Post-Exam Promises

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

 

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

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

P(event) = 0.9999999

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

My post-exam promises always consist of:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am aging! *sobs sobs*

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

It is a life makeover. *sigh*

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

 

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

 

 

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The Art Of Socializing

“You Have To Do What You Have To Do.”

That is my maxim in life. Regardless of your feelings, if something must be done, then it must be done.

I am a problem solver. I don’t allow problems to continue wreaking havoc in my life.

I might not like certain things, but if there is no getting around the problems/issues, then I will make myself deal with it.

I used to dread socializing. I couldn’t make myself do it as a child. I always pestered my mom “Mak, bila nak balik rumah kita ni?” whenever we were out socializing at other people’s houses. My mom had to excuse herself early than she intended to because it would not take long for me to start causing tantrum. 

I didn’t think I had any social anxiety or social phobia. I just felt awkward having to pretend that I was interested in other people when I actually didn’t. I felt awkward having to suffer the painful silence as the conversation dried up with no one having anything to say.

I was just bored. And could not make myself put the effort. 

But I recognized that I had to overcome my inability to make small talk. I have to do what I have to do, I told myself. I couldn’t hide away in my room every time guests came to our house. My mother would  have my head! “Tetamu mai kita kenalah keluar, Kak Ngah. Semua tanya kak ngah dok buat apa sampai tak keluar bilik. Very rude lah.”

I always had some excuses. Tidur. Baca Buku. Tak perasan orang mai. 

I am not shy. I never was shy. I am just an introvert. But when it comes to things I am really interested in, I can be chatty enough and sometimes downright vocal. I am a vocal introvert. If a topic interests me, you will have a hard time shutting me up. But if a topic does not interest me (let’s just admit that small talks are crazy boring and we just do it socially in order to be polite) or I am meeting someone for the first time, I would be very reserved and awkward and therefore I would try my best to avoid having to deal with such a situation.  

But I knew I could not get away with excuses for long.

So, I solved my problems when I was in my early 20s. I observed how people make small talk, I analyzed how they carried themselves during social events and then I imitated accordingly. And now, I am quite good at faking my comfort at making small talk (while deep inside, I cannot wait to get back into my private sanctum sanctorum; the innermost of my private world where stories are enthralling and mysteries are beguiling)

So when one day my patient came to me and told me that she was a very shy person (but her shyness is not yet a disorder of any kind) and she didn’t like that shyness (she is a shy extrovert. Yes, there exists a shy extrovert; just like there exists a bold introvert) I was very sympathetic with her plight. She reminded me of my younger self. Like me, she has problems coming up with something to say to keep the conversation rolling and ends up not saying anything and then the whole awkward silence embarrasses her. 

This inspired me to write about tips on how to make a small talk for this post. I would share with you what I do to make small talk appear effortless. (I am not always spot on and successful in how I do it. But at least, I no longer feel agonized when I have to do it) Hope it helps everyone out there who has the same problem as me and this patient of mine. All these tips are the result of my reading, my observation of other people’s conversation and from my own extended practice at small talk. I am very proud of these tips because I think it’s been working great for me. Maybe you can practice them when you are attending the many open houses throughout this month of Syawal. 

So, here they are:

1)Be approachable. Just smile.

-Ok, my sisters would laugh their heads off at this. Because I am actually not approachable at all. My colleagues and my own close friends had told me of their first impression of me so many times in the past for me not to have a good insight of my unapproachability. They said it was my bitchy-resting-face that scares people from trying to approach me. But that is because I was not trying to be approachable at that time. I was not making any effort to seem approachable because the situation didn’t require me to do so.

-But what if you are attending a social function or you yourself is the host for a kenduri or a family event? You have NO CHOICE but to mix and mingle. In THAT situation, I MAKE myself approachable. The simplest thing to do is smile! And talk about food. And keep asking them to “tambahlah lagi,” or “makanlah lagi”. You know, things like that! Over and over again. So bosan, but you get the idea. 

-Or if you are the guests (instead of the host), you can comment on the deliciousness of the food. Or exchange recipes on how to make some of the delicacies (even though you KNOW you are not going to cook any of it. But just show that you are interested in all the ingredients and how to prepare them. The point of the whole thing is just to keep the conversation rolling. Yes… we have to suffer the boredom! But you have to do what you have to do.). 

-The point is just to keep it superficial and light. 

-Avoid talks of politics/race/religion. Again, keep it light and superficial. (unless you are lucky enough to find that rare deep thinkers among the guests with whom you can talk about any controversial topic that strikes your fancy. In that case, go ahead and show your true nerdy, geeky colours. Hahhah). 

 

2)Go to an event with a friend(s) who is more outgoing and extrovert than you. 

– This is my favourite trick! And it works every single time! 

-This friend can do all the approaching and all the talking with the host and you simply comment and interject every now and then. Whatever it is your outgoing friend said, you simply confirm it and elaborate on it. That way, you don’t need to rack your brain trying to come up with things to say because your bubbly friend will do it for you. 

-I see how great this works every day between my mother and my father. My mother do all the talking/ ice-breaking and my father do all the nodding and brief elaboration. It’s like watching a beautiful dance. But you must see my father when he is talking politics/business… THEN, he can really talk! Hahah. 

 

3)People like to talk about themselves. So, ask them questions about themselves. And elaborate and respond accordingly based on their answers.

Ask them about their children. People love talking about their children (something free, single people like me might not be able to relate yet). This is something I notice in almost everyone. 

I memorized the names of my neighbours’ children. Whenever I bump into my neighbour, I would ask her about her children and she lights up when she talks about them. When I was a teenager, I would not bother asking these type of questions because I was not interested to know, anyway. But the main point of socializing is not for extracting information that you want to know. That is not the point. The point of socializing is just to be nice and to establish a connection and not looking awkward doing it… I think. (Actually, I don’t know what is the point of socializing. Hahha.) 

