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by Jennie S. Bev

For the first time after 15 years abroad, I am spending New Year’s Eve in Jakarta, my hometown. I recall how different things were during my childhood. Born and raised in the Menteng district around Cikini, Gondangdia, Sabang and Jl. Gereja Theresia, I would have been called an “inner city kid” in the US. Here, skyscrapers, businesses, embassies and government offices were everywhere. It was a convenient place to do business, but not to have a “normal” childhood.

Despite the child-unfriendly environment, it allowed me to ponder upon the meanings of many unanswered things, which helped me develop the mindset and skills required to survive in the diaspora. 

Unlike most of my friends who resided in the suburbs or other outer parts of Jakarta, I could not ride a bicycle. My parents said it was not safe for a fair-skinned little girl like me to ride a bike in the midst of heavy traffic. Other than this, I was also shielded from “inner city” crimes, so I stayed at home a lot. 

Books were my only friends, as I did not have any sibling to play with. I stayed in my room reading, studying and writing. Early on, I learned to be critical of things around me. I would search for meanings and debate. I would develop my own opinions and philosophize. 

When I was in sixth grade, I would type on my orange Brother typewriter pages of “what I think”. And as a member of the Cathay Pacific frequent flyer club for children, I handwrote letters to pen pals around the world. I had been a bilingual writer for as long as I could remember, which taught me to relate to people from faraway lands, some of which were pretty progressive.

They showed me how large the world was, far beyond the suffocating and chaotic atmosphere of inner-city Jakarta. After graduating from the University of Indonesia, I chose to follow my dream: merantau.

Now that I reside in Silicon Valley without an IT-related degree, I rely on critical thinking skills, creativity, entrepreneurship and a very strong urge to innovate. These traits were cultivated when I was in my room reading, studying and writing. Through books on various subjects, I entered a very different realm: A domain of highly intellectual and driven individuals who could make things happen with their bare hands and strong minds. 

Through books, I gained a faith in my own mind and an ability to create something out of nothing. In solitude, skill sets required in a post-industrialist world were developed.

When I started my first Silicon Valley-based company with less than US$1,000, I tapped into what I had within, which was the only choice at that time. Accelerating progress is a requirement to survive in one of the most competitive regions in the world. Today, these traits are even more valuable, as the global economy is in a pretty bad shape.

The good thing is, now we are more empowered to make changes on individual, regional and international levels merely by the power of our minds. The Internet allows the world to be experienced in written and image formats. 

Having a surplus of knowledge is key to post-industrialism. This is something Indonesians need to be aware of. The rest of the world is progressing pretty rapidly, despite the currently sluggish economy. With 4 to 5 million babies being born annually, Indonesia has an obligation to provide a better future for them, so they will not grow up as the world’s “pariahs”.

Increasing knowledge-based productivity is key. Education, including self-education, is one of the sure paths. Schooling, on the other hand, is only important as a means to learn basic skills. 

A lifetime commitment to learning new skills and acquiring knowledge can be started with curiosity and critical thinking. Learning, after all, is fascinating. 

Let’s welcome 2013 with a commitment to increasing productivity in light of achieving post-industrialism, at least on an individual level whenever and wherever we can.[]

The Jakarta Post, December 30, 2012

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