You knew my name, but I felt like I didn’t know myself until today. Previously, I settled on branding myself around my own name. While “Michelle Varinata” sounded unique, it wasn’t easy to spell out my last name nor was it distinct enough from anyone else who wants to use their name as their form of branding themselves. On top of that, I felt like my own name for a blog didn’t have much of a personality.
Finding a name was not an easy journey. Initially, I wanted to rename it after two of my favorite fabrics: velvet and suede. Then, I thought of using my own hashtag #LivinLaVariNaDah, but that kinda made my blog sound juvenile or some Sophia Amoruso wannabe had I settled with that one. All of a sudden, a random thought slipped in.
When I was a kid, I always ate a slice of cake for dessert. It was fragrant and sweet, but not sugary. As I squinted my eyes, I saw thin yellow and brown stripes. “What is this?” I asked. My mom said, “This is kueh lapis.” I pried my fork into the cake, then realized that it was layered. This kind of cake was something that I couldn’t find anywhere else outside of Indonesia. It was a traditional dessert that my dad had to bring from Jakarta to Singapore.
Although I ain’t a foodie, just thinking about that cake made me want to embrace my roots. Long before I moved to Singapore, I was actually born in Jakarta. I only spent the first five years of my life there. Honestly, I could barely remember what those early years were like. As I grew up, the disconnect from my Indonesian heritage and my identity was greater. Anytime I mentioned that I was originally from Indonesia, people would just say that we’re too materialistic, dishonest, narrow-minded, lazy and unoriginal. Hearing those things felt mosquito bites that stung. I had to say that I was from Singapore since it generally had a better reputation than Indonesia. Even though I spent the majority of my life on the island, it was complicated being a third culture kid as I felt torn about choosing between two countries as my national label.
Looking back into the memories of eating kueh lapis, I began to see myself in a new light. Rather than hiding my Indonesian heritage, I finally look at myself as a child of the archipelago. Laying a claim to a cultural identity is one thing, but actually having the ownership of it is another thing: it’s empowering!
Today, it will be called Lapis and Layers.