Faced with the probability of my own death. Your face did not graze the stew of memories I needed to recollect in search of something greater than myself. No words or feelings or last goodbyes to be turned into lines of a memoir.
Sunday 9th of August 2020. I'm frantically riding my Honda C70 toward my last hope—the one person that can tell me if I'm going to die soon or not. Twenty-four hours prior, my friend said to me, "There's a tsunami coming in the next week. It's heading towards Canggu. I'm packing my bags now. I'm going to Ubud. We have to go.”
My mind is trying to wrap itself around the news that I'm now hearing through the mouth of my best friend. Where I come from, I do not take these things lightly. I come from a half-Japanese family, and I grew up with old magic. So unexplainable occurrences like this does not come as a surprise anymore. Growing up with old magic means when I was a kid, I wouldn't go to the doctor's. My dad would just get an energy scan on my back and tell me what's up. He'd put his hand on my shoulder and heal me.
For a dinnertime topic, the one thing I've always asked my dad to repeat over and over again is his old ghost-busting stories from when he was still in university. When other kids would go up to their parents and tell them about the ghost under their bed, they would normally get "Ghosts aren't real, kid." But when I do that, I get, "Oh yeah, yeah. There's a couple in your room." Please don't ever say that. It's terrifying.
And history lessons weren't as fun because on family vacations, my dad would like to take us to these old historical sites around Indonesia, and there are many. He would touch the broken stone temples and tell us of the visions he sees from days long past. Now that is a history lesson. So anyways, warning calls —they're just naturally part of my life.
So my friend continued. "Daniel saw it happen." Daniel is our newly gifted friend. "He saw a giant wave crash over Canggu. It destroyed everything. And it's not just him. A couple of other Balinese girls saw it as well. They're packing their bags as we speak. Aziza, I don't think this is a drill." The next twenty-four hours was filled with turmoil. Am I gonna die? Am I gonna die? Am I gonna die? The question kept repeating itself in my head.
Fate does not need to make sense for it to happen through the cracks. Even if their words mean nothing to your ears, prophecies aren't made to be easy.
That evening I typed up the most ridiculous message in my family group chat. It went, "Hey guys, I might be dead in a couple of days. Something about a tsunami—11th, 15th. Okay, I need answers. Dad, do you see anything?" A couple of minutes later, my dad replies, "Nope." All Dad can see was a fire on the 11th. No tsunami, no earthquake. I'm not satisfied.
So I tracked down all the other seers I knew in my life, which were actually plenty. That's when I realized that I'm a pretty odd child. That's a lie—I've known that forever. And I tried to gather up as much information as I can. So after hours and hours of frantic searching, the conclusion was inconclusive!
So again, I'm on my Honda driving to my gifted friend, the woman that I'm pretty sure has the answers that I'm looking for, which is, "Am I gonna die? Is everyone I know around gonna die? What's gonna happen?"
And in the midst of this frantic driving—not safe, by the way, don't do that. In the midst of this frantic driving, in the midst of my fear of my anxiety, and let's be honest, my mortality crisis, I started asking myself a couple of questions that I feel like everyone sort of does when the idea of death pops into your mind. And so I thought in the face of my death, what affairs do I need to get in order? Who do I need to call? What do I need to confess, and to whom?
And when the answers arose, the sense of, I guess, calm washed over me. 'Cause I realized the answer to those three questions were nothing, no one, and nothing again.
And it wasn't always this way. Backstory. As a child, I developed a problem with lying, as I think all kids do, but in my teens, it developed into something bigger cos at one point, I realized I was a full-blown compulsive liar. I think it was, in some sense, my own way of surviving my parents.
Aside from them being magic, they're also Asian. So growing up with Asian parents, being somewhat culturally rebellious, you could say, yeah, a rebellious kid requires a lot of fiction at play, and it would start with just the basic things like where I've been, who I was with. And then it slowly just progressed into more frequent unnecessary lies, like what I had for lunch. I don't know why I felt the need to lie about that. "I had a steak." With what money?
