Monday, April 16, 2018

About Tying The Knot

It turns out the last time I wrote something on my blog was more than a year ago. A lot has happened in a year. Like a lot, a lot. Like I-freaking-get-married, a lot. A year ago, I’d laugh if someone told me I’d be married within a year – but I did. Even weirder, I got married within 6 months with someone I barely knew, through a process called ta’aruf. And this blog post is all about it – to answer some questions I often get. A little disclaimer: This post is quite lengthy, so prepare yourself.

What’s ta’aruf?
If you haven’t heard of it, it literally means “introduction” in Arabic. But to put you in context, it usually means a process of getting married without dating; in a short period of time.

How does it work?
So basically, there are two mediators (in my case, my mom and his ustadz) who communicate and ask to exchange our CV. Ideally, the mediator is the one who knew the person really well (and can attest to their quality). My mom sent some background information about me through WhatsApp (I didn’t know anything about it) and she did receive a CV from him. My mom didn’t let me know because: 1) I kept telling her that I don’t want to get married before finishing my second post-grad while at the same time telling her that I might change my mind if I met the right guy; 2) She doesn’t want to hurt my feelings if I know she send my CV and the guy didn’t respond. She’s kind of sweet like that.

The CV contains any basic information you would find on a regular CV (organizational experience, educational background, job history, current salary), added with some other things, like what does that person seek in a partner, his life goal, his marriage goal, his family, etc.

Normally, when both parties are satisfied with the other parties’ CV, they decided to meet (accompanied by the mediators). In my case, as I didn’t know any of it, my parents decided to meet with him first, to make sure whether he’s someone I'd be interested to meet. A few weeks after, I met him, accompanied by my parents.

Is this something that you plan? Something you know you’d do to get married?
Actually, no. I wasn’t planning to date (I haven’t dated anyone before in my life), but I wasn’t planning to marry a stranger either. What I had in mind is to meet a great guy that completes all my checklist and just get married without all the dating-drama, but of course, life can’t always be planned.

Why did you agree to do this?
The most important reason is because of my parents, my role model, a living example that ta’aruf works. They met through the same process and they have the healthiest relationship I know. They got married not knowing each other, and now they’re inseparable.

The second reason is that I want a partner who’s going to get me closer to Allah. A partner who’s going to be a good father for my children. In order to find that kind of guy, I believe that I have to set my feelings aside and put on my logical hat.

Ta’aruf works for a reason: Because both parties agree that Allah is capable of anything, including turn someone’s heart and plant love in it. Because both parties share the same strong religious values and agree that any kind of problem is bearable if we wear the same glasses to see that through. Same book, same rules, same God. If you don’t believe in that, then ta’aruf is definitely not for you.

How do you know that you’re not buying a cat in a sack?
Well, as an aspiring psychologist, I was taught to interview and observe people. So that’s basically my main tool – I prepared a question list and tried my best to be observant. I also asked some of his friends and family about him; about what he’s like and what his flaws are. He also did the same thing. Additionally, I included all of my family members to be the judge. If one of them said no, then I might too.

Throughout the process, can you say ‘no’ if you find out something you don’t like about the guy?
Of course. The ta’aruf process takes place until the day of Akad. There’s a lot that could happen, and that’s why most of the couple who do ta’aruf don’t announce their wedding until at least two weeks before the D-day. Throughout the process, my parents kept asking me whether I still want to go on and reminding me to do the istikharah prayer to strengthen my decision.

How was it when you met for the first time?
It was actually not as terrifying as what I expected. My dad opened the “meeting”, but we didn’t need help to continue the conversation. Both of us asked plenty of questions that we wrote on our phone. One thing about ta’aruf is, everything’s clear. No question is off-limits, because we both know where we are going with this since our first meeting. And even better, as someone who’s terrible with small talks, we can go straight to the deep conversation as early as possible.

So I asked him about his aspirations in life, his relationship with his family, his view on women with high degree and a good career, his view about the role of husband and wife, and his opinion on parenting. Meanwhile, he asked me about my vision on marriage, the way I’d treat his mother, and how do I express my anger, among other things. We also talked about political views and religious beliefs.

How often did you see him or contact him?
We met officially about five times before getting married: One time with my parents (only the four of us), one time with my whole family, once with his family, once during the engagement, and once about two weeks before the wedding (when I was in doubt and need to make sure a few things). But we met on a few other occasions related to the wedding-preparation.

