Friday, June 26, 2015


As a Chinese descendant in Indo, in my younger years I struggled with the idea of belonging. I felt that the nation itself didn't acknowledge me fully as their own, so I wrestled with the idea that I wasn't a native anywhere. Where did I belong then? The Chinese (mainland Chinese) would have nothing to do with me as I don't even speak their language and I don't know their customs and their way of life. I wasn't interested in learning the language at all as it was a grueling process that needed money and determination (I chose to study English instead) and in my young mind at that time, I didn't want to be even more "Chinese" than I already was. I was bitter and angry for some years because of this.

A square peg in a round hole. That was what I felt. My saving grace was the fact that there was a big Chinese community in Indo and I had lots of friends that were in a similar position and I grew up with lots of relatives and cousins. When the riot happened in 1998, I felt sick to my stomach that my Chinese facial features could have made me a target of attacks (FYI my family was safe), but there were others who were in a similar position, so I didn't feel alone and I was definitely not alone. We tried looking out for one another as a group and we tried to stay home as much as we could. After the political situation got better in Indo, I started to be more at ease and the older I got, the more I came to terms with the non-native idea. I'm a citizen of the world, native to none and that's OK. 

Now, after having lived in Finland for a little over 8 years, I'm partly Chinese-Indonesian, partly Finnish, and partly Indonesian. Even with this hodgepodge of cultures within me, I can still find other people like me relatively easily through the wonder of the internet and as an expat in Finland, it's again relatively easy to find other expats and relate to them.

Being a childless-not-by-choice woman, though, that took the isolation to a whole new level as regular people (even those that didn't lack empathy in other areas) couldn't really relate to this. The first time I used the world "infertile" in my emails to my closest friends, their reaction was so strong that it made me feel as though I had jinxed myself for using that word to describe myself. Yet I desperately needed the term to find my support group, to find those people who could understand and validate my inner chaos (and thereby validate that I wasn't a bad person just because I had my inner chaos). After we decided to let go of this dream, I started using the term non-mom or childless-not-by-choice (CNBC) as my self-identification in order to find my support group.

That said, these days I've started thinking more about labels and how I'd like to call myself. All through these years there's one thing that never changes about me: I LOVE exploring my own thoughts and feelings and finding out why I feel the way I feel and then figuring out what to do with them. I enjoy the ecstasy of screaming out "EUREKA!" when I finally find out why I feel the way I feel, even way before I can figure out what to do with them.

So hereby I'd like to declare my current badge: I'm an Eternal Self-Explorer. Nice to meet you. :-)

Image taken from here


  1. I really loved this post, Amel. I found it really interesting, because I've often wondered about how you feel living in Finland but coming from Indonesia. I have two Chinese-Malaysian sisters-in-law, but of course, the Chinese population there is so much bigger. My niece though, is part-CM, part kiwi (NZ), but left NZ when she was eight, and doesn't really feel like she belongs anywhere.

    Pile the whole childless-not-by-choice on this, and I can understand how isolated you feel. I'm really surprised that your friends reacted that way. But then I've had one or two odd responses to use of that term, or simply reference to living without children, too. I don't really see what is objectionable about it!

    I love though that in conclusion, you've decided to label yourself. And what a wonderful label - Eternal Self-Explorer is a brilliant label! Nice to meet you too.

    1. Ah, your niece is a star child. Here's a great article on it:

      I Am A Triangle

      Actually I think being an expat alone or a non-native alone is still nothing compared to the isolation of being a CNBC, though I reckon that it depends on safety as well. Things can be much more complicated if you feel that you're unsafe being of a certain race/having certain facial features. That said, though, being a CNBC is so much more misunderstood on so many "wrong" levels and there's definitely a lot more emotional turmoil inside.

      I believe my friends were just trying to keep the hope afloat by not letting me use the word, though it didn't help at all as I was hurting a lot at that time. And yes, the world has given people labels all the time, so I figured why not give it to myself? I can choose whatever label I want that way he he he...:-)

  2. Thought provoking. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  3. I love the idea of being an eternal self-explorer! Thanks for the reminder that we can always choose how we define ourselves.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and your comment. :-) Yeah, I was thinking that the whole world was always ready to label us this and that, so why not choose the label ourselves? :-D


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