So I have a lot of anxiety, right? And as a person that has a lot of anxiety, trying to keep track and trying to constantly be accountable for these lies becomes just completely unbearable. I noticed a lot of my crippling anxiety stemmed from the web of lies that I've curated for absolutely no reason. And at one point, I just thought like it's enough. "I don't wanna do this anymore."
And by university, it was hindering my life. I'm eighteen at university. In a new city, living my own life. I'm a teenager. I'm trying to find out who I am as a person, but anxiety kept holding me down, and it would be honestly the absolutely stupidest things. I would tell different stories to different people. I would give different details to certain events and situations. I would retell the same events in a multitude of versions. And it would be the stupidest details ever. Like, "Oh yeah, I went to a party in a pink dress." The next day it's "Oh no, that party, I was in white." It just made no sense to me. In Indo, we call it boom boo. It's just little spices just to add to my stories. But at one point, I was like, "I don't know what the fuck I'm saying anymore." And nobody does either.
So anyways, all that was just completely hindering me. And I started working towards making small changes to fix it. I realized anxiety is the biggest thing right now. I need to like tone that down. What's the biggest thing? Lying. Okay. Lying was the first thing that had to go. And what that did was it took a while. But eventually, I stopped telling people what they wanted to hear. And even when it was uncomfortable, especially when it was uncomfortable. Like when my mom would call me up and ask me, "Why aren't you praying anymore? Why haven't you prayed for a while?" I would tell her what I think about Islam. When my friend calls me why I'm thirty minutes late to this meeting, instead of blaming the traffic, I tell her that I got lost on Instagram, which happens to the best of us.
The point of it is I stopped being a people pleaser. And I started expressing my desires, even though I know it may hurt others, and a lot of the time it does. But on the other hand, when I find someone attractive, I will go up and tell them even if it's across the street, across the bar, my neighbor. I'm gonna go up to them and tell them, "You're attractive. You're beautiful." Sometimes it would get me numbers. So that's great. That's a good tip. But other times, it just gets a smile, and that's all good too. And when I love someone, I would always make sure that they know it and they feel it, which I think is super important.
I guess I took the more tender textured road with honesty than the more comfortable one with lying. I realized I started becoming the woman I've always wanted to be. And it feels amazing. I've expressed everything I need to, to the people in my life. Like every conversation has been had. Every word has been said. Everyone I love knows that I love them. And in turn, everyone in my life knows me. Like the real me, not just some made-up version. I've been living my truth mostly—cos we all have our setbacks—for the past five years, and I have nothing to hide anymore.
It's like this total weightless, unapologetic freedom. So let's go back to our story. I went to see this woman. I went to see my gifted friend, and the meeting went well. What does that even mean?! But yeah, the meeting went well. She explained to me what the prophecy meant with the tsunami that all these other people were seeing and the symbolisms behind it. And she told me that we are physically safe for now. There's more to it, but I don't have time to get into that whole story.
But what I realized at that point, after she said that, after that drive, I was, "You know what? It doesn't matter anymore because come what may I know who I am. I am proud of how I've lived my life, and I'm ready when the day comes.”
When I was young, maybe up until eight years old, I was a girl full of fears, insecurities, extremely shy, and very sensitive. Sometimes I could cry easily, even though it was for a small reason. I was raised up by a conservative family in Central Java. My parents and I lived in Central Java, Yogyakarta, where my parents had a very strict disciplined lifestyle. So as a girl, sometimes I would like to say no if they asked me or commanded me to do something, but I always wanted to please my father and my mother. Finally, I only said, "Okay. Yes," and "Yes," and "Yes." Actually, sometimes I didn't agree with their advice or commands, but that's life. But actually, my father and mother were very careful caring for me, loved me so much and also always dressed me up nice like this—they were very happy but so strict.
