Inductive Learning Vs Deductive Learning

Whenever people ask me “how to be good in English?” I am really at a loss for how to answer the question. Because, I actually am not that good. And this is not false modesty. There are so many other brilliant English writers and speakers out there.

Trust me, I still make grammatical mistakes. I check, double check and then triple check my assignments/medical reports all the time just to make sure I don’t make simple grammatical mistakes (as opposed to complicated grammatical mistakes, in which case, I can still forgive myself because I am not a native English speaker, after all).

We all have different ways of learning. My way of learning might be different from yours. Some people learn deductively. Some people learn inductively.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are both a method of learning. But I would argue that in general, when you are studying science, you must primarily go deductive; otherwise you will learn very slowly via the inductive method because you need a mountain of evidence before your induction can be proven. (In science, there is an equally important place for both inductive and deductive reasoning. But we generally do deductive reasoning when conducting our systematic reviews/meta-analysis)

When you are studying arts/language/ religion, you must primarily go inductive, because deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion will not yield a comprehensive view of the matter! (But there is a place for deductive reasoning in arts/language/religion as well)

Let me explain.

In general, inductive reasoning uses a large number of specific observations to reach a general principle. (the bottom-up approach)

induction

 

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, uses a premise (a general principle assumed as true) to decide what must be true in a specific case. (the top-down approach)

deduction

 

Deductive Learning

Deductive Learning is simple. You have a hypothesis. You come up with premises/evidence that support your hypothesis. You then confirm your  hypothesis with your conclusion.

If A is B (premise 1) , and B is C (premise 2) , therefore, A is C (conclusion).

Hypothesis: All cats have hearts.

Premise 1: All cats are mammals. (general observation/evidence)

Premise 2: All mammals have hearts (another general observation/evidence)

Conclusion: All cats have hearts (specific confirmation that will only be true if the premises are true)

In science, we mostly use deductive reasoning to reach a conclusion. This is the method we use in quantitative study like systematic review and meta-analysis.

You gather all the premises pertaining to the subject, and then you analyse the premises, and then you come up with the conclusion.

The downside of this method is, if your premise is wrong, if your ‘evidence’ is manufactured/faulty/misleading, or if you have not finished examining ALL evidence out there, then your conclusion will be incomplete or actually wrong altogether! Khalas!

For example:

Premise 1: All birds can fly (false)

Premise 2: Ostrich is a bird (true)

Conclusion: Ostrich can fly (false)

 

Another example of deductive reasoning:

Premise 1: If God exists, there will be no disaster in this world (false)

Premise 2: There are many disasters in this world (true)

Conclusion: God doesn’t exist (false)

 

Inductive Reasoning

In inductive reasoning, you examine specific examples/options to get to a general conclusion. Say, you have Option A, Option B or Option C. How are you going to get a nice general conclusion (or make the best choice) out of these options? How to choose properly when you have not experienced each option individually, yet?

Inductive reasoning are more exploratory in nature. You are not trying to come up with general statements and narrow it down to a conclusion like in deductive reasoning. Instead you explore and keep on asking further questions and branch out into other related issues and keep on researching until there is nothing else to research (until you reach data saturation or theoretical saturation!) This is the method we use when we are doing qualitative study.

For example, you will start by asking specific questions (as opposed to general statements assumed to be true like in deductive reasoning): Does God exist? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Why are there so many disasters in the world if God exist? But there are so many beautiful events as well. Maybe God exists but does not really play an active role in our lives? Is it possible to believe in God without having to follow any organized religion? Hmm… I wonder, what do other religions say about God?

Get it? See the difference between this type reasoning compared to the deductive one? This one is very deep, very exploratory. This is something you do when you are studying arts and philosophy! 

An atheist who suddenly wants to investigate the existence of God, for instance, would learn Buddhism first and will explore everything there is to know about Buddhism. When dissatisfied with Buddhism, he might go on to learn Christianity next. And if he fails to find the evidence of God in Christianity, he will then learn Judaism next. And then he might move on to Hinduism and then Islam. But each time he moves from one option to another, he would learn it thoroughly and experience it and live it. He will keep on exploring one option after another until he finally finds the one true religion (if he ever finds it).

So, in religion, you must do inductive reasoning in order to feel properly settled that you have come to the right one! You must explore! Explore all statements and experience all options. Go through the process!

Did you know that in the Quran, we are taught to do inductive reasoning? Allah always asks us to look at specific examples in order to reach a conclusion. He asks us to look at the moon. Look at the sun! Look at the mountains and the seas. Look at the signs in the human embryology.

“Those who listen to all statements, and then follow the best of it. These are the ones whom God has guided, and these are the ones possessed of minds.” (39:18)

 

These are the things that I learned in my philosophy class when I was doing IB. (I am sure IB kids like me still remember the torture of doing our Theory of Knowledge essay. It was such a pain but I am proud to say that Alhamdulillah I was among the few who had obtained full marks for it. I got the highest grade (Grade 7) for it, something not many students could obtain back then. Scientific medical students really hated Theory of Knowledge class…. but I was among the few in my batch who loved it. Because learning philosophy involves a lot of language play and involves exploring with facts. It feels like being involved in a mental debate.) Philosophy teaches you how to think. Not to follow people randomly but to know why you think the way you think. To a certain extent, this is what we do in psychiatry! We examine and we analyse… not just our own thoughts but also the thoughts of our patient.

So in arts/language/religion, if you want to be a good artist/linguist/religionist, you must have a lot of experience. You must try every method, and visit every possible conclusion and question the conclusion again and again until there is nothing else to question (until you reach data saturation). This is what we mean by “going through the process”. The process itself taught you. The process is your primary aim; your aim is not really the conclusion (but the conclusion is the by-product of having completed the process). This will broaden your horizon, and thus enable you to make the right choice that will beautify your craft and your art! As an artist, inductive learning gives you breadth of knowledge. It completes the arsenal of your skills so that you can choose and pick which one of your skills/knowledge to use when you are in the middle of creating something beautiful.

You need to go inductive when it comes to perfecting your arts! Otherwise with a limited experience, every problem will look like a nail if your only tool is a hammer!

if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problme as a nail copy
And this is ok, if you are a scientist who relies on precision, accuracy and reproducibility. Go ahead and use the hammer if that will give you the precise outcome that you want. (scientists are very particular about reproducibility of experiments. Experiments that are not reproducible are not scientific!) But this is thoroughly bad for an artist who relies on creativity and originality!

***

So, if you ask any enthusiastic reader of English books, they will probably agree that they become passably good (not excellently great, mind you. Just passably good. Or good enough) in English due to their extensive reading. Sure, English teachers at school help too… but come on, how many of us are passably good in English upon finishing high school? That is 11 years of formal education, folks (6 years in primary school and 5 years in secondary school). But how many of us are passably good at it? 11 years is a long time to learn English without being a real expert at it.

Now compare this to a Russian spy who must learn English in 6 months in order to pass herself off as an English clerk in the UK Embassy in Australia. How come they can learn that fast? The answer is simple… for that 6 months, they go inductive. Learn everything there is to learn about English. The books, the culture, the fashion, the phrases, the common expressions… go broad and go deep. They immerse themselves in the whole way of life as an English person. And after 6 months, they speak like the native and are ready to spy on the West and risk their own death for the sake of Mother Russia. Haha (Can you see the influence of my thriller reading here? I love spy stories)

Now, I am not saying that in order for you to be good in English, you must change your whole lifestyle and immerse yourself in their culture. After all, we are not aiming to be a spy, here. (Haha) Our aim is simply to be good in writing our assignments and to be just good enough to present our slides and posters. That’s all. So, what is the next easiest thing to do to be good in English without having to change your lifestyle?

Read a lot of books, of course!

Read fictions written in that language! That’s the best easiest thing for you to do in order to experience breadth and depth of a culture while simultaneously learning the language and their common expressions. By reading their fictions, depending on the protagonist of the book, you get to be a spy, a supermodel, a scientist, a professor, a wizard, a secretary, a handsome hero, a beautiful heroine, an ugly duckling, and an intelligent nerd, or a snobbish cheerleader. You get to experience being a teenager, a young adult, an elderly man/woman… you understand the culture broadly.

And by reading a lot of books, you learn ‘exceptions’ to the rules that were taught to you by your English teachers in class (in class, the teaching is deductive).

I give you an example.

Example 1: Root Verb Vs Gerund

Teachers would teach you that you MUST use root verb after the word ‘to’:

  • I loved to dance (not ‘danced’, even when it happens in the past. Not ‘dancing’… because we need to use ROOT verb.)
  • She liked to swim (not ’swam’ or ’swimming’, Because after ’to’, you must use the present form of the word, i.e the ROOT verb… even if the event is in the past).

 

But when you read a lot of books, you will notice how the author would write:

  • I am looking forward to dancing with you later. (What? I thought after ‘to’, you must use the present form. Why dancing instead of dance here?) (You will start to wonder)
  • When it comes to doing the right thing, she is totally unreliable. (again! After ‘to’, the author here uses the word ‘doing’ instead of the root verb ‘do’.) (You will wonder again)

 

You will then be triggered to ask, why there exists a discrepancy between the deductive rule taught to you by your teachers, and your inductive experience while reading many books?

You will notice many different patterns that were not taught to you in class. This is something you will never get in formal class, trust me!

Unless, your teacher is very good, (or the students are so good that they will ask about this discrepancy to ’the rule’ in the class) you might end up FOREVER writing : I am looking forward to dance with you, (and you think you are grammatically correct when you write that sentence and you might think other people are wrong when they write ‘looking forward to dancing…’. Hahah.) Even worse, you might mistakenly try to ‘correct’ other people’s sentences!

A good English teacher, while teaching the rule, would ALSO teach the exception! I repeat, a good English teacher while teaching the rule, would also teach the EXCEPTION.

But how many English teachers are that good out there? My younger sister Alida is a good one. I know that as a fact. Me and my siblings challenge each other’s language command often. That’s like our small talk during raya and get-together! We test each other and tease each other’s comprehension. But I have argued with a few of my English teachers in the past… so I should know that not all of them have comprehensive knowledge of the language (because even English teachers don’t read a lot, sadly).

A good English teacher would say, “Afiza, the word ‘to’ in ‘looking forward to’ and ‘comes to’ in those sentences function as a phrasal verb. After such phrasal verbs, you must use gerund, NOT root verb.

Then, she will explain to you what is phrasal verb and what is gerund. That is what a good English teacher would do without you even having to ask! (Ok, guys. If you don’t know, please google this yourself, because it is beyond the scope of this blog post. But if you google gerund and phrasal verb, you will get the answer easily)

 

Example 2: Subjunctive verb

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for ‘I’ is ‘am’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • I am dancing with the wind. (present continuous tense)
  • I was dancing with him. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper ‘verb to be’ for he/she is ‘is’ (present tense) and ‘was’ (past tense).

  • He/she dances to the music. (present tense)
  • He/she is dancing. (present continuous tense)
  • He/she was dancing. (past continuous tense)

We all know that the proper verb to be for you/they is ‘are’ (present tense) and ‘were’ (past tense).

  • You are adorable. (present tense)
  • They were so cruel (past tense)

 

That’s what English teachers in formal class will teach you (deductive learning).

But remember, you read a lot, right? So one day, you come across these sentences in the fiction that you read:

  • If he were to ask me to dance, I would have said yes. But he didn’t, so I went home with a broken heart. (why use ‘were’ here when the subject is a ‘he’?)
  • I know that if I were to get an A, I must study hard. (Why use ‘were’, when this is a present tense and the subject is “I”. Why not use ‘am’?)
  • She insists that he come (why not ‘comes’? Shouldn’t we use singular verb by adding an ‘s’? The subject is ‘he’; a singular subject, isn’t it?)
  • The board suggests that he join the company (why not ‘joins’? )

If you don’t read, you will never know to ask your teacher the next day regarding the discrepancy between what she taught you in class and what you had read in your books.

A good English teacher will tell you about subjunctive verb. She will tell you that in a ‘wishful’ situation or ‘hypothetical’ situation (denoted by the word ‘if’ in that sentence) we must use subjunctive verb ‘were’. And she will tell you that in a sentence structure involving  ‘that’ clauses (suggestion/recommendation/insistence/advisable + ‘that’), we must use the base of the word (come instead of comes, join instead of joins… even when the subject is singular) 

Now, imagine if you don’t have enough reading experience, and then you go around thinking that other people’s usage of subjunctive verb is a gross grammatical error! And imagine if you were an English teacher trying to “correct” your students’ usage of subjunctive verb. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing? Your well-read students would know that their English teacher is more ignorant than them. (That is why it is even more imperative for English teachers to read a lot!)

Like I said, a good teacher will teach the exception to the rule!

A good teacher will be able to anticipate!! the confusion that her students might come across later. (But a good student will learn more outside the class and then ask the right question to the teacher).

If you were a linguist, you would have come across the concept of “deductive and inductive grammar learning” (google this, guys. You will understand what I mean better). Sadly, a lot of English teachers during my time only apply the deductive type.

teaching-grammar-8-728

 

But my argument here is, the inductive type should be the PRIMARY method of learning English or any language!

If I were an English teacher (notice my subjunctive verb here? I use ‘were’ here), I will give a weekly reading task for my students and I will ask them to spot ‘exception to the rules’ in every reading text that I have assigned them. And I will discuss the exception with them. I will have a set of compulsory books and short stories that they must read and summarise and I will ask them to discuss characters and characterisation, themes and plots and conflicts and resolutions in the books that they read. That’s a more hands-on and inductive way of learning English. It will benefit them so much more.

