Contract MOs, Career Progression & The System

Dear readers,

If you have been following my blog since I was a medical student, you would probably know that I have always had pretty strong opinions about certain things. Not all things, guys; not even many things. But certain things do bother me! Some issues are very dear to my heart. Issues of housemanship training, issues involving the Psychiatry field, a few religious issues, some political issues, issues regarding fairness and justice, issues of speaking the truth and upholding the facts (especially about the LGBTQ agenda in the context of Malaysia) … I have been this way since I was in medical school. My blog is really about my journey in medicine and the many interesting events locally and globally that happen to have an impact on me (on my thoughts/my worldview/ my personal growth) as I navigate through the challenges of practicing medicine. This blog is almost as old as my career in medicine. I started it when I was in my 4th year of medical school and I continue writing in this blog because I want my juniors in medicine and other aspiring doctors to know what they will be facing as a medical student, as a houseman, as an MO, as an MRCPsych trainee and now as a junior Psychiatrist.

Whenever I looked at my blog stats (blog owners do receive stats of where their readers come from, among other stats), I was surpised that some of my readers were not just from Malaysia but also from Egypt, the UK, the US, Australia, Russia… I used to wonder, how did these foreigners come to know of my blog? I had imagined “Mat Salleh mana yang rajin mai baca blog aku ni hahha. For what?”. And then it occurred to me… you guys must be Malaysian medical students who are studying there! And I only realized that you guys are probably Malaysian medical students (rather than foreigners, hahha) after one of the medical students who was attached to the department I was working in as a HO had approached me and told me that he had read my blog. He studied in Egypt! I was so surprised. Because initially, my blog was for my family and my friends… for them to find out what I was up to while I was studying in Australia. It was never intended for a wide readership. It has always been intended merely for my personal record of how my thoughts had evolved as I trudge along the road of medicine.

But as I progressed in my career, I realized that people DO want to have some ideas about the world of medicine…. of what they are going to have to suffer or what they will enjoy as a medical practitioner. So even when I just don’t feel like updating my blog anymore (I rather just read rather than write these days… because I hardly have the energy and the time now compared to when I was younger) I made myself do it anyway. Because I want people to get an honest, raw view of what it’s like to be in medicine. So that they can make an informed decision whenever they are at the crossroads of many different options in their lives. So that they know that medicine is hard… but it is worth it… it is not easy… but if you persevere, you will taste the fruits of your labor. That treating your patients is satisfying… doing the admin work, erm, not so much. That your colleagues and your bosses are mostly kind, but the system can be rotten! That people might try to bully you, but you get to decide how much you will let them get away with it.

One of my friends when I was a HO had told me (and I have repeated this so many times in my previous posts) “Afiza, hang nak cakap apa pun hang tunggu hang dah jadi MO.” But I remember how much I DISAGREE with his statement because I’d felt like, “When I become an MO, I have to wait until I become a specialist before I can say anything right?” And let me tell you, once you become a specialist, you will find out that there is always going to be someone else higher than you that people will advise you not to disagree with or contradict against. There are your HOD, your state head, your head of service, your DG, your minister etc etc. Even the Prime Minister will have someone else that he has to answer to. We have trade agreements, military agreements, US sanctions, the UN and other countries’ powerful head of state that the Prime Minister must answer to and abide by.

The life of this world is such… that our hands are always tied by something or someone.

But also! The life of this world is such that the rope that keeps you tied can always be cut! Actually you hold the power and you can decide – to a certain extent – how long you want to remain tied. You can always say, “I answer to Allah, first.” Or you can say, “I abide by my principles, first.” Or you can tell them, “You may not like what I say, but I’ll say it anyway so that I know I have done my part, in the eyes of God.” Or you can just proclaim “I will not participate in your bad judgment call.”

