A Tale of Three Cities

February 10, 2020
Cindy Valensya

I was sitting on the corner of a coffee shop while Dewa’s song was playing on my Spotify. It’s been almost an hour. But here I am, staring at the screen and trying to complete a paragraph that I don’t know how many times I’ve deleted and tried to rewrite again. That old saying was triggered me to write an article about storytelling. I never thought it would be this difficult. Being a part of the strategic narrative consulting firm (Catalyst team) for the past year makes me obsessed with narratives, empowering stories, and storytelling. At the Catalyst, we used to say that we come from different backgrounds, but we believe we are a storyteller from the heart. I used to believe that until finally, my first hour on this couch ended with a sip of the remaining hot vanilla latte but not even a single paragraph I could finish. 😅

“Great stories happen to those who tell them”

Am I a storyteller? How could it be? I am not a talkative person. I used to be quiet and listen to people’s stories. Even my MBTI test says the same thing. I don’t have much to say. “Seriously? Twenty-three years old as a human being, and not even a single story you can propose?” While struggling with these questions in my head, I remember a caption that I wrote in 2017 on Instagram

“It leaves me speechless, then turns me into a storyteller.”

I thought that was an appropriate caption to describe how I feel after traveling for a week on the northern tip of Central Java. Yes, I believe a journey is not solely about how many miles have been traveled, how deep the sea has been dived, or how many cliffs have been conquered.

The journey must leave many questions in your head, encourage gratitude, and inspire you to turn them into a story.

So, these are some of the stories that I got from over the past 23 years of journey.

Home: It All Started From This Place

Tugu Union Illustrated by Aji Pambudi

I was born and raised in a small town in the middle of North Sumatra. Eighteen years of living in this city make me quite familiar with every corner of this city. “Sapangambei manoktok hitei” a Batak philosophy which means “working together for a noble cause” always greets people who come to visit. There’re still many historical buildings in this city, with fading paint and thousand of stories behind them. It all started from here. Every dream and hope begin from this city. I see a lot of things in this city: passion, desire, and purpose. I learn to dare to have a dream, defeat the ego, and acquire independence. Growing up in a Batak family made me understand that everything that is gained today was the result of past processes. “Sian jabu tu halaman sian halaman baru tu balian” is an adage from my grandma. “Started from home then to the yard, from the yard then to overseas.” It all started from here, every determination escorted by a dream and every dream escorted by faith.

Jogja: The Sincerely City

Tugu Jogja Illustrated by Aji Pambudi

“Taxi mba? Malioboro, Prambanan, Magelang ??” I heard from a taxi driver in my first step in Adi Sucipto airport, Jogja. Who doesn’t know this city? This city already has many names before people even come to visit it. It is renowned as a cultural city, center of education, a warm city, city of the artist, and many more. At first, I was not sure what I wanted to call it, until 4 years living in Jogja, I could call it the sincere city. Yes, Jogja doesn’t only offer Prambanan as tourist destinations or present the talented Malioboro artists, or Gudeg as a signature dish that is known for its sweet-savory taste. Jogja is more than that. Jogja can offer happiness through a sip of hot tea and pisang goreng served at Angkringan. Jogja can provide the most genuine smile from an older man who’s pedaling his becak on a crowded street. Jogja taught me to accept and live peacefully with differences. Jogja has a sincere heart, allowing traditional culture and modernity to walk next to each other. Jogja will always be my second home.

Jakarta: The Dreamers

The City of Jakarta Illustrated by Aji Pambudi

Jakarta is full of color, displaying every segment of life. The high-rise building is a testament to its splendor. This city offers a ton of challenges and is still the leading choice for those who want to achieve a better future. Jakarta does have an extraordinary magnet that can attract people to realize their dreams. I never imagined living in this city, but apparently, God has another plan ;). I’ve lived in this city for almost a year. I see everything moving so fast, like something wants to leave but doesn’t want to be released. Ambition, opportunity, grandeur, and challenges are presented simultaneously for those dreamers. “Everything you are looking for is here,” they say. For me, Jakarta is a new canvas that I paint with black as its base so that other colors will be seen clearly on it. Other colors? I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out.

One glass of hot vanilla latte and a banana toast were served back on the table. I am still me — the untalkative person who likes to hear people’s stories. But I realized something; I know every journey has driven me into a storyteller. I think every journey is the way of the universe having a dialogue with me. I can choose to stay quiet but stories will always find their ways to be told. Everyone has their own story.

Storytelling is not just an act of words coming out from the mouth. The moment when you look at the world, think about it with yourself and say,

“How could they possibly create a new pattern of joy in this place?”

Voila, you already become a storyteller.

The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how do you think but to give you a question to think upon — Brandon Sandersen


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