***

When I was in Australia, I got to know a Malaysian family who had just arrived to Newcastle, following the career move of the head of the family. There were three children in the family around the age ranging from 4-10 years old. And they did not know much English when they first arrived in Australia.

But after 3 months of schooling, they spoke like the native Australians.

Imagine that!

Initially, they did not even know the rules of grammar. The 4 year old child did not even know what it means by subject, verb, subject complement, object. They didn’t know what are nouns, what are pronouns. They didn’t know what does adjective mean. They didn’t know what does adverb mean. Let alone subjunctive or phrasal verbs or gerunds. But they were able to speak like the native Australians without learning all these ‘deductive rules’ that were taught to us in class for 11 years!

Why? How?

Well, because they experienced it through inductive learning! They unconsciously absorbed the patterns and when they noticed that certain ‘language event’ did not fit what they previously observed, they then absorbed ‘the exception’ to the pattern.

And they wouldn’t even be able to explain it! Because they just experienced it. And they just knew! Without knowing how they knew.

Of course, we can talk about critical period of language development as well, and in human beings, the critical period is in childhood! You might want to argue that those children were good in English after 3 months due to them being in the critical period. I admit, adults are much slower in learning a new language compared to children. But the adults are still able to master the language better if they go out and experience the culture and just interact with people rather than exhaustively learning the grammatical rules in class without applying it somehow!

I had met an African lady in her 50s (way past the critical period for language development in human) who just came to Australia 3 months prior to work as a berry picker and she spoke much better English than a 17 year old Malaysian student who has been learning English for the past 11 years in Malaysian classroom! And that was because she had been interacting with international people who were picking berries with her at the local farm. (I was berry picking too and that was how I met her.)

This is why I said, when you want to learn language… go inductive! Experience the process! Get absorbed. Immerse yourself. Read fictions first. Listen to songs! Read poetry! Don’t try to understand the grammar yet! Forget the rules! Just read! Experience the rules (rather than knowing the rules), and then find the exception. In short, go inductive, folks! Go inductive! 

***

When I was not yet studying for my specialist exam, I had the time to proofread my (master student) friends’ case protocols. I will tell them why their sentences were wrong, and how the sentences could be improved.

They used to tell me “Afiza, you should turn your skill into an income. My friends actually pay someone else to check their case protocols. You can make a lot of money.”

And I was like, “But I am not a professional linguist. I cannot charge people for something I am not properly trained for. And I don’t think I know everything. I might miss something… and it wouldn’t be fair for me to charge them when I don’t have any professional qualification.”

And my friend said, “But these people who have been proofreading our case protocols are also not professional. They are doctors as well.”

Hmmm….I don’t know.

I still don’t think it is the right thing to do unless you have made sure that your clients know your lack of formal qualification and your limitation. The rate that you charge must be reasonable and must be less than that of the professional proofreader.

But imagine my shock when I read a Facebook status of a so-called “English proofreader” (with no formal qualification) and I could point out so many grammatical mistakes that she had made in that status (subjunctive and phrasal verbs mistakes were among the mistakes she had made!)

I am not the sort of person who go around correcting people’s language when they don’t ask for my correction. I am not a Grammar Nazi. We should encourage people to speak English even when they make mistakes, and correcting them with the purpose of embarrassing them in public doesn’t help them at all. English is not our native tongue, after all. So, do not expect perfection in non-native speakers and deliberately correct them in public. I too make a lot of mistakes, obvious or otherwise. That’s why I don’t charge people for my help! Language is just my hobby and if I can earn some pahala for something I like doing, why not, right? Easy pahala for me. (now, I don’t do this anymore because I am busy with my own studying and when I do have free time, I want to read for my own pleasure). But this so-called proofreader actually charges people for her service, which judging by her many mistakes in her Facebook status, she should have given her service for free. Gratis!!

I couldn’t believe it. Pity the students who had engaged her service in the past! How do we justify the fees that we charge when we are not professionally accredited or trained for the service that we are charging?

Isn’t it, like, unethical?

I love checking people’s grammar because I get to learn something myself in the course of trying to come up with an explanation for the grammatical mistake. Being a proofreader to my close friends’ essays has been my role since I was in MRSM Langkawi. I checked my friends’ grammar. In return, I get to copy their Add Maths solution. Haha (Quid pro quo! Symbiosis at its best! Smart partnership, isn’t it? Easy pahala for each other, right?)

In IB, I retained my role as an amateur proofreader. I didn’t mind doing this. Language is my strength. Maths is my weakness. So by offering them my service, I felt better whenever I had to ask them to help me with my Pure Maths. I am the sort of person who hates depending on other people without having my own bargaining chip. So when I had to ask for help, I would repay them with other favours. Kind of to balance the account, so to speak.

In my early years of amateurish proofreading, I would tell them that their sentences were wrong because they sounded weird to me. But I couldn’t tell them exactly why they were wrong. I would simply say, “Peliklah ayat ni.” What I mean was “I read a lot. If these sentences are correct, I would have come across them before. I knew they were wrong because of my experience in reading many different types of sentences.”

I have inductive experiences, but not the deductive theories. So I couldn’t explain it properly to them.

But I myself was not satisfied with the service that I gave. You see, I am the sort of person who wants to know your reasoning. “If you say I am wrong, you explain to me why. I want to know. You can’t just tell me that I am wrong without explaining to me why. How am I supposed to learn, then? Am I supposed to accept your word just because you said it? ” (People think I am rebellious because I refuse to listen to their advice. But the other side of the coin is, they haven’t convinced me.)

So, when I too couldn’t explain to my friends why their sentences were wrong (but I just knew it based on my inductive experience), I was not satisfied with myself.

My friends actually never wanted to know my explanation. Haha. They just wanted me to correct their assignments before the final submission to the IB examiner. They couldn’t care less what is the correct term for the mistake. But it was me… I didn’t like it when I couldn’t give them the reasoning. I was projecting my own tendency on them and felt like my friends might not feel satisfied with my corrective work. Because if I were in their shoes (notice my subjunctive verb here?), I would feel unsatisfied as well.

So that was how I came across subjunctive verb and gerund and syntax and phrasal verbs. I came across ‘the rules’ while trying to research for the proper explanation to give to my friends for why their sentences were wrong. Because just knowing that something is wrong without knowing why is not enough. It might be enough for your own self-application, but it is not enough when you want to justify it to others. You must be able to describe it and explain it!

An experienced chronic PSY MO might know psychosis when she sees one… but if he/she never learns clinical psychopathology, she wouldn’t know how to use the proper term to describe what she sees. Even I am not always ‘on point’ when describing what I see when I’m doing Mental State Examination (MSE). Some other doctors might be able to describe MSE much better than me because they have more appropriate vocabulary to complement their vast experience.

An experienced ED MO will know that a patient will deteriorate before the patient ACTUALLY deteriorates, even though at the moment the patient is actually looking quite ok. Her instinct would tell her to watch the patient closely. When the patient then does deteriorate, the ED MO would say “My instinct was right. Tak sedap hati dari tadi.” Because of her inductive experience, she just knew without being able to explain how. Her subconscious mind must have retained some obscure patterns that she didn’t know how to describe based on her many years of service. But because she never properly and formally learned it in post-graduate class (formal deductive teaching), she couldn’t describe it.

That was exactly me when I was in MRSM Langkawi. I just correct my friends’ sentences without telling them why they were wrong. In IB, I improved my language service to my friends by my ability to explain why certain sentences were wrong. Still, I didn’t always know everything back then.

Until now, I am still learning. It’s just that because language is my hobby, this learning is heaps more fun than learning psychiatry (which I also love, of course. Haha)

So, back to the original question, how to be good in English?

I would tell you, “If you really want to be good in English, just read. There is no short cut, guys! I wish there were short cuts, but nope! No short cuts… unless you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and interact with English-speaking people on a daily basis. Read! Listen to English songs! Sing! Copy common expression. Memorise quotes. Experience writing simple stories. Create silly poem. Or have a blog just for the sake of practicing your writing skill. Basically, you just go inductive! After you have gained your experience, then you go deductive! It would be easier that way. When you are learning the deductive rule AFTER having your inductive experience, you will understand the rule much more easily because your brain has been primed for it, and you have wondered about it in the course of your reading experience before. On the other hand, if you only learn the rule without having enough experience on how the rule is used, your learning will be much, much slower. Even 11 years won’t be enough!”

In my experience, a good artist always has a bit of a scientist in her.

And a good scientist, always has a bit of an artist in her.

You need both deductive and inductive reasoning in order to make sense of your knowledge, either in arts or in science. It’s just that one of them should be the PRIMARY method depending on what you are trying to learn.

And when it comes to learning language (notice my usage of gerund and phrasal verb here?), I propose that inductive grammar learning is much more efficient in the long run.

teach grammar

I hope, you guys have learned something from this post.

I leave you guys with a quote from the father of medicine, William Osler, which I think kind of explain inductive (experience) vs deductive (rule/formal learning) method of learning and why these methods complement each other.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Lots of love from yours truly.

William Osler

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Adieu, Compulsive Fiction Reading

I think I have come to that saturation age where fictions have stopped being exciting. (God, I sound so old).  

Guys, I am grieving.

I am grieving over the fact that I no longer have the time to read commercial fiction. When I finally do read fiction, I didn’t get the same kind of enjoyment that I used to get as a child (like any addiction, this is a symptom of tolerance, perhaps). Nothing surprises me anymore. I could guess the plot half-way into the novel that by the time I reached the end of it, I felt like “meh, is that it?”

I still remember how Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code amazed me throughout the whole time I was reading it when I was 20 years old. But his latest book ‘Origin’ that came out a few months ago, well, I just didn’t get the same kind of buzz from it. I imagine, if I were to read Origin at the age of 18 or 19, I would get pretty excited and couldn’t wait to discuss it with my sisters and friends. Now? I just went, “Same old, same old, Dan Brown!Can’t you create better stories? Ok… you are good at writing because you are Dan Brown. But why can’t I enjoy it as I used to? Is it you? Or is it me?”  

I was just as upset with the latest book in The Millennium series ‘The Girl Who Take An Eye for An Eye.’ I was disappointed by how simple the plot really is. I used to feel really excited when halfway through the first novel in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) I still couldn’t figure out who the culprit was. I even enjoyed the second, third and fourth instalment of the series. But this latest book felt flat and plain uninteresting to me. 

Is this anhedonia, or what? (Hahah. But my appetite, sleep, function and most of everything else is normal. So don’t worry about me, ok). 

***

Let me tell you how reading fiction used to feel.

I daydreamed about it at school. I prevaricated (read: lied to my father) that I had a kelas tambahan or latihan sukan at school so that I could get my reading time at my school library (I finished the whole Nancy Drew Series in Asma School library. And then I started on other mystery series by Enid Blyton interspersed with the series featuring Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. All of them were read in the school library. Because at home, I had other academic tasks to do and would not be excused from them by my parents.) I hid library books that I hadn’t finished reading during recess, by placing the book in different shelves (in between revision books far away from the actual shelf it should be placed) so that other students would not be able to get to it until I was done with it. And the reason I did that was because most of the time,  I had reached the quota of books I could borrow and therefore could not borrow any more. And thus, the only alternative I had was to hide the book from other students. (I was bad, bad bad. And I did that while being a school librarian *facepalm*. In my own defence, it was my elder sister who taught me to do it because she too had done the same thing. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hahaha.). 

In MRSM Langkawi, I became a school librarian again so that I could spend my time in the library for, ehem, librarian duties (haha) instead of having to be in  the class for prep.

For birthdays and rewards, I wanted fiction. I saved half my school money to buy fiction every month. The anticipation was half the pleasure. Like I said, I daydreamed about them. 

When I finally got my hands on the book I had been daydreaming of, the happiness was immense and intense. When I finally started to actually read the book, my mind was empty of other things. And I was transported to another land… I was there with the characters… doing all the detecting, thinking the same thing the characters were thinking or speculating, going through the same adventures, the same trials and heartaches and facing the same evil force. And when they triumphed at the end, it felt like it was me who had succeeded. Whenever something sad or something bad happened to me, I would remember to be like the heroes that I read; heroes don’t give up, they push harder until they win, they never give in to the evil force; if they die, they will die with honour while accomplishing a critical mission.

To me, reading fiction was all the motivation and inspiration that I needed.

I didn’t need to read books like “How to be happy in 10 simple steps”…. or “La Tahzan,”… or “Chicken Soup For Whatever”…I don’t think I would follow the advice in such books anyway (I know some people love reading non-fiction self-improvement, self-help and motivational books like that. And as a psychiatry doctor, you might think it is weird that I don’t read books like that. But to be honest, I was never able to finish such a book, alas)

Books like “7 habits of highly effective people”, I could never finish them! If I wanted to be effective, I thought of Sherlock Holmes. If I wanted  to be kind and fair, I thought about Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mocking Bird). If I wanted to push myself to do the right thing and be firm, I thought  about the story of Umar Al-Khattab. 

I was motivated by stories. Not self-help books or motivational books. 

So, a large part of my life was influenced by fiction. And I enjoyed them… so much…. until recently.

Well, actually, when I really think about it, I started noticing my lack of enjoyment since early 2016. I still loved reading fictions in 2016….but the feeling was not the same as when I was a teenager or even as when I was a HO. The level of enjoyment and excitement was not like before. It still gives me pleasure, but it wasn’t as intense. 