So, as a young girl, I was always like this. Well, actually, my father, my late father, was a master in silversmithing. So seven years before independence, Indonesia's Independence Day, he was sent by Indonesia—still a colony of Holland—to America, to San Francisco. So for him, it was very exciting going to Jakarta and then going to America, but then there were no planes at that time in 1938. Can you imagine? So going there and back, of course, by boat. Forty days, but he said it was a very beautiful experience, of course. Fourteen months in the United States.
Well, he came back, and he managed maybe more than a hundred employees to do silversmithing. So making a teapot or coffee pot or tea strainer or cutlery and a little bit of jewelry. Sometimes my late father made jewelry for me. I didn't say no, but actually, I didn't like it. It wasn't of interest to me because it was too intricate. I like more simplicity, actually, but I never expressed this to my father. Again I always said, "Yes, thank you very much." But then I gave it to my friend, the jewelry, but I never let on. I was just okay, I'll just keep it, but actually, I gave it to my friend. At the time, I was also feeling strange because my father never involved me in this kind of field because Central Java is very conservative. So no ladies or noblemen doing this kind of thing. So for me, I felt like there was no place for me. I couldn't do anything. So I just hoped and hoped that maybe one day my father would make a special decision pleasing me.
It comes through when I was nine years old. Finally, my late father said, "Runi, you are so shy and introverted." Then "I think you need to go to not only the elementary school, but you have to do something else. So on Sunday, no break. Sunday morning from nine to twelve, you have to learn classical dance." So I learned from an expert. The expert was the uncle of the King of Jogja. So a good source. So I said, "Okay." "And then in the afternoons at four till six-thirty, you have to join Scouts." "Scouts?" And then, "Okay." I cannot say no, only okay. So as a girl, I was forced to be like that, you know, no break at all, but I always said, "Okay." I did my best. And I tried to be more confident and focused. But I had to go there alone by bicycle then. So every Sunday I was so tired, you know, from morning until evening. But maybe because he gave me like spirit, so the spirits become energy. Energy becomes cheerful. I don't know.
But finally, the reason becomes so fruitful. From those dance lessons, I became the best dancer at that time. And my favorite teacher was surprised that sometimes as a girl, I turned, showing my back, and my teacher said, "No, you have to show the front." "Okay." So I always showed my movements from inside and so fully focused. So he liked it so much. So that's why he gave me chances. Many chances to perform dance at many high-end occasions.
And then also for Fifi IP guests who came from Jakarta because the Fifi IP guests from Jakarta after meeting with our president, usually their destination was Yogyakarta, then Bali. So in Yogyakarta, they should see the classical dance and also go sightseeing to the temples—Hindu temple, Buddhist temple, etc. So I was surprised I became so famous. And I was young for a classical dancer. So every time I got applause, or sometimes the audience gave me flowers. So I kept the flowers until they dried because, you know, it was so meaningful for me. And not only this.
From the lessons as a scout, I became more open-minded. I was capable of conducting a choir. Like this, you know? And then also the drum band and the marching band. I was always at the front, and the marching band was mainly male and only two females—me and my friend. So I was surprised that I became so open and not only this, but I became brave and tough able to face difficulties. I would smile at difficulties. "Okay. Smile." So I become more tough. Not only that, I also started to like flowers, arranging flowers. So when people came to my house, I always showed them my flower arrangements, even though the flowers were just from the garden, you know. And then not only this—I became good with my hands. I liked to dress up my hair with many different styles. So I didn't go to a hair salon. And also with scarves, so many kinds of styles—making scarves elegant or sporty or anything else, I could do it. And then sarongs. Make sarongs sexy or . . . Okay! So I became a different woman . . . not yet married . . . so a different girl.
At seventeen years old, I got a chance to go overseas because the last days of seventeen wasn't good in Central Java. So at seventeen years old, after finishing high school, "Okay. Let's go abroad." I got the chance of one month in the Philippines. So in the Philippines, of course, I could visit many cities because I had one month. And I also got a chance to perform at Malacañang. Have you been to Manila? Malacañang is the state palace in Manila—so I could meet the president and first lady. And then back to Indonesia. Only two months.