And please, appear interested with their answers. When they give their answers, you follow it up with further questions. 

When I was a teenager, my conversation was very short and awkward. Because I didn’t yet bother to learn to solve my ‘small-talk problem’ at that time. So my conversation always turned out like this:

My neighbour: “Anak Kak N yang bongsu tu dekat UITM la ni. Dia dok buat engineering.”

Me: Oh. Hmm…Okey. 

(Hahhaha. Yes, pathetic gila! Because, I was just not interested to know. So I would just say “oh, ok.”)

But now I have improved. *proud silly grin*

Me: Oh, buat engineering. Dah tahun berapa dah (really, I don’t care tahun berapa. But as I mentioned before, socializing is not about getting any information that you really want to know. It is just about appearing interested even if you actually aren’t)

Kak N: Dah tahun tiga dah. 

Me: Oh, tak sampai setahun lagi dah nak grad la. (yup…. saying the obvious is part of the socializing game. Hahha. When I was a teenager, I would not bother saying something like this. I mean, if her son is already in 3rd year, OBVIOUSLY there would only be one year left until graduation, right? So, why bother saying something like this, I thought. But now, I know the reason we bother to say things like this… it is to fill up our quota of the conversation. Seriously! That is the whole purpose of saying the obvious, and now that you know, just do it even when you think it doesn’t make sense!)

Kak N: Tu lah… lega lah. Tinggal dia sorang ja tak habis belajar lagi. Lepas ni Kak N tak gaduh pikiaq dah. 

Me :(Because I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I then introduced another related topic… which was, her OTHER children, of course).  Fatin pula dok buat apa la ni? (of course, it requires you remembering the name of the other children. LOL)

Hahha. Yes, I have sooo mastered the art of making small talk! Now, I can do it almost automatically! It was painful at first. But I did it! 

So the tips is simple: Keep the conversation rolling by asking questions about themselves because people love talking about themselves and follow up on their answers with appropriate comments (even when you have to say the obvious, and feeling stupid for saying such an obvious thing). And when you have nothing else to say on one topic, introduce another related topic with another question. Do NOT abruptly introduce on an unrelated topic because that would’t look or sound smooth. ‘Related-ness’ and ‘smooth transition’ of one topic after another, after another and after another…. that is the trick!

 

4) Don’t Avoid Social Situation. Practice until it becomes part of your skill. (this is easier said than done, I know! Our first instinct is to avoid and run but we have to resist the urge to run if we are serious about improving our socializing skill)

We can all learn a lesson from this dialogue between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (this reminds me why i love reading literature. It makes you pause and think):

Mr. Darcy: I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.

Elizabeth Bennet: Perhaps you should take your aunt’s advice and practice?

Elizabeth Bennet was being sarcastic but quite accurate! 

Back in form 4, I hated Add Maths… but I wanted to get straight As, and therefore Add Maths must be mastered by me no matter what. So I practiced Add Maths in every spare moment I had leading to SPM and I made it happen, thank God!

Socializing is just like Add Maths! If socializing was made an exam subject, I bet I would bother to master it ever since I was a child. But unfortunately, it was not an exam subject. I didn’t feel the importance or the need to master it the way I had to master Add Maths. I thought that socializing involved a lot of discomfort and play-pretend and I would not stoop to that level, I felt. I should be myself, I thought.

But I had my paradigm shift, thanks to Elizabeth Bennet! Haha. She made me realize that socializing is a skill… some are natural at it and some require practice with it. Just like Add Maths! It is not about not being yourself and being pretentious…. you practice it because it is a life skill! If you can practice Add Maths, why can’t you practice socializing? Right? 

I didn’t go around saying “Practicing Add Maths is like being fake and pretending to like Add Maths.” No! I STILL don’t like Add Maths. But I had to do what I had to do, remember?

Just like we shouldn’t think “practicing to socialize means we are pretending to like socializing and not being ourselves”

 This is not a question of ‘liking’ or ‘being ourselves’. It is the question of having the skill so that you can do it in a situation when it is not avoidable. Because we are problem solvers! We just have to do what we have to do! Being good at socializing, is unfortunately, a coming-of-age skill. Part and parcel of becoming an adult (because you can no longer depend on your parents to do it for you.)

 

5) Try to be as genuine as possible even though  socialising  requires some amount of ‘faking an interest’. 

Just because socialising does require an amount of faking your interest (by asking questions you don’t really actually want to know), it doesn’t mean you cannot be genuinely yourself. What do I mean by this?

Well…

For example, when people ask you questions, you can answer those questions honestly. They might ask you back the questions you have asked to them. 

For example:

You: Anak hang Aidan buat apa sekarang?

Acquaintance: Dia buat engineering la ni. Alhamdulillah, results  okay. Pointer four flat baru-baru ni.  Alan pula buat apa la ni?

You: Dia major sains politik. Minor in literature. Dia memang minat social sciences. (this is an honest answer, right? Don’t say your son is doing medicine and also has a four flat pointer if it is not true! I mean, there must be limits to bragging too!)

Socializing is not something we introverts are naturally good at… so it does require an effort to fake an interest and to ‘seem’ like we are enjoying ourselves. Our general demeanour might be jovial, but inwardly we might be longing to get home and get started on our reading. We have no choice but to fake this general happy demeanour in order to maintain politeness. (it would be rude to have people think we feel bored by their conversation, right?)  But that is where the faking stops…. the actual content of the conversation must be real and true. 

 

6) There are online social skills guide

Yup! There are a lot of articles and books written on how to socialize. I have read them myself (in the course of trying to solve my problem with small talk)

But I don’t suggest you to buy any books for it. Internet articles will do. 

Because like Add Maths, you cannot just read on it! Practice is key! 

