Work Hard, Play Harder, Contribute Always

WORK HARD

The month of April (till early May) has been a helluva hectic time for yours truly.

I have been swamped… right, left and centre. At the end of most days, I was left exhausted. 

When my colleague Dr. T said that she needed me-time in one of our binge-whining session, I was quick to jump in and said the same. “Yeah, I need me time, too.”

She looked at me incredulously, “Kau single, punya banyak me-time lepas habis kerja”

No one has any idea.

My idea of me-time is me on the bed… with a good book… for two straight days, at least. A really good book that left me staring at the wall, stunned… by the beauty of its words. By the crazy plot twist! By the dialogues! 

When I am at home, I may be by myself… but not the whole of that alone hours are me-time.

Studying at home is NOT me-time…. that is studying time, all right? Going shopping for groceries or clothes or shoes is NOT me time… that is necessary shopping time (I don’t enjoy it much). Doing house chores at home is NOT me-time… that is a necessary household maintenance time! Hiking is NOT me-time… that is exercise time which is necessary for physical health and fitness (though I enjoy it, of course). Listening to political lectures or religious sermons through Facebook and Youtube is NOT me-time… that is increasing-general-knowledge time (though it does feed my need for intellectual stimulation and I like it too). Going out with friends to catch up and gossip is NOT me-time… that is socialising time (and it is done so that my friends won’t think I didn’t care about them or have forgotten them. Because I do remember them in my heart… of course.)

Seriously! I need a lot of alone time….to do all those things… and a portion of those times MUST be spent reading a good book in order for me to feel like I have enough me-time. In order to feel refreshed and rejuvenated! 

Adulthood is killing me slowly (okay, I have to stop being a drama queen. Hahha. I like having my own money as an adult. LOL. But seriously, what was I thinking when I used to want to grow up as fast as possible when I was a child?)

Whenever I feel extra tired, I would remind myself of what Imam Ahmad Hanbal had said to her son:

When do we rest

So, yeah…. life is a never ending struggle. Don’t expect to rest here in this world. Just work hard. 

That was what I told myself when I had to organise Autism Awareness Day on the 21st of April 2018. It took 2 months of careful planning, various meetings, numerous phone calls and a few unrestful nights to get it done but Alhamdulillah, after all the hard work, it was done and dusted. 

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The picture of the staff and committees that had worked so hard to organize Autism Awareness Day on the 21st of April 2018

PLAY HARDER

It was very nice and sweet of my colleagues to say that “We should all go to Pulau Songsong to blow off the steam and relieve some stress.” As though they were planning this trip for the sole purpose of making me feel refreshed after the past hectic months.

The truth is – and I know it – they wanted to go to Pulau Songsong… because they WANTED to go to Pulau Songsong. Whether or not it was specifically for my stress relief was neither here nor there. The fact is, they needed a driver to drive them there, anyway. And as I have always been the designated driver for the girls, of course they wanted me to come along. Hahah. Nice of them to pretend that it was all for my stress-relief, though! LOL. 

But yeah, I was glad they pushed me into doing it. Just like in any social activities, I ended up enjoying it more than I initially thought I would. And I need these type of friends to push me into it… otherwise I will be forever buried inside my house with books. 

The truth is, I relieve stress by solving the cause of the stress. If it is exam that’s causing me stress, I deal with the exam and get it over with. If organising an event is the source of stress, then again my stress can only be gone once the event is done. And all I need afterwards to de-stress is just to be alone, to enjoy my solitude and  dive into the fantastic world of my mystery and fantasy books. That’s all. 

But I am glad for people around me who didn’t give up on me when I was quite hesitant to go. If they didn’t push, I wouldn’t go. But they did, and I ended up really enjoying myself. 

That’s why an introvert person need an extrovert friend…. yin and yang and all that. The introvert is content with what she already has; already content with her own thoughts and the world inside her head. She doesn’t think she needs more. She doesn’t know that there are just as many fascinating things in the real world outside… until the people around her had pushed her to and she has no other choice but to realise  that the outside world is just as great. So that next time, when they plan another trip, she will be much more willing to go because she remembers her positive experience from the previous outing.

In fact, I really can’t wait for the next trip. 

Below are the pictures of the beauty of Pulau Songsong. It ALMOST felt like we were in the cheaper and primitive version of the Maldives. To those who don’t know the history of this enchanting island, Pulau Songsong was previously used by the Royal Australian Force as a missile testing ground in the 50s. The island has been closed off to the public for many years until circa 2008. Until now, the island does not have much in terms of amenities. No chalets (so camping out is the only option), very primitive toilets and a very simple and small surau. I hope the state government would do something in terms of development for this island. It was said that this island has one of the best coral systems compared to the rest of the nearby islands in the area. 

Below are some of the pictures of the enchanting Pulau Songsong. I highly recommend my dear readers to pay this island a visit. The cost of the entire trip was only RM50 per head (for the boat and for the food that we brought to be barbecued).  So much value for money, isn’t it? 

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Such a nice clear water…
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The rocks are really that colour. It casts a beautiful hue and glow to the surrounding water.
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This picture was taken on the other side of the island (the less crowded side)
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The turquoise colour of the sea is really calming, ain’t it?
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Haha our creative photographer had edited the picture of us posing in the water . It looked as though we had just finished fighting off monsters deep inside the water.

CONTRIBUTE ALWAYS

Another reason why my April month was so busy was because I had used up most of my free times to volunteer at Invoke for the recent election. And I was so happy and jubilant when Pakatan Harapan won stunningly and gloriously against the oppressive Barisan coalition led by the kleptocratic Najib and supported by his shameless cronies. 

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I have decided to write a specific post about my involvement with INVOKE (the brain child of PKR’s vice president, Rafizi Ramli). Perhaps, I will do that in the next post, Insya Allah.

But in short, I had volunteered at Invoke to be a PACA (polling agent and counting agent) for Pakatan Harapan around one month before the election. I had to attend a few courses and talks organised by INVOKE, Pakatan Harapan and Pusat Operasi Dun Bukit Pinang. I learned how to ensure a fair election, how to detect any hanky panky during the voting process, how to fill up specific forms while being a polling/counting agent (Borang Bantahan, Borang 13, Borang 14. Borang 10/ Akuan Identity, really so many borangs) and I was also given the phone number of lawyers that can be contacted if the presiding officer (Ketua Tempat Mengundi) refused to sign Borang 14 (the formal final result of the voting for each saluran). We also went through scenarios of what to do if certain circumstances arise (electricity/power blackout for example) and who we should contact to advise us on legal matters on the election day should any skirmish/argument take place. 

So the duration of April and early May was so exhausting, guys! Sometimes I was post-call, but I made myself attend the talks/ceramahs anyway at the pusat operasi. I believe that I am doing this for my beloved country.