He didn’t want us to directly contact each other, but I asked him to, because I need all the chance I can get to get to know each other and make sure that we’re right for each other. So we chat through WhatsApp quite regularly (though only to discuss important matters, nothing personal or affectionate at all), and we talk through a phone call once (when we kind of had a fight). That’s all, folks!

Did you have any doubt in the process?
I did, actually. Repeatedly. A lot of things make me feel too worried, from certain qualities I found out about him that I don’t really like, to questions from my friend who never knew anything about ta’aruf (Questions like... “Are you really sure you want to do this?”, “how would you know if He really is a good person?”, “Are you in love with him yet?”, etc.)

What was the biggest obstacle?
Myself. I was never in a relationship before, and my parents raised me to be ambitious and independent. Somehow it affects me to put a high expectation on people. It's hard for me to accept people's flaws. Until I realize that perfection just doesn't exist. I'm not even perfect myself; so who am I to expect it from others?

So how did you learn to accept his flaws?
My mom taught me to stay focused on his strengths, while remembering that he accepted all my flaws, too. That work even better than I thought. Luckily he doesn't mind me complaining (or at least he pretend not to), because marriage is also about growing together, right?

How did you talk about financial issues and other matters that are quite personal and yet is important to talk about?
We didn't have that conversation in detail before we get married. I know it's important, but I didn't want to seem too materialistic (since we didn't know each other well back then). But once we became a spouse, we had the conversation right away. It wasn't awkward at all because we both know about a husband and wife's rights and obligations in Islam.

How much did little things (like snoring or any other habits) matter in your decision making?
I didn’t really consider small things, because I divide my criteria into two categories: major/unchangeable and minor/changeable. I wouldn’t take anything under the minor/changeable category as a deal-breaker, because it would be unfair to. I put it under my to-complain-list, though, haha.

How could you be sure that he’s the right guy?
Honestly, I was never sure. I’m very logical, so it’s hard for me to be sure of something with lack of evidence. I’m also quite ruminative. The “what if” questions keep popping in my head, running around. What if he’s now someone he said he was? What if it’s just for show? What if I make the wrong decision here? What if everything I know is wrong? What if just another jerk? Etcetera.

Whenever I was in doubt, I reminded myself of what I look for a partner. It’s hard to say no when all of my checklists got ticked. 

Someone told me that love comes with consequences. There are consequences that we have to take if we want to be with a certain kind of person. For instance, if you want to be with a smart and independent woman, then you have to accept that she will be a bit stubborn. Someone also told me that whenever I see the bad in someone, know that at that very second, that person might see the bad in us, too. Another someone told me that if she wants to marry someone that fits her perfectly, she’d marry herself.

See where I’m going with this? Perfect guys don’t exist. People come with their own strength and baggage. It’s not like I’m perfect, anyway.

What are the things that you find helpful to banish all the doubts?
I found it helpful to talk to people who got married through ta’aruf, talk to people who are happily married and talk to my parents (who happen to be both). Luckily, I’m surrounded by a lot of people who are wise enough to help me see things through.

Another thing that works is, of course, talking to Allah. I pray for him to always shower me with blessings in life and hereafter and protect me from harms. Keeping myself busy also works, as it prevents me from overthinking way too much.

In the end, I decided to just let things be. If the process is trouble-free, then perhaps it’s meant to be. In the end, I realize that no matter how much I use my logic to come up with reasons why this ta’aruf-thing won’t work, the universe keeps reminding me that even being where I am today with so little effort is beyond logical. That there really is Someone out there answering all of my prayers; watching me, guiding my every step, opening doors of opportunities, closing doors I don’t need, protecting me from harms, and making things easy for me. That I became the person that I am today not only because of me and what I do, but also because Allah has been helping me through it all. And He will continue to do so if I keep my faith strong and let Him do His wonders. So in the end, I kept reminding myself, why do I need to worry? When all my life, He has never wronged me, not even once?

And how is your marriage now?
This is too early to tell, and too long to describe in detail. But I assure you, I didn’t regret my decision. If not through ta’aruf, I don’t think I can meet a person this good. This pious, this patient, this kind, and this selfless; cause I haven’t found any guy like him in real life. And of course the fun thing about getting married this way is, every day after we get married, we learn something new about each other. Things get exciting that way. There are obviously some awkward moments as well, but only for the first few days. No big deal.