But reading on the theories would come in handy too…. so just read off the internet on that subject. And then go out to practice. Practice, practice, practice. 

***

I have mentioned before that the ‘self’ is fluid and changeable. That is why I always say ‘we do what we have to do’ regardless of our discomfort or real feelings about it. If that is our responsibility and it is expected of us, then we have to learn to adapt.

Instead of having a ‘fixed mindset’, we must have a ‘growth mindset’.

What do I mean by that?

The concept is a bit like “nature vs nurture”:

When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.

Whereas people who have a growth mindset believe anyone can be good at anything because your abilities are due  to your actions.

And personally, I think having a fixed mindset is harmful and one of the perpetuating factor to depression and anxiety. If you believe that you cannot change even when what you are doing is not working in your favour, then what else is there to do but to give up?

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This is what I always tell my patients. To have a growth mindset!

Remember Elizabeth Bennet? She told Mr. Darcy to practice! Practicing is something that those who have a growth mindset will do.

So, all the best to all aspiring socialites out there! We can do this! 

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****

Last but definitely not least, Selamat Hari Raya from the Azmee family and Maaf Zahir Batin. Taqabballahu Minna Wa Minkum.

Below are some of the pictures that we took on the first few days of Eid (some of the pictures do not contain my Kak Long as she didn’t make it back until on the 3rd day of Raya). There are a lot more pictures in Facebook and Instagram but I decide to only post a few here. I think my blog deserves a bit of colourful spicing up in this blessed month of Syawal.

 

IMG-20170625-WA0051
Our formal Raya picture. Look at my father… so serious! Hahah.
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Our silly free-style picture
More silly free-style pictures without our father because he is not into taking pictures/selfies like all his vain narcissistic daughters. Haha
And even more silly pictures…
Just the girls and the mom…😍😍😘

 

Sisters Bonding Time was on the 2nd and 3rd day of Raya. Tak sah raya kalau tak ambil gambar kat halaman rumah dengan baju raya. LOL. We missed my youngest sister because she was not around at that time. And my eldest sister was also not here because she was stuck in traffic jam on  the way to balik kampung here. So just me, Izati and the heavily pregnant Alida.

 

 

On the 3rd day of Raya, we went for our usual sisters-coffee-time at Starbucks. They left their husbands at home, because, of course! Who would want  husbands to tag along when the sisters are gossiping? Right? They would only feel excluded by our loud voices speaking on top of each other as we tend to do every single time.  Haha.

We missed Alida here because she was very, very pregnant and didn’t feel like going out and we missed my youngest sister Wani as she had gone back to the uni to start preparing for her final exam in dentistry. Their absence was deeply felt but it didn’t prevent us from having a great time. (LOL, sorry Wani and Alida.)

And on the 4th day of Raya (my last day of cuti raya, sobs sobs), I brought Kak Long to Gunung Keriang for hiking because she said she wanted to give it a try. I was happy to do it because I had started feeling guilty about all the calories I had consumed in the past few days. At the end of the hiking trip, my Kak Long learned to respect the level of my fitness to be doing this activity so very frequently. Hahha. She learned that she needed to increase her fitness level ASAP. “Tunggu aku balik next time… I will be fitter,” She said.

I laughed at the hilarity!

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Healthy life-style.. KONONnya!

 

Until next time, my dear readers. 🙂

The People Not Worth Mentioning

#RamadhanReflection

Whenever Ramadhan arrives, my heart deeply misses my Muslim sisters in Newcastle. They made me realize something I would always be grateful to them for.

They made me realize that all the Israiliyat stories I had questioned in the past….well, I was right in questioning them. They opened my eyes – widely! – that religion IS logical.They made me realize that religious people are not weakly passive, terribly soft-spoken or yawningly dull. Because THEY were not dull and  yet they were one of the most religious people I have ever met.

They made me realize, that in matters of religion, there are rooms for people like me…. the ruthlessly logical and aggressively out-spoken people like me are also acceptable in Islam. That I was not un-Islamic when I questioned things I really didn’t understand. In fact, they were delighted by my questions and when they in turn answered my questions, I was delighted by their answers! Because now, it makes sense! Finally!!

They made me understand that my concept of religious people as people who “asyik cakap lemah-lembut, pakai baju besar dan tudung labuh, pijak semut tak mati… tapi asyik suka bagi orang rasa bersalah bila kita tanya balik kat depa benda yang kita rasa langsung tak logik!” was so wrong! I was wrong to stereotype ‘religious people’ and I was delighted about being wrong, at that time! I knew then, that there did exist outwardly religious people who were also inwardly Islamic in their principles and worldviews. 

I was intrigued by the sisters when I went to Melbourne for the Summer in my first year of med school (initially just to have a fun holiday for a month) and the Melbourne sisters then took me and my friends under their wings and taught me to understand my religion beyond its mere rituals. Because of them (supplemented by YOU TUBE videos of Nouman Ali Khan, Yusha Evans and Dr. MAZA) I understood the core principles of my religion and I stick to it as much as I can.

Some of them were one of the most energetic people I have ever met. And all these while I thought “Orang agama ni mesti jenis jalan menunduk all the time.” Well, not them!

Listen to this clip by Dr. Maza about how ‘kewarakan’ and ‘kesolehan’ has nothing to do with you “jalan lembik-lembik menunduk, konon soleh”. (Gosh! I get really irritated by pretentious people like that. *rolled eyes*)

Let me recap on the main point of the video. Sahabat-sahabat menyatakan “Sesungguhnya kami telah melihat Umar Ibn Al Khattab. Bila beliau berjalan, dia cepat. Beliau bercakap, ianya jelas. Bila beliau pukul, sakit. Tetapi beliaulah yang paling warak dikalangan kami.”

So this is to me, an image of a Muslim I could relate to! Cergas! Cerdas! Kuat! Tegas!

Our religion celebrates differences in personalities and habits as long as they are not against the syariat.

