My Dream Partner
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality — Yoko Ono.
A glass of hot chocolate to warm my freezing body and the scenery of hundreds of buildings topped with sunset above Hudson River from my apartment made me wonder why I would risk everything to take masters in the US. As I was trying to reflect on my past, my Spotify randomly played me Live in New York by the S.I.G.I.T., which reminds me why I always dreamed of living in New York. But that dream was only a dream until I found a girl I could ask to dream with. Years later, that dream becomes a reality.
It was the first day of my permanent placement at a new department in November 2016 that I came to the office ‘late’. There was an unwritten rule where ‘new guys’ in the department should have come at least 7.10 in the morning, while the senior guys could flexibly come to the office up until 8.30 am — a boomer rule that is so bureaucratic and discriminative. I purposely went to the office at 8.00 to ask for ‘her help’ to open the door for me. That was the first encounter that we had.
Our batch in the new department consists of five people who came from five different public universities. Shortly, we became friends, yet we still had a positive competition within the group. We were pretty close that we could watch our backs if something happened to the five of us. However, I felt that ‘she’ and I have more than something in common, mainly when we talked about life, though at that time, we felt that we were so good at becoming friends.
We became very close after she broke up with her boyfriend in February 2017. One day after office, we talked in a 24-hour coffee shop from 10 pm to 4 am. She told me later that our conversation was the longest one she had with her closest ones. She was surprised she had the energy to stay all night long as she is an introverted girl. It was the moment to decide whether she was a friend or more than a friend.
Since I have never had any experience dating a girl who became friends first, there were doubts to convince myself that she was the one. I have several close girlfriends who I could not date since I perceive friends are different from lovers. But she is different. She is clever, beautiful, kind, competitive, fun, and a dreamer. On her birthday in July 2017, I asked her to take our friendship to the next level.
Like other couples, we struggled to understand each other earlier in our relationship. Though our high exposure sometimes restrains our freedom to do whatever we like, we successfully managed our differences by making clear and direct communication. Months after months, our relationship was getting stronger. We realized that we shared the same dream: to live abroad as a couple for some time.
We started to plan the next available step for us living overseas. We concluded that the easiest way was to become students at that time. The more complicated option was to work in the multinational companies and find a way to be transferred to other countries, but this option was way more unpredictable as we could not know when the time came.
Our organization does not allow its employees to marry one another, so the first step was to decide who would resign from our organization. It was not an easy decision. Apart from our organization being one of the most influential organizations in Indonesia and having the most competitive package for its employees, the environment of our department was damn good as the head of departments, directors, managers and other colleagues were so cooperative and supportive.
Finally, we decided that I was the one who resigned, an unpopular decision that almost everyone was against, including our closest ones. However, we concluded that that was our ‘win-win’ solution for our situation. We planned to marry in August 2020, which coincided with the expiration of my legal bind to my employer. After marriage, we then planned to study abroad in the same city in the US. She would take the full scholarship from her employer, and I would try to apply for the full scholarship from Indonesia’s government (LPDP).
The path that we chose was more challenging because it requires us to be accepted both the scholarship and the school, but we believe that it would have a greater outcome for both of us. I hoped that the plan would work because if it did not, I would risk my secure work for another job without having a master’s degree in hand.
Long story short, in December 2019, I was in the LPDP final interview stage for the MBA program, a program that I chose because I wanted to work in the private sector. It was an intense interview, the hardest one I have ever experienced. I lost my temper as I pushed so hard that my reasons were profound. On the night of our engagement, I received the news that I did not pass the final interview, and the dream to pursue an MBA degree faded away.
The next plan was to apply one more time to LPDP in early 2020. I had two options: choosing MBA with new exciting reasons or changing to MPA or MA in finance/econ with more practical reasons. I also applied for Fulbright Scholarship, whereas my fiancé proceeded with her employer scholarship.
However, in March 2020, the global pandemic of Covid-19 hit Indonesia, and shortly Indonesia’s government announced the lockdown. The pandemic stalled my Fulbright application and delayed the opening of the LPDP scholarship. On the other hand, the progress of her scholarship application in her office was also postponed. The pandemic entirely altered our plan to study abroad right after marriage.