And then I got a continuous journey. It's more exciting. New York. Wow. New York! Are you from New York? So New York for me. Wow. It's the city that never sleeps. Oh, I wanted to see this, you know. So, of course, I was so happy, and there was training before going to New York. I had to learn for one month at a training center in Jakarta how to sit down, how to be behave because I would be sent as like an ambassador—a cultural ambassador. So I had to learn many things.
Do you know about the New York World's Fair in 1964? So fifty-seven years ago, I was there. I performed my dances in the Indonesia Pavilion at the New York World's Fair with my other friends from all over Indonesia. At that time I met eyes with somebody. Only this because you know my leader was so strict. So no dating or touching, no. Only this. Yeah, I met somebody, but he knew that I was shy, of course, and also scared of my leader.
So we are staying on Long Island. You know Long Island, yeah? So there are four wings. The first wing was for the interior decorators' group and another one was for information aid group. And this was for dancers and also for musicians. So every morning, when I went to the Indonesia Pavilion, of course, I dressed up nicely with a sarong and everything. Within twenty minutes, I have to be dressed up. Only twenty minutes. This, and then this, and then this—twenty minutes. If not, the bus will just leave without me. So I was always passing on the lobby, one lobby only, and I saw that man. Always sitting there and reading a newspaper, and I don't know seriously, but every time I passed by, he was like this. For me it was a nice feeling, you know? But then I didn't see him anymore. It seemed that as an interior designer for Indonesia, he was an interior designer for the Indonesia Pavilion.
So maybe because he was finished and then went back home. So I didn't see him anymore. And then, there was a competition among the pavilions from all over the world at the New York World's Fair. And, you know, the Indonesia Pavilion was second after the winner—Spain. Yes. So I was so excited, of course. And then, I performed in front of the very charming leading star Lucille Ball and also singers like Harry Belafonte. After that, my journey to Paris, and there I also performed at the Palais de Chaillot—an opera house in Trocadero. And got the chance to meet our president, the first president, President Sukarno, at the Indonesia Embassy. I was so grateful. And then from there to Amsterdam. I was in Amsterdam maybe ten days. I also performed in front of Queen Juliana.
At that time, I met him again. I was surprised. What is he doing here? But okay, I didn't care. And then, I was back home. I had culture shock because in Yogyakarta I felt Amsterdam, Paris, New York, and Yogyakarta is so dark, you know, not too much light. I was stressful. And then I had a feeling. Oh, I have to go from Yogyakarta. And I talked to my late father. I had to continue my study at the advanced place at Bandung. Bandung is near Jakarta. So I entered the Bandung Institute of Textile. You know how it is when entering university. There they dressed me up like crazy, and then I had to ride a bicycle.
And I was on the way to my dormitory, and then I met again this man. But he was driving with special sunglasses—trendy ones. Of course. I turned to the right into a small alley. You know, I didn't want to meet him because I was embarrassed, but he was clever. He caught me in the end and, since then, we became friends. And then he said, "I would like to see your parents." And that was in 1965.
In 1967, I became his wife. And then, after one year, the first child was born. So he was like thinking, "Runi, maybe you miss something" because I was active, you know, dancing and then just being with the baby with the crying and everything. "What you want to do besides this?" "I want to be a choreographer." "A choreographer? You must be on the stage again. It means you need applause." "Oh." "So, what do you think? Why don't you continue in your father's footsteps?" And then again, I said, "Yes, yes." But actually, I didn't have any ideas. Zero, but because of again my energy and trial and error, and then twenty-five years, forty years later, I'm still doing it. And actually, why I love my husband and love Bali because at the time, 1978, Adrian got a job in the Hyatt Sanur—the renovation of the rooms. And I was appointed as dress designer for the uniforms. And after that, we were thinking, okay, maybe later—we have three children already married—then we have to go back to Bali and move to Bali for good.