I have been so lucky in my bosses, so far. But is that so strange? Not really, isn’t it? In fact, I believe (based on my experience thus far) in most places and in most fields, nice people are the norm. So, don’t worry, my dear juniors! Believe me, nice people are the norm, guys! Rude, obnoxious and arrogant people are the minority and the exception! But unfortunately, these rude, obnoxious, and arrogant people are dominant over the nice people. So the nice people, even when they are many, will usually keep their mouth shut because they don’t want to cause a stir. Because nice people are high in agreeableness.

(Don’t believe me? Just look at our various Whatsapp groups that we are unfortunate enough to be a member of, either because of our work or our familial/social obligations. The few loud ones feel like their opinion is law and would dominate the Whatsapp group over quiet, introvert people like us who cannot be bothered to spend the energy espousing our opinion for the consumption of others who don’t really matter to us. I tend to ignore these people and the spamming of their opinions in Whatsapp groups…I just silence the notification because the spamming of their unnecessary point of views are sometimes quite intrusive and disturbing. I prefer to espouse my opinion HERE… in my own blog. Only those who SPECIFICALLY search for my blog because they REALLY want to know my opinions will get to read my opinions… I don’t spam any Whatsapp Group – the members of which I hardly know or never even met – and make them read my unnecessary, unrelated and uninteresting thoughts about every little issue there is that exist. I avoid unnecessary mass interaction online because I believe that is the key to peace and happiness for an introvert. Whenever possible, I prefer to DM specific individual rather than proclaiming to the whole group my trivial ideas that are not relevant to the majority of the members. But if you bring up an issue that is very dear to my heart, I can be loud in Whatsapp Group too, if I am annoyed enough. Haha)

So, knowing that nice people are the norm, I am sure that many people are just like me… they would say that they are lucky with their bosses.

But many people, in various fields, are not lucky with the SYSTEM, most of the time!

So knowing the situation the way it is, those who know me know that I am nice enough…or, at least, I consciously TRY to be and will struggle to do so till the end of my time on earth. But never will I be TOO NICE. Once anyone go overboard in their unfair and unjust conduct, you will witness how radically I can transform. When being quiet and nice is no longer efficient and doesn’t serve any purpose anymore, we should all learn to be LESS NICE.

Being too nice, is actually an evil in and of itself. When you are too nice, you WILL end up committing an injustice. You probably could not bring yourself to speak the truth if you were only concerned about being nice and pleasing people every damn time. You probably would ignore wrongdoings, because you wanted to remain nice to everyone. You would probably commit the wrongdoing yourself, because you wanted to please someone above you who had instructed you to do something wrong. You would probably justify your decision to commit the wrongdoing by saying “Dah boss suruh.”

Look at the issue of the Contract MOs, for example. It’s a complex issue, no doubt about it. But the majority of nice people in the position of relative power (senior specialists/HODs/JKN directors) did not dare to openly support the HARTAL when it was organized a few months ago because…. (I really don’t know why, to be honest)

But these people are no longer powerless HOs or MOs. They have already been confirmed in their positions (sah dalam jawatan) many years ago… so what is stopping them from speaking up? I don’t get it!

These are the enablers… the perpetuators of a bad status quo. (I should probably reconnect with my HO friend who had advised me against being too outspoken when I was a HO and tell him “See what I meant? It doesn’t matter what position you are at… if you cannot speak up as a HO, what makes you think you can speak up as an MO or a specialist? You see, at the end of the day it is always the SYSTEM! The system will always favour the higher authority even when they are wrong!”)

“Afiza, if they openly speak up about the Hartal, mungkin depa kena tindakan tatatertib,”

Really?!

Do you know how HARD it was to tatatertib someone? In one of the hospitals I had worked in as an MO, I had done an incident reporting against an MA who I personally witnessed had physically hit my patient! But did anything really significant happen to that MA? Until now, he is still working as usual! Despite the fact that he had done this multiple times even in the previous department he was at before he was transferred to the Psychiatry Department.