Working in the core department responsible for delivering research-based regulation made us work harder to overcome the incoming crisis, the biggest crisis Indonesia has ever had since the monetary crisis in 1998. In that difficult time, we decided to postpone studying abroad as we did not have any chance to get any scholarship. But, we decided not to change the date of our marriage.
During the early pandemic, having a job was already very difficult, let alone finding one. But the show must go on. I changed my focus from preparing for school to finding a job. I landed six interviews from March to June 2020, but I got nothing. It was less than a month before my marriage date, and I still did not secure any job. Period.
She asked me whether I wanted to delay our marriage to give me time to find a job. Then I asked her, “are you OK if I did not have a job for a while?” she replied she was OK with that because she believed in me that I would get a job soon. So I decided to stay with the plan. To put into context, I did not come from money, so yeah, it was a lifetime bet decision.
Finally, in late July, I got a job. At the same time, my dad suddenly passed away. It was strange because it was only two weeks away from my marriage and because my marriage was the last thing my dad wanted. Sometimes, I remember that he always said that he would attend my marriage several times during the lockdown. One thing down, but the show must go on.
I finally married her on 08–08–2020 and started a new job two weeks later. Adapting to a new role, I almost forget about my dream to live abroad. Two months later, I received an interview invitation from Fulbright, which reminded me of my dream. At the same time, she also progressed to the final scholarship interview with her employer. Well, I believed that that was no coincidence. So, again, I juggled with my new work and school preparation.
Shortly, we both secured the scholarships. However, Fulbright does not give a full scholarship, while her scholarship offers a full scholarship. So, the plan was to find schools in the US in the same city. New York became our choice as it has at least three great universities and, more importantly, if I failed to get a school, I could try to work in New York while she studies.
Receiving a Fulbright scholarship does not guarantee you to land a school. The problem was my expensive MBA program, which became a problem for Fulbright to apply to expensive New York-based universities. If I wanted to apply to private universities in New York City, which is more costly, I was required to sign an agreement saying that I would pay the rest of the tuition and living costs. I would not risk my life saving only to get a degree, which I did not know would give me a financial return upon returning to my country.
In March 2021, she already had several LoAs from top US universities in public policy. I also had four LoAs from Fulbright, but none was in the same city as hers. I then decided to withdraw the Fulbright and waited for another LPDP scholarship chance. At the same time, I was offered another job, and I took that opportunity knowing that my choice would be safer if I did not get the scholarship. At that moment, I lost the energy to continue my study.
That LPDP opened the scholarship program in May 2021 was a wake-up call to remember my old dream. While adjusting to a new role in a new job, she encouraged me that I still had a chance to get an LPDP scholarship. With a great support system from her, my family, and my closest friends, I completed all the required documents and essays on time. Subsequently, I was invited to the online test, which thankfully I passed and had to face the final interview.
At the same time, before my LPDP final interview in August 2021, she was busy preparing for her departure to New York, New York. It was a tense period since I still had to adjust to my new job while preparing for the most significant interview that could change my life direction. She also asked me to fly with her to NY because she needed help finding and setting up a new apartment. A week before we flew to NY, I had my final LPDP interview. I would say that the interview went well, but I was not confident enough to say that I would pass.
Since I worked from home, I requested to work from New York, promising that I would only stay for a month to help my wife. Luckily, I had supportive colleagues who understood my condition; my boss then gave his permission. The reason was pretty apparent that I did not believe I could get the scholarship. So, the plan was to let her study in New York and get ready to be in long-distance marriage mode. However, two weeks after arriving in New York, I surprisingly received the scholarship that changed the whole game plan.
Fast forward to the present day, I finally can realize our old dream to live and study together in New York. I thank God that the universe conspired to help me find her. Since then, she has always been there, high and low, in my life.
This writing is an appreciation for my strong kind motivated fun beautiful smart multi-talented <and countless positive adjective words> wife.
A perspective from a grateful husband. Series 2/12.