In fact, they told me “Saidina Umar Al-Khattab was very outspoken. When others made the hijrah in secret, he had boldly said, “Whoever wants his mother to mourn him, his children to become orphans and his wife to become a widow should meet me behind this valley to try and stop my Hijrah.” And no one dared follow him out. He had such spunk!”

Since then Saidina Umar is my favourite figure in religion, after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Not because I think Saidina Abu Bakar and the rest of the companions are not as great. No! But I can RELATE with Umar. Saidina Abu Bakar might have diplomacy and patience…. but I am weak in those aspects and I couldn’t relate to him the way I could relate with Saidina Umar. How am I supposed to be patient when something really unjust is happening right before my eyes? I couldn’t relate why I could not simply call it out and tell them frankly to their face that what they are doing is wrong, regardless of who they are in the society! While I admire Saidina Abu Bakar just as much, it is with Saidina Umar r.a that I can relate the most.

Saidina Abu Bakar made the hijrah in secret together with the prophet, being so patient in facing the adversities and the terror of being chased by the enemies of Islam. Whereas Saidina Umar R.A had boldly challenged anyone to try to stop him from making the hijrah. And BOTH of them made it to Madinah at last. Even though one had patiently travelled in secret, while the other had boldly travelled in the open, BOTH of them reached their destination and their goals. So, BOTH are equally admirable… but I am more likely to do what Saidina Umar did, because I can relate to that. In my mind, I would be so angry that the people of Makkah was trying to stop my basic human rights to move wherever I wanted. That kind of nonsense would spark my temper and I would go, “Apsal pula kau nak halang-halang  aku ni? Kau siapa? Apa hak kau nak halang aku? You are not making any sense. Nak halang juga, cubalah kalau berani! Jangan cabar aku, okey!” 

Thats’ my fi’il… my tabiat…don’t force me, don’t cross my principles, don’t violate my boundaries. Because I will fight when it matters enough! You don’t get to me by force. You get to me with kindness and patient reasoning. The way the Newcastle and Melbourne sisters did. 

They taught me something I have always known: Sabar itu bukannya merelakan diri kena tindas kemudian menyatakan “yang aku ni sabar.” Sabar itu adalah menentang semua kezaliman yang ada kemudian bersabar dengan akibat yang kita terima disebabkan kita berani menentang kezaliman itu. They confirmed my belief that sabar in Islam is not something passive the way the Malays were doing it when they were being a coward!… but Sabar is an ALIVE, ACTIVE struggle. Saidina  Abu Bakar made the journey to Madinah with patience too…. and then He succesfully arrived in Madinah. His patience, just like Saidina Umar’s boldness, yielded the SAME result. He arrived with Rasulullah in tow! That kind of Sabar is productive! The concept of patience in Islam is NOT “biarlah kita bersabar kena tindas di Mekah.” (This concept of Sabar is always being adopted wrongly by Muslim Malays. When they used the word Sabar, what they usually really mean is ‘jadi penakut. Jangan cakap apa’.Haha)

I was so impressed by the things I was taught in Melbourne that summer. This!! THIS is the version of Islam that was never taught to me in Malaysia. This version of Islam taught us how to live and live well! And live honourably! And live courageously! 

They also instilled in me the concept of speaking up against injustice. Speak up… not because you think you can change anything by speaking up. But speak up because it is THE TRUTH and on the judgment day you can AT LEAST say to Your Lord “Ya Rabb, I spoke against that injustice when it happened!”

They told me to learn and internalize the lesson from the Quranic verse surah Al-A’raf 7: 163 -165

Dan tanyakanlah kepada Bani Israil tentang negeri yang terletak di dekat laut ketika mereka melanggar aturan pada hari Sabtu, di waktu datang kepada mereka ikan-ikan (yang berada di sekitar) mereka terapung-apung di permukaan air, dan di hari-hari yang bukan Sabtu, ikan-ikan itu tidak datang kepada mereka. Demikianlah Kami mencoba mereka disebabkan mereka berlaku fasik. (7: 163)

Dan (ingatlah) ketika suatu umat di antara mereka berkata: “Mengapa kamu menasehati kaum yang Allah akan membinasakan mereka atau mengazab mereka dengan azab yang amat keras?” Mereka menjawab: “Agar kami mempunyai alasan (pelepas tanggung jawab) kepada Tuhanmu, dan supaya mereka bertakwa.” (7: 164)

Maka tatkala mereka melupakan apa yang diperingatkan kepada mereka, Kami selamatkan orang-orang yang melarang dari perbuatan jahat dan Kami timpakan kepada orang-orang yang zalim siksaan yang keras, disebabkan mereka selalu berbuat fasik. (7: 165)

“Cuba tengok, Afiza. Dalam ayat-ayat ni. Ada tiga golongan di sini. Golongan pertama, yang melakukan kejahatan. Golongan kedua, yang menghalang kejahatan. Golongan ketiga, yang berkecuali … malah golongan ketiga ni siap bertanya kepada golongan kedua, kenapa nak sibuk-sibuk bagi nasihat? Kemudian dalam ayat 7:165 Allah memberitahu akan nasib golongan pertama yang melakukan kejahatan itu….. yang mereka ditimpakan azab. Nasib golongan kedua yang menasihati dan menghalang kejahatan, mereka ini diselamatkan. Tapi apa jadi dengan golongan ketiga ini… golongan yang berkecuali tadi? Apa nasib mereka?”

Hmm… I had no idea. The Quran didn’t mention what happened to them. I shrugged my shoulder at the naqibah and shook my head. 

“Bila Allah tidak sebut nasib golongan ketiga ini… maksudnya mereka adalah golongan yang tidak layak disebut.”

I was stunned.

