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The definition of serenity. Photo by Hannah Richter (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Finalist), Indonesia Semester.

Belum.

Belum. It is the Indonesian word for not yet. When someone asks kamu punya pacar? (do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?) or kamu pernah ke Sulawesi? (have you been to Sulawesi?), you are expected to respond not with bukan (no), but with belum.

 

This optimistic energy has always made learning Bahasa Indonesia so thought-provoking for me. I may be terrible at the language, but my worldview has undeniably evolved from it. The act of responding belum rather than bukan seems small, but it has many implications. I can take steps forward in positive thinking, a skill that I am in dire need of.

 

I picture someone asking me questions like are you happy?, have you developed a passion for something?, are you okay?. Instead of responding in the negative, I can say not yet. This allows me to acknowledge that while I may not be happy or driven or okay yet, I will be and it is up to me to work hard so that I may eventually respond in the affirmative. This approach seems understated next to the legions of self-help books I have read, but taking this step forward has helped me to see the world in a more positive light. I try to live by this and though I do better on some days than others, I continue to press on.

 

On March 13, all of my attempts at positive thinking came to a screeching halt when I read these words: “I’m very sorry to be writing today to announce that we are suspending operations at all Bridge Year program sites”. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet. These words ran through my head. I sunk into my sadness, leaned into my heartache. This program was ripped from my hands, leaving me with nothing but one week and not yet. I haven’t done enough, said the right things, made the correct choices. I went home, numb with the knowledge that there was so much left to do and so much left to see.

 

Not yet.

 

Eventually, my sadness gave way to an unyielding resolve, a determination to stay present and make the most of the time I have left. Not yet. These words give me hope because there is still time. I will savor every minute, no, every second I have here. Every tree, house, motorbike— I will take it all in. I will express my gratitude for everyone who has impacted my experience here. The conversations I have with my homestay family, friends, mentors. The different events I commit to. The memories I continue to make. Everything changes when it becomes a last and not just a fourteenth or fifteenth.

 

I know I should relax, lean into it, accept this news. And I have (partially). But I am determined to leave here without any regrets.

 

There’s still time. We don’t have to leave.

 

At least, not yet.