Growing Pains: a title of an American sitcom that popularizes ‘growing pains,’ a medical phenomenon in which young, growing children complained that their legs are throbbing. In the sitcom though, a group of teenagers was facing a series of life hurdles that they referred to as “growing pains.” To grow is indeed to endure some kinds of pain, as I had to face firsthand when I moved to the States.
I should’ve been grateful that I could study in the United States. But, to be honest, I was never really sure as to why I ended up here in the United States. I just agreed to my parents’ proposal, not fully conscious of what the pros and cons are, let alone what I would major in. Not to mention travelling over 20 hours by airplane to earn a degree, when I could stay in Jakarta and remain within the familiarity of my own home, my own city. Looking back, I realized how narrow-minded I was at that time.
At first, what I had in mind was simply completing my degree and once I did that, I would just go home and continue my parents’ enterprise. When I was in a community college, I was already comfortable where I was. Despite my uncertainties, I was diligent enough to get commendable scores in college. Even if language was a barrier for me, I felt that my college somehow ease their standards for international students. I finished my 2 years in college, which felt like a breeze.
However, when I was about to transfer into university and was asked to write a personal statement essay, I started to think hard about my visions and dreams for the future. That’s when all the worries and anxieties creeped in. Who am I? What I see myself becoming in 5 years? Once I return home, what can I contribute to my parents’ businesses? Amid these confusions, I joined a mentorship program from Garuda Bisa that would pair me up with a mentor, so that I can perhaps see some light (ie. inspiration) at the end of the ‘career tunnel.’
Together with my mentor, we checked my resume and practiced mock interviews. What was even more insightful was the fact that there are literally hundreds of career paths that align with my background and passions. It dawned upon me that growing up also means that you seek to understand not only the world around you, but most of all, your place in this world, as cliché as it may sound.
Fast forward, I got into the University of Texas at Austin and I am now living a life with visions and clearer missions for actualising my dreams. Although I used to be a passive student that would avoid any involvement with organisations or participate in activities at my community college, I eventually learned that to grow also mean to confront my fears and sources of discomfort. While I was often too embarrassed to be active because I am afraid I would humiliate myself and be disappointed, I figured that this is the time to make the most mistakes, the time to perhaps even commit ‘dumb’ mistakes in order to succeed in later stages of life. I pushed myself to be proactive, eventually attending career fairs which I found intimidating at first. Unfamiliar with the whole environment beforehand, I had to summon all my confidence to walk into those ballrooms full of people decked in suits, looking as professional as one could be. The mentorship program that I was enrolled in also contributed to my newfound confidence. I feel that I am more knowledgeable about the professional world and how to behave, and sell myself, in front of recruiters. At the end, I patted myself on the back, because for a first-timer, I knew that I did a fine job. And I know that this is just the start of a life truly worth living.
Content edited by Artricia Rasyid
Photo Credits: Author’s Collection