I was raised by my parents to be really patriotic. We were hard-core UMNO supporters once upon a time. My father encouraged me to volunteer to go to PKSN (Program Khidmat Sosial Negara) while awaiting for my SPM results… in fact, I used to like going to BTN (but mainly for the outdoor activities haha). After medical school, I could have stayed in Australia like some of my other batchmates but my parents had reminded me of my duty as a Malaysian scholar to come back and serve the country. It was one of the hardest decision I had to make that I actually had to do istikharah for it because I was so torn apart (I rarely do istikharah in general because most of the time, I am pretty certain of my decision based on the facts and figures of the situation). I watched and enjoyed a lot of patriotic movies like Sarjan Hassan, Leftenan Adnan, Tanda Putera, and Ola Bola. My father would always say things like “Orang Melayu kena kerja kuat dan rajin, Tengok macam orang Cina! Siapa lagi kuat berusaha, dia yang akan berjaya.” My father would feel so proud when my school marks were better than the Chinese in my school or if I was the top scorer for any particular subject. In his mind, he was not being racist but he was being patriotic. He cares about the Malays and he has always been a part of some political party or some organizations that champion the Malay cause. 

Every general election is like a raya for our family. My maternal aunt’s house in Sungai Limau has been a bilik gerakan for BN since I was a child. It was still used as BN’s bilik gerakan for the recent GE14. But this time… WITHOUT the participation of my parents’ and myself. My aunt was so disappointed when my parents and all my siblings had, ehem, well..  ‘defected to  the other side’ (hahha. In her mind, it was the ‘evil’ side). Unlike the top UMNO members, my aunt was just an ordinary patriotic party member who thinks of UMNO as the Malays’ sole chance of surviving. In her mind, she is doing all these for her country too. She thinks she is supporting the same UMNO that she has been supporting since she herself was a small child. Nothing my parents said could ever shake her belief in UMNO. 

My parents are now a proud member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. They had switched allegiance since all Najib’s scandals started coming out in the social media 3 years ago. Then they joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu after Tun M set it up around one year ago. Me? I am not sure if I will ever be able to overcome my hesitancy in joining ANY organization, unnecessarily. Organisation has rules. And with me, I tend to break any rule if I don’t agree with it. I don’t respect position, insensible rules or diplomacy or form without substance. I respect fairness and justice, ideas, intelligence and plain speaking. You can be my boss, but I can go against you if I think you are wrong. And because of this, I can never be a good member of any particular organization. And I probably never even want to. I love being free to form my own mind and if it happens to be against any organization… well, that is EXACTLY why I am not a member of any. 

I prefer to volunteer the way I did with INVOKE. In my mind, I was not volunteering to be a PACA because I was a member of any of the component party of Pakatan Harapan (because I wasn’t and I am still not. I probably won’t ever). I volunteered because I wanted to ensure a fair election that will bring Najib down! The destroyer of this country must be punished and justice must be served. I volunteered for my own personal principle even if it meant I had to sacrifice my study time or my reading time. 

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And when Pakatan Harapan Alhamdulillah won, I felt an immense joy that was bordering on euphoria. I felt glad for the opportunity to be directly involved in this historical election that had seen Najib and BN perished in the hands of ordinary citizens who love Malaysia. The parliamentary candidate I was assigned to be a PACA to (at Sek Men Hutan Kampung Saluran 2) was Dato’ Mahfuz Omar… and Alhamdulillah he won the parliamentary seat of Pokok Sena. 

After seeing our beloved Tun Mahathir being sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister at Istana Negara via the LIVE broadcast of RTM2, the whole family cheered. Welcome back Tun Mahathir! And of course, welcome back Mukhriz as the MB of Kedah!

For now, I am your fan… but remember, if you betray the rakyat’s trust I will not hesitate to change my allegiance again. And so do many Malaysians in our age group. They say that this is the Malaysians Tsunami…. but it is MOSTLY the tsunami of the younger Malaysians! Who would have thought that we could do it? Alhamdulillah!

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A proud Kedahan. That’s me.

And thanks Rafizi, for creating INVOKE as a platform for many patriotic Malaysians to volunteer and be part of this momentous occasion. The kleptocrats are down! Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah! It’s time to rebuild the nation. 

In the mean time, now that the election is over with a resounding glory, I can finally rest. May the rest of the month of May be a bit more pleasant and peaceful. I suspect that until the election fever is over (personally, it takes me some weeks to get over my election fever; I always have the tendency to follow many political news for many months after the election day. And what I read and thus what I think, is what I tend to write), many of my future posts will be about this country or about politics in general. So, stay tuned, if you like that sort of posts (and I am sorry if you don’t. Please feel free not to read my posts. If you do like that sort of posts though, you might encounter ideas or opinions of mine that you don’t agree with. Please feel free to comment or better yet, create your own blog and spread your own beliefs and ideas. This is now a FREE country!)

I leave my dear readers with a reminder to “Work hard, play harder and contribute always”.

Until next time, insha Allah. 😉

Core Project

Professor Brian Little argued that people are more than just a bunch of traits. There may be many people out there who have the exact same personality traits as you (maybe all of you tested as INTP in your MBTI personality test) but there is something about you that makes you unique (from the rest of other INTPs), regardless.

In psychiatry, we have many trait theories and of course my personal favourite is the MBTI personality theory. I always tested as either INTP or INTJ. 

But we also have other personality theories/tests. The common and easy one we usually learn in our Part A Psychiatry exam is the OCEAN personality theory.

O stands for Openness to Experience (how open are you about exploring new interests – being creative/flexible/ curious and adventurous. Personally, I rate my openness to experience as moderate. I am not creative and I am not that flexible. Once I have perfected my point of view and my principles, I rarely change my mind. But I am very curious in nature and that’s why I read on many genres and on various issues. And I am quite adventurous especially when it comes to outdoor activities. I like to travel and learn about new cultures. So, I think I am pretty open in certain things.)

C stands for conscientiousness (how organized, how thorough, how much planning you put in your work. How hardworking you are. I also feel I am moderate in this. I must care ENOUGH in order to give a good effort. I care about my studies and my work, so I am organized when it comes to those sort of things. But I can give up easily when it comes to doing things that I am just not interested in.)

E stands for extraversion. (Extroverts are those who are recharged by having social interaction. The more they interact, the more energy they have. Whereas, introverts are those who are recharged by having some alone time. The more they interact, the lower their energy level becomes. Introverts do enjoy social interaction with people they know well, but even so, they NEED some time alone in order to recharge before they can come back to interact some more. I am very, very introverted. Outside office hours, I really just want to be by myself and do my thing.)

A stands for agreeableness (how kind, how ‘nice’, how affectionate you are. I am not that agreeable. I am not universally nice. I am only selectively nice. If you do something that I feel is very irresponsible or cross a certain principle, I won’t mince words in how I let you know that you are a slacker and you better buck up now and meet the standard! But I think I am nice to my friends and my family….. but still…if they do something that I think is unacceptable, I will let them know….eventually.)

N stands for neuroticism (how tense/moody/ anxious you are. I think I can be quite neurotic… but again, only about things I really care about. Like exams. Hahha. Or when I am planning for something important, I get a bit tense…. ehem, or a lot tense. When things go awry or opposite to what I want, I cannot even hide my displeasure and it would show on my face… or show through my words. I guess I am moderate to high in neuroticism).

But remember, Brian Little said that we are more than our traits. What makes us unique, he said, is what we have undertaken as a core project in our life.

Brian Little used himself as an example when he said that we are more complex than just our traits. He said, that he is an extreme introvert. But because he is a professor and his personal project is TO PROFESS, therefore he has to act in an extrovert manner when he is teaching his students, be more jovial and more animated, so that his students will be interested in what he has to profess.