“Jadi, ketika kita nampak kezaliman berlaku, jadilah orang yang berani menegur “Ini Zalim!”. Janganlah jadi orang yang berdiam diri, yang berkecuali, yang akhirnya nasibnya jadi tidak pasti. Neither here nor there. Not worth mentioning!”

Desmond Tutu was really wise and quite Islamic (whether he realized it or not), when he said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

***

Believe me, there are times when I really miss how I was when I was in Australia. I think my behaviour was at its best when I was there because the environment there made it easy for me to be nice. I was not exposed to much injustice that would disturb my psyche at that time. I surrounded myself with nice, and intellectual people who could satisfy my thirst for knowledge and could sooth my insistence for things to be fair and logic.

Then I returned to Malaysia as a houseman. I was shocked.

“Hang pun tau, aku dah inform MO yang patient tu punya Blood Pressure low and Pulse Rate tachycardic. Dia kata suruh observe dulu. Run fluid fast apa semua. Sekarang patient ni bleeding teruk… tiba-tiba dia kata aku tak inform. Padahal dia yang tak attend.” said one of my fellow HOs to me when I was in my first posting. I told her to report the matter to the specialist. That I would accompany her to do it! She didn’t want to. Since this incident involved her, I couldn’t do anything much if she herself didn’t want to fight for herself. Takkan aku pula nak lebih-lebih involved?

But what I did was, I told as many HOs as possible about what had really happened. So that among HOs, we knew she wasn’t guilty. But I was ashamed of myself because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do… to internalize the Al-A’raf concept and speak up LOUD that the MO was the culprit! I didn’t do the most I could have done. Instead, I gave myself petty excuses by saying “I am just a HO… what can I do? Sekurang-kurangnya aku benci benda ni dalam hati… tu dah kira selemah-lemah iman. Yang paling aku mampu buat setakat ini adalah benci dalam hati.”

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But my weakness haunted me for the rest of my first posting because I felt that I had fallen short of my own standard that I had nurtured for 5 years in Australia. I could not get over my boiling anger at the injustice and at myself… so that when I finished my posting, I wrote about things that had happened in the department that disturbed my sense of justice! I needed to let that out and purge it out of my system. Sue me if what I said was wrong! (I didn’t intend for it to become viral. But it became viral when I was already in my 3rd posting… by that time I have done all the major posting including surgical and medical… I was already a senior. They couldn’t do anything to me. I was ready to face anyone, anyway. My father said, “Don’t worrry. Jadi apa-apa, kita ada lawyer.” But Alhamdulillah, nothing actually did happen. I wasn’t even called to explain myself even though I was ready for it.)

In Malaysia, people don’t reward being nice. Instead, being nice gets you bullied. Bullying is something I have never experienced until I became a houseman… even then, I didn’t tolerate it for long! By the time my blog became viral, no MOs dared to bully me anyway. “Takut masuk blog.” they joked to me about it. (Hahha) Most of them were simply curious about me and I ended up becoming friends with most of them. Instead of being targeted and my life being made difficult (the way other HOs had predicted), my life became even more smooth after my blog became viralled. I thought that… maybe, hopefully… it was Allah’s reward for me because I wrote the truth. Maybe HE rewarded me because I finally returned to the principle of justice I had lovingly nurtured when I was a medical student in Australia. I was a coward just like any other housemen when I was in my first posting. Allah taught me to never again be like that! To maintain my outlook in life and let Allah handle the rest.

In Malaysia, you can request for one tiny reasonable thing in the most gentle tone you can muster, but it would get rejected as long as they think they can get away with it. By the time you raise your voice and threaten to take some action, only then you get what you want. So, the Malaysian culture rewards me when I am being my loud, rude self. The culture doesn’t reward me by complying to my reasonable request when I am being nice.

So I then learn that if I want what I want, I will have to be tough and fight with my bare hands until I get it because with you guys, diplomacy doesn’t work!  Even my younger sister had experienced the same thing once she started working. By the time she threatened legal action against the PPD in Sarawak for withholding her husband’s BKLP (Bayaran Khas Lokasi Pedalaman) allowance, only then they decided to comply to her demand. And so she won! PPD gave her husband back his rightful BKLP money.

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My father looked at me and Alida, and he said “Alida dah mewarisi perangai Kak Ngah.” (In my family, I was called Kak Ngah Singa. Singa jadian…that is me. Hahaha.)

Then we looked at our father who was also just like us and said “Di mana tumpahnya kuah kalau tak ke nasi?” 

(I asked Alida to do a personality test once. Turned out that Alida is also an INTP. Go figure! I too, always tested as an INTP and sometimes INTJ.)

Some people said “Alida, buat apa hang pi cari  lawyer tu… lagi mahal kau kena bayar lawyer daripada duit yang kau akan dapat balik. Buat rugi jer.”

These people… they don’t get it!. Their priorities are not the same as us, the INTPs/INTJs. Our priorities are truths, justice and principle. Money comes second. Preserving harmonious relationship comes second (sometimes last!) It is okay if you have different priorities than me…. BUT!, don’t push your misguided notion on me! As long as we can afford our principles, we will go all out for it, khalas! If you are the sort of person who don’t have principles, you would not understand.

Initially, Alida wanted her money because it was rightfully hers! She requested for it reasonably. But when people were being unjust, difficult and refused to do the right thing, suddenly her priorities changed. Suddenly, this was NO LONGER about the money! She didn’t want it anymore! Now this was about justice! And she was willing to spend money to win against the PPD because they were being unjust! Let Alida be the lesson the PPD would never forget! And I supported her all the way by encouraging her to play their unjust game to the end by hitting below the belt and threaten them with not just legal action but ‘viral action’ too. My father supported her by offering to pay for the lawyer. And viola, suddenly it was so easy for the PPD to give her back the money that was rightfully hers.

