A life of great struggle followed by redemption is a life that is admirable. Kartini Ledermann has experienced such life, traveling from country to country and from reality to fantasy.
Born in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a city on the Indonesian island of Java, to her Indonesian mother and Swiss father, Kartini was immediately immersed in a culture that taught her to truly live, but also broke her heart.
An only child to a mother and a father who were somewhat older, she and her family moved quite a bit. Kartini and her parents spent the first year of her life in Indonesia, relocating to Switzerland for a year and then to Nigeria, where she spent her childhood.
Growing up in a lower-middle class society, Kartini was contrastly surrounded by a community of wealthy diplomatic families. Longing to be known and never quite discovering her true self, the facade of who she pretended to be was isolating and devastating.
Kartini attended an international school in Nigeria and was constantly surrounded by extreme riches and high authority that did not make it easy to fit in. Although she tried, her loneliness took hold, and detachment from the world took over.
Reading became her escape from the life that was so painful and a safe haven from the hurt that cut so deeply.
Much of Kartini’s need for liberation in literature stemmed from being bullied throughout her life. She never understood the concept of bullying, and her sadness and confusion overlapped and created a space where anxiety and depression crept in, especially in light of her surroundings.
In Nigeria, child marriage is a common practice. While visiting the market with her mother, Kartini would experience intense and inappropriate stares and touches from men who requested her hand in marriage. This affected the way she felt as a human, as a girl and as a child.
Kartini felt disconnected from those around her, the world she found herself in and the life she longed to live. “I would catch glimpses of a life that was so different than mine,” Kartini says of watching the contrast of the rich kids against the environment she was in.
She can recall passing a dead body on the side of the road, open and rotting for all to see. This was the kind of normal that became too routine, too desensitizing and too overbearing for her heart to take.
Kartini’s home and school came prepared with bullet proof doors and bars holding the windows hostage, embracing the drills that were set in place every week because of the threats that came.
Confused by the culture that surrounded her, Kartini began to read about the vastly different westernized society. She says,“What their day to day life was wasn’t like mine, and I was really confused why that was not so.”
When she moved back to Indonesia and attended boarding school, Kartini was introduced to Christianity.
A family of fundamentalist Christians just so happened to be Kartini’s dorm parents during her time at the boarding school. She accepted Christ into her life, but under the influence of loneliness and religious expectations. Her dorm parents were very strict in their thinking and their non-acceptance of people and differentiating views.
As a new Christian, Kartini longed to learn love, but the influences that surrounded her, especially the dorm parents who introduced her to faith, force fed her their thoughts and beliefs, never truly allowing for a personal relationship with Christ to develop. “While I will be eternally grateful for my former dorm parents introducing me to the overwhelming love of Christ,” she says, “I do notice that looking back I was a little too naive.”
With nothing up for discussion, the things her dorm parents taught her became her personal truth. Kartini had no sense of allowance to explore who she was or who she wanted to be. “I felt as if I wasn’t in a safe space to question any beliefs or struggle with any doubts I may have had,” she says.
The anxiety, depression and self-hatred that she experienced only worsened, and her faith influencers reiterated that if she truly loved God, these struggles shouldn’t be a problem for her. “I took that to heart,” says Kartini. “I’m still trying to get over that and reset my worldview.” This is the “truth” she began to embody.
From struggling immensely with relationships to molestation, constantly growing up in a violent society with inappropriate sexual overtones, Kartini was searching for something more; she just didn’t know what “more” was or where to even begin to look.
Confused with what she wanted to do with her life after high school, her father suggested that she attend hotel management school. Although it wasn’t her passion, because she felt as if there was nothing else for her in the present, she went.
Living and training in a castle in Switzerland, she studied management for a semester before realizing that she wasn’t being fulfilled, and depression began to really take over. “I was always known as the weirdo who didn’t want to be there,” Kartini says. “I didn’t fit in.”
Hoping and praying for something more, she relied on the prospect of going to AU, the only school she applied to, per the connection she had with Dominic Martin’s parents, who had a connection to Anderson. Martin attended the same school as Kartini, and as she began to think about a future that she was excited about, his parents influenced her decision to apply.
“It felt right,” Kartini says. She left hotel management school in hopes of finding more of herself in America, bettering her relationship with Christ and figuring out what she was passionate about.
Taking a leap of faith, Kartini came to AU and began to wrap her mind around a different educational standing and social stature. An English and psychology major with a minor in history, she found niches that allowed her to expand her horizons and learn more about who she has so incredibly longed to become.
With stories to tell and a lifetime to recall, Kartini dreams of being an author and telling her own testimonies of cultural differences that are sparsely spoken and of the stories that are in desperate need to be heard.
God is tugging on her heart, opening doors for new relations and unhinging the fears and trials that she has deeply felt for so long.
Knowing of God’s love and aware of his presence, she longs to find more of him and truly embrace the plan he has for her life, a plan of growth and a plan of healing.
“A lot of me is grappling with grace and everlasting love,” Kartini says. “I feel as if I’m not worthy of it, but I’m getting it anyway. It’s a process.”