had made me quit my job, lost all my savings, and heard words that no woman should hear. I went there with almost zero money, a mother to take care, and a commitment that I had to complete my study without any fail in any subjects, and I went there with a completely broken heart & broken soul.

I got full scholarship so I don't have to worry about anything and study books are provided in the college library. BUT, How did I survive with USD 160 stipend per month provided by the government and still make sure that I have food on the table, pay the electricity & internet bill, and pay the monthly house-rent?

Well, let me tell you something. If I followed the life-style that I used to have before things get sour in my life, for sure I can't survive with that amount. I had to change things. You can't expect things to change. YOU have to change YOURSELF.

Now, what happened there:

House - Most students share their house for 2 people which reduce the cost, but I can't since I have my mom. 45% of that USD 160 went to the house rent. That left me with USD 88 to make sure that I & mom ate 3 times a day, paid the bills, bought needed stationery for my studies . Was it possible? Yes, it was. By the grace of God, India's living cost was lot lot lot lot lot lot less than Indonesia and that had helped a lot.

Household content - We had a stove, 2 plastic chairs, two mattress (one for sleeping, one for me sitting during my study with my knee table - I didn't have a desk or a swivel chair the way I had back home), that one knee table that I could be re-arranged to 2 mini tables (one for putting books, one for laptop), one used refrigerator that cost me USD 30 that I got from one senior student who was leaving the country, 2 brooms, 3 plates, 3 cups, a water jug, 4 bowls, and cutlery. That's all. I didn't have to buy any cabinet since the house already have a built in cabinet. The rest of the clothing is placed in the suitcases. We survived with those for 2 years.

Food - We turned to vegetarian. No chicken, no meat, no fish, no prawns, no squids. Since we are rice people, there would be rice and one vegetarian item on the table. No side dish.

Transport - I went to my college walking. It's 6 km up and down. I spent 30 minutes going to college and 30 minutes returning home walking every day. But then after some time, some of friends would give me a hike when they pass the road and see me walking. That's a good thing.

Internet Bill - We needed good connection as well as good price, so how did we do it? We shared it. I have 2 friends who lived nearby with approximately 10 meters distance. They arranged for a wi-fi connection as they already had a land-line phone and I shall use that by paying 1/3 of the bill.

Personal Interest - I love cooking a lot, and yet I had to hold a strong urge for not trying this and that as I can't afford an oven. I can't afford a food processor and for sure, I can't afford extra food material required to make something. Was it difficult? YES, it was in the beginning but then I get used to it. I knew things are not going to be like that forever.

And then one of my ex-student asked me "You love chocolate, miss... You sacrificed that, too?" and my answer was "YES, but not entirely". I had a bar of chocolate once in 3 or 4 months. And we didn't have a TV. You read it right, no TV for 2 years. If we wanted to watch movie, than my laptop is the TV. All source of information I wanted to know is there on the net, so no need for any magazine, newspapers, etc either.

Some friends who have no idea what I was going through would simply say "Hey, why don't you buy this and that? Why don't you go there for holiday?" and if I say "I can't afford it, yet", they would say "Live up your life once a while, man. Don't keep your money inside the box". Well, I couldn't explain the situation to them because they would never understand. I lived my life in my own way, with my own responsibilities, and no matter what people say, I am the one who was and is in charge of my life. If I used my ego & pride and start following what they say, I'd fail miserably.

I & mom used to live in a 15x25m house before our adventure to India. I had my own working room with huge desk and cozy chair, my own library, a comfortable sofa, washing machine, separate dining room, garage, yard, etc. But with my financial condition, I can't expect to have the same thing in India. Did we manage to live in 5x7m house with minimum facilities? YES, we did. Why? Because we believe we can. We had to. If we fought and forced ourselves that we couldn't accept that reality, we would only make ourselves frustrated & depressed with the situation that we couldn't change. Could we be adamant and get a big house, too? YES, I could borrow money & lead the luxury life forgetting the bitter fact that I was broke, but where will it bring me eventually? It would bring me to further misery. Sometimes, you have to swallow those bitter pills. No other way.