I actually went to the Pengarah of that hospital and said “Next time, if I ever saw him doing something like this again, I will report against him to the police! Let the media sniff around on this! Because I had tried the usual channel, but you guys did nothing and this MA is still in the department!”

MAs/staffs who were problematic from other departments (missing in actions, or committing negligence, for example)… were they ever fired? No! They got transferred into the psychiatry department, most of the time! People who work in Psychiatry KNEW that this is the truth!

Once you are confirmed in your post, somehow the admin made it so difficult for under-performing, unethical (sometimes, bordering on criminal) staff to be sacked even when they do something that is clearly wrong! This practice is so unfair to the contract workers who have out-performed these baloq-liats all these while but still weren’t given permanent posts… but gosh, this is the system! There are so many procedures that must be done before anyone will ever get sacked even when they have done something wrong.

So why are we so scared to do something right? People who do something wrong can get away with it, all these while! The worst thing that usually happen to them is they got transferred into the Psychiatry department (and whenever I think about this, I get so angry! This is my supreme pet peeve since I became a Psychiatry MO until now!)  

Now, many contract MOs have resigned from KKM. We are losing talented, passionate and great future specialists in droves! While the baloq-liats can continue working in the government as usual even when their performance is just mediocre at best… just because they have been confirmed in their posts. How is this fair to the contract MOs?

One of my own contract MOs had resigned too, recently. It’s just so sad to see them go.

But I believe that bad system doesn’t just exist in the Ministry of Health. Even the Ministry of Education is rife with these kind of issues. I should know because 3 of my sisters belong in the Ministry of Education. Recently, Cikgu Mohd Fadli Salleh, the famous teacher who had spoken up about so many issues in Education, was called up to present himself to the Unit Integrity in MOE. He received so many support from netizens. But people who work in the system? They could not speak up openly to support him and only said “Saya sokong cikgu dari belakang.” Hahah.

You see… it is not about how senior you are in your career that determines your ability or inability to speak up. You can be a HO or an MO or a specialist… it doesn’t matter. You are unable to speak up because you have other (self)-interests that are more important to you than speaking up. You may want an easy life at work; you may want to get that promotion; you may want to preserve certain image of being an obediently nice person; you may want… whatever… and when you have those interests, speaking up is just not conducive for all that. That’s all.

So to make yourself feel better for your lack of actions, you then say “Saya sokong dari belakang.”

Ah… so classically Malaysian!

Career Progression… is it necessary?

Once you have been confirmed in your post as a doctor, if all you ever want in your life is to earn money for your livelihood and to go to work every day until you die, there really is no need to become a specialist, is there?

Chronic MOs are also doing valuable work. They also are helping people, aren’t they? They also contribute to the department, don’t they? As long as they deliver their work the way they should, I see no reason why they should feel bad for being a chronic MO. In fact some of them are excellent, but they have other priorities in life, making them unable to pursue specialty training. Some of them have always wanted to specialize but they had to wait for the right time in order to settle other more pressing commitments.  (Unfortunately, once they have sorted their priorities and now have more time to pursue specialty training, the admin people in Perkembangan probably would tell them “You are too old to be in the training.” *Sigh*).

I was happy as a Psych MO and I could go on forever as an MO, seeing psychiatric patients day in and day out. But the reason I didn’t want to become a chronic MO was because I have always been addicted to freedom and independence. I want to see my patients, diagnose them, come up with my own treatment, start medications that I could not start as an MO, sign the OKU form, sign the form 6… without having to consult anyone whose management style I might disagree with. I love that freedom.

I also didn’t want to become a chronic MO because I love psychiatry and I know after a certain number of years (once you become a UD52/54) you will be asked to get out of the department and do admin work, instead. You have to give way to other young MOs who want to enter the department. I don’t like admin work… I just tolerate it and deal with it as it comes along. But I don’t like it. Hence, I decided to specialise. (Now I know that as a specialist, you have to do admin work anyway. LOL)

So because I want to practice Psychiatry for the rest of my working life, I decided to progress from being an MO to being a specialist. Alhamdulillah, Allah is Most Gracious, Most Merciful. He made it relatively easy for me to face all the challenges. Now I am a Psychiatrist… people cannot simply take me out of my beloved field once I become too senior in the department.