In his TED talk ‘Who Are You, Really? The Puzzle of Personality’, he said,

“How about the idiosyncratic you? As Elizabeth or as George… you may BOTH share your extraversion or your neuroticism. But are there some distinctively Elizabethan features of your behaviour or Georgian of your behaviour…. that makes us understand you better than just a bunch of traits… that makes us… love you. Not just because you are a certain type of person….. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the DOINGS that we have in our life. The personal projects. You may have a personal project right now, but nobody may know it.”

He continued to say that the personal project can be anything. It might be your mom. You might be an agreeable person. But you act disagreeably in order to remove the administrative barrier that keep your mom from getting the kind of treatment she needs at the hospital, for example.

He termed this ‘out of character’ event as adopting a ‘free trait’.

 

Take myself as an example: I am an introvert. I am not universally friendly and very slow to warm up to strangers. But if I am suddenly being placed in the position of asking for a sponsorship in order to organize a non-profit event, won’t I have to adopt a ‘free trait’ (out of character traits) and act like an extrovert with people I have never met before just because I need their sponsorship? Yes, right? That’s what I have to do, isn’t it?

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I will have to smile when I don’t really feel like it, and act like I don’t mind when you are not on time or when you don’t deliver your sponsorship on the day you said you would. I would have to be so conscientious in following up on things I never really care before. Normally, I won’t ask people for their help and I won’t bother to follow up on whether or not they can help if they can’t immediately say yes to my request. Because usually, I can always find other ways to accomplish the same thing without having to ask for help multiple times. But because I have to run a state-level event, I will have to act like asking people for money and sponsorship, and keep on messaging them to find out their answers are something I don’t feel embarrassed about. Like it is something I don’t hate doing. Like I do things like this all the time and I am not stressed about it.

When you are running an event, you have to be patient in dealing with many people. Person A complains to you about Person B. Then Person B complains to you about Person A. Then Person C complains to you about Person A and Person B. Or your boss tells you to change something (multiple times!) in the Program Booklet, so you then have to go to the booklet designer and apologize to him for troubling him again but can he please, please, please do the changes again, you beg. Or you are stuck in a war between 2 committees; BOTH insist that the job does not belong to their committee. So, you resist the temptation to be your usual character and say “I will do it myself lah kalau dah susah sangat” (you resist saying that because you know you can’t do it yourself, this time) and be patient and listen to their problems, ‘pujuk-pujuk’ /cajoling them with soft words, in order to get things done.

So in the above example, I adopt a ‘free trait’ (that of extraversion and agreeableness) in order to advance a personal project. Because I care about my work (and unfortunately sometimes it involves organizing events), I have to adopt ‘out of character’ trait to advance a personal project that I care about.

And I am not the only one who does this. Everyone behaves outside their character because of their personal project. And Brian Little said, that’s what makes you unique… that’s what makes you MORE than just a bunch of traits that you share with many people. It’s the things we DO and the core projects that we embark on (that necessitate us to behave in a counter-dispositional manner) that make us different from one another.

That’s why at the end of the day, our traits are our traits (something we in our own self know about ourself if we are self-aware) BUT where it counts most (in reality, when things must get done), we are what we repeatedly do. Or rather, we BECOME what we repeatedly do, even as we know that it is against our biogenic trait.

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I guess, that is the basis of attending occupational therapy and training,right? Why train if we can never change?

 

However!!! He also said, even though adopting ‘out of character’ free traits may enhance well-being when we become successful at the project we pursue, it can also COMPROMISE well-being because it challenges your autonomic nervous system (The fight or flight or freeze reaction! With me…. I tend to fight than flight or freeze.)

Indeed! Behaving out of character is stressful. Pretending to enjoy excessive social interaction is stressful. Forcing yourself to be okay about asking for help, managing conflicts between people, dealing with people you cannot stand, dealing with sudden multiple changes because there are too many heads and different ideas to follow…. are stressful. Prolonged excessive environmental stimuli is stressful to an introvert.

See? There is an EMOTIONAL COST to adopting ‘free traits’ behaviour when it is done in a prolonged and excessive manner. Continuous ‘free-traited’ behaviour means dealing with chronic stress. In which case, I suggest you find a different core project that most of the time complement your real personality.

Choose your core project wisely. Make the cost worth it.

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The Grit of A Beloved Patriot

I grew up when Tun Mahathir was the prime minister of Malaysia.

My whole family adore this guy. Like, seriously.

It almost felt like I was indoctrinated to adore him. He was my Prime Minister throughout my whole schooling years. In school, the concept of ‘Wawasan 2020’ envisioned by Tun Mahathir never failed to grace the lyrics of our dikir barat or the sub-theme of our choral speaking. His famous words of ‘Leading By Example’ (Kepimpinan Melalui Tauladan) was used numerous times in our debate speech. His ‘Look East Policy’ (Dasar Pandang Ke Timur) was also a favourite theme in any elocution contest.

You see, the reason Tun M was very quotable was because he was very original and very visionary. And remember, in his student days he was a writer, writing scathingly against the British and Tun Abdul Rahman by using the pseudonym of CheDet. He is quotable because he is talented with words and know how to use them to describe his vision.

My admiration in him remained strong even after the Anwar scandal. It was made even sturdier after he successfully steered our country out of a painful financial crisis.

My father always talked about the brilliance of Tun M in bringing back Malaysia from the brim of disaster that was the 1997 financial crisis. We talked about how he defied the IMF formula in managing the financial crisis and how with great courage he did the unconventional thing and went counter-current by choosing to peg our Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 ringgit to 1 US Dollar. How he turned a deaf ear to all the uproar of criticism when he firmly stuck to his decision of ringgit pegging. He was so resolute. So determined.

 It took balls to ignore criticism and do it your way. And when it turned out to be the best way anyway, the sweetness of victory must taste like the manna of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying he is perfect in my eyes. Because no one is perfect.  But we cannot deny that during his leadership, our county made progress in leaps and bounds. His style of leadership was so different from the usual inefficient, timid ways of the Malays. He has the willingness to put forward unpopular strategies, the courage to be confrontational, the desire to instil discipline and introduce competition. He is gutsy! And I admire guts in anyone because that is something Malays are very lacking in.

I read a book written about him when I was in standard 6. I still remember the title of the book; ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir’.  The book was written by Zainuddin Maidin in the early 90s. I remember how proud I was when I read about The Dawn Raid (of The London Stock Exchange) and The Buy British Last Policy.  When the book was written, the financial crisis  did not yet happen. But I came across that book in Sekolah Rendah Asma school library when the financial crisis was ongoing. Reading that book gave me a glimpse of what kind of man Dr. Mahathir was and it gave me hope that he would be the man to turn the financial crisis around, God willing. I never doubted that SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, Malaysia would get out of the crisis successfully in his premiership. It was at the age of 12 years old that I learned to really admire this patriot, thanks to the book ‘Mahathir Di Sebalik Tabir‘. I particularly enjoyed reading the episode of the Buy British Last Campaign which had ended with Lady Margaret Thatcher having to strike a deal with Dr. Mahathir to end the campaign. I particularly loved his firm witty words in his letter to Margaret Thatcher. At last our former colonizer had to acknowledge the power and sovereignty of a small developing country like Malaysia. That is a sweet victory!