Am I becoming jaded? ‘I have read everything, I knew everything, no author can surprise me anymore’ kind of jaded? 

Or am I just finally grown up?  Haha. Maybe all these while, I was still a kid trapped in a woman’s body. And now, my soul finally catches up with my physical body, wrinkles and all. Haha. (When you think about it, books are like my toys. If you ask a girl aged 4 years old about whether or not she would ever find playing with barbie dolls a boredom, I am sure she could not imagine being in the position of not loving barbie dolls ever. Because at 4 years old, that was the only thing she knew to find pleasure in. That was the only thing important enough at that age. Her world is small and limited. And in that limited world, Barbie Doll is the best! But when that girl reaches a certain age, barbie dolls will stop being entertaining anymore. Now, there are video games, and school sports and academic stuff to focus on. So her attachment to Barbie Dolls diminished.  Maybe, I am just like that girl. It’s just that with me, because books are varied by different genres and different characters, it took me longer to detach myself).

In 2016… things happened that made me reevaluate how I used my time (like how I could have died in an accident that happened in Ramadan 2016; and when I survived the ordeal unscathed, I had wondered whether there are things in this world that I am supposed to accomplish that go far beyond fiction reading; things I must accomplish before I can finally meet my Maker) 

And then there was the exam… I took my Part A in December 2016. 

Since then… reading fiction makes me feel guilty. I used to be able to forget everything when I read… but now, even as I am reading Jeffrey Archer or Dan Brown, my mind was thinking about the house chores I haven’t done or the academic stuff I haven’t mastered, or the fact that I should visit my parents this weekend because last weekend I had already stayed at my house reading. It lessened my enjoyment of my fiction considerably because I just couldn’t be as absorbed as I used to. Adulthood, responsibilities… they stopped me from being absorbed… and therefore I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. (Well, make no mistake. I am not saying I don’t enjoy reading at all now. Because I do… reading is still my number one hobby. I just didn’t get as much euphoria with it now.) 

Then, there was also that soft whisper in my heart telling me that I could die tomorrow not accomplishing anything worthy in this life because I was busy reading fiction. That other people got involved in NGOs, doing charities, organising events for the greater good of the community… they were out there doing things that are good for others, that would benefit them in the hereafter. (I really do admire my friend Dr. T… she is so devoted to her NGO. Me? I have issues about committing to an organization. I am afraid of restrictions, ‘kepatuhan kepada pemimpin’ and group thinking and all that. In fact, I have trust issues with any hierarchical organization… I just don’t like it. I will avoid belonging to one if I can help it. But then, another friend of mine who knew my issues had recited to me an old African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. This is why people join NGOs or any organization despite all the hassles! Because they want to go far. Because they know they can’t do much to benefit the society when they are alone. But hah… my aversion to hierarchical organization always rein me in. Each and every time, I just couldn’t do it.) 

I saw people who become the best at what they do because they spend the bulk of their time on their career. For example, maybe I should spend my time by doing a study on some aspect of psychiatry that I can then publish in a reputable journal. Maybe I should spend my time writing a book about psychiatry for lay people. Maybe I should do a vlog in you tube for education purposes. (I followed a few dermatologists who created a youtube channel talking about skin care and busting the myth of beauty products out there, educating their viewers with their knowledge so that their viewers can make better life choices. I mean, that is a very useful way to spend your time, right… by making educational videos and at the same time promoting your service at your practice! Such a clever and business-savvy thing to do!) 

Below is an example of a dermatologist-youtuber, Dr. Davin Lim, whose videos I actually find very educational. He spends his energy on educating the public while at the same time attracting a lot of future clients to his private practice. That is brilliant marketing without being shallow or cringe-worthy.

Look at Neelofa guys! She is so successful. Maybe this is why people become successful… they focus their energy and their free time doing beneficial things that directly or indirectly propel their career and their life forward! 

When Neelofa has an instagram account… that instagram account actually serves a purpose of promoting her product and herself as a brand. 

Look at Vivy Yusuf… her instagram, her blog and her you tube channel all serve a purpose to promote her business.

And that’s why she and Neelofa made the Forbes 30 under 30 list last year! 

Look at us, ordinary people. Our instagram and Facebook accounts are used just for fun. Not for career purposes or anything really meaningful. When Neelofa and Vivy actually update their accounts, there is a higher purpose to it other than simply updating or checking in just for ‘fun’ or just for the heck of it. 

See? We waste our time! Our time and energy are scattered and unfocussed.

Maybe  if I were a journalist or an English teacher or a novelist, I can justify how much time I spend reading fiction because reading fiction would inspire more ideas and improve my language command which I could then use in my career as a journalist/English teacher/ novelist. 

But I am a doctor. I should spend more time reading doctor’s stuff, right? *sigh*

So either I give up reading fiction, or I change my career? 

Or…. I must tell myself that I can only read fiction sparingly because there are other things that are more important in life that deserve my time more. And I have to make myself happy with just that! Happy with just sparing reading. (Can I do that?)

Can I be happy struggling with myself to read journal articles instead of commercial fiction? I don’t know. But the need for me to moderate my obsession is there… especially now that my enjoyment in reading is dimmed by my own realisation that I should spend my time better. That there are bigger things in life other than my own selfish enjoyment. (cognitive dissonance is really wreaking havoc with my ego! I am in the eternal battle between my id and my superego)

This really feels like a relationship break-up, you know. Actually, it’s like a divorce. Haha. (When I think about it, this break-up has been coming gradually for the past few years. I was just never ready to admit it. In fact, the crack started slowly in medical school even as my seniors were telling me that I should spend more time reading Islamic books. I have had attacks of cognitive dissonance on and off since then….but I held on because reading fiction was my first love. But I guess, I grow up now and have become more matured. Like the girl with the barbie doll. Maybe I am more ready to give up fiction now when I never was before.)

  

And therefore now, I am grieving. Because once upon a time, reading fiction has been a beautiful journey and experience to me. I said before how it shaped my character; it gave me my ideals and principles and philosophy. The fact that I could write a blog, compose a poetry and express myself in writing like this… I owe all of it to fiction reading. Once upon a time, when I was a kid, a teenager and a young adult, fiction reading was very important to me and I revolved my time and my life around it. I turned to fiction reading during times of sadness and tribulations as well as during times of happiness. Fiction reading to me is like a toddler’s version of a favourite blanket or a bantal busuk that the toddler needs when his mother is not around. To the toddler, the blanket and the pillow is a substitute mother that calms his anxiety when his mother has to leave him. 

Fiction reading was my emotional crutch. 

So this, indeed, feels like a break-up. Like I am saying good bye to a certain lifestyle I have always known. 

But eventually, everyone leaves their attachment blanket and pillow behind. They have to… in order to mature and break away from their restrictive cocoon. 

But I remember a story that has been told numerous times before that will console my grief. The story of rocks, pebbles and sands and how they all can fit in a glass jar. I admit now, my fictions have been my sands all these times.

 

It’s time to make more room for rocks and pebbles, eh?

 I am really going to do this, insya-Allah. I am so ‘berkobar-kobar’ right now, that I will be surprised if you cannot feel my enthusiasm as you read my post. LOL. 

But for now, I need some time to properly grieve.  *sigh*

Adieu, compulsive fiction reading. Adieu!

 

 

P/S:

I do feel quite moody lately. Is it because of the psychological withdrawal of not reading fiction? Haha. Been restraining myself from reading fiction since the start of the new year. (This is part of my new year resolution!) That means I have not been reading fiction for the past one month! Detoxifying from fiction is really full of suffering, guys. *sigh*

CBT

Now my replacement therapy is this non-fiction I am currently reading, a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy authored by Judith S. Beck (she is the daughter of Aaron Beck. Aaron Beck is the father of Cognitive Therapy, which is one of the most commonly used psychotherapy in the psychiatry field) which I had ordered online straight from the UK. So far, I am not bored yet because this is directly related to my work. But Wallahi, there are times when I seriously pine for the next mystery and thriller. 

Ya Allah, grant me patience. Can’t do it without Your help.  

Personality And Context

She was not that bad. She was actually quite entertaining. I was, to be honest, totally flummoxed by the fact that there was a side of her I found quite engaging.

I must admit I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed her talk on that day. When I first saw her as one of the relatives of my patient many, many years ago, she was, quite frankly, a long, sharp thorn on my backside.

But on that day, she was in her element. She knew her stuff. She took questions from the audience and answered them well, full with comprehensive explanation. Pretty impressive, I must admit. Far from the image of an overbearing, fussy and difficult-to-please relative that I have always associated with her in the past.

When I told one of my colleagues about her the day after, she was full of disbelief. “Split personality?” She joked.

I shook my head, after reflecting for awhile. “Different context yields different persona. In different settings, you put on different masks. After all, that is exactly what persona means.”

Persona means mask. And just as the actor may change his mask and costume, so does the individual ‘seems’ to change. Deep inside, she/he may be NOTHING like the mask she/he puts on.

It is a scary thought, isn’t it? Because how do we know, which one of the many different masks truly reflects the person underneath? 

***

During housemanship, I was with a bunch of HOs eating a late lunch when my friend had jokingly said, “I wonder macam mana husband specialist S ni boleh tahan dengan dia. Mesti husband and anak-anak dia depressed.”

Even when I was not yet a PSY MO, I knew that sentence was illogical. “Mana kau tahu dengan husband and anak-anak dia, dia akan jerit-jerit juga macam dia jerit dengan kita? Entah-entah solehah, mithali habis! Who knows dengan diorang, mungkin dia macam perempuan melayu terakhir.”

They thought I was being sarcastic, and they all laughed.

***

“My father behaved differently lately. He talked over the phone for hours at night and not sleeping. He started singing randomly. And lately he started buying that coffee for ‘kuat batin’. He is also divorcing my mother and plans to marry another person. You should have read his messages to his new girlfriend. It sickens me. I think he is manic.” Said one relative of a patient.

“Hmm…. but his so-called manic mood is not pervasive. He functions well. All his behaviour can be attributed to someone who is falling in love with another person.” Said the doctor who treated the patient but couldn’t see anything that can be attributed to any particular disorder. 

“But this is not the father that I have known all my life.”

Look, do we know our parents in all the different contexts that exist in their lives?

Come on! You probably started having memory of your parents starting from the age of 4-5 years old. Before that, you were babies and you couldn’t really remember anything much. If you are a second child, and your elder sister is 4 years older than you at 8 years old, it means by the time you were 4 years old, your parents had been married for 8 years already (and that is if they had conceived your elder sister immediately upon marriage. Otherwise, they might have been married much longer before you finally have any memory of who they are as a person).

You have missed how your parents were when they were kids, themselves. How naughty they might be, for example. You might have missed how your parents were as a teenager. Maybe your father really was the ‘gedik’, over-familiar, licentious type of a person when he was drugged by love. So his whatsapp messages that sicken you now might simply be part of his premorbid personality. You don’t know how your father is among his friends and colleagues. (For example, an elderly mak cik was surprised that her elderly husband had belonged to a whatsapp group consisting of all his male ex-classmates. And the contents of the whatsapp group, said the makcik, was shameless and overtly sexual. She could not believe her husband and his friends could talk like that and when she confronted her husband, the husband just laughed it off by saying “orang lelaki memang cakap macam tu!” What the hell?? Won’t the mak cik’s childen be shocked if they knew? See? The kids do not know their parents in other contexts!)

Even a wife does not know how her husband behaves at his workplace! Her husband might be the flirtatious type who talks to all his colleagues and staffs inappropriately and when the wife finds out that her husband has an affair, the first thing the wife would usually say is “I never saw this coming!”

You see, she only saw her husband when he puts on the ‘husband’ mask at home. He has many other masks; one of them might happen to be  ‘the one that saja suka test market’ mask, for example. (A lot of guys like putting on this particular mask. An intelligent woman will never fall for it. It never fails to amuse me when I saw such mask being put on!)

I was a HO when I saw a married person in a superior position speaking inappropriately to his subordinates (in case, you are wondering, that subordinate was not me! I don’t think anyone would dare. I have that malignant vibe that scares everyone. I always make sure my boundaries are clear! I simply put on my ‘bitchy’ mask and people know to stay appropriate. This is actually my favourite mask, LOL.) And I remember thinking, “My God, aku ingat doktor-doktor ni busy, dan tak mungkin akan ada affair. Shit happens even in the hospital. Poor his wife.”

I learned to ignore such occurrences and thought to myself “this is none of my business. As long as you guys don’t do anything more than a verbal banter in front of me, I will ignore it and pretend I don’t know.”

But believe me, behind your back, people do talk. 

bitch
My bitchy vibe!

***

I was impressed with my mother when  I saw the sort of respect she got as a senior midwife when I was in my 4th year and had followed her to her workplace in order to observe how Malaysian labour room worked. I went with her when she was doing her night shift at the hospital and I saw how hardworking she was and how knowledgeable. Before that night, I never knew that she was one of the trainers for midwifery and also an exam invigilator for midwifery exams. I saw how the junior midwives all consulted her, asking her to verify their VEs.

I saw my mother in a new light that night.

I was so used to thinking of her in the context of her being my mother. I loved her. I knew she loved me. She cooked delicious meals for me. She made sure I had everything I needed to be a good student. She worried for me when I fell ill. She pushed me to toe the line of etiquette when we had guests at home. Sometimes, she nagged at me when I didn’t do my house chores properly. She could be real fussy but still adorable. That was how I thought of her.

