To Live or To Survive

My cellphone rang this morning, there was a short message from Jenaya Adra, my junior at the Faculty of Law – Pelita Harapan University, who is also a member of the Debate and Research Club. She asked me, “Should I take a specialization in Business Law or International Law?”. She is experiencing the same dilemma as I felt two years ago. “Depends”, I said. Depending on where she wants to wander.

What do you want to be? A simple question that actually needs to be thought through, because the answer to this question determines what kind of person you really are.

I’ll tell you a little background about why I ended up choosing Business Law, even though I actually prefer Public Law or International Law instead. I divide things I do into two, to live, things that really make me feel alive as a whole human being, and to survive, things I have to do to keep me alive. In this case, Public Law is an area that makes me live fully, while Business Law is a field that makes me able to survive.

I have known for a long time that I have a volatile activist spirit, I like to support the rights of many people, animals, and even the environment. When I was still sitting in my 4th grade, I read two books that changed my life, first the Girls Club and the second, a book written by Alanda Kariza, a young activist. I started my first social activity as an activist engaged in the environment and education field, that time.

Realistically speaking, working as a full-time activist or volunteer is not easy. Paid far below the minimum wage, we are encouraged to really devote our time and energy to it, and it might be a bit dangerous if we get too meddled in the political sphere. I know, because I have a friend whose WhatsApp was hacked when he voiced aspirations about a Draft Law in Indonesia.

Being a law student, I became more aware and understood the dynamics of life after completing law school. Being a slave to capitalism, in this case, a corporate lawyer, is more financially secure and faster to achieve, than being a person working in the field of Public Law. There might be a lot of people that disagree, but that’s how I feel.

I don’t come from a rich family but I don’t come from a poor family either. My family is enough. There were several times my family business fall, where we had to think about eating tomorrow, but there were also times when the business was smooth. In essence, I know, I can’t always depend on my family’s finances. Starting with this thought, I felt I had to be a realistic person. Not only what I want in the future, but I have to start thinking about survival.

Because you are now in Business Law already, do you know for sure what/where you want to go after this?”, Jenaya said.

I don’t know”, I replied.

Maybe be a corporate lawyer for 1-2 years, then take my master’s abroad. I’ll take what I like, such as dispute resolution, arbitration, maritime law, indigenous law, environmental law, refugee law, or anything. Then maybe, I will look for work abroad, start a new life, leave everything behind.

You know that you don’t have much interest in Business Law, but you still take it. Are you not afraid that you are actually just wasting your time and energy on something that is not really you?”, she asked again.

The thing is, not that I hate Business Law and force myself. I like Law in general, but indeed I have fallen in love with Public Law. But, love grows with time, right? I try to love Business Law, and although it is not as much as my love for International Law, I have a heart here.

One thing you must remember, Jenaya, life is all about process. We are human, yes we make mistakes. Wrong paths, wrong choices, misunderstandings, and many other mistakes. What you have to remember is when you give 100% to whatever you do, when you are wrong, you will learn. Even when you fall, you will rise”, I replied.

There are two perspectives, the first, people who only have one plan and do not have other plans. These people are usually results-oriented. Either way, they have to get that. There are no problems with that, but that’s not what I think is the most important thing in life. Secondly, there are people who have a lot of plans, in layers, if A doesn’t work, then there’s plan B, plan C, to Z. I prefer this one. Making me learn new things, knowing which way is best for me. Every plan that fails, makes us learn. There is no remorse or vanity”, I continued.

Do the best and let God do the rest,“ I said. After that, let’s see what the future will give us.

Thank you, kak Nanna, for giving me the answers I need all this time. Usually, people will only give me the answers that I would love to hear, but I don’t need them. Also, I can now conclude that you are a person who has a lot of plans and bucket-lists“, Jenaya said.

I ended the conversation with, ”Do you know that I actually already have a timeline and milestone, notes of things that I want to achieve and what I have achieved since I was in 5th grade? Including when I plan to start a new family, how many children I want to have, where do I want to live, business that I want to build, etc. Even so, I’m still dealing with a lot of life choice dilemmas, but I am enjoying the process. You have to do it too. And, you don’t have to thank me, I didn’t do anything. Come to me whenever you want, I’m just one call away.


Dear, Jenaya.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love? More or less, life is the same. You might love the wrong person, you might be blinded by love, you might have wasted a good person for you for someone who didn’t worth your time, you broke your heart until you finally recovered. So what? Yes, you are a fool, for falling in love with the wrong person. But you must remember, that person and all memories you have with him, what make you who you are now. You know what you want, you know what you are looking for, you know what hurts, and you know that no matter how hurt it was, it will heal, time will heal. Nothing is in vain, as long as you give 100%, you do your best, and when you do wrong, you learn.

At your age, it’s very normal to start worrying about your future. It’s actually good for you, to at least know where you want to go in this world, what you want to achieve now. The most important thing is, always be someone better than yesterday you. I know you are smart, I know you are kind. Be curious to whatever it is. Keep learning, and stay grounded. I know the universe will continue to be on your side. Enjoy the process, enjoy the fall, get up, then learn. You will be fine.

Dear, everyone who is reading this.
If you are experiencing the same dilemma, start answering these questions to yourself.

What do you want to be?
What do you want people to remember you with?
What is the purpose of your life?
How do you achieve that?
What do you like the most?
Do you continuously feel the emptiness in your heart?
If so, how do you fill that emptiness?
Do you want to live, or just to survive?

If everything is answered, then you know what to do.