A few years ago, I also bought his autobiography: A Doctor In The House, his famous memoir. I have finished reading all the 1000++ pages some time ago. But I found myself re-reading some of the chapters recently after I came across his HILARIOUS facebook status regarding the recently held Sinar Harian forum “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM.”

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He wrote in his facebook status “I am here guys. Say it to my face.” There was a picture of him sitting at the front, directly facing the stage where the panelists were talking about whether he was too old to be a PM. (Hahah. ROFL.) One panelist in particular was made uncomfortable by his presence. Such a stomach-tickling moment that one was.

That’s how you fight your enemies. Boldly seek them out. Go face-to-face. With bravery and a flash of humour.

Below is the you tube video of the whole forum session. The forum wasn’t that factually stimulating, in my opinion.  But I watched it anyway just to see the moment when pandemonium broke loose as  Tun M calmly sauntered into the room. Haha.

So funneh!!

Tun M reminded me of one of my favourite TED talk in YOU Tube about the power of grit. In the end, it wasn’t your IQ that made you stand out and succeed. It was grit. The not giving up. The persistence. Grit makes you try one more time. Do it again and again. Until you get it right. Until you attain what you wanted. Until you excel at things.

Listen to this 6 minutes TED talk, guys. It would totally inspire you, I promise.

Tun M, a 93 year old man, is surely one gritty man! A passionate patriot! A great sophisticated statesman.

I wish him luck in his political career at this age. And I hope he will win his parliamentary seat, wherever it is he will be contesting for the upcoming general election. Even if he is too old to be a prime minister (but if anyone could do it at this age, it is him, God willing), I don’t think he is too old to be an MP.

Tun M has my utmost admiration. Forever shall he be remembered as the best Prime Minister Malaysia has ever had.

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You Reap What You Sow

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There are times when I think people are very blind to injustice and unfairness. 

If you cannot speak up against small injustice that happens in your surrounding and general environment, then you have no rights to talk about how bad the state of corruption in this country. How can you expect ministers and government officials to admonish their prime minister, when we ourselves cannot even speak up about things that happen in our own very small, very insignificant environment?

I personally do not feel the need to kowtow to people or kiss anyone’s ass at the cost of justice and fairness. If the cost of building harmonious relationship is by sacrificing justice and fairness, I don’t need to preserve such relationship. 

I keep friends that have the same core values and similar life principles. Other friends can choose to align their principles with me or not… their choice. But I am not keeping close relationships with those who cannot appreciate basic tenets of fair treatment and justice. In this, I am firm. 

If I am a client of a CBT session, the therapist would say that justice is my core belief. It is the lens through which I examine every single matter in life. Relationship is important, but not as much as justice. I didn’t say this, the Quran does. 

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Even in things that do not affect me personally, if I think it is wrong, I will speak up about it. And I am not like this by nature. No one, in their nature, simply for no reason likes to ruffle feathers and makes things uncomfortable. I am like this by training. Because it was ingrained within me (by my father, by my learning of  the religion) that if you don’t have the strength to speak up against small injustice that happens around you, what makes you think you will have the strength needed to fight for bigger things later? 

Some people told me that “decision has been made”. I just laughed. No one is questioning about whether or not decision is made or NOT made. We are questioning the fairness of the decision. Other people may not say it outright that the decision was wrong (because not many people are like me.)  But they think it, they feel it. And they will remember it. 

At least, when I am honest in my opinion, it gives everyone the opportunity to pause; to think first and not make a wrong decision. Or an unjust decision.

I have full insight regarding how I might come across when I am too blunt. But I still won’t change because I notice that without my bluntness, it is easy for people to sweep issues under the carpet and pretend that everything is right. 

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “May Allah have mercy on a man who shows me my faults.”

Al-A’raf 7:164 taught us that we should never be among those who are not worth mentioning. The people who are not worth mentioning are those who in this life, when they saw injustice, they fell silent. 

***

No one likes to do extra-work.

But if you have failed miserably to complete your task last year, you should have the spine to shoulder the responsibility this year and try to compensate for what you didn’t accomplish last year. Other people had done their part. And now if it’s your turn, you have to develop the strength to get it done.

Someone who cares about you will take you aside and tell you, “Look, Allah will not put you through this if He doesn’t think you can handle this. This is your turn to do it. No one likes to do this task. That is why we should develop rules on how the decision is made regarding who must do it. As long as you haven’t completed your turn, other people will always feel resentful when they have to do something that you somehow can skip. When you give excuses like this, it reflects badly on you. People talk about you. How they have to pick up on your slacks because you couldn’t do what had been originally assigned for you! So, please do this! I will help you!”

A person who doesn’t care about you would say “Well, decision has been made. If the authority says you don’t have to do it, then you just don’t have to do it. No need to discuss anymore. Let the authority choose other people to replace what you should be doing. You can just ignore what other people feel about how you have shirked your responsibility.” A person who doesn’t care about your personal growth and development would encourage you to have the sort of behaviour that he himself has displayed all these while. So that you can become as chronic as him!

Is that a real friend?

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If I had a friend who (by rights of justice and fairness) failed to do her responsibility, I will take her aside and tell her, “I know life is difficult for you. But citing a random personal reason for not doing something that you should be doing is not the right thing to do. Come on, you are better than that! There is more to you than that! I will help you!”

Strength of character is not developed by maintaining the same routine each and every time, hoping that you can somehow escape your task. We won’t get any new experience by behaving like any extra work is a burden rather than a challenge. 

When I had to do it, did I like it? I didn’t! But I had to do it, so Alhamdulillah, I did it. When my friend had to do it, she didn’t like it too. But did she do it? Yes, she did. When she asked for my help, I felt GLAD to help and be involved in whatever way I could because I wanted her to be able to do it too. Now, that’s real friendship. 

Real friendship is NOT you encouraging your friends to abandon ship and let it sink when the going gets tough. Real friendship is whispering to your friend’s ear “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Let’s do whatever we can to keep the ship afloat” Real friendship is telling your friend, “I will help you with your task.”

Don’t let it be said that men are slackers and it takes women to complete simple task that men simply cannot perform. Rise to expectation, and trust Allah to help you.

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Trust in the most uplifting, most motivational Sunnahtullah that Allah has taught us: Effort is required to qualify for Allah’s help. As simple as that. 

 

effort

The Enlightened Man & The Pygmalion Effect

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My father turned 61 a few days ago. He was born on the 5th of March 1957, the first born in his family. We all had a simple celebration at Swensen for my father’s birthday; Me and Alida’s treat for the whole family.

Even though he is now 61, but I still remember him as a man in his 30s, strictly checking my academic tasks and asking my mother or my nanny (my beloved Kak Milah) whether or not I had studied according to the schedule that I was supposed to adhere to.

As a child, whenever I heard the sound of his car on the driveway when he returned from work, I would run out of the living room (where the TV was, hahha) into the study room and pretended that I had been lost in diligent concentration of whatever academic book I was supposed to be reading at that time.

But then he would pop up into the study room and said, “Kak Ngah, tadi lupa tutup kipas kat depan ke?”

Damn! Busted! Hahaha.

When I told my friends about why I couldn’t go out to play for too long, all my friends in the neighbourhood never really understood.