I never thought about her intelligence and competence as an experienced midwife. I knew my father is an intelligent person because he was the one who taught us our academic stuff when we were growing up; he was in charge of our academic discipline. My mother was not in-charge of our academic. She was in charge of cooking and cleanliness and shopping and stuff like that. Somehow, my mom’s intelligence was not something I consciously thought of, before that night. Whether or not she was an intelligent person, was neither here nor there because it wouldn’t change anything, in my short-sighted opinion at that time. She was just… my mom!

But that night, I saw her in a different context. I saw her in the midst of enjoying her conversation with her friends. She didn’t talk with them the way she talked with me and my sisters at home. At her workplace, she was the most senior midwife, someone with a level of authority (that didn’t show much when she was at home because my father was more dominant) and she was also someone’s friend. She was more light and carefree. Their conversation could turn silly too… and at times, my mom was downright hilarious. I never saw her as someone hilarious, before.

I was like, “Damn… I don’t know my own mother. All these times….” It was like I had been blindfolded before and now, someone had released my eyes from its oppressive covers.

I was glad I saw this side of her that night. I felt proud of my mother in the context of her as more than just my mom. I saw her as a person in her own right regardless of whose mom or whose wife she was. And that night, I truly saw her as an intelligent, competent and incredible woman.

Since then, I believe that a woman must contribute to the society to remind herself that she is more than just a wife and a mother. It might not even be a paying job… she might just be volunteering at the local surau or at any soup kitchen. But she must do something for the society in her own capacity. Even if she has a rich husband, she must do something to feel worthy in her own right as a person. Otherwise, people around her may underestimate her and do not truly SEE her… even as they love her.

No one can ever make me give up my work. I might not always be a doctor later… I might take an early pension or do something else.  But I will always work in one way or another. It is what God created us for… “memakmurkan bumi, isn’t it?”

In a way, this is how you fulfil your purpose of life. By working!

***

When I was just a junior MO, I was upset by a talk given by someone in MMA regarding ‘housemen these days’. The talk was mainly about how the flexi hours would make HOs incompetent as an MO and they would be a burden to specialists later and so on and so forth. *rolled eyes*

When I was a HO, flexi hours were not yet implemented in full. I worked in on-calls for most of my Housemanship training. So, I didn’t feel personally attacked by the talk.

But in principle,  I just hated “senior budget bagus”. Hahha. I have issues with seniors like that.

So I wrote a blog post entitled “Practicing Medicine In The Age of Doom and Gloom” and it went viral (unintentionally, of course). Some specialists had written on their facebook comments about my arrogance. I read that comment and I laughed out loud.

Such silliness!

Sometimes, I wonder whether or not people really understand what the word arrogant really means. Do they just use the word to describe anyone who disagrees with them or anyone who retaliates to their own arrogance?

You were the one who had said that the juniors would never be as competent as you were because of the flexi hours system (isn’t that arrogant too?), and yet we were the ones who were arrogant when we defended ourselves against YOUR arrogance? (In psychiatry, this is called projection, ok!)

You were the one who shouted at HOs, enacting histrionic drama in the ward, and bullying HOs unnecessarily, (one particular specialist actually commented on HO’s clothing and make-up, deliberately embarrassing her in the rounds. How does her make-up or clothing in ANY way related to her work, you tell me. And one MO had said to another houseman, “You tak payah mai kerja kalau macam ni. Kenapa? Husband you tak dapat tanggung you?” How does her husband’s ability to support her become a topic related to her work performance? Ridiculous!) And when one HO decided that such unacceptable conduct should not be tolerated and then wrote about how she felt on her own blog, suddenly you thought the HO was arrogant?

Give me a break!

Why don’t you connect with her in a different context and behave better yourself, then maybe you will find her humble and nice. Maybe, she just refused to be nice to bullies! As simple as that!

It was Plato who had said, “the measure of a man is what he does with power.”

measure of a man

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. So, you can judge whether or not a person is arrogant based on how the person treats someone below himself/herself. Is she nice to staff nurses, other HOs, other PPKs? Does she say thank you to her subordinates who had assisted her on-call or does she simply complain about HOs non-stop and didn’t bother to thank people who had helped made her life easier?

Some people can be polite to their superiors. And that is not surprising! Of course, a self-serving kaki-bodek would do so. But the same person can find so many things to complain about HOs in whatsapp groups non-stop, blowing things out of proportion. 

If  you want to know who is arrogant, ask people of the lowest position in an organization. Don’t take the word of the highest echelon in the organization who might feel easily offended just because other people don’t meet his expectation of  how much he should be respected. Sometimes, people don’t respect you out of your own doings and your own faults. 

***

Who exactly are we?

If we take off the many masks that we put on in our daily life, who are we?

Depending on contexts, the person I am dealing with, how closely connected I am to that person, how annoying a person is (and many other factors), I too have masks.

Indeed, everyone does. It doesn’t mean we all have split personalities! It doesn’t mean that we have some sort of personality disorders or are manic or whatever.

When I was in my 5th housemanship posting, one specialist had said to me “You look so quiet! But in your blog, you seemed so outspoken.”

In my heart, I was like, “If you give me enough reason to attack, I can be that person in my blog, too. Give me enough reason… then watch me.”

Instead of saying that, I didn’t make any comment. I just laughed.

She asked “Did you write about me?”

“No…” I paused. “Not yet.” I added cheekily.

She laughed and said, “If you write about me, make sure you let me read it first. If I say ok, then you can put it in your blog.”

I never wrote about her. She wasn’t a bully.

I was just a houseman. Of course, I would pick my battle… and my main target in my daily houseman life was just to finish my job as soon as possible so that I could go home as soon as possible. I didn’t pick a fight for every single thing that annoyed me… I only picked up the ones that had crossed the boundaries into abuse of power and bullying.  I didn’t seek unnecessary interaction with MOs or specialists. I only talked to them regarding work-related issues. I had no desire to socialize with them beyond  that. If I seemed quiet, it was because I had no reason to be noisy. Not yet.

That was my persona (my mask) as a houseman when dealing with MOs/specialists. The mask of quiet, reserved, not-excellent-but-good-enough-not-to-be-extended HO.

But among fellow HOs and friends who I already knew and felt comfortable with, I could be loud and opinionated (just like in my blog) and I could be the life of the party too.

And among fellow HOs or people I wasn’t really comfortable with, I would be back to being quite reserved.

But try crossing my principles (unnecessary bullying, unfair treatment of subordinates, unjust accusation, unreasonable demand for me to do something that goes against what I think is the right thing to do) you will be surprised at how fast I can change my mask. This is what my siblings say, “my lioness mask”.

Don’t wake the sleeping lion (or was it the sleeping giant? Well, something like that… you get the drift.)

Now as an MO, I maintained the same masks and the same boundaries between me, my HOs, fellow MOs and my superiors. I am friendly but firm with my HOs…. I have never shouted or unnecessarily scolded them. My instruction towards them is straightforward and easily understood. There is nothing I hate more than being nagged when I was a HO, and likewise, I refrain from nagging them. Among the many phrases that I refrain to say to them (no matter how tempting) was “during my time… (insert your budget-bagus sentence)”. Haha.

Even if I were to do that, it was not done in a way to patronize them, but more in a way to reminisce about how ridiculous some of the rules were when I was a HO. I am not jealous of their shift system. In fact, I look forward to improving working conditions for everyone and this is a good first step towards that.

With my superiors, I can take reasonable scolding especially if it is my fault. But if it is not my fault, I will certainly speak up and defend myself. Depending on the types of superiors I have to deal with, I mirror their attitude towards me. I can be friendly, polite, indifferent or even hostile, depending on how they themselves treat me. I am not an ass-kisser and never will be. If I am nice to my superiors, it must be because I genuinely like them as a person. Otherwise, I will give them basic level of politeness; just enough in order to work with but nothing more.

When it comes to my patient, since I am the one who see the patient first and clerk the patient fully at the emergency department, I know best whether or not my specialist made the appropriate decision regarding my patient (whether to admit or not admit the patient, for example). If they disagree with my judgment, they can just ask me the appropriate questions to ascertain whether or not the patient should be discharged or admitted. And if my answers all point towards admission, yet they still don’t want to admit the patient, then I would be quite upset. In my opinion, if I distrust the clerking of my HOs, I will see the patient myself and re-clerk the patient myself (my control issues, hahah). So, I expect that if anyone were to disagree with my impression of my patient, then rather than nagging non-stop over the phone, asking the same question over and over again no matter how clear I have been about my judgment, they should see the patient themselves. In fact, I think that is what being on-call is all about regardless of whether you are a HO/MO/Specialist/Consultant.

If a HO distrusts a SN’s report, the HO must go and see the patient herself rather than just ordering the SN to do something over the phone. If an MO distrusts or disagrees with a HO’s assessment, it is the most responsible thing for the MO to see the patient herself (and I always do that. Otherwise, I will put my trust in my HO! Rather than nagging non-stop to assuage my own anxiety). Likewise, if a specialist feels unsettled and feels dissatisfied with an MO’s assessment, I believe it is the responsibility of the specialist to see the patient herself! Why not? Otherwise, just trust the assessment of  your MO, because she is the one who actually gets up from bed, drives to the ED, clerk the patient for a long time and facing the aggression of the patient and educates the family members for hours. If you are not willing to go to the ED yourself, then you really have no choice but to trust your MO’s report and manage the case according to her report.

No matter who you are (HO or MO or specialist or consultant), always remember that “No trust = go and do it yourself.”

This has been my mantra ever since I started working in 2011. That’s why we are on-call! (I will always remind myself that if I ever become a specialist, my MOs are not my sounding board to release my anxiety of my indecision. If I cannot decide, if some bits of the history are still not clear, I will do it myself!)

***

So my personality would seem different to anyone who knew me in a different context or in a different setting… and depending on how annoyed or benevolent I feel towards that person, I would of course behave differently. For a person to make an arbitrary inference of my whole character based on the limited context that the person had known me, would be inaccurate and sometimes, quite foolish.

So to my blog readers, do not expect me to behave the way you think I might behave in person just because you have formed an impression about me based on my writing. Just because you read my blog, it doesn’t mean you know me. You only know me in the context of me as a blogger. This is my blogger persona. In real life, I might not talk the way I write.  So, don’t be surprised (the way the specialist in my 5th posting were surprised. Haha. She is one cute lady.)

You do not know me as a daughter or a sister, or a doctor or a friend. I choose what I want to write and what I want to share. It would certainly skew your perception of me. I might not tell you all my weaknesses and my flaws. But at least, you know my life philosophy, my principles and my thoughts.

No one really knows anyone, really! When you say you can get along with someone, you are actually getting along with his/her mask! One aspect of his/her personality was harmonious with yours. And that’s all. Nothing more than that. One day you might be surprised when you saw the same person in a different setting and find yourself unable to accept how she/he has behaved in that particular context. (Trust me, this is why the rate of divorce is increasing everywhere in the world. Because you find out later that you had married a persona.)

At the end of the day, you are not a sum of your many personas. Deep inside, you know who you are.

The only One who knows you truly and deeply is Allah. 

He is the best of Judge. Other people’s judgments of your personas (your masks, really!) do not matter all that much. 

So, let’s pray that He favors us on the day of judgment.

The Chronicles of Jerusalem

When I was just a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, 1st year medical student, in the University of Newcastle, I got into a heated argument with another medical student regarding the issue of Palestine.

Jerusalem belongs to whom, was the matter of contention between the two of us in the Auchmuty Library that morning. It ended up with me feeling battered and stupid. In general, I hate losing a debate. I hate even more when I lose an argument on issues that matter a lot. 

And on that day, I felt like I had lost this particular argument on Palestine. And Palestine matters. A lot!

You see, I was young and fiery. (ehem, I’m still relatively young but less fiery nowadays. Haha… I think). I had more sentiment than facts. And in the end, I lost because I didn’t have enough facts to back me up.

Every debater knows that excellent research is the most crucial aspect of your preparation before you engage your opponent in an argument. Not just any research… but excellent research. Your oratory skills, the inflection of your voice, your outward appearance…. they are merely the icing on the cake of your substantial facts! If you don’t have facts, you will most certainly lose regardless of how much charm you can ooze out of your pores!

However, in my own defense, I didn’t know that I was going to get into a debate of the issue on that day. (Or else I would have done my research like any good debater out there.)

It began as a normal day; me being in the library doing my studying and checking out the news from the internet in between. It began as a discussion on current issues and it so happened that the topic of Palestine cropped up between us. What began as a friendly discussion ended up in a heated snappy comebacks that I was totally unprepared for.

I wanted to educate him so that he could stop spewing biased, unlearned  views regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict. I told him that historically, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians. I told him that Post-World War II, the British had given away Palestine to the Jews when the British had no rights to do so.

He came back at me vehemently and said “Come on! Who are you to say that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian? Just because your Quran says so? But according to the Bible and the Torah, that land belongs to the Jews. God gives the land to the Jews thousands of years ago. So which should we follow? The Quran or the Bible or the Torah?”

Okay, he had a point. Muslims cannot say Palestine belongs to them by making the Quran as their reference because then the Jews and the Christians will say Palestine belongs to them by making the Old and the New Testament as their point of reference. And we will then end up arguing in circles because neither party believes in the other’s holy book.

“No, I am not basing my argument based on anybody’s holy book. But historical facts show that the Palestinians had taken in the Jews who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe and welcomed them into Palestine in good faith. Before the Bristish Mandate, Palestine belonged to the Palestinians.”