So now, people are asking the new specialists about what sub-specialty are they interested in. One of my seniors when I was an MRCPsych trainee had messaged me and encouraged me to pursue subspecialty. I just told him honestly that “I wanna enjoy my life for awhile.” Hahaha. I mean…. I have only just finished with my specialty training… I wanna relax now. He said “But the more you wait, the more rules and regulations will be applied on the candidates in the future.”

Okay. Well, that sobered me up for awhile.

But then, I just mentally shrugged and told myself “Then, I just won’t do subspecialty. I became a Psychiatrist because I wanted to practice Psychiatry longer without being taken out of the department when I become too senior. That’s the ONLY real reason I decided to continue my study, other than because I love the freedom of making my own decision. Alhamdulillah, I already achieved that. I don’t need to do subspecialty because whatever sub-specialty it is, I am still doing Psychiatry, am I not? There is no urgency for me to do subspecialty. I am already practicing Psychiatry anyway, which is all I ever wanted in the first place.”

So, since there is no real urgency to do subspecialty, when you make it too difficult for people, then they just won’t do it. It’s a simple equation, isn’t it? And I am okay with not doing subspecialty. Let other ambitious people navigate the difficult system and do it… I wish them luck. I have always been interested in seeing patients and treating them well rather than navigating the treacherous water of pursuing higher position. I am not saying that when you are doing subspecialty it means you are less interested in seeing patients or are only interested in higher positions… in fact, I believe the opposite is true. It is EXACTLY because you love seeing patients that you want to do subspecialty. There are many great consultants who had first pursued subspecialty because they were interested in seeing patients, right?

But you are not going to encourage more of them to pursue subspecialty when you make it hard for people.

What I am saying is, if you are just concerned with practicing psychiatry for the rest of your working life, pursuing subspecialty is not exactly a necessity. You can take it … or you can leave it.

Because I want other things in life too. There are OTHER more important things in this life and the hereafter.

TOO OLD TO GET INTO TRAINING?

One of my juniors had told me that a friend of hers – let’s call him Mr. X – had passed his Paper A  (MRCPsych) but was not accepted into the training program because apparently he was too old.

My jaw swung open when I heard that. “How old is he?” I asked.

“He is around 40.”

“Who told him that he could not get into the training because of his age?” I pursued the story like an FBI agent in the midst of an interrogation hahah.

“I think he called Perkembangan kot.” My junior shrugged her shoulder as she was not really sure.

I just couldn’t believe it. I hope this story is not true. I hope there is a misunderstanding somewhere somehow.  *Sigh*

Because if this is true… I have lost all hope for our Malaysian healthcare system.

Guys… how old is too old to pursue your education? I can understand if you want to award a scholarship to someone younger to maximize the return of your investment in that person’s education. The younger he is, the more years he could serve the government once he’s finished with his studies and the more efficient the money that was spent by the government in financing his education.

But this guy is spending HIS OWN MONEY in doing MRCPsych. Tiada siapa yang rugi di sini. So, how old is too old for anyone to spend their own money to pursue their education?

Is there a cut off point that I somehow never came across before when it comes to learning?

In the social media, there are various feel-good success story of a grandmother or a grandfather who just got their first degree at the age of more than 60 years old. I have even read an article about an elderly man who just completed his SPM recently because life was very hard when he was younger and he was not as privileged as others to have had the opportunity to take SPM when he was growing up. Some people continue on to pursue their Master/PhD degree once they were pensioned off because they wanted to persistently learn for the rest of their lives.