Any tips for anyone who is planning to do this (or is going through ta’aruf)?
Keep your faith strong. Keep reminding yourself what your marriage goal is, and what kind of person will be most suitable to walk with you towards that goal. Set your criteria in order, from the most important to something that's just a bonus. If you need someone to discuss your problems with, pick some friends who are familiar or comfortable with ta’aruf process; ideally those who have gone through the same thing. Lastly, never stop praying. Ask for His guidance and protection, and I guarantee you, you’ll feel a lot better.

I wish I could share a lot more, but this post is too long already. Hopefully this might help you understand ta’aruf better. Ask away if you want to know something I haven’t explained here!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What 2016 was About

I don't really celebrate new years, but I do take them as a chance to pause and think about the things that I have done for the last 12 months. My 2016 was not as amazing as 2015 (when I had the chance to live independently and away from my comfort zone), but it's still a good year for me.

My 2016 was about coming home.

It was the year I learned to appreciate the presence of those who will always support and love me, even when I'm not so lovable. 

It was the year I found out what it was like to return home realizing that everything stays the same when we're the only one who's changing.

My 2016 was about pursuing my dreams.

It was the year when I started working for an inspiring, prominent minister for 6 months, being surrounded with people with great minds and hearts. The year I stepped out of my comfort zone once more, doing a job I never thought I'd do.

It was also the year I left something I enjoy doing to do something that's even better. The year I realized that it's a meaningful life that I'm after, and even if I have to spend 2 and a half years working my ass off to achieve that, so be it.

My 2016 was about honesty and acceptance.

It was the year I really learned to be assertive and to stand up for myself, to really start embracing all the things I feel proud of myself. It was also the year I learned to accept my flaws. It's the year I started to love the ambitious, anxious, awkward being that I am.

It was the year I granted myself a pat on the back and appreciated the fact that I've come a long way. The year I noticed that I'm not really the same person I was a few years ago. The year I learned that not all friends I have are meant to stay forever. To grow apart is inevitable sometimes, and that's okay.

It was also the year I started writing in a journal again, admitting things I never had the courage to before. The year I stopped being so pretentious, even to myself. The year I listed all the things that I fear the most. Because everything that's shareable is indeed bearable, I believe.

A glimpse of my 2016

My 2016 was about discovery.

It was the year I met new significant friends and new role models. The year I discovered another comfort zone, and saying goodbye just to find another one. The year I traveled a lot, both for business and leisure. The year I found some awe-inspiring books, despite reading 8 books less than the Goodreads goal.

My 2016, however, was not always sunshine and roses.

It was the year I started questioning my life decision. The year I asked repeatedly to myself if I'm after the right thing. The year I kept ruminating about my life. The year I regretted my decision to not disclose something that I felt, that could probably lead to something good. It was also the year I stopped wanting to grow older. The year I wanted the time to slow down a bit, for the first time in a very long time. 

Be that as it may, I learned a lot last year. I changed a little, and I hope for the better.

My 2016, therefore, was about growing up. 

I hope I won't stop growing this year and the next. I hope I could be even happier, by feeling grateful even for tiny little things that I'd encounter. The academic life this year will be tougher than the last, as I was told, so I do hope I'll be even tougher to face it. I hope I'd always remember what I'm doing it for. 

I hope last year did you well, too, and so will this one.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

To Grow A Little Older

You know you're getting older when you start focusing on things that matter. When you stop caring about things that look cool but you're not really keen on. When you care less about what people think. When you spend more time with people that you know are going to help you to be a better person. When you are no longer obsessed with being accepted by people who aren't. When you start accepting your flaws and embracing your strength. When you feel proud about who you are, regardless of who you're not.

So I know I'm getting older when I'm no longer the girl who worries about raising her hand in the class. The girl who has nothing to say. The girl who regrets not answering a question in the class when she turns out to be right. The girl who's afraid to be wrong. The girl who's afraid to be judged, to be looked down upon, to be laughed at, to be stared at. I've changed a little, and I think my maturity has something to do with that, along with the experience I've had in the real world.

You know you're getting older when you can't help but ruminating about your life and the future. Over and over again. It gets worse when you're an overthinker like I am. Even worse when it's only a few days away before you turn a year older.