See? See how they reward our frank, hard ways instead of our initial reasonably nice, soft ways? *shakes head*

When Alida got her money, only then the parasites who had told her “Hang pi lah fight. Tapi, aku rasa tak dapat punya” came to her, seeking her guidance. They asked her for a copy of what she wrote to the PPD so that they too could claim their money by using her letter as an example to write their own. Sheeshhh..

What sort of respect do we feel for these kind of people…. who didn’t want to do the dirty work of fighting in  the first place… but when winning is finally assured, only then they came running, asking for how to get it done! When Alida had first asked them to fight together with her, they didn’t want to move their lazy bums to do it and in fact, had discouraged her from fighting! But afterwards, their behaviour went exactly the opposite!  Isn’t their behaviour the perfect epitome of shameful cowardice? 

***

Dear adik-adik (medical students, HOs, junior MOs)

Allow me to impart you an advice I always believe in. Giving this advice is part of my civic duty and social responsibility as a senior MO (now that I am already in my second year of UD48 Hahaha. Senior la kan?). When you see injustice happens, call out on it.

Because Al-A’raf!

Because that is  the most Islamic thing you can do!

Because that is ACTIVE Sabar!

And don’t give yourself excuses that ‘at least, aku benci benda ni dalam hati.’ (I tried that excuse when I was a HO; it didn’t sit really well with me and I could not respect myself).

If you were a HO, maybe you can be forgiven to still be in the ‘selemah-lemah iman.’ To just ‘benci dalam hati’.

But if you are already an MO, or one day a specialist, a Jusa, a Dato, a Tan Sri, a Pengarah here and there…. there will always be someone higher than you who would tell you to do something your conscience says is wrong! Even when you become a DG, you still have someone else higher than you who would dictate to you things that are so unfair and so wrong that your blood boils because of it! Jadi, takkan sampai ke sudah hanya nak benci dalam hati dan berpuas hati dengan hanya memiliki ‘selemah-lemah iman’? Hanya kerana ia adalah arahan orang atasan?

Come on, por favor!

By the level of MOship, you should set standard for yourself… that I will speak up. As an MO, dah sah dalam jawatan, takkan masih selemah-lemah iman? Speak up! By the time you are a specialist, the standard should be “I will  speak up AND take action in the best way my position allows me to when I see injustice happens.”

For example you can say, “I refuse to allow my staff to oncall if you don’t want to pay their mileage claims. It wouldn’t be fair for them. The MOs can oncall by themselves if my staff cannot claim their mileage.” 

Or say, “Apa kata kita potong pengarah dan penolong-penolong pengarah punya elaun, potong orang-orang management punya elaun… korban sorang sikit bagi pada staff yang nak claim! Gaji staff lagi kecik daripada gaji korang kan! Gaji diorang lagi kecik daripada gaji orang management yang asyik nak potong claims orang padahal orang management tidur sedap kat rumah. This is not fair to my staff! How can you justify doing this to staffs whose salary are much less than you… but when there is financial constraint, it was THEIR claims you decided to cut first. Ini zalim!”

Say, “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty… so how can you devalue him by putting him in a department where he cannot utilize his excellent skill? Why not put him in Ortho/districts/Klinik Kesihatan where his skills can be put to its optimal use?Inilah ketidakadilan…. tidak meletakkan sesuatu kepada tempatnya. Tidak meletakkan staff yang kemahiran post-basicnya patut boleh diletakkan ditempat yang lebih memerlukan skill tersebut. But instead, you put him in my department? How could you do this to him… devalue him like  this… when you said he is innocent? And how could you do this to my department… to only place someone with a tainted reputation into our department time and time again! How could you devalue our department by always sending us staff of questionable calibre? In this case, you had created a lose-lose situation for him and for us! Your management is zalim! And I am calling you out on it!”

***

One of my friends told me, “Kalau kita speak up pun, kena ikut arahan juga. Orang management memang macam tu! Buat penat argue ja.”

I frowned. In my head, I reflected, “I know… I know that most of the time, kita speak up pun takkan dapat apa-apa. Buat kita rasa frust saja. Sebab at last, mungkin kena ikut arahan juga. Tapi can you imagine kalau yang speak up to ramai dan bukan seorang? (Like Alida’s case. She spoke up alone, she won! But how easier it would have been if ALL OF THEM had spoken up together in the first place) Tapi katakanlah dah ramai-ramai speak up pun, masih kena ikut arahan yang zalim, so what? The reason we SHOULD speak up is… because Al-A’raf. Remember? We speak up so that  we can say…. for the record, I oppose your injustice. For the record, I have made absolutely clear what I think of you when you made that decision. So that I can stand before God, and say ‘I have spoken, Ya Rabb.’ Because for the record, I can say that YOU KNEW you were wrong… I have made it so clear to you… now, the guilt is on you! It’s on you! I speak up because I am NOT content to always be in selemah-lemah iman like you.”

Because Al-Araf 7:164. 

Because I don’t want to be among people who are not worth mentioning.

Inspired!

Assalamualaikum to all my blog readers.

I hope it is not too late for me to wish all of you, my dear readers, Ramadan Mubarak and happy fasting.

May Allah grant us our best Ramadan yet. Amin. 

I have been so busy that I haven’t had the time to write these days. I think I am about to burn out. But never fear; if I am still reading (even when I am not writing), then my burn out is not so serious. 

And at the moment I am reading a book written by one of the most inspiring person I have ever had the fortune to know. Dr. Azlan Kamalludin is an emergency physician who I first met as a houseman in the emergency department of HSB. During my first few months of being a houseman in the ED, I had no idea who Dr. Azlan was because at that time, he was in Makkah being part of the medical team for Malaysian pilgrims. But a lot of senior housemen told me that Dr. Azlan was very good and very efficient and I was told that he was so inspiring to listen to when he taught housemen and MOs during morning rounds. 