Everyone loves reading such stories, don’t we? I certainly do! I have even made plans about what I am going to study once I have stopped working. I have even listed areas of studies I would love to pursue once I am no longer working (if I live long enough). I have always been interested to formally learn Theology or Philosophy or History or Archaeology or Political Science… I really could not make up my mind just yet. Haha. I hope when the time comes for me to study those things, no one would discourage me by saying I am too old to study. I have always believed that we should “belajar sampai ke liang lahad”.

And yet, we are limiting our own brilliant doctors from pursuing his education because we think 40 is too old to be trained? Even if he is using his own money?!

I really hope this is just a rumour and this story is not true. I really hope there is a misunderstanding somewhere… because I just could not credit this!

Guys… we might be young… but we may die next year. This guy might be 40… but he might have more years to live to serve the nation. My friend was diagnosed of cancer just one year after he finished his Master degree and he was very young! So was his Master degree a waste? Life just happens to you, right? No one can guarantee that just because you are young, you will live longer to serve the nation.

A sobering thought, isn’t it? That one day we will all perish and we will meet our Maker who will question us on every single decision we made in our lives that may have been oppressive towards others under our leadership.

I can understand why Hadiah Latihan Persekutuan should be limited below a certain age. We all have a rough understanding of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis, after all, especially when it involves public funds/scholarship. But no age limit should be imposed on someone who wants to better their knowledge by spending their own money. In fact, their determination to spend their own money to continue their study when they are already 40 years old is such an admirable thing that should be applauded. Not punished.

I have never studied at a tertiary level in Malaysia. So, I don’t know if it is considered abnormal/unusual/weird to have mature students studying medicine. But in the University of Newcastle Australia (and also other universities in Australia/overseas/other developed countries) having mature students doing medicine is quite a normal thing. Some of them have left high school and university for quite some time before deciding to pursue medicine (And no one cares what these people got for their High School Certificate (SPM equivalent) because they have earned their credits while doing their undergrad degrees in other fields). Some of them had graduated as nurses and had worked a number of years as an RN (registered nurse) before deciding to do a medical degree. Some of them used to work as an engineer before they then decided to do medicine. And another Australian mate of mine has a degree in Mathematics but then decided that he was interested in medicine later on in life.

One particular batch-mate of mine was a mature student at the age of 38 when we were in our first year of medical school. And he was among the best in the batch. Because of his maturity, he was more confident and more self-assured in answering and asking questions in the lecture hall or in the tutorial room. I looked forward to all the questions that I knew he would inevitably asked at the end of the class… because us, younger and immature that we were back then, were too self-conscious to ask. He was the source of calm reason during our tutorial session when young, immature students, straight-out-of-high-school like us, were arguing over some knotty points in the case discussion. Last time I checked, he is already a GP and a great one too (In Australia, a private GP is a specialist and must undergo specialty training. How much older he must be while undergoing his specialty training if he was already 38 when he was a first year medical student. Just pause and think for a moment).

But what if he was never allowed to pursue medicine in the first place because of his age? He will never become the great, passionate GP that he is now. And his patients will be deprived of a good, dedicated GP.

In Australia, they celebrate variety of backgrounds and they value the insight that comes with diverse experiences. No age is too late when it comes to learning and studying and contributing to the society with the knowledge that you gain. Especially when you want to gain that knowledge using your own money and no one is short-changed/discriminated/oppressed because of that.  

I think this is something that we should certainly talk with Perkembangan if indeed someone was prevented from training because of his age when he is using his own money for it. If age/SPM results (or whatever else it may be)  are non-negotiable criteria to the people in Perkembangan, then this should be explicitly informed to everyone before they even attempt Paper A. This is the fairest way to go. Don’t let them spend all that money (sometimes they took Paper A multiple times already before they actually passed) only to be told “Opps, sorry about your age. And sorry about the money you had spent when you didn’t know that your age matters to us.”

Just… Be fair. Please.