And me? I never understood why their parents never asked them to study like my parents did.

I was also surprised that among my friends, the mothers were the ones who would pester them to study or to finish their homework. In my household, it was always my father who would put the fear of God in our hearts to perform our academic task. There are times when I wonder, how would my father deal with an ADHD child or a slow learner child? Haha. It would be interesting to see.

My father did not pester me to finish my homework, because he knew I would finish it on my own (simply because I didn’t want to be scolded by teachers. And I also had a reputation to maintain. I couldn’t let it be said that “Afiza is not as good as Afzalina at school.” Hahha. Sibling rivalry helped me stay motivated. Looking back, I really did owe my elder sister a lot.)

Instead, he would pester me to finish an additional academic task that he set out for me. I had one English article to translate per day. Every week, he would buy The Star or The New Straits Times newspaper, and then he would put an asterisk mark to seven articles he wanted me to translate into Malay for the whole week. In our childhood life, that was the most torturous task for me and my elder sister. But my elder sister had it even worse than me… she had to translate 5 articles per day.  And she had to do it for 2 years. I only had to do it for one year…

Whereas Izati and Alida did not have to do it daily like I did. And Wani… didn’t have to do it AT ALL! (I guess, by the time  the younger sisters were at the age to do the article translation, my father was pretty busy with his business already and didn’t have the time to monitor them properly. So they got away from the worst academic task of me and my Kak Long’s life)

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I have to admit that I have been the cause of many rules formation in the household.

Until now, whenever we siblings get together, we STILL reminisce on the crazy brain-racking article translation that we had to do. And we would have a great laugh.

It is good being the middle child. Because the eldest child always gets it worse when it comes to parental expectation. The eldest child is the victim of parental enthusiasm. The eldest child is ‘the project’!  The experiment! If the eldest child is successful, then the chance that the rest of the siblings would also be successful would be high too… or so most people thought.

My father only has daughters…. five of them. No sons. But because he is an enlightened man, we never got saddled with a lot of what society would label as ‘women’s task’. We mostly got saddled with academic tasks. Whenever people commented to my mother “Bestnya ramai anak perempuan. Boleh tolong mak.” my mother would roll her eyes. Because we rarely helped her in the kitchen, if truth be told. (Sometimes, I feel sorry for my mother. Most of us inherits my father’s genetics; not just in looks but also in temperament and personality.) Of course, she made sure that we knew how to take care of ourselves; we could make our own drinks, we knew how to cook scrambled eggs, simple fried rice…and we knew how to sweep or mop the floor, and how to operate the washing machine. We took care of our own school shoes and our own school uniforms and wrapped our own text books. My mother would always say, “Kak Milah is for me… to help me. Not to help you. Wash your own school shoes!” But we were not expected to do only house chores. Academic tasks always took precedent over anything else… because my father said so.

One of my friends used to tell me how her brothers never had to do any housework and she was the one who had to do it as the only daughter in her family. I remember thinking, “Thank God, we don’t have brothers.” (Look, I don’t mind doing housechores, but it must be equally divided, gender notwithstanding! Otherwise, I would totally rebel.)

My father has taught me a lot throughout my life. Even without learning psychiatry, he kind of applied the concept of Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect) in raising us.

Basically, in the theory of Pygmalion effect, it states that “we become what is expected of us.” It all  has something to do with expectation. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in which we strive and behave in a way as to be in concordance with our own expectation (or other people’s expectation of us). It can be seen among students at school. You can see the difference in motivation and attitude among students in the first class and students in the last class. Students with poor expectations from their teachers (those in ‘kelas belakang’) internalize their negative label and perform poorly, and those with positive expectations internalise their positive labels and succeed academically. (That’s why whenever possible, make sure your kids stay in  the first class…. teachers’ expectation on first class kids would propel them to succeed. It is the Pygmalion effect. You can google it yourself if you want to know more about this. I learned this in my Part A specialist exam.)

“You delivered because you were expected to.”

–> That is the gist of what Pygmalion effect is all about.

So you yourself can apply this Pygmalion effect on yourself. If you put a high expectation of yourself, then you will push yourself to deliver. Even if you might not obtain the kind of result that you originally wanted, the result would STILL be so much better compared to when you expected nothing of yourself. My father might say that he expected all of us to get number one, but he was still just as happy if we obtained among the top ten. Had he not expected anything at all, we might feel complacent with just minimal effort.

There were so many incidents in my life in which I had internalized his positive expectations and manage to deliver what he wanted. 

 

1)He taught me to stand up to bullies. Always.

When I was 10 years old, Izati who was seven years old at that time got elbowed on the face by a 14 year old boy in the school bus. I still remember what had happened. This 14 year old boy had stepped on Izati’s shoes. Izati was upset because her school shoes was new and white. She was just like a typical excited standard 1 girl who would be upset when people step on her school shoes. So, she retaliated by stepping on the boy’s shoes, just to even the score. The boy then elbowed Izati’s face on his way out of the bus. I was shocked but I couldn’t do anything at that time as the boy was already gone. My father always kind of expected me to look out after my sisters at school but at that time, heck, I was scared. I was a child myself. 

Izati then told my father about what had happened. My father turned to me and said “Kak Ngah, esok Kak Ngah pi bagi warning kat budak tu.Kalau dia buat macam tu kat Izati lagi, ayah akan jumpa dia.”

I was like, “Whaaatt? Why me? It’s not my problem! Why can’t Izati warn him herself? Apa kata ayah terus pi jumpa budak tu saja? Why do I have to give him a warning? He is a big boy. He is in secondary school!” But I couldn’t say the words. Because I didn’t want my father to think I was afraid. (But of course, I was! Hahah). My father EXPECTED me not to be afraid, so what could I do, right? 

When my father was out of the earshot, I turned to Izati, “Zati yang cari gaduh, kak ngah pula yang kena pi bagi warning!” I was so upset at Izati for putting me into this trouble. But I didn’t have a choice. My father ALWAYS followed up on the task he had given me to do.

So the next day, I gathered all my friends who also boarded the same bus as me and strategized about what I should do. It was a bad idea to talk to my friends about it. They made me even more scared. They were telling me, “Afiza, dia tu budak sekolah Al-Bukhary. Budak sekolah nakal tu. Dia tu memang kaki buli. Dia pernah tumbuk orang tau!” I was like, sh*t. What had Izati gotten me into?

But the thought of not doing the task my father had assigned me to do was never an option. I was more afraid of failing the task my father had set me out to do.

Another friend of mine said “Lepas awak bagi warning kat dia, awak terus lari pi seat belakang bas. Jangan tunggu depan dia. Nanti dia tumbuk.” In my mind, I was like “Lepas bagi warning, aku lari? Damn! The warning won’t be effective like that! It would look like I was such a coward.”

But what choice did I have?