And days before Dr. Azlan returned from Makkah, HOs/MOs were already talking about how much they missed Dr. Azlan’s teachings. So, of course, I became even more intrigued to know who was this Dr. Azlan. On the day he finally returned from Makkah, I found out that what they said about Dr. Azlan was not an exaggeration. Not at all. 

Me and a few of my friends had our end-of-posting assessment with him. In that short session, he shared his experience as an MO fighting for his patient’s rights. I have always been inspired by that.  

The day when I had my end-of-posting assessment with Dr. Azlan was the last day of my housemanship. I went to psychiatry after that. (But I added him on Facebook. Haha.)

Dr. Azlan had talked about wanting to write a book a few years ago and through Facebook he asked my opinion about what to write. Him, his wife and I met at Coffee Bean a few weeks before he got posted in Langkawi 2 years ago and we talked about his wife’s cancer being in remission and about things in general. I told him that ED HSB has suffered a great loss by him going to Langkawi. (But then, Langkawi ED is very lucky to get him.) 

On Monday last week, it was a very pleasant surprise for me when he and his wife came to the Methadone clinic to see me and present the book that he had been writing since working as an ED specialist in Langkawi. The title of the book is ‘Three Cancers in Ten Months: When Doctor Becomes Caregiver.”

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He had autographed the book with a personal message for me on the first page. It was such a great honour to be receiving such a gift from him. A book given for free, and delivered into my hands by the great author himself! I was very humbled by all his effort. ( Furthermore, I have always loved having books that are personally autographed by my favourite authors.)

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My facebook status on the day I received this gift of a book. 

As my readers probably know, there are not many specialists (or anyone in the position of authority) that I actually find inspiring. I respect any specialist who is nice… but not everyone who is nice is also inspiring. He is one of the few that I actually do find inspiring. In general, I am impressed by anyone (regardless of their position in the society) who can speak up their minds and say what they mean and mean what they say. No deceitful diplomatic crap is ever going to impress me. I like people who have strength of conviction and will do what is right no matter how hard they have to fight. No matter WHO they have to face! These people will always earn my lasting admiration. 

I am now half way through his book, and so far, it is such an inspiring read. It is highly recommended.

Below, is my Amazon review of his book.

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I have mentioned before that after housemanship, I was placed in ENT. But I have zero interest in ENT. My interest has always been in psychiatry. I fought so hard to get into the field of my interest. I went to see the Hospital Deputy Clinical Director, initially. Then, I went to see the Hospital Director herself! I wrote an appeal letter…. then, I wrote another! Deep inside, I know no other department will do for me other than psychiatry. After not getting into law school (because my scholarship was for medicine), Psychiatry was my SECOND CHANCE to do what I actually love! I was not going to give it up! Not that easily. 

But even so… I had written in my appeal letter that “If you can’t give me psychiatry, place me in Emergency rather than ENT!” Because in the emergency department, working with outstanding specialist like Dr. Azlan will inspire you to be better too. To fight for your patients to be admitted when all specialties reject your referrals! To be outspoken and bold “fine, I will call your specialist myself!”. To NOT BE AFRAID to fight for your rights and for your patients. 

I can do that! I can do it! Arguing and debating… well, that’s my second nature. I love psychiatry, but I wouldn’t mind being placed in ED even though the department is busier than ENT. ED would be my second best choice after PSY. Because I can sense that Dr. Azlan has the same kind of work ethics I have always respected in anyone. Because other than real interest in the field you choose to practice, working environment matters too. And if Dr. Azlan is in the ED, then the working environment should be fine, I thought. More than fine, in fact. 

I am thankful that I became a psychiatry MO. The environment in my department is quite good. Everyone is so nice. But being too nice sometimes makes for a perfect condition to be bullied by others! 

And my one absolute abhorrence is being bullied by unjust authority in the position of power. They hide their real agenda behind various circulars and ‘surat arahan’. And we have no choice but to do what they ask. 

I hate that! It violates my belief system! Because deep inside, I believe we always have the choice of fighting. The only problem is, are we willing to do it?

 I don’t like being bullied! 

So in this month of Ramadan, I declare, that I will NEVER be too nice! I will always ONLY be just ‘nice enough’… but no further. If you push my bullsh*t button, you will witness my massive retaliation. 

It just makes me SO BLOODY FURIOUS when I see injustice happens. 

Or maybe most people just have a passive personality. Maybe the world cannot accommodate too many people who are aggressive and abrasive… because then there would be wars happening every few minutes. Hahah. 

And now… even though it is Ramadhan and I am supposed  to have nice, benevolent, charitable feelings…but I cannot deny the truth. My feelings at the moment is far from nice….

In fact…

#AkuBengang!

But then, it IS Ramadhan.

So, I took a deep breath in and let it go. For now.

“Positive vibes, please come to me stat!” I craved silently.

But then I remembered that I still haven’t finished Dr. Azlan’s book. That’s the positive vibes, right there, waiting for you! 

So I smile and continue my reading.

And the world is right again. For now.

Ku-Shan’s (mis)Adventure!

Is this how parents all over the world feel?

Do they often feel angry at their children but at the same time feel like laughing hysterically for the naughty things that their children do?

Do they worry about their children all the time but at the same time want their children to experience moments of freedom as much as possible?

Do they often feel embarrassed when their children cause a lot of trouble  to someone else, then feel guilty about having to punish their children for it?

*sigh*

I really don’t envy the work that is required to be a good parent. I couldn’t even handle it with my own cats!

***

I was worried sick when I lost one of my cats (I have three) named Ku-Shan, since Friday last week. Ku-Shan is the active, naughty, beautiful daughter of Ku-Ja (a Persian orange she-cat) and Putih (a mixed Siamese-Persian tom cat). I went frantic searching for Ku-Shan all over the place since she went missing on Friday. Before this, she always returned home just in time for her meals. She loved wandering all over the neighbourhood but she never went missing for more than 24 hours. Together with her parents, she would wait for me to come home every day to prepare her meals (a mixture of Fancy Feast wet food and Whiskas kibbles).

