Six and a half years ago, I moved to the States to follow my American dream — whatever that was. My first time coming to the US was when I was 17 years old and an exchange student for a year. I knew I would return to chase more opportunities in life. In 2017, I started that journey. I moved to New York City, where the most diverse, creative, and ambitious people come to pursue their dreams.
Fast forward to today, I feel proud that I could call NYC my comfort zone for once. And by feeling comfortable, I mean having to overcome all the struggles (well, not all, but you know — because every day is a struggle here). It had not been easy since I stepped foot in this city. I come from Indonesia, where not many people know where it is. Being not just a minority but also an outcast had not been great. People looked down on me; I felt like I had to prove myself more and work harder due to language and cultural differences, and trying to fit in was a struggle. Even as simple as my legal status here, it’s always been a nightmare (I could probably write a dedicated blog post to explain why and how hard it was to immigrate to the US — if you’re not rich or genius). And not to mention how fucking expensive everything is here. Every day was a survival day.
Yes, it had been so difficult. Yet I don’t regret my decision to come here. I think it’s the best decision I made in my early 20s. I checked many boxes here; I learned A LOT from this city and this country.
- How to understand more about myself and stay true to myself
- How to be more confident and stand up for myself
- How to navigate life
- How to find friends for life
- How the support system matters
- How to be grateful for small things
- How work politics works
- How to trust and not trust people
- How to come to realization how fucked up we are in this crazy world
- Lastly, how to think more about making my life more meaningful to the community and globally
The last few months here were my turning point. And the reason why I’m closing this chapter and taking a leap to the next one.
It was hard to be truly honest with myself. I felt like I had been living in one direction — pursuing what society sees as success, such as having degrees from top universities, getting good jobs, making more than enough money, and having more options to live comfortably, which is not wrong. But for me, there’s something else that I think is more fulfilling that I’m eager to find out.
I realized that my frustration was largely due to a lost interest in what I was doing and my disappointment in the political economy of capitalism. It all started when I faced some resistance at work. Because let’s be honest, work is a large part of our lives. At first, I thought the main reason was that I felt burnout — I noticed I was working on things that were not aligned with my interests, sometimes working long hours, values mismatches, and the list can go on.
I felt frustrated and anxious for a few months, which significantly changed my routines. Getting up in the morning was difficult, and I felt drained right after work. If it were because of burnout, I would get back on track once I took a break. But oddly, I was still unmotivated after I took a break. Thankfully, I started to learn more about coping mechanisms and anxiety management after I regularly had therapy sessions. I was also grateful I had a career coach outside work. They helped me immensely, from improving self-awareness, self-introspection, and self-care to self-parenting.
I kept hitting the wall when I questioned myself, “What am I doing? Then, what? What’s next?” Not many people would agree with me, but I’m a believer that life is too short, and I don’t know if I’ll still be alive a year, a month, a week, or a day from now. When I die, I won’t bring all the materialistic things. So, I want to make the full of life by exploring it.
Not being able to answer those questions in my current situation made me realize the root cause was that I had not been honest with myself, my values, and what I wanted to do.
Maybe I was sick of capitalism as well. Don’t get me wrong; I believe how it economically helps us get to where we are post-industrialism. But as a designer, I was so frustrated that we normalized maximizing profits over human needs or social good. I don’t call myself a socialist either, but I was just sick of “business as usual.”
I took a step back and had a self-introspective. The reason I became a designer, a Product Designer to be specific, was that design was the stuff that helped us in our daily lives. I simply wanted to help and inspire people to do better. For me, design has a direct correlation with shaping people’s lives. I also learned that design was more valuable when paired with an understanding of business acumen, which I agree with. But I feel like it has been exploited to the point that it “should” benefit the business without thinking deeply about the implications in social, economic, and humane matters.
When I wrote this blog, I was reading a book by Matthew Mizinsky called “Design after Capitalism,” which a friend recommended. It validated my feelings and gave me perspective on what to do next. A phrase from the book that I love is,
“To combine design entrepreneurship with social empowerment in order to facilitate new ways of producing those things, symbols, and experiences that make up everyday life.” — Matthew Mizinksy
Growing up in a developing country largely influenced my perspectives and values, and I see that as a strength. Having had the opportunity to work in the Western environment, I have been part of creating innovation to use technology to create a “better world.” But if I stay true to myself, solving more fundamental problems with technology is sometimes too premature, specifically in most parts of the world.
I realized in the last few years that I had been too pragmatic to stay in the lane and be satisfied with what I did, like following what the majority of society thinks success is (again, it is not wrong — but I believe I should balance out between being pragmatic and idealistic).
I realized I have been containing my dream into what I can do, not what I hope to do. I’ve been wondering what life might be like if I take control of my career. It’s not necessarily building a multinational empire, but just something more rewarding: combining design thinking and entrepreneurship to create something that I believe solves a real problem, helps the community, and makes up everyday life.
And, now what?
To be honest, I don’t know. I know what I want to pursue is something bigger than I probably could imagine. I also want to stay true to myself with what excites me most: coffee, food, and travel. I want to anchor the impact I could bring to the community with this passion.
I guess being a diaspora and having the opportunity to travel to many countries (37 and counting!) made me realize how my native culture, Indonesian, is being underappreciated globally, especially in the food and beverages industry. This is a challenge and an opportunity.
For the foreseeable future, I want to share more about Indonesian coffee (and food, of course!) with the global community. Regarding how, I don’t know, haha. This is why I’m starting this new journey to find that out. I can open a cafe somewhere, a coffee truck that goes from place to place, write a book about it, or be a salesperson. The sky is the limit, and the risk is high. But I think I’ll be fine. It will be exciting and rewarding once I figure it out.
I want to be more honest with myself, engage with life, and live life to the fullest. I want to get lost in life and find surprises along the way, to be my better self. It will be challenging, but all I need to do is just be open and more accepting and enjoy the ride.
OK — that’s the prologue, why I’m writing this blog series. It’s not meant for an inspirational story. It’s just about some mediocre girl trying to engage with life, struggling with adulting, and trying to find her better self. Mainly venting about life.
If you enjoy reading my struggles, you can buy me ko-fi too!