So that was what I did. When I got into the bus, accompanied by a few of my loyal friends who also boarded the same bus, I went to the seat where he was sitting and said in a shaky voice, “Weh! Ayah aku cakap, hang jangan nak pukul adik aku lagi. Ayah aku warning dia akan mai jumpa hang kalau hang buat macam tu lagi.” I was trying to put on a brave face. And that was the first time I used ‘aku-hang’ to anyone. Hahah. I didn’t really plan to run, you know. I wanted to casually walk away. But then I saw him getting up from his seat. So, without further ado, I ran. Hahha. I ran to the back of the bus where I had more friends waiting for me there. Somehow, he decided not to pursue me to the back of the bus. I was so relieved. Maybe my warning was effective after all. Hahha. When I got home, I straightaway told my father that I had delivered the warning. My task was done and dusted! (Of course, I never told him that I ran away afterwards. Haha)

 

2) He taught me hard work and perseverance always yield a good outcome

Whenever I told my father I could not do some academic task or that I found certain subjects difficult to master, he would always say, “Baca sekali tak faham, baca lah dua kali. Tak faham juga, baca 10 kali. Sampai faham.” In short, you just have to accomplish your mission. No matter how hard you have to work at it, you just have to do it.

Just do it!

My father’s name in Arabic means The Determined One. The Resolute. The name suited him really well.

When he wanted something, he would not cease his effort until he got it. He told me that his life’s motto is “usaha selagi daya”. Admirable, isn’t it? He was the only one among his siblings who pursued a university degree. Also the only one among his cousins who has a degree. Despite my grandfather’s insistence that he stop schooling at the age of 13 (to help my grandfather with rubber tapping), he somehow got someone who was respected in his neighbourhood to convince my grandfather that education was important and he should be given the chance to finish secondary school, at least. My grandfather gave in under the neighbourhood pressure and my father’s determination.

My father was sent to Sekolah Menengah Khir Johari, living in a hostel where he could focus more on his studies. My father really enjoyed the school. He was the best student in his school for SPM. He wanted to continue into tertiary level studies but my grandfather could no longer spare him  the luxury. So, he worked as an immigration officer, and when he was about to marry my mother, he switched his job to a police officer for a better pay. When PDRM offered their officers a chance to pursue a fully-funded tertiary education, my father jumped at the opportunity. But instead of taking law like many of his friends in the PDRM, he took Accountancy. I guess, he loved business and maths and calculation and stuff like that. (I certainly didn’t get that genes. LOL. The Math gene went to my elder sister who is now a statistic lecturer). After he finished his degree, he quitted PDRM to do business. I guess, he was never the sort who can work for others or follow the dictation of someone whose order he couldn’t understand or respect. Blind following is never his strength.

During the financial crisis of 1997-1998, he was hit really hard. It affected all of us, I still remember. But my daily routine didn’t change much… school was still our priority. My father made sure that there would always be money for school stuff and for books… but perhaps not for Taekwondo lessons or school trips or camping expedition that Scouts organized. After all, there were 5 of us to feed, all in schooling age. 

My UPSR was in 1997, the year of the financial crisis. My father had promised me that if I could get straight As for my UPSR, I would get RM50 for each A that I got. But if I couldn’t get straight As for UPSR, I would only get RM20 for each A that I got.  Despite the financial constraint, he didn’t break that promise. And when I obtained my 5As, I was given RM250 on the very day I got my result (but he made me save half of it in the bank. LOL. I spent the rest of the money on story books, of course.) I remember feeling bad for taking the money. I was worried that they might feel burdened by the promise they made. But I knew, my father would have insisted that I take it anyway.  So I said thank you with a lump in my throat.

My elder sister got offered to go to MRSM Taiping after being  the school’s best student for PMR at that time. Whether or not she was going to MRSM, was never a question. Not even when the expense was quite high. She went to MRSM Taiping all the same. We let go the maid. I helped my mom with house chores. After a few years of financial constraints, my father managed to bring the family’s finance to a stable condition when he joined his cousin in setting up a security company. And Alhamdulillah, it’s been stable since then. By the time I was going to MRSM Langkawi, we could afford a maid again. I remember saying to my sisters, “When I was around, mom didn’t need a maid. When I go to MRSM, mom needs a maid. Because you guys are such lazy bums and couldn’t be relied on to help mom! PMR tak score, hangpa siap!” My younger sisters simply rolled their eyes.

Throughout the financial crisis (which my younger sisters did not remember much. Only my Kak Long and I really vividly remember the experience), I never saw my father give up his efforts. He really is the determined one; the resolute.

 

3) He placed education as the most important aspect of childhood

Perhaps, he was affected by his hard life as a child who had to fight his own father simply to stay at school. And that might be why he worked hard to make sure we got the best schooling experience he could afford. We all went to the best national school in the state of Kedah. He would change his address to make sure we all got into Asma School. Perhaps, he didn’t want us to experience the difficulties he had to undergo as a poor child in school. Maybe he wanted to give us the opportunity he himself couldn’t get as a child.

My father loves education so much because that was something he had to work so hard to obtain. He was very single minded in his effort to stay at school. When most kids his age had started smoking (because smoking was cool back then), he never did because he couldn’t afford the cigarettes. All his scholarship money (apparently during his time, secondary schoolers were given scholarships) went for books and savings. Not clothes, not cigarettes…things that other kids who received the scholarship would buy at times. He had to take a longer route to get to the uni. But he did it finally. 

Until now, he is STILL very passionate in encouraging us to continue our studies. He stopped asking my Kak Long to study ONLY after my Kak Long had completed her doctorate. (My first nephew was born ONLY after she was done with her thesis. Priorities, huh?) At the moment, I am pursuing my studies as well, so he stopped pestering me already. He supported my effort by sponsoring my hotel and flight tickets for exams. He is now pestering Izati and Alida to do master every time they come home for a visit. Wani’s time to be pestered will come once she has finished her first year dental officer, I am sure.

As a child, I knew that he would not listen to any excuse of why we couldn’t perform well at school. He would tell me, “Ayah nak pi sekolah, naik basikal buruk tok wan. Jauh berbelas kilometer; naik bukit turun bukit kayuh basikal. Bila naik bukit ayah tak larat nak kayuh, so ayah kena turun basikal, tolak basikal naik bukit. Ayah tak bawa bekal pun, tak ada duit sekolah. Waktu rehat ayah lapar. Tak ada duit nak beli kat kantin. Kadang-kadang cikgu bagi ayah makan. Kadang-kadang ayah minum air paip. Tapi ayah pi sekolah. So korang demam sikit-sikit, kena pi sekolah. Semangat lah sikit!” 

I think for my father, the option was easy. It was either rubber tapping, or going to school. Of course he would choose school! For me, it was either story books/playing, or going to school. Of course I would not choose school, if given a chance. We couldn’t be as motivated as he expected us to be. But none of us had ever skipped school; well, except when we had chicken pox. 

When I told my father, I could not do Add Maths, he was concerned. Add Maths simply stumped me. My father asked to see my Add Maths textbooks and revision books when I got back from the hostel at the end of Form 4. I didn’t know why he wanted to see my textbooks. Perhaps, he wanted to see whether or not he could teach me himself. (There were a lot of things he could teach me himself when I was a child. And he could teach them better than most teachers. I did not have to go to any tuition class for my UPSR or PMR)  When he found out he couldn’t grasp Add Maths, he simply hired me a private tutor because he could not teach me Add Maths himself. “Tak payah pi mana-mana cuti ni. Kak Ngah pi belajar Add Maths saja dengan Cikgu R hari-hari. Dia ajar Kak Ngah sorang saja, 2 jam sehari. So Kak Ngah kena tanya semua benda yang Kak Ngah tak tau… Buka sekolah Tingkatan Lima nanti mesti dah pandai.”

