Twelve years ago

#throwbackThursday #Kamisnostalgis

Early this year, in a conference where I presented a keynote address, a young researcher approached me and said,”Professor Lim, I’m a fan. I read every single work you have published, including the very old one from a long time ago.” I was flattered but also felt like a 100 year-old professor.

I smiled and said, “Thank you, that’s very nice of you. Oh… the very old one from a long time ago? Was it published in 19th century?”

The person laughed and replied, “Oops sorry, I meant your 2002 Panopticon to Pandemonium article … it feels like a long time ago to me….. but, I think is still relevant today.” The statement was supposed to make me feel better…. but ouch, the damage was done 😉

Year 2002!!! My first international peer-reviewed journal article was indeed published twelve years ago and yes it does feel like a long time ago! Cannot believe it myself.

I wrote the above-mentioned article in 2001. 2001-2002, during those years I was just a confused soul, in a limbo, waiting for a certainty to begin my PhD program (which was supposed to begin in 2001 but for some reason it didn’t work). I didn’t have any job but was too embarrassed to come back home to live with my parents. I didn’t ask for anybody’s help and was quite good at pretending that I was not poor (materially). So, to deal with the situation I decided to live in nomad with only one suitcase. To fund my living cost, I was working as a freelancer of everything–a consultant, choir coach, designer, illustrator, 3D (CAD/rendering) modeller and independent researcher, among others–and applying for (and was awarded) various short-term (small amount) fellowships and travel grants that enabled me to travel from one place to another depending where projects/events/conferences took me. I spent about 17 months traveling and living in more than twenty cities in various countries, slept in a 5 stars hotel, a budget hotel, a hostel, a dorm, a rented room, an airport, a train station, a car, a bench, among others.

As for an affiliation I needed to put in paperwork and publications, since I had none I put the SCoT (Social Construction of Technology) Research Group in Bandung, where I worked for two years (1999-2000) that in 2001 actually no longer existed. It was a fictional institution! [well that group always exists for some of us, virtually] I couldn’t put my parents’ address (they had no idea that I was unemployed and had not yet started my PhD) so my only permanent contact was my private @bdg.centrin.net.id email.

Those were strange and not easy but not bad years. Certainly memorable ones. I eventually started my Ph.D. in 2003, so all’s good man! 

Today, twelve years later, in a limbo I am not. A confused soul, I still pretty much am.


(pembicaraan asli terjadi dalam bahasa Inggris, diterjemahkan seenaknya)

Di awal tahun ini, di sebuah konferensi dimana saya diundang untuk bicara, seorang peneliti muda mendekati saya dan berkata, “Professor Lim, saya fan anda. Saya membaca setiap karya anda, termasuk satu yang jadul banget.” Saya tersanjung sih tapi juga koq makjleb…..merasa tua bangka bau tanah.

Saya tersenyum lalu menjawab, “Terimakasih, anda baik sekali. Tapi oh… yang jadul banget ya? Dari abad ke-19 kah?”

Si peneliti muda tertawa dan membalas, “Ooh, maaf, maksud saya artikel anda dari tahun 2002 yang berjudul Panopticon to Pandemonium…. serasa jadul sih buat saya…. tapi saya rasa masih relevan hari ini.” Sepertinya dia berusaha membuat saya tidak terlalu terluka, tapi tetap dong….

Tahun 2002! Memang itu tahun keramat. Artikel jurnal internasional pertama saya memang dipublikasikan dua belas tahun lalu dan memang terasa sangat amat jadul sekali!!!

Saya malah menuliskan artikel tersebut di tahun 2001. 2001-2002, tahun-tahun itu saya memang bingung bin galau, terombang-ambing, dengan nasib tak tentu karena saya menunggu kepastian tentang sekolah S3. Masalahnya saya terlanjur meninggalkan rumah dan sudah bilang sama orang tua bahwa saya akan sekolah (karena satu dan lain hal rencana sekolah menjadi tidak jelas terutama karena dana/beasiswa yang dijanjikan ternyata tak jelas) dan malu untuk kembali tinggal bersama mereka. Saya juga malu untuk bilang-bilang apalagi minta bantuan sama orang lain. Jadilah diam-diam saja dan memutuskan saya bisa hidup nomad dengan modal sebuah koper besar (yang berat banget!). Untuk membiayai hidup, saya kerja paruh waktu sebagai macam-macam: konsultan, pelatih paduan suara, tukang gambar, desainer, tukang bikin model 3D, peneliti independen, dll. Saya juga melamar (dan mendapatkan) pelbagai fellowships dan grants singkat untuk bisa jalan-jalan dari satu tempat ke tempat lain tergantung dimama proyek/konferensi/lokakarya diadakan. Alhasil saya menghabiskan sekitar 17 bulan di jalan, hidup dan jalan-jalan di lebih daripada dua puluh kota di banyak negara. Karena saya memang jenis manusia yang ngga pernah minta numpang di rumah orang kecuali diundang, jadilah saya sempat tidur di macam-macam tempat dari hotel bintang lima, hotel melati, hostel, asrama mahasiswa, kos-kosan, bandara, setasiun kereta, mobil, bangku taman, dll.

Karena butuh afiliasi untuk dicantumkan di dokumen2, saya pakai SCoT (Social Construction of Technology) Research Group di Bandung, tempat saya kerja selama 2 tahun (1999-2000). Tahun 2001 sih si SCoT ini sebetulnya sudah tidak ada alias fiksi! [Tapi sih si SCoT ini selalu eksis buat beberapa orang, termasuk saya] Kontak yang saya pakai kemana-mana hanyalah email pribadi (@bdg.centrin.net.id) karena memang tidak punya alamat tetap.

Tahun-tahun yang aneh, tak mudah, tapi sama sekali tidaklah buruk. Dan tentunya tak terlupakan. Toh akhirnya saya memulai Ph.D saya di tahun 2003.

Hari ini, dua belas tahun kemudian, saya tidak merasa terombang-ambing lagi. Tapi rasanya tetap berjiwa galau.

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