So that's why now I'm in Bali. And then, on the twenty-five-year anniversary of Runa Jewelry, Adrian gave me a special gift, a museum—officially opened by the governor. And praise the Lord for forty years, I'm okay. I got all the appreciation. A book from the craft council as appreciation. And then thanks. Thank God that I always say, "Yes, yes, yes" to my father and to my husband. And so I feel blessed that now I have been already fifty-three years married. I have three children, seven grandchildren, and maybe in another two months great-grandchildren coming. So I'm so cheerful to be here because this is the best season and the best time to know all of you. And thank you very much, Colleen, you are a very nice lady and also model my jewelry. Very nice. Thank you so much for your trust. Nice to meet you.
I was a boy during the 1995 Galungan ceremony. I think it's the biggest ceremony in Bali. It's an exciting moment for a boy because he knows a lot of food will be there! Sometimes your father will give you new clothes. I was just excited. But before that, I had a responsibility. I needed to dress up my temple. So I walk to my temple. I prepared my temple. Just a sad moment coming. In Bali, our temple is the one thing to be proud of. Without coming into your house, everyone can see it from outside. When I put the last touch to my temple, all the time, it's falling down because all the wood is broken. I looked down at the middle of my temple. I was like just a young boy at that time. "One day, when I have a good job, I will fix you. I promise." My father actually is a builder. When I was a kid, I still remember because my body was not like a Balinese - big enough to help him to work. I didn't have my Sundays free. Every Sunday morning, my mom packed food for us. I was like, "No, Mom, I wanna stay home. I wanna play with my friend. "No, son, go help your dad."
So every Sunday, I go to help, but the question keeps coming. I help my father build everyone's house. Why doesn't he rebuild my house? What's wrong with him? And I have an uncle. He joined the army, and he's the youngest in the family, and he's supposed to have the responsibility to fix the temple because, in Bali, the youngest one has the responsibility to continue helping the family. As he is in the army, he has duty in Jakarta. Every time he comes home, he promises, "Next Galungan, we will have a new temple." I'm excited again. We have hope. "Galungan coming, Galungan coming, Galungan coming." We never had a new temple. So sad.
And then one day I finish college in 2003. I have an interview in one of the resorts in Ushawada. The question they ask me is, "What is your goal?" "I want to fix my temple." Everyone was laughing at me. "It's not about that. What is your career plan? What do you want to be? Do you want to be a chef? You want to be a . . ." "No, no, no, no. I want to fix my temple." "Okay. It's up to you." In 2005, I got the opportunity to go to the US, thank God. To find a job. I needed to borrow money - about US$4,000. The first three months I worked in the US, I worked so hard. I did everything. I told my manager, "Give me a job. If you put me in the dormitory, I will cry every day. I miss my home. Give me a job." Three months later, I repaid all the money I borrowed to go to the US. One day, I called my dad. "Dad, be ready to fix the temple. I will send you the money." "Okay, we will do it." Why did he answer so fast on that day? On that day, I realized why my dad didn't fix the house, didn't fix the temple before. He wanted to build me first. He wanted to build me, to become the man of the house. Phew.
In 2006 I was about one year in the US. Every single month I sent all my money home. Finally, in August 2006, they sent me a picture of the new temple. I was so proud of myself. And I realized again everyone is waiting. So I needed to jump in to lead the action.
To be the leader, there's no need to be the oldest one, no need to be the youngest one, but anyone can jump in and start to do it. And, finally, my uncle's coming to help. My grandpa is coming to help. Everyone's coming together, and they built the temple together. And from that spirit, it brings us to today in our village and becoming the leaders of the village. And the spirit of togetherness is coming to us again. We are together. We can do more, but without somebody starting, everyone will wait, and the time will never come. So don't worry. You need to start. When you start, even if it's wrong, even if it fails, don't care. The results will come in the end. I never dreamed to be standing here today to speak about my story and stand with all the experts that live in Bali.