He scoffed at me and said “And if you want to talk about history…. Sure, before World War I, Palestine was the land of the Palestinians. But thousands of years ago before it was the land of the Muslims, it was also the land of the Jews and the Christians. Before Umar won the war….Jerusalem did not belong to the Muslims, it was the land of the Christians! And then Umar won the war and Muslims then ruled Jerusalem for a time. And then during the Crusades…. the Christians got the land back from the Muslims. And after that, Salahuddin won the land back from the Christians! So historically speaking, should we establish who got the rights to the land based on who FIRST arrived on the land? Because it was not the Muslims who first arrived on the land! Muslims got it much later…because of Umar and Salahuddin!”

I knew I was losing the argument. He had more facts than I did.

He went on to ‘educate’ me in his patronizing tone, “In the case of the Palestine, the land is claimed by three major religions as theirs. Whoever conquers the land would own the land. Once upon a time, the Muslims had wrestled away Palestine from the Christians. And now, the Jews have wrestled away the land from the Muslims. So, whoever wins the land gets to keep the land. It so happens that at this time, the Jews are winning instead of the Muslims.”

In my mind, I hastily reviewed my knowledge on Palestine history. My brain was working in overdrive, trying to recall the historical chronology:

“Mula-mula Saidina Umar dapatkan Palestin, kemudian Palestin dirampas balik oleh Christians through the Crusades. Kemudian Salahuddin Al-Ayubi dapatkan kembali Palestin. Palestin kemudian memang dimiliki oleh orang Islam berkurun2 lamanya hingga Sultan Hamid II daripada Khalifah Uthmaniyah jatuh…World War I happened… Balfour Declaration 1917 happened ….after World War I, Kerajaan Uthmaniyah dipecah-pecahkan… Palestine jatuh ke tangan British and British Mandate in 1922…. Sistem Khalifah dibubarkan 1924….Then British bagi Palestine kepada Yahudi… Palestinian Exodus/ Nakba pada tahun 1948…. We lost the 6-day Arab-Israeli War 1967…”  As I recited the chronology in my brain, I realized how patchy my historical knowledge really was. I didn’t know any real details in any real certainty… because I did not have the opportunity to do a proper and thorough research. And I am the sort of person who is very bad at bluffing or faking it when I don’t know something. I can only sound confident when I really am confident. And I can only be confident if I am convinced. And I can only be convinced if I have read the facts and done the proper research myself. (Other people telling me the facts do not convince me. I have to search and do it myself and read it with my own eyes. That’s my problem.) It is the process, you see! I need to go through the whole process of research before I can be convinced enough to be confident and to sound confident.That’s just how I am. (Yes, I am a control freak with trust issues! Hahah)

Unfortunately at that time, I did not have enough facts and I felt like a fool!

I broke a sweat and in my heart I knew “Aku tak boleh nak bagi argument bahawa Palestin tu milik orang Islam hanya kerana orang Islam lagi lama duduk di Palestin. Sebab sejarah Palestin ialah ia sentiasa direbut dan siapa yang menang, dia yang dapat. Aku tak boleh deny yang argument dia tu valid and logic. Damn, I am stuck!!”

At the end, I could only say to him “Fine, then don’t call the Muslims terrorist. They are trying to fight back for the land and when they win, the land will be theirs. Because according to your views, whoever wins the war for the land could claim the land. So, stop calling the Hamas terrorist while calling the Zionist as the victims. It is a war between them that is yet to end. It is the battle for the holy land.”

We went our separate ways after that. I packed my books, got out of the library and went back to my hostel at Edwards College, abandoning my plans to study in the library…because I knew I would not be able  to focus on my studying anyway. On my long walk back to the college, I was fuming with suppressed anger. Mostly anger at myself! I replayed in my mind the scene of our heated altercation. I analyzed where had I gone wrong.

And after awhile, I realized that from the very beginning I was destined to lose because I had taken the wrong angle. I had said, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians.” I said that in a way that people would say “Tanah Melayu milik orang Melayu.”

The truth is, no land belongs to any particular race. That’s why “Go back to where you come from” is  a stupid thing to say to someone . Once your ancestors have migrated to another land and breed generation upon generation there, then you belong there! But the land is not yours for you to deny anyone! You belong there…. but the land is not yours! You cannot tell anyone else to go back wherever….because it is not yours!

Can the Native Red Indians say to the White American to go back to the UK because America was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the aboriginals say to the White Australian to go back to the UK because Australia was originally their land? After all these centuries? Can the Malays say to the Indians/Chinese to go back to India/China? After all these centuries?

Can I say, “Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, so the Israelis should go back to wherever they came from before the World War I, before the Holocaust… back to Poland/German or wherever their ancestors had come from?”

It doesn’t matter how brutally unfair and cruel the method of land acquisition by your ancestors were (talk to the aboriginals in Australia regarding how the White Australians had murdered their native ancestors), but once decades have passed, and generation upon generation have existed in the land, then you belong there just as much as the generation of the original native.

If we were all to go back to where our ancestors came from… well, we all can trace our ancestors to Adam and Eve. And they had come from the heaven. And when you think about it, that’s where we all want to go back to…. we all want to go back to heaven. Right? In this world, we all come from the same ancestor, and therefore the same place… there is no particular place for anyone to go back to in this world. So no one should be able to tell us to go back to somewhere else! Once the migration process have fulfilled the legal requirements of the man-made law, you and your generation belong to the place you have migrated to. It is up to you and and your generation to make the best out of the migration…. to assimilate and integrate into the society as you see fit. (Many Muslims staying in the West have experienced numerous times being told to go back to the middle east. Haha. I myself had experienced such audacious rudeness when I was in Australia. So, next time some impudent rednecks shout at you “Go back to where you come from.” You can just say, “Yes, I am planning to go back to heaven where my ancestors come from. Thank you for your concern.”)

***

When I arrived at my room, I sat on my bed in silence while acknowledging to myself how stupid I was. I deserved to lose. Because my knowledge regarding Palestine was laughable! Spirit and passion alone would not win against cold, hard facts! I called myself as a Muslim… and yet my knowledge about Palestine was superficial at best, and paltry at worst! No wonder I had lost!

It was a wake-up call for me.

Maybe God  wanted me to lose, I thought. So that I would learn. Just because I thought I was arguing for the right cause, it didn’t mean my lack of knowledge was forgivable. I had no business getting into an argument about something important like this without having enough substantial knowledge at the tip of my fingers and I knew it!  (Oh yeah, how much I had learned on that day!) 

It dawned on me that I should have taken the angle of justice. Not the angle of land belonging! Because no one can argue with justice! Whereas land belonging is something arbitrary and arguing on it will lead us nowhere.

I should have said, “Yes, throughout the history, whoever wins the war gets the land! But Saidina Umar had never stolen the homes of the Christians and gave them to the Muslims. Unlike what the Zionists are doing now… taking the home of the Palestinians  by force and simply giving them to the Jews without any rights, violating multiple International Laws countless times! Salahuddin Al-Ayubi did not terrorize the civilians, and did not bomb hospitals and holy buildings. In fact, he had reformed military and war ethics in his days. The land of the Palestine could have been shared by all three Abrahamic religions, and before the British Mandate, that was exactly what had taken place. All three major religions had lived in Jerusalem in peace. The Muslims even helped the Jews escaped from the Holocaust in Europe, remember?! Saidina Umar and Salahuddin Al-Ayubi won Palestine by winning the war with honour! Not through cruel trickery, savage land hijacking and barbarous land occupation.”

I should have said, “If you knew history so well, you would be familiar with the Covenant of Umar which was also recognized by the West. It was the assurance of safety by Umar to the non-Muslims after he obtained Jerusalem! And the history of Salahuddin Al-Ayubi with Richard the Lion Heart are stuff of legends that is also recognised by  the West….the history of Salahuddin has been made into numerous Hollywood films… showing that Muslims had dealt with the Jews and Christians with justice, integrity and honour! The issue of Palestine is not the issue of land belonging. It is the issue of justice!”

The Covenant of Umar

The text as reported by al-Tabari:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety [aman] which the servant of God Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem.

The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes (jizya) like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until the reach their place of refuge. The villagers [ahl al-ard, who had taken refuge in the city at the time of the conquest] may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped.

If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful.

 

I wanted to smack my head. So typical of me to start having so many ideas about what I should have said after the argument was already done and dusted! It is too late for brilliant ideas now, Afiza. You lost! Accept it! Move on!

And I moved on. But this time, I moved on with an action plan.

I studied the history of Palestine. I attended talks about Palestine given by my alim, knowledgeable seniors who were dedicated members of IKRAM/ISMA. Every year they would organize the same talks and the same seminars for the new first year juniors and I never failed to join. (At that time, I did not yet join their usrah groups. I could not commit to it… I was cautious about committing to any particular group. But I always joined their Palestine seminars which was opened to the general non-usrah Muslims. I only started joining usrah when I was in my 4th year of Med school… when most of my friends already joined in when they were only in the first year. It took my seniors 4 years to convince me to participate in their usrah and finally my heart cracked open. Hahah. Yup… I am stubborn and I like to observe and think for myself and come up with my own conclusion before I commit to anything. I was afraid that if I commit to a group, then I cannot be free to think for myself. In psychiatry, this is called group thinking, although at that time I did not yet know what label to give to my hesitation to join them, until I learned about group thinking and group dynamics for my Part A exam last year.  I was afraid that I would lose my identity and my freedom. Silly me, yeah? It turned out that joining them was one of the most enlightening episode of my life.I should have joined sooner. As I mentioned before, this is my problem. I don’t want to listen to others. I need to go through the process and come to the conclusion myself. And as a result, I always end up taking a longer, circuitous route… but I believe, this is also a more satisfying route, because I can say that I do something based on my sincere, heartfelt conviction! I am not just going with the flow, following the herd.)

I was intrigued by my seniors’ enthusiasm regarding the movement for BDS (Boycott, Divestments and Sanction). I stopped drinking Coke or eating McD. I chose Gloria Jeans over Starbucks. (Sadly, when I returned to Malaysia, my resolve is occasionally weakened, I must admit. There are times when I couldn’t say no to Coke. Or Starbucks. But at least, my frequency of buying them were heaps less than it would have been if I did not support the BDS. I still need to work on strengthening the muscle of my will. Sometimes I lost the battle… and I bought myself the Java Chip drink. Oh well.)

During Islamic Awareness Week, I prepared myself by reading on many hot issues (Palestine Issues, The Rights of Muslim Women, Terrorism In Islam, Polygamy, etc etc)  so that I wouldn’t stutter and stumble when I answered the questions of non-Muslims as they gathered at our booth. It was part of my duty as the treasurer of the Newcastle Islamic Society to man the booth with a couple of other Muslim students. We created a timetable that would not clash with our classes and we took turns being in the booth, promoting Islamic awareness. This is something I would never have done if I were studying in Malaysia. It was in Australia that I learned to interact rather than making holier-than-thou religious preach. (I believe, that preaching doesn’t work, especially with people like me. Interaction does! If you want to change, it must come from within, triggered by an interaction you experienced with someone. I was triggered to learn about Palestine because of my interaction with someone who had made me angry….in other words, I changed NOT because someone had preached to me. Something MUST happen inside myself first.)

When I was in my 4th year, one of the seniors asked me whether this time, I would like to be the presenter for one of the Palestinian talk for the juniors. I said yes, I would do it. In my talk, I went through the history of Palestine which I had taken special care to know and understand inside out (after that humiliating encounter when I was in my first year) and in my talk I took particular steps to highlight on how we should tackle the issue of Palestine when we talk to the non-Muslims.

See? There was a reason I lost the argument… so that I would be motivated to learn my stuff properly and pass on the knowledge.

It is true that we learn more through failures than successes.

***

I was  in my 5th year when the Gaza Flotila Raid by Israel occurred in 2010. The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was a civilian ship bringing aid to the Palestinians, were attacked by the Israel Navy in May 2010. The attack by the Israel Navy was bravely resisted by the civilians on the ship; nine activists died and many were wounded. Some of them on the ship were Malaysians.

I was about to face my final exam at that time, dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. But when I read on the tragedy in BBC news and Al-Jazeera, I realized that nothing about this world was worth feeling stressed about. “Other people in other parts of the world are fighting for their livelihood with courage and honour! And here I am, thinking that my life is so hard just because I have to face an exam! You should be ashamed of yourself, Afiza.” I had berated myself.

 

donald-trump-jerusalem-day-2017-move-embassy-tel-aviv-six-day-war

And today, after a few days of nursing my anger and resentment towards Trump,to quote Celine Dion, “it’s all coming back to me now”. How when I was a medical student, I had promised that I would not lose my interest in the Palestinian cause. How I had promised that I would do something worthy as a Muslim just like those activists in the Mavi Marmara had done. How I had promised I would try to persist with my boycott.

Well…. I did break those promises. Shamefully, I did. 

I think, my spirit has lost its fiery enthusiasm since I returned to Malaysia. I am back to my pre-Australia selfish self who did not care about things other than myself and my career and my exam. I couldn’t remember the last time I clicked on the website ‘The Electronic Intifada’, which I used to visit every day when I was a medical student. And nowadays, I am not that strict with my boycott anymore.

My God….truthfully, I have lost my idealism after housemanship. I am no longer that wide-eyed, bushy-tailed eager youth so many years ago who had cared about the suffering of other Muslims.

What have happened to me? I wonder, sometimes.

I guess, housemanship happened.