I used to be a little obsessed with getting older, as I had always been the youngest-girl-in-the-room for the last 7 years. I thought and acted like a 23 even before I was 20. I grew up too fast, some might say. But surprisingly, when I finally (almost) become 23, I feel a little scared. I'm no longer excited to be older. It's no longer hypothetical now: I really am 23. Just two more years before 25 (though inside I feel like already am). I mean, where did all the time go?

The good thing is, I'm quite sure that I'm exactly where I want to be. Well, not quite there yet, but I need to give myself a break. It's still going to be a long, bumpy road, but at least the journey has been delightful. At least, compared to a few years ago, I'm making progress.

Some prayers are still unanswered, but I won't ever doubt His timing nor plans. He will always be with me, guiding and showing me the way. So why worry, indeed.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Tentang Kembali Pulang

Minggu ini, saya kembali ke kampus yang dulu pernah jadi tempat saya berkembang dan menemukan diri saya. Rasanya seperti kembali ke rumah setelah beberapa tahun pergi untuk mengembara. Kelas yang sama, meja dan kursi yang sama, dan dosen yang kurang lebih sama. I'm the only one who's changed. Or more precisely, grown.

Beberapa orang, bahkan dosen di kampus, mempertanyakan keputusan saya untuk mengambil program magister untuk kedua kalinya. Kan sudah punya gelar S2? Kan sudah pernah kuliah di Inggris? Kan sudah dapat pekerjaan yang strategis dan disukai? Kenapa harus kuliah lagi? Kenapa nggak PhD saja sekalian?

Pertanyaan-pertanyaan tersebut punya satu jawaban yang sederhana. Meskipun mungkin terdengar klise, menjadi psikolog adalah impian saya sejak saya masih berusia sepuluh tahun - bahkan sebelum saya tahu apa itu psikologi. Setelah lulus kuliah, segala hal yang saya lakukan (termasuk kuliah di Inggris) tidak lain dan tidak bukan adalah untuk mempersiapkan dan mematangkan diri saya agar dapat menjadi seorang psikolog yang dewasa dan siap menghadapi dunia luar dengan segala keberagamnnya, sambil mengeksplorasi opsi-opsi lain yang tersedia bagi saya. So I tried being a teacher, researcher, consultant, and employee. And while I love those jobs, my dream hasn't changed a bit. Being a psychologist is still what I aspire to do. And when I want something badly, I'll do whatever it takes to get it.

So here I am. Leaving Sudirman for Depok. Going back to the place I once called my second home. I grew up there, and I'll grow again. I learned so much about life and about myself there, and I'll learn again.

Dua setengah tahun ini akan jadi perjalanan yang berat. Minggu pertama ini saja sudah terasa sangat berat. Gelar terakhir saya kemarin pun justru tidak membuat saya jadi ongkang-ongkang kaki, tapi justru memacu saya untuk belajar lebih giat lagi karena ekspektasi orang lain terhadap saya tentu jadi puluhan kali lebih tinggi, begitu pula ekspektasi saya terhadap diri saya sendiri.

Whatever it is that I'm going to face for the next two, three years, I know it will be worth it. If things get bad (though I hope it won't), I just need to take a deep breath and remember why did I want to do this in the first place.

Saya harus terus ingat bahwa setelah ini, saya bisa melakukan lebih banyak hal daripada yang bisa saya lakukan sekarang. Saya bisa melakukan hal-hal yang saya sukai. Saya bisa memberikan diagnosis, memberikan terapi, dan membuat orang merasa lebih baik. Saya bisa membantu lebih banyak keluarga dan membuat diri saya jauh lebih bermanfaat. Saya bisa merealisasikan mimpi-mimpi saya satu persatu. Jadi, ketika nanti saya mulai jenuh menjalani kuliah yang berat di saat teman-teman saya yang lain sedang bersenang-senang, saya harus ingat, bahwa setelah ini, ada tujuan besar yang akan saya capai. Ada kesempatan besar yang akan terbuka lebar. I know I feel happiest when I do things that matter, so there's that. Something I definitely should hold on to when things get bad.

The latest picture I took in UI with my brother and cousins. I've conquered it, and I will again.

And hey, I've come this far. Farther than I thought I would ever be. So whatever it is that I'm going to face, I'll try to remember that nothing is ever beyond what I can bear. I won't be facing it alone anyway, since there's Someone who will always, always look out for me and make things easy.


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