A green plant emerging from metal bars.

How a tragedy shaped me into a better person

It was September 28, 2018. It must have been around six in the afternoon. I received the sudden news of my mom’s passing in a destructive 7.4 Richter Scale earthquake that struck my hometown, Palu, Indonesia. The tragic news left me beyond devastated and saddened.

Post-earthquake, the tsunami and liquefaction bore horrible consequences in Palu. And whenever evening skies turned dark, it struck me with nothingness. The tremendous natural calamity had struck me unpredictably and I was in deep despair.

During such times, a quick response from the government is really important. Fortunately, a direct visit by Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia to Palu was promptly coordinated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement regarding international assistance.

While the international assistance, aid and good wishes from all over the world poured in, I began a journey of learning. This journey shaped the person I am now. I, Rifli Mubarak, the survivor of the Palu natural disaster believe in the power of self-resilience and dream visualization. 

I hope you can relate your struggles and tears to my story. And if you smile whilst reading, I will take it as a part of my success in writing and sharing my true story.

Lessons Learned about Privilege.

After the earthquake, I was circled by my own despair and confusion. I was battling my inner thoughts that could not accept reality. I felt that everything was going wrong and there was no way out of the nightmare. 

I am aware that life changes us in very harsh yet constructive ways. It teaches us to be more resilient while facing every challenge. Each time I fall, I do have the option to get up, zero in on the dreams amidst the uncertainties, and believe that the opportunity I have gotten now is the series of yesterdays’ sweat and tears.

Pressure is a privilege.

Pressure teaches us to become adaptable individuals amidst thicks and thins of life. 2018 was the lowest point of my life, a journey of self-discovery. During tough times, I was brave enough to stand up to the perils that life put before me.

I find myself fighting against myself to bury my doubts that restrain me cognitively and emotionally. I think sometimes life is just about being straightforward and fighting for yourself.

I also learnt that privilege is not always about money or studying in the top school. It is also about being alive, a strong support system (including my Dad, sister, and friends) who are always there in my ups and downs. I have re-interpreted the definition of “privilege” as something that is not always luxurious or materialistic. Privilege is already here, in our soul, in our everyday happiness and motivation. 

Building an optimistic outlook.

When my Mom left the world, everything felt empty for me. I lost my number one supporter. This tragedy really affected my impostor syndrome. 

I always felt that my achievements were the result of my luck, fortune or god’s blessings. 

However, my friends kindly remind me that my precious gains truly exist because of my hard work and consistency. This inner voice that always circles in my head says “you are not enough”, “you don’t deserve it”. I deem them as my intrinsic monster. 

This monster exists within every one of us. Insecurity is a humane trait. This feeling keeps us grounded, humble, and contributes to our mindset growth. I believe, specialty and skill is not something that is granted upon one’s birth, but it is something that should be honed consistently through curiosity and motivation to learn.

After the disaster, I feel more driven by optimism to achieve. Tragic occurrences in one’s life can be channeled into a big possibility to project a positive outcome in your life.

Feature photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash


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How a tragedy shaped me into a better person

by Mohammad Rifli Mubarak Reading time: 3 min