On Coming Full Circle
Facebook style that is!
If you have been following my blog from way back then, you would know my backstory a bit. For those who are new, I will try to elaborate. In the meantime, please do get comfortable as I get the feeling that this post will be quite long.
How it All Began
In what seemed like a whole different lifetime ago, I was married to an American man. We tied the knot on a beautiful day of autumn, early September 2005, in Latham, New York. It was a really small wedding. Nothing fancy. Just him, me, his son, and his then-girlfriend also our pug. Came to America with the now famously made TV show 90 Day Fiance – which by the way, is a very cringed-worthy show but that’s a whole other post on its own – visa and we did have 90 days to get married.
Looking back now, I feel for the old Maureen. She was young, naive, and only saw love through distorted thick rose-tinted glasses. He was my ‘escape’ from the crazy dating scenes in Jakarta. My naive mind went “Great, now I’m married and life should automatically be happily ever after, right?” Wrong!
Ladies, this is my public service announcement. Please, DO NOT put that responsibility to make YOU happy in someone else’s hands. That’s a total recipe for disaster and I’ve crawled through that hell. You are responsible to make yourself happy, it is not your partner/boyfriend/husband/children’s job. Took me a divorce and a whole lot of heartache to realize this oh, so important life lesson.
My marriage quickly fell apart in under 5 years, we have a son together, born in a small town in Alabama. He, my ex, got a job in Guangzhou, China and I was there for only 2 months out of the whole year contract he had. In that year, because of my Conditional Permanent Resident (green card) status, I had to return to America and we were hoping we could apply for my Permanent card (valid for 10 years) while I was there 2009. We hit a roadblock due to the rules and all that.
My son and I left America through Los Angeles, California on a cold January afternoon a decade ago to fly straight to Guangzhou, China. Strangely enough just before our flight took off, I had these unexplainable feelings in my guts that would be the last time I stepped foot in America. At the time, my marriage was already deep in the trenches so leaving America felt like closure, in a way I just wasn’t quite aware of yet.
Our short stint of trying to build a new life in China didn’t go as planned. He was there and I was in Jakarta living with my son and family. He came to Jakarta at the end of his contract and we tried again to play house in the ruin of us and that spiraled down fast. We got divorced in 2010 and I fell deep into the dark pit of depression, and swam through the painful parts of divorce and its aftermath.
After all the drama of divorce, I am glad my ex and I were on really good terms when he passed away from cancer last December. May he rest in peace.
Truth be told, I never imagined going back there ever again, especially after I face the final curtain.
What Brought Me Back
Who knew that the support group I started 4 years ago would somehow take me back to the old US of A?! Never dream about it, never plan for it. Heck, not even in my wildest dreams but that’s exactly what happened earlier this month.
Who knew the group that was born out of the demise of my marriage would take me back to America?! Crazy, right? But that’s how this chapter of my life unfolds in its magical ways.
Single Moms Indonesia was selected as one of the fellows on this first global initiative started by Facebook called Facebook Community Leadership Program. Our community has been chosen out of over 6,000 applicants worldwide. I will write more about this experience later – so stay tuned!
Being a true INFJ, I was engulfed by all kinds of different emotions since I found out Facebook is flying me to join more than 115 other community leaders from 46 countries to do the kickoff of FCLP in Menlo Park, California. California?!
I went from being worried sick that my visa would be denied – it’s a long story – to have to deal with my own imposter syndrome of being amongst these great world changers from all over the world. Bittersweet sounds like a perfect word to describe how I feel deep inside. Sweet that a company as huge as Facebook saw something in our small community that they are willing to support us.
There’s also a twinge of sadness that hung heavily in the back of my mind. Knowing how this community has become my life. I have been accused of putting it first above all else in life, I’ve been heavily gossiped about, been accused of crazy things. I sacrificed so much even at the cost of my own relationship which is something I didn’t see coming and still healing from. Just typing that sentence alone still stings me but no, no regrets!
It all came full circle in a sense…
Life can be strangely amusing sometimes but no, no regrets!
What I Learned
Allow me to be transparent here on this platform. To be brutally honest and vulnerable.
Running Single Moms Indonesia hasn’t been easy. If anything it is damn hard but all of these times I choose to hide the hardships, the tears, the struggles from our members, from the world. I decided to only share the positive aspects.
Until one of the amazing team behind FCLP, Sarah Schonberg poignantly asked: “What would happen if you shared the hard stuff with your group?”
Bam! I was floored. All of these times I always thought I need to put a persona that I have it all together. Keeping the struggle all to myself (and a few very well-trusted friends) but you know what, trying to hold everything in left me feeling suffocated at times even coming close to calling it quits altogether.
Being vulnerable somehow felt like a scary thing to do for the group I love. Maybe because of the image I wanted to portray. The strong independent face I wanted our group to know. Yet behind the closed door, life is messy…running a group of over 600 women is not easy and it can be a lonely place to be even when I love the group with every ounce of my being. Convincing others to support us hasn’t been a smooth sailing journey either. God only knows how many tears I’ve shed in frustrations over these years, how many sweats I’ve literally dropped going here and there under the scorching Jakarta sun in seeking sponsorships and trying to form collaborations with others.
Come to think of it, isn’t that what started me off on this journey in the first place?
Me being authentic, open, and brave enough to talk about the pain, about the challenges we face here in Indonesia as single mothers, about my anger, and my struggles, on this very blog that started our community? It was through being raw and honest that Single Moms Indonesia was actually born. This realization hit me like a lightning. Hell yeah, why am I stopping myself from being seen AS IS by my community?!
I am Maureen and I am the founder of the first support group for single mothers in Indonesia! I am imperfect, I have my flaws and shortcomings but I am here to learn and evolve. And so it is…
And then there’s the other side…
The other side of the coin that I rarely discuss. The struggle of following your passions or going for the security of having a steady income as a single mother.
This is the path I had struggled with for so long and now the door is wide open.
I floated back and forth between working full-time in the corporate world and committing myself fully to our cause.
As a single mother, people might think I am crazy to pour all of my time and energy into developing and running this group that didn’t give me any profit. I have a child that needs to be fed, clothed, and provided for. I am the sole breadwinner. Yes, I am very much aware of that, thank you. Yet whenever I was working full time, I found myself unable to juggle everything else and most importantly, I was miserable! Not living my truth was difficult. Not following my passion felt like a death sentence.
Then Facebook changed my life forever. If this is not the biggest sign from God, from the Universe, I don’t even know what! This is no longer a nudge, more like an “In your face, girlfriend!” type of sign and confirmation that I am indeed on the right path. That following my passions and calling was never the wrong thing. That doing things from the heart will always bring you joy. That all the sacrifices I’ve made to come this far will be rewarded greatly. My rewards came from tiny victories of hearing how our members feel supported, helped, and heard. Seeing they help each other out. Seeing how some of them have grown and rebuilt their lives again gave me the utmost joy.
Abundance has been shown to me times and times again to be more than the number in my bank account. Abundance is having a big crazy family that supports me fully when I have to leave my son for FCLP kick-off. Abundance is the kindness of strangers I just met, through comforting hugs from new friends from all over the world. Through the acknowledgment from Facebook that indeed our community matters. Through this new tribe, I discovered from FCLP, the people who get it. Those who knew all the struggles and the hard work it involves in doing things for different causes that matter most to our hearts. These are the people I needed in my life at this stage. For that, I am so freaking grateful!
Abundance is everywhere.
Now tell me, what are your coming full circle stories? I’d love to hear from you.