Things started to change after the first year. Academically, I was pretty good. I was considered the brainy since I tackled the difficult exam system in India by breaking the record of getting the highest mark exceeding 75% for Management studies. No one has done that. I got 83%. And during all the class presentation, I was pretty much known for having good linguistic ability when it comes to English language. Some foreign students who found difficulties in the language seek for my assistance so that they could follow the class better. I taught them and got some fee for that. Not much though, as all are students and they have to take care of their expense too, but with that money, I could get my mom some new dresses that she could wear comfortably at home. Not expensive ones, but good enough for her to wear. We started having chicken curry or mutton curry once in 2 or 3 months and I have my chocolate once in 2 months, too.

I used to borrow books from library and for some books with limited copy, I had to compete with friends to get it first, but then with the extra income, I bought 2 books that I required the most.

Did I have fun and hang out with friends? YES, I did. I went to Ooty once spending approximately USD 25 both for me & mom. I went to the theme park for USD 10. And I went for a bowling for free as a good friend of mind paid for it. All these in a two-year time.

People say that life is like a wheel, isn't it? Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. Things started to change. I was a complete zero financially when I finished my study. Bringing back my gold medals, my certificates, and brain, I had to start things all over. Things indeed change. I get a good job and I work with people I am comfortable with. If I fought the adversity with "unaccepting mentality", would I see the sunny day? No, I wouldn't. I would have been depressed & frustrated and hating everything. Nothing would get better if I fought the reality. I simply had to crawl again before I had the strength to stand and walk again.

To be frank, by doing all these, it doesn't mean that I have much. I may not be able to help someone financially in a considerable amount, but I have enough. I don't buy branded outfits, but I have standard decent ones in my cupboard.  I don't fly in a business class flight, but I could buy a promo ticket and fly on a budget flight. I can't go holiday to Europe yet, but hey, North Sumatra is packed with European class view as well ;). I don't have premium brand gadgets, but I do have what I need to communicate and do my work (except for the slow internet connection & power cut that we face here, though). I don't hang out with my friends in a fancy restaurant, but we do have fun with our own food adventure.

I am not going to be a hypocrite saying that I am fully satisfied and that I don't want my life to get better financially or spiritually. I do want a better life, BUT, in the process, I don't want to lose my head & be greedy.

And then another ex-student ask "Sometimes, when we have so little, we can't even help others and I hate it so much". Well, one thing I should say is that "You never have nothing that you can't share". There is always something that you could share. If money is the only thing you could share, then God should have created money the day He created us. He didn't.

In my case, what I give is what I have in my head. I do pro-bono teaching for 2 hours a week for some who really can't afford a decent tuition, but for other people, it could be something else. If you seek within, there is always something that you could give back to the community and it's not always in the form of material or money.

What I am facing may not be in extremities, but for each his own, isn't it? There are other worse cases that I don't even dare to imagine, but God has given them different kind of strength to face what they have to.

Many people turn into bad people for the adversities they have faced. I understand that and I have no rights to judge them, but all I could say is... instead of taking the easy way to compensate the bad things that happened to us, why don't we simply swallow those bitter pills, let go, forgive ourselves for being stupid or for being a victim and lead the life in a way that our hearts don't go against to? It's more peaceful that way rather than keeping anger, hatred and revenge inside this easily broken body.

Why I am sharing all these tiny details is simply to say one single point. When you are in deep shit, take a deep breath, prioritize your life, give up the unnecessary, be grateful with what you already have in hands, keep you head on your shoulder (because once you go to a depressed state, you are going deeper into the deep shit and no one could help you there) and keep sharing what you have.

Like my grandpa always said, "Give your best at your worst time and the best shall return to you". I will repeat this a million times in my posts and you can slap me for that, but I will keep saying it because I am a living proof of this advice.

No matter in which situation you are in, It's the strategy to live your life and the spiritual faith that makes you stand out.

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