In my mind, I was like, “Hmmm, I couldn’t ask what I don’t know. In Add Maths, I don’t know what I don’t know.” Hahha. But the private tutoring ended up to be really helpful, even as I regretted my lack of holidays that semester break. I did get an A in Add Maths later for SPM. Thanks to my father who refused to give up. He pushed me harder when I just thought that I could only get 9As1D. I was very proud when I showed my parents my SPM result at the end of the year.

When my younger sister Alida was having trouble with Accountancy during her SPM year, he taught Alida accountancy himself. (As my father’s degree is in Accountancy, he did the tax for his own company every year. He still remembers most of what he learned). Alida ended up teaching her classmates when she became the top student in Accountancy for her class.

 

4)He taught me to do my best work

He taught me to learn from the Chinese. To emulate Chinese’ work ethics. To work hard like them.

He is not a typical Malay, my father. He is always on time, for example. He is very logical and very practical. He doesn’t like to talk non-stop about something nonsense. He is a serious guy who doesn’t crack stupid jokes all the time in an effort to appear jovial and approachable. Like me, he was not that comfortable with small talk. He is very reserved and taciturn. He even relied on my mother to keep in touch with his own relatives. Hahha (Actually, all of us relied on our mother to smooth the way for social interaction with relatives)

He is also very meticulous in his work. Before he started his security company, he worked as a Chief Inspector in PDRM. I remember the time when he brought me and my mother to his office one day because he needed to pick something up while we were on the way to go to some place. There was a clerk outside my father’s room who was so nice to me. I couldn’t remember her name. But that clerk had told my mother, “Tuan Azmee ni cerewet. Kalau surat ada tak kena sikit, tertinggal titik ke.. dia suruh taip lain semua.” They used a typewriter at that time. So can you imagine the trouble of having to write everything again just because of some minor error? My mother could only sympathize but she could not do anything about it. My father was exactly like that at home too.

But the good thing is, people learn to present their best work when they deal with my father. He wouldn’t put up with anything less.

 

5) He taught us to prioritize practicality over idealism

“Kak Long dengan Kak Ngah nak jadi penulis? Nak duduk di tepi sungai… berkhayal…. dan makan pasir?” He asked both me and my Kak Long sarcastically when he caught both of us writing a story when we were supposed to be studying. I was only 8 years old at that time. I still remember the story I was composing. It was about a couple of brothers named Steve and David who just moved into a new neighbourhood. The plot revolved around them investigating about the ghosts who were disturbing them in their new house. They were trying to find out how the ghosts came to be haunting the house and how did the ghosts die… well, something like that. As an 8 year old child, I thought it was a very good plot. Haha. (I was influenced by Tamar Jalis stories. Hahha. Except that I was writing my story in English.)

I was so absorbed in writing those stories in an exercise book that I didn’t hear my father entering our study room. I could not hide the exercise book from his view fast enough. I was caught red handed… and the lecture ensued. *sigh*

There were so many times when me and my Kak Long were caught reading fiction when we were supposed to be studying. Every single time, we would get scolded and sometimes given a stroke of rattan on our palms. But me and my Kak Long never learned our lessons. No punishment was enough to keep us away from stories.

My father is the original language lover in our family. He wrote poetry on the front page of his text books when he was a student. Or he would write some quotes he made up himself. It was not unusual for me to find some words of wisdom scribbled on the front page of any old textbooks of my father’s which I took from our bookshelves. It was ironic that he would not let us pursue something that he himself had loved.

I guess the hardship of his own childhood taught him that “Yeah, it is great to do what you love. But in reality, we have to survive and earn our living. We have to be responsible, and not simply follow our hearts or our ideals.” 

He just could not imagine us being able to survive on writing. He didn’t envision his daughters as merely housewives. He believed education is the key to a good life. So he was alarmed if any of his daughters played too much or became absorbed in stories too excessively. He was distressed when we did not display the sort of diligence he expected from any of us.

His expectation ended up making me a doctor.

 

6) He taught me to have excellent work ethics

People have always said, “Don’t be a doctor because of your parents’ expectation. Or else, you wouldn’t be able to do it. And then you will quit half way.”

That’s not true, guys! There are many people who become a doctor when they didn’t originally want to be one. I am one of the examples. Many of my friends are like that too. You can be whatever you want and succeed in things you never dream of. But you have to put expectations on yourself! You have to put standards about your work ethics. You have to possess the right attitude about responsibility and behaviour at work.  Just…have some standards and expectations on yourself! The rest, leave it to God.

My father never pushed me to be a doctor. I could be anything I like (except as a singer/model/actress or anything in the entertainment industry. My parents would have my head if I ever choose to do something like that. Not that I ever had any talent in those things. Hahah). And I wanted to be a lawyer. But the scholarship I was offered was for medicine. So, the rest is history.

Because of his expectation towards all his daughters, all of us pursued our tertiary education in overseas fully-funded by government scholarships. My sister’s master in Statistic was in Warwick, UK and her doctorate on statistical analysis for three-arms clinical trial was in Sheffield, UK. I went to Australia for medicine, as you guys well-know. Izati and Alida went to Auckland for biology and TESL, respectively. And Wani went to India for dentistry. His investments in us as children (he invested his time, teaching us the right values about education, lecturing us, fighting with us against what we wanted to do VS what we should do) saved us from having to borrow from PTPTN because our SPM results made us eligible for scholarships. We started our working life debt-free.

I couldn’t be what I am today without his effort to shape my behaviour and my character. When I was a houseman, he never told me that I shouldn’t quit my work whenever I told him about certain MOs and specialists I just really hated. He said, I could work with him at the company, if I ever wanted to quit housemanship. “But if you want to quit, do it properly. Don’t simply not turn up to work. ” He emphasized.

But I knew he preferred that I completed my housemanship. Because all my life I was taught to do my responsibility, I didn’t quit. Looking back, I don’t think my pride could ever handle that sort of failure. I knew that my MARA contract stipulated that I had to serve the government for 3 years. It was my responsibility to finish what I had started. So, I handled the pressure of working life and gradually found myself able to enjoy housemanship after finishing my first posting! I had only one day of EL as a HO when I had to send my parents’ for hajj… until now I never again had any EL. I’ve only had one day of sick leave for anaphylactic reaction when I was a HO… and then never again. All my holidays are planned. I take my work seriously. Just like I take education seriously. And those are the things my father taught me and all my siblings. His work ethics and my mother’s work ethics were really admirable. I could never surpass them in that.

And because of  this, I must admit that I look down on people who took ELs for petty reasons. Really, I look down on people who are not serious about their work. Sure, you can EL if your family members are sick. I can understand that. But NOT for reasons like “Mak mertua aku mai.” or “Aku kena handle pasal rumah sewa somewhere.” or “KL jammed… tak boleh balik hari ni.” or “flight delay.”

Look, your mak mertua will just have to handle your absence because she came when you were supposed to be working. She would learn her lesson next time and plan her visit properly. And if you are intelligent enough to plan for contingencies such as “KL Jam” or “flight delay”, you wouldn’t need to take ELs. You can plan your departure one day earlier. 