Adulthood and responsibilities happened.

Life happened… we drifted apart.

I lost contact with good people of good hearts. Some of them are still in Australia, continuing to educate new juniors, building foundations for future leaders who, hopefully, would not forget to care.

Maybe Trump’s announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel could jump start my idealism and enthusiasm all over again….

Maybe this anger and restlessness would fuel me to stop dreaming, start reading useful materials and stick to reality. (I still remember the soft voice of my senior when she said, “Cubalah Afiza baca buku pengisian juga. Muslim ni berjiwa besar… dan dia kena ambil berat benda-benda yang besar.” Maybe that was why I didn’t want to join usrah in the first place. I knew I was not ready to change. I knew that when I finally joined them, I would feel the pressure to change… but I didn’t want to.)

I know I should read again the history of Palestine that I had forgotten. Read the sirah! Read on jihad and struggle! 

I know I should read real stuff…

So that perhaps, I would start caring again. 

Because The Chronicles of Jerusalem is still ongoing; its journey is long and torturous, fraught with trials and troubles.  But like all other great chronicles of the world, its ending is promised to be  sweet and victorious.

Oh My English!

Screenshot 2017-11-18 07.26.10

The above picture is a screenshot of my facebook status regarding the recent viralled article from The Star in which a worried Malaysian (presumably a parent) had implored the Ministry of Education (MOE) not to penalize the 2017 SPM candidates who had misinterpreted the question of their English essay exam.

Screenshot 2017-11-18 07.32.40

The article in The Star was an open letter titled ‘Error in Reading Exam Question’ in which someone using the pseudonym ‘A Worried Malaysian’ was saying that only a maximum of 3 marks should be deducted from the whole essay if a student had misinterpreted the question as asking them regarding moving to another part of the world, as opposed to another part of Malaysia. (Hmmm…. what is it about ‘another part of Malaysia’ did SPM candidates get confused about, I have no idea. The question is so precise to me! There is no room for confusion, I think.)

Below is a screenshot of the whole article from The Star. I am sorry it is a bit small but you can try to google it yourself.

Screenshot 2017-11-18 07.34.18

Basically, we could sum up the whole article by the first few sentences of her writing which says, and I quote:

THE English SPM 2017 Paper 1 was conducted on Tuesday. In the continuous writing section, which is worth 50 precious points, students were given five options to choose from. The first option reads: “If you had the opportunity to move to another part of Malaysia, where would you choose to live? Explain your choice.”

As an adult who read this question for the first time, I did not realise it was asking about a place to live within Malaysia. Likewise, many excellent SPM 2017 students who sat for this paper didn’t realise an inclusion criterion set by the question. Some wrote about living in Korea, Britain, Bali, Switzerland, Mecca, Madina, and etc.

SPM is an important examination for students in our country as it will decide the paths they will follow. For excellent kids who wrote about living outside of Malaysia, they have made a mistake in one of the most important examinations in their lives.

These kids have been in turmoil since they realised this horrendous mistake. Those who were aiming for an A+ in English are in extreme shock about this.

I think, it is a sad day indeed for English teachers all over Malaysia when their SPM candidates can misinterpret ‘another part of Malaysia’ with ‘another part of the world’. I cannot understand how such error could have occurred.

Even if (and it is a BIG if) the question is misleading or tricky (Gosh, it is not!!) , if I were the SPM candidate this year, I would have chosen another essay option to answer if I could not be sure whether this question was asking about ‘another part of Malaysia’ or ‘another part of the world’. (The more I write ‘another part of Malaysia’ and ‘another part of the world’, the more puzzled I become at how anyone can confuse these two! I mean seriously! Repeat it to yourself! Another part of Malaysia, another part of the world, another part of Malaysia, another part of the world…. say these over and over again and you will find yourself in a state of incredulity at how anyone can be confused of these two different meanings).

I thought it was absurd when the Worried Malaysian had said that ‘excellent’ students were the ones who had made an error in understanding the question. In my experience with my excellent friends back when I was doing my SPM, ‘excellent’ students usually don’t make simple errors. They only make complicated errors, and only when they are drunk, drugged or in a state of panic.

Excellent students are usually hypercritical at how they look at questions, and if they doubt their judgment, they would change the course of their strategy and choose another essay to answer.

So when I had said in my FB status, that if I were the English teacher, I would straightaway give the students grade B or below, I was not doing it out of cruelty or lack of compassion. If excellent students who would never have made such a simple error deserve an A, then these students deserve a B or below, right? You cannot give similar grade between those who make this error and those who don’t!

It won’t be fair, right?

***

 For those who don’t know, English essay is marked based on:

  1. -Content  – 20 marks
  2. -Language – 20 marks
  3. -Organisation (coherence)  – 10 marks

At least, that is what I was told by my fellow friends who are English teachers.

To me, who is a psychiatry doctor, content is very important. It forms part of our Mental State Examination that we perform on our patients. Based on your speech (in how you answer our question), we put a remark on whether the patient’s speech is relevant or is it circumstantial or tangential etc etc. (I won’t bore you with the technicalities of my daily work). In short, we psychiatry doctors really ponder your answers and we give them our own version of grading. (Not unlike English teachers, Lol.)

As a psychiatry doctor, your answer and your thought content are so important to me. That might explain why my knee jerk reaction to SPM candidates who don’t answer the question properly would be to straightaway give her a B or below (But I have known other people who are so good in English that they were even more strict regarding understanding simple phrase of ‘another part of Malaysia’ and these people simply wanna give these students 25 marks; half the full mark of 50. Lagi kejam dari aku kan? Haha. But it reflects how much people were disappointed that you can misinterpret something like this!) 

But I guess, to be really fair, we should mark the essay according to the marking scheme above; based on content, language and organisation.

I think if the content does not fulfil the requirement of the essay question, I would probably give 5 marks only. A nicer English teacher might give a 10 (half the full marks for content).

So basically, only marks from the content component would be deducted. If the student’s command in the English language is good, then hopefully other components (language and organisation) would make up for it.

I do feel sorry for any of the SPM candidates who had made such an error in reading the exam question, but I do disagree with the spirit in which the article by Worried Malaysian was written…. as though the students should only be lightly penalized for their mistake.

Penalty should be given according to the marking scheme; in this case the marks for the content component must reflect their poor comprehension of the essay question.

My worry is, some over-involved parents want to shield and protect their kids from various bumps in the road of life and the MOE then breaks under the pressure.

***

It would be a shame if the MOE decides to break under the pressure of many worried parents and decides to only ‘lightly’ penalize these ‘confused but excellent’ students. Our standard for getting an A in SPM English is already so low, that lowering it further would place our examination system at the realm of a hilarious joke.

Seriously!

When I was an SPM student, nothing made me more annoyed at seeing how other students whose command in English was not that good had obtained an A too.

But then, there were also people like Miss A (whose command in the English language is not only good, but almost Shakespearean in its literary!!) who might also be annoyed that I got an A. Hahha.

So I learned to be okay with that aspect of exam; that people of the same grade do not always have similar level of excellence, but at least, well enough to get an A.

But I am here to tell you, that the standard for getting an A is very low already.

I will give you an example of many different standards of  introductions to an essay and how all of them can get an A so easily.

  •  When I first met Rania in my first day of residential school, I knew she would be my best friend for the rest of my schooling days. There was an air of sophistication in the way she walked and talked that I couldn’t help myself from being utterly enthralled in her presence. I wanted to know more about her and emulate her style. When she told me that she was from Kuala Lumpur, I knew immediately that if I were to gain her level of confidence, poise and ‘worldliness’, I must become a city girl too, just like her. Since then, I have wanted to make my home in KL, far away from the charming rustication of Alor Star.  (I think this is good enough. Maybe this intro deserves an A minus. But certainly not an A plus! This girl is a kampung girl from Alor Star who is fascinated by her new friend and this girl thinks that she might become like her friend if she lives in the same place as her friend. Maybe, you can develop the story into how this girl later finds out that certain traits have nothing to do with where you were born or where you live. That certain traits you develop through experience or travel or through books that improve your mind. That the secret to her friend’s sophistication is her wisdom, and nothing else. Depending on the candidate’s creativity, this can develop into a good story. During my SPM year… this sort of intro is considered great and I got A1. But Miss A was even better than me, but she too got A1. I wonder if like me, she was upset by the ridiculousness of the marking system… But such is the exam standard in our country.)
  • Once upon a time, when I was a 10 year old child, my father brought my whole family to Pulau Langkawi for a delightful vacation where we spent almost 2 weeks in a chalet of Pantai Chenang. As a busy executive in the hectic city of Kuala Lumpur, there are times when I wish that I could be transported to an island like Pulau Langkawi, where the atmosphere is that of serene calmness. I think, I would be happy in a rural area. (I think, this is grade B. Well, B for boring.  This girl is a city girl, and she remembers her old vacation when she was a child and she wants to go back there while dealing with a hectic executive life in an urban area. Boring, kan? There is no hidden story; no layers to the obvious. But this is also at the level of A1 during my SPM.)
  •  “A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimension.” It was the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of  the US,  who had said that piece of elevated wisdom. And now more than ever, I found the quote reverberated deep within my heart. What is it about being human that we can never be still and satisfied? The soul wants to wander and the mind wants to rebel at anything mundane and repetitive. Now as a Judge myself at the ancient age of 60, after presiding over thousands of various criminal cases and making life-altering judgments and verdicts, I had to make the most important decision of my life. Where shall I spend these lonely years of retirement? Did I even have that long to live? My last heart attack was last week, and it began to dawn on me that I needed a place where my old, broken soul who had seen so much hatred and atrocities in life could heal once again. (Can you see how different this intro is from the rest? This candidate begins the intro with a quote… showing that this candidate is a person who reads a lot and actually memorize quotes. From the very first sentence of her essay, this candidate is already impressive to the examiner! Her very first sentence is already impactful, you see! The protagonist in  this essay is described as being elderly, and is thinking about moving somewhere else for his retirement. It makes the important decision of where to move very critical for him who has just suffered from a heart attack and might not have long to live. He is philosophical when he talks about the soul wanting to wander and not easily satisfied. We as the reader would also wonder why his soul is broken and needs healing and we want to continue reading to understand the reason! What I mean is … there are layers upon layers to the story. It is not a simple story of “I simply want to move somewhere because that is the essay question I am supposed to answer in this question”. Hahha. In short, this candidate is successful in grabbing the examiner’s attention. This candidate is an essayist par excellence! This is the level of Miss A, my friend in MRSM Langkawi who really deserves A+++ if other less impressive essays are given A+. ) 
  • If I can choose where to live in Malaysia, I would definitely choose to live in Kota Kinabalu. I have been there once before, and it was love at first sight.  (Straighforward. No layers! Nothing extraordinary. Grammatically correct because the sentence is a simple sentence, anyway. But yup… these kind of essays also got an A just as long as the language was good enough, not to have made some crazy errors. See how different all of them are but yet all 4 essays do get the same damn A! Sheesh) 

In order to write well, you have to read well. And the average Malaysians don’t read non-academic material! So we do not know how to set a proper standard when marking English essays. We think simple introduction to an essay should get an A already.

Well, it shouldn’t.

Essays should reflect your language sophistication! Because if you cannot be good in your writing (when you have the time to ponder about what to write) then how can you be good at your speech (when you have little time to ponder and simply need to think on your feet and respond)?

Language is not simply making sure other people get what we mean. When it is an essay, it is about getting your message across in the most beautiful way possible. Content is the core; but language and organization make it excellent.

***

And to the Worried Malaysian who thinks that SPM is very important, well… yes, it is. But it is not the be all and end all of everything.

Fair, is fair, is fair.

Everyone has to pay when they make mistakes in exams. Even for a careless mistake, we have to pay for it. In fact, most exams are all about catching you with your carelessness and stressing you with your lack of time management and tricking you with your comprehension of the questions etc etc. Exams ARE designed to trick you and stress you out! So, should everyone then be given compassion for any of those mistakes? Come on!

And in this particular context, what makes this mistake even worse is…. it was not even a trick question! So think logically; should they not be given marks accordingly, with compassion not being made an issue?

How are they going to learn if they never pay for their mistakes? Stop trying to shield your children from life’s disappointments.

Looking back, I am so glad that I was brought up in an era where tough parenting was the norm. No one mollycoddled us or packed us in a cotton wool away from harm and disappointment. We dealt with stuff!

Resilience is developed by dealing with stuff. By not running away from problems but facing them head on! Confidence is developed when you knew you had faced many challenges before and yet, here you are, having come this far! It reminds you that whatever current challenge you are facing now is just like other past challenges you had faced…. that they too will pass with the passage of time!

In my growing up years, my father was very strict but his strictness made sense. He ran the household almost in a military-like style. I had a schedule for every single hour of my days. Even during weekends and school holidays, I had a revision schedule. There were rest periods, of course, but only after I earned them by performing my academic tasks properly. (Rest periods are also scheduled! Haha)

Even my life as a student at a boarding school was not as rigorous as my life as a student in my own home. (To be honest, my life as a student in MRSM Langkawi was not tough in the sense of being a student, but tough in the sense of having to deal with the lack of privacy and the excessive noise and the intrusive friends.)