And again, COVID-19 teaches us Balinese a lot now. Being together in the fields, helping each other. Just as we do now. As you know, stories are important in Bali. And we have, in fact, the most stories in Indonesia. I think because we place our lives too much on tourism, we forget what was sustainable before. Today everything is coming back to bring us a new hope, new spirit. As a leader as well, the question's coming "What do you think is sustainable?" One day it's stories coming back, and everyone goes back to their jobs. Don't worry about it. At least what has been asleep for twenty-five years is awake now. Someone who has never experienced this before knows it now. The new generation understands about the spirit that's been built in our village for a very long time, and they had forgotten about it. So, together we can bring the spirit up. Togetherness happens in Bali. Thank you. Thank you for listening to me. I'm Made Astawa. Goodnight.
Two freshly luminous green frangipani leaves clenching one another. I had those memories of playing shadow puppets when I was little. Also, I had vivid memories of cycling with my father, cruising around the village when my feet were entangled. And I do remember my father used a dry banana leaf just to tie up my feet. Oh my God, I was so happy. He did this because he wanted me to be safe and sound because otherwise, I was gonna fall off. In the rainy season, my father dug the ground and made a reservoir, so when the rain fell down, the water was reserved in that reservoir. You know what I did? I jumped in with an exuberant face, totally naked. I can't swim. I was on my father's back. And we swam together.
And beside the reservoir, there was a kind of vineyard. Not a vineyard as we didn't have a vineyard on our land. It kind of looked like a vineyard, but I still remember the taste of the fruit. It was sour, sweet, and a little bit salty. And that's how my story begins. So I'm so honored to be standing here to be delivering my own storyline, my story of life. And thanks to Colleen. I think this is not a coincidental encounter meeting Colleen. I also believe in everyone else here. I'm so honored, so privileged to be standing here. Regardless of my shortcomings, I wanna come up with alliance, with a conclusion with all of you here who feel empathy and see the silver lining—the true colors of me.
This is me. My name is Gandi. I'm from the small village on the northern side of Bali called Singaraja. My village lies on the northern side of Singaraja city, so twenty-five kilometers from the city. So the vast majority people living there are fishing and farming like my father. He's a farmer. He's the breadwinner in our family. He used to walk hard and spend his whole time in the rice field just to plant rice. As a little child beside my father, I helped him to plant rice in the paddies in order to fulfill our basic necessities. You know what? I'm so privileged. I'm so happy. And I'm so grateful to be living in this sacred and humble upbringing. My mother was just an ordinary housewife. She didn't earn money, but she helped us to grow. She provided food, and she helped alongside my father. You know what? We were living a very simple life where everything was basic.
I had an idea to help my parents. I was also a breadwinner in my family because as a child—besides schooling—I had to wake up super early in the morning, around four or five, just to collect the tamarind. You guys know tamarind, right? It falls from the trees. And we sold it. It wasn't not good money, but at least I was so happy because I helped my parents in making a living. In the other season, we also had cashew nut trees. And I went there as a child. "I'm so happy. I'm gonna run. I'm gonna run." So I collected them. You know, the fact is that cashew nuts are more expensive than tamarind and easier to sell because with tamarind you have to break it before you sell it. And I was a happy child with an impulsive mind.
I came up with so many ideas, but things go up and down. I have a sister. So there are four children in my family. I have two sisters and one brother. And I'm the last. I'm the Ketut. You know? Everyone knows that the last child is Ketut. I'm Ketut Gandi. So usually, my parents, especially my siblings, were elated with me. But things go up and down. I had to look after my sister, my first sister. She has a mental illness. She's a woman who is not speaking. She lives in silence. She's not speaking at all. She just sits down with nothing to do. So I was a child with a very good energy. I helped my sister. I fed her and showered her, and I was happy at the time. But I had a very relentless life because I had to deal with society's rejection because I'm gay. And they bullied me since I was little. And I had to deal with my family's issues. And I had to look after my sister. I thought it just was so relentless. And what should I do? You know?