The word ’emergency’ in the phrase ’emergency leave’ MEANS something!  All right? And if it is the same person who repeatedly does this EL thing almost every month? Well, my patience would be running thin! I have expectations on people! Not outrageous expectations… just reasonable ones. I like people who can display some shame when they trouble other people. Because when they feel ashamed for having no choice but to take ELs, I know that these people have standards!

My study leave was deducted from my own cuti rehat! My friends take unpaid leave when their children were sick too long… or they simply took a maid to help with the kids if they wanted to continue working without having to take repeated ELs. Solve your problems! Don’t trouble people continuously with your lack of life-management skill!

Just…plan your life! Please! That’s another thing my father taught me. To plan! Troubling people with our lateness/ tardiness/ flakiness is NOT acceptable.

 

7) He trusted me with his company; his life’s work.

When my parents went for hajj in 2011, they had told me that they put me and my siblings names on some of their properties. They said, if anything were to happen to them, each of us is the trustee to the property under our name. But each property must be EQUALLY divided later on regardless of under whose name it is.

For example, they put my Kak Long’s name for the house and my younger sisters’ name for some of the lands they had acquired before. 

My name was placed for my father’s shares in the company. My mother said, “Ayah cakap, Kak Ngah lagi garang dan lagi pandai nak bergaduh kalau ayah punya partner nak tipu saham or duit. Ayah tau Kak Ngah mesti takkan lepas saja.” I wanted to laugh.

See? He expected me to behave like that, so for sure I would fight nail and tooth if any of his business partners ever try to cheat me out of my inheritance.

Because my father does not have a son, we talk about inheritance/ hibah a lot. My mother and I made sure that my father had done a proper hibah to all of us. Not because we want the money so much (not that my parents were wealthy or anything). But because if faraid happens, I won’t have the money to pay my uncle for his share of the house/cars/shares according to faraid laws. If my mother and us want to keep my father’s house, we will have to fork out the money to pay our uncle for his rights to the house and other properties according to the Faraid laws. And that’s something I don’t want to have  to do, if I can help it. I don’t want my mother to be stranded with minimal security should anything happen to my father. 

I even posted and shared a lot of facebook status about hibah. I also followed the page of Roslina Sabiyah & Co which deals with a lot of inheritance issues. I think it is important that we understand that Islam is very beautiful and gives a lot of options in dealing with any matter. Faraid is only one of the options in dealing with the issue of inheritance.

Below is one of my facebook status regarding Faraid Vs Hibah. I believe, that a responsible man should never rest easy until the security of those who are dependent on him are taken care of properly.

Screenshot 2018-03-09 12.32.27

 

***

Not many people are lucky to have a father they can be proud of. In my experience as a psychiatry doctor, I certainly witnessed many sick, irresponsible bastards who think being a father is about being a sperm donor.

Truly, me and my siblings were lucky.

In psychiatry, we have this theory called ‘Goodness of Fit’. Between me and my parents, there certainly exists ‘goodness of fit’. They put pressure, and we deliver instead of breaking under it.

Goodness of fit is defined as the congruence between the child’s temperament and the personalities, attitudes and parenting practices of the parents. A goodness-of-fit is seen as fostering healthy psychological and social development.

Whenever I saw the children in my child clinic refusing to go to school, or was depressed by parental expectations… I always wonder why I didn’t react like them when I was placed under various expectations and pressure? I couldn’t understand why the parents couldn’t manage to persuade their children to go to school? In my household, we have always known that the parents are the boss. Their words are law! If they say I have to go to school, then that’s where I am going. It seems like our parents were so much better at rearing children when there was very little knowledge about psychology and psychiatry in their days.

Now, with so many books on child rearing and general psychology, parents are even more clueless!

Parents would say, “Kalau kita tekan dia sangat, nanti dia buat perangai. Kita takut dia stress.”

And I was  thinking, how come my parents never thought that my siblings and I would get depressed by their expectations? They expected anyway! We got punished, anyway! They didn’t handle us like a fragile, easily-broken porcelain china dolls. As though we will shatter at the slightest stress. Pfftt! Teachers back then were even more fierce than teachers these days but none of my siblings ever refused to go to school and neither did most of my friends at that time. Is it possible that parents these days are just too ‘soft’, and therefore the kids are spoiled…. becoming as fragile as the parents had expected them to be (Pygmalion effect, remember?) Paradoxically, it may be that our softness and indulgence, instead of making them into happy children, make them less resilience in facing pressure in the future.

Nowadays, we have kids that fail to launch themselves into adulthood. Kids who couldn’t take scoldings and stress… with poor coping mechanisms. They grow up into big babies instead of mature adults. (Some HOs rely on their parents to give their specialists some excuses for why they couldn’t turn up to work! This is ridiculous!)

Resilience is not really born. It is made! And it wouldn’t get made if your kids never had to measure up to reality and expectations. Attitude and work ethics are not born, they are acquired… and taught… and carved… into being a deep-rooted character of a person. It is not something you develop suddenly when you start working. So if you want to see what kind of adults your children would be, see their attitude to homework and house chores now. You have to start teaching your children the right values now… when they are still malleable kids. This is something I believe with all my heart.

***

So this blog post is especially dedicated to my beloved papito. I have often written about my mother on her birthday. This is a first for my father.

This year, as usual, I bought him a shirt. In fact, all of us bought him a shirt. He doesn’t have to shop for his own clothes because he will get many new ones on his birthday.

Allow  me to share with you guys some of the pictures we took at Swensen to celebrate my father’s birthday. We were sad that my eldest sister and my youngest sister couldn’t join us due to work commitments (but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the food. Haha.) But the three middle sisters were available for the fun family times. Alida’s and Izati’s husbands were also around.  And of course my beloved niece and nephew (Alida’s children), Ammar and Arissa were also with us that day.

It was a great catching up session.  As we all are grown up now, get-together event is not easy to organize and plan. Selalu tak cukup korum. Adeh!

I don’t have a lot of my father’s picture here because he is a shy one and he only takes group pictures; never a selfie. The role of the selfie queen in our family is shared by both Alida and Izati.

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My father really enjoyed the lamb chop here!

 

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Ammar, my 2 year old nephew, really loooved the mushroom soup! But we still think that the mushroom soup at Dave’s Deli is still the best we have ever had.

 

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With Mom, the other love of my life, and Izati.
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The middle sisters! All with identical  thick eyebrows… my father’s genetic gift to all his daughters. Thank God that the model, Cara Delevigne, makes thick eyebrows fashionable these days. I used to grow up feeling like my eyebrows were too thick for a girl. LOL!
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With Izati…. the person who had caused me the trouble to face up to the big boy who had elbowed her face when she was in standard 1. We still laughed about it until now.

 

And the food guys! Especially the dessert! I love, love, love desserts… I have always had a sweet tooth, which is why I need to exercise regularly. Because I just couldn’t say no to ice creams and cakes and basically, anything fattening, really! Haha.

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This is the best dessert we had that day! No question about it! I think it is called Banana Crumble in Sizzling skillet… or something like that. So good, guys! I feel like going there right now to order this dessert again, as I am writing this.

 

 

Until next time, my dear readers.

Have a great weekend. And enjoy the time spent with family and loved ones. There will be few and far in between as we grow older. So cherish all the time you can get.  *sobs sobs*

Adios! And lots of love from yours truly.

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

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.