Please explicitly spell out all the criteria that you want in your MRCPsych candidates so that candidates can decide whether or not they should even be in Psychiatry and whether or not they should even attempt Paper A, in the first place. If you have already spelled out everything and they still decide to attempt Paper A anyway even when they don’t meet the criteria, then that is on them (Maybe they plan to work in the UK/Singapore/Dubai and therefore are not concerned by your criteria). So that you are no longer responsible of unjust/unfair/unreasonable decision if you have clearly spelled out everything.

Being just and fair is what really matters, at the end of the day.

WHY DO WE WORK?

Below is a video from Ali Abdal, who had graduated at the top of his class when he was in Cambridge Medical School. He has had some experience being a junior doctor for 2 years before deciding to quit Medicine. In this video, he talked about the meaning behind the work that we do and why he then decided to leave medicine. Well, he can certainly afford to leave Medicine… he is already a millionaire, thanks to his successful You Tube Account, and his inspiring Podcast and other businesses and start-ups that he had been part of even when he was just in medical school. Not everyone is as lucky as him.

Certainly not most of our contract MOs. *Sighs*

WHY do we work, guys? What’s the purpose? Other than money… why do we work? If we are only working for the money… why should we trouble ourselves with career progression if whatever money that we earn now is enough even if we don’t ever progress? For more money? And then what?

Have you ever heard of the parable ‘The Fisherman & The Businessman’ before? It’s quite a famous story.

One day a CEO of a major corporation was on vacation, and stumbled upon a fisherman coming back from his daily catch.

Intent on striking up a conversation, the CEO asked what the fisherman’s day was like.

“Well,” says the fisherman. “I go out in the mornings, spread my nets, and wait for a catch. I take a lunch break around noon, then haul whatever I’ve caught to the market around 2pm.”

Intrigued, the CEO pressed on.

“Well, what do you do with the rest of your day?” He asked.

“Oh I dunno,” replied the fisherman. “Play with my kids, relax, spend time with my wife, read some books.”

At this point, the CEO was getting excited.

“Hey!” The CEO exclaimed. “I bet I can help your business. If you work a bit harder, I bet you could expand your business. Buy more boats, hire more fishermen. Expand your entire operation!”

“Cool!” The fisherman replied. “Then what?”

“Well,” the CEO said. “Then you can sell your fishing operation, and make millions of dollars.”

“Wow!” The fisherman exclaimed, obviously excited. “What can I do with a million dollars?”

“You could relax,” said the CEO. “Play with your kids! Spend time with your wife! Catch up on your reading!”

Suddenly, the mood changed as both the CEO and the fisherman saw the irony of the suggestion. Both then went their separate ways, and the CEO later went on to quit his job.

So if you don’t work for the money? What do you work for? So that you can attain self-actualization, being at the top in your field… only to stay silent when something is wrong in the system? What’s the difference between being a HO and a specialist or a sub-specialist or a HOD, then? All of them are expected to remain silent when they don’t agree with the authority above them.

Isn’t it?

I don’t know. As I am writing this, I am doing my own self-reflection here… these are the questions for me as much as for everyone else.

BOOK OF THE MONTH

Today, I would like to review 2 books of short stories from two of my favourite authors, Rudyard Kipling and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

When I have minimal time to read, I always choose a book of short stories to read so that I could finish one short story in one sitting. That way, I can move on with the rest of my daily task as a responsible adult who has to work from 8-5 and can no longer spend hours on end to finish a novel, LOL.