But in order to settle myself over and over again, I was just like learning, you know, focusing on schooling and studying. So the school sent me to many competitions. I was in English competitions, chemistry competitions, and so on. You know, I'm lucky enough. I never won, to be honest. I was just lucky to have the chance to join those competitions, but I never won.
My parents once asked me, "Gandi, what you wanna be in the future when you grow up?" I said, "I don't know." I had, I think, unrealistic dreams, and they directly answered, "You have to be in the army because you're strong. Your body's meant to be in the army." I think No, man. I'm a gay guy. How do I come up with this? This was so funny. And I didn't hear them. I just disobeyed them with those words.
So long story short, you know, I'm indebted to those two fruits, tamarind and cashew nuts. I'm so indebted to them because they're my jewels. You know, because of them I lived. I survived.
There comes a day, there comes a time, when I do fully realize there I am gay. You know what? As a Balinese, it's really hard. When you are a gay guy, you have to deal with so many rejections especially coming from this society. Because when they know, when they notice that you are a gay guy, they're gonna keep their distance. They're not gonna come to you and say, "Hi." They're gonna go away.
So at the time, I was feeling alone. I was lonely, to be honest. I was abandoned. I had a lovely cousin who passed away. We used to be together since we were little, and he passed away. And my brother and sister went away. There was only one, the first sister, with me because I had to look after her. And I was crying a lot. I was hidden, you know. I didn't wanna come out. I didn't even wanna go out. I was focusing on my studying because I was sad. I was crying a lot. So many rejections, and to build up self-esteem is really hard without any support because my parents are very conservative parents where they taught me about living in that cage. You know what I mean? Like we have certain rules that are Balinese and passed down to all the generations. So I had to follow those rules. So I don't have any freedom. I can't liberate myself or free myself. So I was kind of literally stuck and had nothing to do.
And when I made a mistake, my parents, especially my father, he punished me with relentless tasks because we were . . . sorry, guys. I don't want to emphasize this, but Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch at the time. Right? And he used to give very relentless punishments. And when my father was a child, he used to be tied with rope and hung on a tree because of my grandfather. So, you know, for around seven hours because he had made a mistake and ants came and just scattered all over his body. So those rules were passing down to me.
So I was so tough at the time. I was so strong. But, you know, in order to not just be sad all the time because of my hardships and all the burdens that I went through, I kept praying, "God, show me the way. Am I destined to be like this? To be a gay guy who got rejected from society. Who has so many insecurities. I don't know which direction I should take because I am living in poverty.
I don't have people supporting me. I don't know what to do. God, please help me." And then I saw the end of the tunnel, the things I had prayed for—a divine spirit of light. So sacred. It approached me and said, "I'm with you. You don't have to worry about it. I'm embracing you. I'm gonna lift you off the universe." And I was like, Oh my God, this is such profound energy that came into my life. And I had no idea. What is this? I was a seventeen-year-old boy. Okay. I'm gonna be strong. I'm not gonna let myself down. And then, from that moment, I'm stronger. I'm tougher.
Sometimes I would imagine myself traveling across the universe and see my other persona lift and support me, support each other. I came up with that idea. This is like a weird story, but you guys get that right? And about being rejected as a gay guy, I don't care about society anymore because I came up with self-gratitude, motivation, and kindness. Everyone who sees me as a queer, that's just your problem. It's not my problem because you have to know that we are full of a variety of colors like a rainbow. We see these people coming from different countries and different upbringings. So I don't care about it. I don't need to emphasize that anymore. I'm strong enough now.
Viola Davis once said, "There is one place where the people with the greatest talent are gathered. One place, and that is the graveyard." Yes. Right? "Viola, what kind of story do you wanna tell?" Viola said, "Exhume those stories. Exhume those bodies." And now I'm representing myself exhuming my own stories.