Just like any kiasu Asian parents (haha), my father too placed a lot of emphasis on academic performance. When we were children, he told us about how difficult it was for him to convince my grandfather to let him continue his education until the STPM level. He kept saying “Waktu ayah dulu, tok wan tak pernah ambil tau ayah punya pelajaran. Ayah nak kena tolong tok wan memotong getah lagi bila cuti sekolah. Nak sambung universiti pun tak boleh, sebab tak ada duit. Lepas dah kerja, baru boleh sambung belajar. Ayah dapat degree lepas umur dah  30 lebih. Sekarang kerja Kak Long dan Kak Ngah belajar saja. Takkan itu pun tak boleh? Kalau ada pelajaran yang lemah, usaha sampai boleh. Kalau tak usaha, sampai bila-bila pun takkan boleh.”

But despite his insistence that we do well in our exams, he would never shield us from the consequences of our own carelessness in exams. He was not that kiasu, see? He would never have written something like the Worried Malaysian had written. He would say, “Lain kali baca soalan elok-elok. Kalau dah silap, memang salah kita…nak buat macam mana. Kena hadap sajalah. Belajar daripada kesilapan. Silap sekarang tak apa lagi. Jangan silap waktu UPSR/PMR/SPM.”

When I discovered the horror of Add Maths as a 16 year old, I told my father that I would never be good in Add Maths. I was afraid that I would not get straight As this time. What made it worse was I could not even attend any outside tuition because I was studying in a residential school. So during the school holiday at the end of my Form 4, my father hired a private tutor for me to help with my Add Maths. For that one month of school holiday, it was NOT a holiday!

But then, when the school open for the new semester of Form 5, my Add Maths result showed a dramatic improvement that impressed my friends. And my SPM result showed the string of straight As I had always wanted for the very last of my National Level Exam.

I  think, our mother sometimes felt sorry for us because we only had one hour of play time per day. The time when my father was outstation was the best time in our childhood. All of us ‘raya hindu’ playing non-stop. My mother would turn a blind eye but would remind us that my father would expect to see our tasks properly done by the time he came home.

Whenever my sister and I came back home later than 7.00 pm after one hour of outside play, we would get a stroke of rattan because we broke the rules. (Afterwards, my Kak Long and I would enter our room and started the game of blaming each other for not minding the time… but after awhile, we simply laughed about it.) If you compare my life to the other kids in the neighbourhood back then, you might say that I didn’t get the same amount of play time like they had. And the other kids kind of pitied me for it. But then, they also didn’t get the same kind of academic results that I got. And I kind of pitied them back. Haha.

So, life is actually quite fair, don’t you think? Not totally fair; not absolutely fair. But QUITE fair.

Because every action has a reaction! Every action has its own consequence and following its own law.

Sebab semua perkara ada sunnahtullahnya. Usaha tu ada sunnahtullah dia. Disiplin tu ada sunnahtullah dia. Banyak main pun ada sunnahtullah dia. Buat silap pun ada sunnahtullah dia. (I should repeat these sentences to myself every day. If only I can get back my level of discipline in studying when I was a kid…I would not have to face the horror of my life while preparing for my Part B exam. My discipline had disappeared by the time I finished high school as my father no longer cared about what I did with my time. Haha)

So, when you make your decision, remember the sunnahtullah of your decision. MOE must remember that if they decide to NOT penalize this mistake properly, then it would open a Pandora box for every mistake not being penalized. Everything can then be argued on the basis of compassion rather than fairness. And everyone then forgets that this is a big national exam we are talking about! NATIONAL LEVEL Exam! National Level Exam should follow strict rules and regulations!

Otherwise, don’t organize an exam! It would be a waste of everyone’s time.

P/S: How are we ever going to get our education system respected and recognized if we always give leeways in the system in order to ‘help’ our candidates. I am sure everyone still remembers the ‘Soalan bocor UPSR 2014’ as one of the worst scandal in the MOE back then. Even at the level of UPSR, our integrity has much to be desired. 

Up to the level of master among professional doctors, leaked questions are common and this is like an open secret! Everybody knows it! And we are talking about professional doctors whom we should be able to trust as having the best level of moral and integrity in the society. But sadly, even at that level, we are just like naughty school kids who would grab whatever leeways or ‘help’ we can find. I have friends in other specialties as well who are doing Masters, and THEY too admit that they got hold of leaked questions.

We all know the credibility of ANY exam is non-existent if leaked question and ‘leeways’  and ‘help’ are not just possible, but very highly probable. No matter how good your system is, when it is not trustworthy, it loses all credibility. 

SPM exam was the last exam that I took using the Malaysian Education system. My IB diploma, medical degree and specialist exams are all International and I prefer it that way. Nowadays, we should think globally! 

So when anyone dares to question my MRCPsych credibility or the credibility of any of the external pathway (MRCP, MRCPCH, etc) to my face, as though I am taking shortcuts in my training, I will just smirk and say in my heart “At least, my exam is world-recognized and meets the rigorous standard of examination that is set by an organization that is recognized everywhere. And I have never heard of any leaked questions that would destroy the credibility of the exam system. Unlike yours!” Once upon a time, I would have said those rebuttal sentences back to their faces, instead of just in my heart. But nowadays, I take refuge in the Malay saying that “Bukit tak runtuh dengan anjing yang menyalak.”

I am not the sort of person who would go around belittling others. My self-esteem doesn’t require me putting other people down or making my unwelcome criticism known in order to hurt other people’s feelings (unless I was feeling provoked), the way some people had done towards me when they talked about MRCPsych as though it is not as good as the Master pathway. It is my principle to support anyone pursuing their education in whatever way they prefer, because that is better than simply sitting on your bottom, not progressing. But in the past, I did give people a counter attack when they tried to condemn my decision to pursue my study via the external pathway. In the past, I paid back taunt for taunt. I was quite fierce in my retaliation, too.

However, nowadays, it might be a sign of maturity that I can ignore people who have a need to belittle other people’s qualification when their own qualification is very, very questionable! With the existence of leaked questions that does not fulfil the moral requirement of integrity, that kind of exam system would NEVER be recognized. So now,  I can ignore their noise and regard it as the hallmark of a jealous and insecure person… and I move on. Yeay, mature me!

Glad INTJ argues

Glorious

I was sitting in my room, in front of my laptop, thinking whether I should break the bad news first or the good news first to my dear blog readers. Finally, after a long, hard contemplation, I decided to break the bad news first so that the good news later can heal whatever pain the bad news might have caused. Say  Hooray! to logical progression (the Afiza’s version, anyway). Haha.

My dear readers, I have a bad news.

I failed….

….I failed to honour my post-exam promise. In fact, I have broken them so many times, I am embarrassed to even own up to the count. But yeah… I have gone berserk reading many fiction books for the past few weeks (not only one book per week as I had promised to do. My justification was “Nanti result exam keluar, you won’t be able to enjoy reading anymore. So do it now!”). I also have not started studying consistently every day as I had promised I would be doing (I am terrible, I know. I don’t like studying because I like fiction more. Haihh!) I also have not started reading any non-fiction or religious books yet (Yeah… I am hedonistic. Afiza is always ‘lagha’ and is always utterly lost in her fantasy world of fiction where everything is fair in the end and justice prevails, and the good shall always win and the bad will always perish. Haha). But I did socialize more in an effort to be erm, nice and more savvy at mingling with society… I went out a few times with friends and colleagues (when in fact, I’d rather be in bed, reading. Surprisingly, I did enjoy myself after I got over the fact that I had to postpone my reading in order to make time for socializing).

Have patience with me. I am learning to slowly give up letting fiction-reading monopolize all my free time. I am slowly building up the momentum. One day insya Allah… I will reach my target to reduce my fiction preoccupation to only one reading per week. You see… it takes time and training to alter a habit of a lifetime. I cannot do it drastically because I will surely fail at it! All my life… I read fiction almost every day! All my life! I am trying to change my unhealthy ways… to fill my mind with more academic and factual things than fanciful stories… but don’t expect abrupt result. I am only human, after all. Haha.

Well.. now that I have gotten the bad news over with, here comes the great part. Are you guys ready for the good news? *excited grin*

The good news is, Alhamdulillah, somehow, miraculously, GLORIOUSLY… I passed my MRCPsych Exam Part B. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, has been so gentle towards me. So merciful and so benevolent is He towards His undeserving slave. What did I do to deserve this happiness, I knew not.  But if Allah’s blessing must be earned, then I shall never be able to earn it. It is His Grace towards His slave… nothing I could ever do would ever qualify me for His  boundless mercy. I can only thank Him that He decided to have mercy on me regardless of my various sins and shortcomings.

Ya Allah, You know me in all my flaws. Yet,  You grant me happiness still. How patient You are with me. I am overwhelmed by everything I didn’t deserve that You bestowed to me regardless.  I can never say Alhamdulillah enough but I mean every single one sincerely and deeply.

***

I would like to share with you how truly epic my suffering for Part B was. I didn’t share this part of my Part B journey before, because I was preoccupied in worrying about whether or not I would actually pass. Now that I knew I have passed, I am more open to talking about stuff.

I was a pain in the proverbial ass for everyone around me throughout the duration of my Part B effort. At the start of my study leave, when I found out how MUCH I had to cover, I promptly shut myself off in my house, not replying my family’s whatsapp messages and limiting my involvement in the rest of the Whatsapp’s groups that I belonged to. All my friends were like “Afiza memang jenis ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Bila dia exam, tak ingat benda lain dah. Takut nak kacau Afiza, nanti dia marah.” Hahah. They were joking, of course. They knew I value all my friendships… but I am the sort of person who place priorities where they belong according to the level of their urgencies. I am not a social person, even in the best of time. And since exam is really NOT the best of time, I have a tendency to regress to my old self even more. My schizoid personality traits become more prominent when I am preoccupied. Haha. Friends who are very close to me did not mind that I was less responsive to their jokes/conversation in the whatsapp groups. They already knew me and they knew I would be back once the exam was over.

20171007_095615-1.jpg
How messy my work station was during my study leave! Believe me, I am not usually this sloppy.  *sheepish grin* The messiness of my desk is proportionate to the level of my preoccupation at any single time. 

Alhamdulillah for my parents and my family. They didn’t take it personally when I didn’t reply their messages promptly or when I did not answer their phone calls occasionally (because I was either sleeping my exhaustion away or simply couldn’t be bothered to turn on my phone). They have been so supportive. You see, I am a whiner (But I only whine to those who are close to me. Dengan orang lain, buat budget cool, tak cakap apa-apa. Haha). And they patiently listened to all my self-doubts and my incessant complaints about how I never get to enjoy my life  since I was young because I was always struggling with one exam after another! (I exaggerated, of course! I love my life when there are no exams)

My mother and my youngest sister accompanied me for my exam because they wanted to go sight-seeing in Singapore as well. (hotels and flights sponsored by my father.  Muchas Gracias, Papito! We love you!) I was studying my short notes throughout the journey from Kedah-KLIA-Singapore when an overwhelming sense of impending doom assailed my senses. (Hahah. Drama queen MUCH?) I was so tensed because I knew there were so many things I had already forgotten. I was saying to myself “How the heck am I going to answer my exam tomorrow if I have forgotten many stuff I have already read?” You see, there were so many materials to cover…. some of them I had read many weeks before but I didn’t get the opportunity to revisit them since (because I couldn’t read everything TWICE when I was struggling to just finish reading everything at least once. LOL ) So I was FRANTIC, going through everything all over again 2 days prior to my exam. At the same time, I did such a good job of stressing myself out with self-torturous blame “You should have studied sooner. You should have studied consistently. Of course you couldn’t read everything twice, because previously you were busy reading fiction! If you fail, you know you deserve the heartache.”

Hahah. See? I was really neurotic, even I cannot stand being around myself… so I don’t know how other people do it! (Unfortunately for my family, they have no choice. They have to be around me regardless and they have to love me anyway. I feel sorry for them. Haha.)

I was frowning and becoming inwardly annoyed at random people in the airport who were coughing, crying, laughing or clearing their throats. The slightest, most innocent thing that they did had the power to distract me when I really needed to focus at that time. I couldn’t remember how many times I had to take a deep breath in to calm myself down so that I would not glare at those random people menacingly. (Haha. Because if I were to do that, it would be very unreasonable of me, right?)

My mom turned to me and said “Kak Ngah… mak tau kak ngah boleh pass punya. Tak payah study dah. Kalau macam ni kak ngah lagi stress kan?”

“Mana boleh tak study, mak. Angah dah lupa semua benda. Angah kena study juga. Angah dah ready untuk tak tidur malam ni. Kalau tak, esok mesti angah tak boleh jawab.” (Yup… I only slept 2 hours the night before my exam. Until now, I can feel myself yawning just remembering how sleepy I felt at that time and YET I couldn’t sleep because I was so nervous!)

My youngest sister rolled her eyes and turned my worry into a comedy with her facebook status. (All my siblings love making fun of me. They said I am the most ‘garang’ in the family. But I think, I am not ‘garang’ enough actually. A ‘garang’ person won’t be made fun of as consistently and completely as this!)

Screenshot 2017-11-04 07.03.40

(I was posing behind my mom with my smiley face, like everything was cool and I had no stressor whatsoever. Hahaa. So, don’t believe everything you see in the social media, including all those great pictures of people having fun in facebook and instagram. Those pictures are not real and almost 90% of them are mere acts! Even though I was smiling, there really was nothing amusing at that time about my inner struggle worrying for how I would do in my exam the next day. So yeah, this was my fake smile! It looked genuine, though. Haha.) 