The book Plain Tales From The Hills is a collection of 42 short stories by Rudyard Kipling (His most famous work among children would be The Jungle Book, if you guys are familiar with his works). When you read the works of Rudyard Kipling, you get a sense that he must be a military man or had some degree of familiarity with military life. A lot of his short stories had something to do with military men while they were posted in India. I wondered why… so I did a bit of a superficial research (well, I Googled it, lol) and found out that the reason why a lot of the short stories were about military men was because most of the short stories were first published in a military magazine (Civil & Military Gazette, Lahore, British India), so that was why the theme of his stories would cater to the concerns of that magazine’s particular audience which mainly consisted of military men. He was actually born in India (his father worked as a curator at Lahore Museum) at the height of the British Imperialism in India. He was not a military man but a journalist. He actually won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

It was amazing how Rudyard Kipling could create a good character development for most of the main characters in these short stories and able to engage the sympathy of the readers while having to abide by the limited structure of a short story. I must admit, though, that not all of the 42 stories were equally great. Some were better than others. One or two were downright sleep-inducing, to be very honest. But if you do not have enough time to read a whole novel (but want to read something interesting anyway in the short time that you have) reading short stories authored by Rudyard Kipling is certainly one of the more pleasurable ways to go.

The next book I would like to review is Selected Stories By F. Scott Fitzgerald. A lot of you guys are probably familiar with this author who also wrote the very famous book, The Great Gatsby. (This book was even adapted into films multiple times. The latest one was in 2013 in which Leonardo Dicaprio played the main character, Jay Gatsby. I had to study this book as part of my IB literature syllabus and it was one of the less boring literature – to an 18 year old teenager – among the many that I had to study). Anyway, the first short story in this book is also one of the more famous ones by Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This short story was also adapted into a film, if I am not mistaken. The other 4 stories are less well-known: The Camel’s Back, The Diamond As Big As The Ritz, The Cut-Glass Bowl and The Ice Palace.

What I have always admired about F. Scott Fitzgerald is how he could grip the attention of the readers from the very beginning of each of his story (in fact, from the very first sentence). He just KNEW how to pique our curiosity; how to entice and enthral.

Whenever I discussed with others the examples of a great introduction, I would use F. Scott Fitzgerald as an example.

Just to demonstrate my point, the opening line of The Great Gatsby was:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

It remains my FAVOURITE opening line to date. From these two sentences alone, he provoked me to pause and think (How dare you look down on others based on an accident of birth that just happened to place you at a greater advantage), enticed me to wonder (why does he keep remembering the advice of his father? Is this advice going to be a significant element of this story?), taught me to think deeper (before criticizing) and challenged me (to disagree with his philosophy. For example, I remember feeling quite annoyed with these sentences because the logical part of my brain was thinking “You mean I CANNOT criticize someone EVER? AT ALL? Just because I was perceived to have had some advantages? But how do we improve ourselves if no one can criticize us when we don’t have the same advantages as them? Kind of a stupid philosophy, isn’t it? Truth is truth, after all. And if the truth comes from someone who has had some advantages over me, I should just take it as the truth and improve myself based on the criticism. Right? In fact that is the point of interacting with people of diverse backgrounds, and people of different advantages and disadvantages… so that we can learn from each other as we accept and act on the feedbacks and criticism that were given to us. Right?”)

See? These two opening (opening, guys! Not even the main conflict) sentences alone invoke so much thoughts and emotions in me that made me pause and think “Hang on! Sounds legit! Sounds philosophically elegant enough on the surface. But I do not necessarily agree with your father’s advice. I do have some counter-arguments to this advice. But I wonder, how does this advice influence the rest of the story!”

I just love it! And I use it as an example of a great opening line to anyone who asked.

So… I highly recommend F. Scott Fitzgerald to you guys if you haven’t read his works before. But I must warn you guys… he didn’t always write happy endings. Haha. So, he is not my go-to author when I want to feel good and cozy. I go to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeffrey Archer, Matthew Reilly, John Grisham, Jane Austen and Bronte (but NOT Emily Bronte! Just Charlotte and Anne) whenever I feel like I need a pick-me-up.

Until next time, my dear readers.

May Allah always guide us and bless us with sharp thoughts and clear conscience whenever we have to make any decision that would impact the system and the people under our leadership. Amin Ya Rabbal Alamin.

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