Initially, I didn’t even want to go to dinner. I told them that I just wanted to lock myself in the hotel room to study. But then I felt horribly guilty… I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my mother with  my youngest sister (whose sense of direction was non-existent, I think. I think I am the most travel-savvy person among the three of us. Haha). How would I cope if they got lost in the city? Instead of studying the night away, I would be frantic searching for them if they didn’t make it back to the hotel. Rather than worrying about the possibility of them being lost or getting in trouble in a foreign country, (in which case, I would not be able to concentrate with my studies anyway) I might as well just join them for a quick dinner.

And that was what I did. Look at how good I was at faking my smiles as though I was enjoying myself. All for the sake of taking pictures! Hahah. Behind the scene, I was like “Jom mak, cepat makan. Angah nak balik study ni.” LOL. I was in such a hurry I forgot to take pictures of the food. *facepalm* Sometimes, I wonder how my family can bear with me and my occasional bossy ways! I thank God for them every day of my life.

On the exam day itself, I was a nervous wreck. I was sleepy, exhausted and cranky. Two hours before my exam, I arrived at the Trent College and huddled myself at a tiny corner to continue revising my study materials. But Wallahi, I couldn’t concentrate for long. So, I decided to stop studying one hour prior to my exam time. My brain couldn’t take it anymore. I could feel that my brain was fatigued and it would not be good if I walked into the exam hall in this pitiful condition. I walked around the area, doing my breathing and relaxation technique. I bought Coca-Cola and drank it slowly, savouring the taste fully (Coca-Cola was my favourite childhood drink. I boycotted Coke when I was a medical student as a protest against their support to the Zionist cause. But occasionally, I would indulge my craving. I especially crave for Coke when I am stressed. If you see me drinking Coke, you know the reason for it. When I first started boycotting Coke, it was hard for me. But these days, I could go for months without touching Coke. In fact, when I was a medical student, I went for years without it. Alhamdulillah, I am no longer that obsessed with Coke. Now, if only I can replicate my success with Coke when it comes to reading fiction, I would be a very happy woman, indeed.). 

As I was walking around the area with Coke in my hand, I gave myself a pep talk. “You know, everything has been written. You have done your part. It would never be perfect. You can only do so much. Exam is like marriage. You are never ready until you have no choice but to do it.” (Hahha. Yeah, I can crack a stupid joke when I am stressed. But at least, I was laughing while thinking it out. That calmed my nerves a bit.)

I said a lot of istighfar. I talked to Allah a lot in that last hour. I told Him all my worries and how much I was dependent on Him alone. I remember the prayer of Prophet Musa  when he was stranded in the desert of Madyan, a lone wanderer with only the clothes on his back as his wordly possession. He had said to Allah, “Aku ini terhadap apa sahaja kebaikan yang Engkau turunkan padaku, tersangatlah fakir.” I am in need of whatever help you can bestow on me. Whatever help, in whatever form, anything… I need it.  At that point, I had run out of effort already.

As I have mentioned before, the exam itself was hard. One third of 200 plus questions were on statistics and critical appraisal alone. There were a lot of maths and stats. (I have  hated maths all my life!). By rights, I should not spend more than 54 seconds per question. But I’d spent so much time on critical appraisal and statistics that there was very little time left for the clinical part. (The reason I had used up so much time on the statistics section was because I had my OCD attack at that time. The questions in the statistic section was long and required deeper analysis. And I calculated, recalculated, and reconfirmed my answers over and over again. So I ended up spending more time on statistics than I should) I went into my panic mode when I discovered that I still had 60 questions to answer in the 30 minutes time that I had left. So at that point, I had to answer every question in 30 seconds without bothering to think carefully. For the last 60 questions of my Part B paper, I just went with my instantaneous instinct.

What I did actually violated every principle of my usual exam-taking SOP. I am the sort of person who would go through each answer before I commit to the right one. Even when the question is obvious and I can already see the right answer straightaway in one of the options, I STILL need to go through in my head why other answers are wrong. For example, I would talk to myself inside my head, “The question asks about this. Answer A is wrong because of this. Answer B is wrong because of this and this. Answer C is wrong because it is not relevant. Answer D is wrong because the question was more specific. So, Answer E is correct because….bla bla..” 

I rely on that procedure so much in my exam-taking career so far! For every single question, I would do that mental debate with myself. Check and recheck, and tell myself my reason for choosing or not choosing each option; why each option is wrong or right! I never deviated from the procedure before. When I was doing Part A, I did the same procedure for every single question and it was hard to do. I ended up having just enough time for Part A. But I was still able to stick to that procedure.

But this time, with 60 questions left in 30 minutes, I rushed through every question and shaded the answer without bothering to do my usual reasoning! At the end of the exam, I felt terrible! I felt like I was totally dependent on pure luck and very little on my reasoning prowess. Honestly, I felt that I was being reckless with this exam! But what choice did I have? Should I be reckless or should I be careful but end up leaving some questions unanswered for lack of time? The choice was obvious at that point, wasn’t it? Looking back,  I didn’t feel I could do any better. “If you have to be reckless, then you have to be reckless, Afiza. You have to do what you have to do.”

When my parents asked me how I did during my exam, I was earnest when I said, “I did the worst I have ever done!” 

So when I saw my exam result yesterday, I was simply overjoyed. Another miracle in my life, thank God. After all the headaches, heartaches, worries and tears, interspersed with prayers, hopes and wishes, Allah gave me something joyous.

And Alhamdulillah, it was glorious!

 

Glorious

In the silence of the night,
It was You that brought me the light.
In my frustrated mental wrath, 
You guided me to the straight path.
It was You who hushed my mental niggle,
With consoling  words into my mind,
“Be brave, dear slave, in your struggle,
Believe me in the end you shall find,
That the outcome shall be glorious.”

So I toiled, I burned the midnight oil,
So I prayed, remembering what You said,
“To seek help through patience and prayer”
Those reminders a soothing balm to my ear
That calmed the chaotic mess in my mind
Telling me to “oh, be brave in your struggle
Because in the end you shall find,
That the outcome shall be glorious.” 


So I charged ahead, went to war,

fought the battle, to reach the bar,
thinking I would never win,
that I was surely now beaten,
Except something great happen,
Something marvellous,
Nothing short of miraculous. 
Dear Allah, as you promised, 
It was glorious. 


I lowered my head to the ground,
To You I am eternally bound,
I thought aloud, it echoed in my mind.
“It is You, oh Allah, the Glorious One.”

-Afiza Azmee-
3/11/17
9.50 pm

P/S: My mother said in a joking manner, “Nasib baik Kak Ngah pass, kalau tak habislah kita semua malam ni. Mak pun akan pening kepala sekali.” Alida laughed and added  “Aku rasa Allah bagi hang pass sebab Allah kesian kat kami. Kalau hang tak pass, kami semua akan stress sekali. So actually, hang pass demi kemaslahatan kami semua”. Hahha. Yup, they love making joke at my expenses! Really, I am just not ‘garang’ enough! 

Post-Exam Promises

Warning: this post contains exam rants and regrets. Please don’t read further if you cannot take some whining! Because this one contains a lot of whining! 

 

Okay, the real title of this blog post should be The Post Exam Promises That I Always Break. 

Yup…. I made the same darn promises over and over again since I was a kid every time I finished an exam, but I always ended up breaking them after some time. My consistency and reliability in breaking my post-exam promises is so impressive, the chance that I will break them again this time will be almost 1.

P(event) = 0.9999999

The event here being: Afiza breaking her post-exam promises again.

My post-exam promises always consist of:

  1. I will study consistently and be prepared as early as many, many months before my next exam. I will not rely on study leave alone in order to cram everything. Study leave duration is NOT ENOUGH to really learn everything I should know. I will not repeat this mental torture ever again and will be more committed and consistent from now on. Please God, just let me pass this one and I will behave MUCH better for my next exam.
  2. I will only read commercial fiction once a week. For the rest of the week I will make myself study and venture out into other necessary life activities. I will be more community-oriented and sociable and I will go out with friends and  ACTUALLY socialize with REAL people rather than with imaginary characters of  a book. I will learn to be nice and tolerant with other people when I socialize with them (which is something I don’t have enough practice doing because I always spend time with books). I will not let reading fiction monopolize the bulk of my time to the extent that I ignore the more important aspect of my life such as my academic learning and my relationship with my friends, and neighbours and my own family. I will keep in touch with all my friends after this exam and will not abandon them the way I did during my study leave. I will be NICE. I will reply whatsapp messages promptly. I will return phone calls straightaway.
  3. I will read more religious books and non-fiction. I will spend my time wisely. I will have more self-control regarding the frequency of my fiction reading.

You have no idea how difficult it is for me to keep those promises. And like I’ve said before, I always break those particular promises. The lure of new books from my favourite authors and new stories from new authors… they will ensnare and entrap me in mid-resolve and I lost myself.

***

It is ridiculous how much time I arrange my activities around my reading habits.  The problem is, it is so hard to change the habit of a lifetime.

When I am exhausted, I want to read stories to relax.

When I am already relaxed, I want to read books to maximize this pleasant feeling of relaxation.

When I am sad, I want to read stories to remind me of happy endings.

When I am happy, well, I thought I should multiply this happy feeling by reading. It will make me even happier.

When I am angry, I read stories to calm down.

When I am calm, I read stories so that I can absorb them better.

See? I can find many excuses and various reasons to read fiction for every occasion and every emotion.

But these stories are junks! They are pure entertainment! They are not real! I didn’t gain any earth-shattering insight or ground-breaking information from them. In fact, my hobby is correctly termed as ‘lagha’. While it might be okay for me to indulge in them once a week, but to do so for MOST of whatever free time I have….day in and day out… that is like a sickness. I know that!

And while I was struggling to cram everything I had to know during the one month study leave, I gained an insight regarding the debilitating nature of my condition. “If only I had started studying earlier! Kalaulah aku guna semua masa yang ada waktu aku baca buku cerita dulu-dulu dengan membaca dan menghafal my academic material, I won’t be suffering this much. Why do I always do this to myself over and over again? Orang lain ada free time, buat locum! Dapat juga duit! Otherwise, they do something very adult like cooking for their family. You? You read stories! When are you gonna grow up?”

Yes… you have no idea how many times I berated myself.  But like I said, I had done the same self-scolding in the past, but I always forget and relapse into my addiction every time the exam is over.

During that one month study leave, I hardly went out of the house. When I finally came out of my cave for some much-needed fresh air, it was because I was so tired of eating my home-cooked nasi goreng/ bihun goreng/ Maggi over and over again that I just HAD to eat something else and therefore I had to go out. Otherwise the only fresh air I enjoyed would be from the balcony of my house. Towards the end of my study leave, my mother actually brought me food because I just couldn’t be bothered to get out of the house anymore. She was probably worried I was not eating well. (And she would be right)

And I totally blamed myself. Because time is so precious and I have been wasting them by reading fiction all these time and simply relied on study leave to cram everything.

The problem with me is that, I will only do something I dislike when I absolutely have to do it. And study leave and exams force me to study when all I want to do is to read fiction, write my book reviews and occasionally exercise with hiking, jogging and an occasional weight training. Those are ALL I want to do during my free time when I don’t have exams. I am absorbed in them and I think those activities are more than enough to keep me fully occupied and satisfied. So you see, without exams, it is so easy for me to allow myself to drift away in the clouds of my fantastic tales. My parents had been saying to me since I was a child, “Kak Ngah, cuba kalau Kak Ngah baca buku sekolah macam kak ngah baca buku cerita. Mesti lagi pandai. Buku cerita tu tak bagi faedah satu apa pun” My mom said that every time I finished my ujian bulanan when my results was not as good as it should be. And I simply told her,  “Nanti periksa akhir tahun, angah buat betul-betul lah.” And I always delivered that promise. During my final end of year exam, I made sure I did well enough to maintain in the first class. And in all my national big exams, I got straight As… because I was able to cram in the last minute.  I was happy to push myself and went all out during those final moments as long as throughout the year I can enjoy my hobby.

And this pattern of last minute cramming persisted throughout medical school.

But I think, it must be the ageing process in me. I cannot cram as well as I could when I was younger! I think the recent exam was the hardest exam of my life! I am not kidding! Not joking! Not exaggerating! It was HARD!! I fear for my result but knew that it is too late to regret. I must learn from this lesson and do better next time. I hope I will pass even though I knew it would take a miracle.

This time, I cannot break my post-exam promises. I know now that my brain is not as good as it was before.

Below is the findings on how our memory and learning evolve as we age:

  • IQ peaks at 25 – plateau until age 60-70 , then declines (maybe my brain declines early.  Hahaha.That was how I felt during my recent cramming fiasco)
  • Simple recall becomes difficult as we age (darn right!)
  • Working memory shows a gradual decline and worse with increased complexity of task and increased memory load (Yes…there was a lot to remember and my memory load was overloaded! My hippocampus simply could not take it anymore!)

I cannot afford to waste my time with fiction anymore. Cramming doesn’t work as well as it used to.

I am aging! *sobs sobs*

I told myself, that I have to do what I have to do. This time, what I HAVE to do is stop being so absorbed in fiction and grow up into a responsible adult who does what she must! And that is painful. Like making over my life.

It is a life makeover. *sigh*

I hope, I don’t break my post-exam promises this time. God knows I cannot afford to break them.

 

P/S: I just finished reading Dan Browns’ latest book entitled Origin that came out just a few weeks ago. But that was not exactly breaking my post-exam promises. I specifically wanted a break after the exam, so I read the book to reward myself after the crazy tough exam. But my next reading will be next week. I will try to stick to the schedule. Once a week. No more! Yup! Wish me luck, won’t you?