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Ku-Shan, daughter of Putih and Ku-Ja. Mixed 3/4 Persian and 1/4 Siamese
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Ku-Ja is a loving mother who likes licking and grooming Ku-shan

But on Saturday, more than 24 hours later from the time that she went missing, she still had not returned. I was oncall and there was nothing much I could do about it. I was worried about her at the back of my mind but I had to focus on my oncall anyway. That suppressed my worry a bit. I had a busy oncall, anyway, and I told myself that Ku-Shan would return soon. But, when I had some spare time in between my casualty cases, I looked for her again in the afternoon but to my grave disappointment, she was nowhere to be found.

On Sunday, she still had not returned. I was post-call, with bad sore throat that felt like it was on fire and a hoarseness of voice that made me sound like a transvestite deprived of his oestrogen… but I STILL sought for her around the house, calling out her name multiple times with my terrible voice. She was not around. (So this is how it feels when your heart is broken, now I know)

In my mind, I just KNEW that someone must have taken my beautiful Ku-shan for him/herself. My Ku-Shan is a beautiful cat of mixed breeding (3/4 Persian and 1/4 Siamese) with glorious, sexy big fluffy tail and healthy shiny grey coat that has brown highlights in strategic places.

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And she has such a great personality (I am biased, I know. But she is not a passive, placid, lazy Persian like her chubby mom… because she has that cheeky Siamese gene in her. See? She inherits beauty from her mother, but personality from her father. I love that cat!)  Anyone would want her and I have always been quite paranoid about people stealing her from me! I used to keep all my cats caged and only let them out occasionally. I was afraid that they would be stolen. But I knew it is not natural for cats to lead that kind of passive life.

When my mother had to do her cataract operation and I went to stay at my parents’s house to help with her recovery, I had no choice but to give my cats some freedom to roam freely in the neighbourhood. I stayed at my parents’ for 3 months (one and a half month of recovery period for each eye… thus, 3 months altogether) and I could not possibly justify leaving them in their cages for the whole of that three months. That would be the animal equivalent of emotional abuse, right?

For the whole of that three months, I only went to my own house once a day to give my cats their wet food. I also left 2 bowls full of kibbles to tide them over until I could come again the next day to feed them. And each day, they never failed to wait upon me at my porch even though I didn’t cage them and allow them their complete freedom for that three months. 

But that Friday… only Ku-Ja and Putih waited for me…but no Ku-Shan! It was so ironic because that Friday I was coming back to stay at my own house after 3 months of staying at my parents’ house! And I was looking forward to greet all three of my cats to tell them that I would finally be around now. Instead, I was greeted by a wave of worries that my Ku-Shan was missing and was probably lost to me forever and ever.

I prepared myself mentally to accept that I may never get her back. Friday, Saturday, Sunday…. no sign of her. I mean, I am a pretty optimistic person, but even I knew when to lose hope. I just hoped that she might be stolen into a better household than mine, with a good owner that would love her.

Then…I woke up on Monday… checking my phone as usual, and I was rendered shock by what I saw on my Whatsapp.

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I was stunned. I couldn’t decide whether to feel relieved that my Ku-Shan has been stuck inside of my neighbour’s house all these while… or horrified for the damage she had done to my neighbour’s house. I ended up falling back into bed and rolled myself all over my bed in mortified agony, trying to contain the embarrassment I felt towards my neighbour for the sort of trouble Ku-Shan had caused. We are talking THREE freaking whole days of Ku-Shan being stuck inside the house… who knows what sort of crazy shit (literally!) she has done to the house.

I took a deep breath before I made myself reply to my neighbour’s message.

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I called my parents to let them know what Ku-Shan has done. My mother called Kak Ain to apologize to her and to offer a cleaning service by our Indonesian domestic help. My father personally called Kak Ain’s husband who is a dato’ (Kak Ain is the second wife) to apologize to him as my father knew him personally.

Dato and Kak Ain were very nice about it. They declined the offer for a cleaning service and said that they have cleaned the house last night (when I was deep in sleep while post-call and having a fever).

But wait! Later,  I found out more about what Ku-Shan had done and it was even worse than what I could have ever imagined!

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When I read that part of the whatsapp message, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. I ended up doing neither. Instead I sat down on my bed, thinking about the amount of money I have in my bank account! How the heck am I supposed to pay for the handbag and the backpack?

Oh God! Ku-Shan…. why do you have to pee on a handbag of the daughter of the house? Okay, I know it is not reasonable to expect Kushan not to pee or excrete her waste for three days… I mean, we cannot expect any animal to defeat their biological urges. But why couldn’t she just pee on the floor? Why did she have to purposefully do the worst thing that ever could be done on an expensive handbag? Typical women are crazy about their handbags! (unlike me, I spend my money on experiences, travel and books. But most women I know spend really good money on handbags and shoes. An anak dato’s handbag may cost me my whole monthly salary or even more!)

Of course, I offered to pay! But mentally, I was calculating how much money I have put aside for my exam and how much I can spare to pay for the damage done by my satanic cat! Ugh!

In my head, I dreaded having to borrow my parents’ money for this! I have NEVER asked my parents for money ever since I went to Australia for my medical studies. I always told my younger sisters about how Kak Long and myself are the most independent among us siblings. (I was afraid my younger sisters would make fun of me about this for the rest of my life, as a payback for always lecturing them in the past. Hahha. I will never again be holier-than-thou when I talk to my siblings about money management next time) All these while, whatever my parents gave me, was freely offered. It’s been more than a decade since I needed their money for anything. (Like when they offered to pay for my exam but I said no. They then insisted to pay for my flight ticket and my hotel in Singapore, so I accepted their offer. But I could have paid for those things myself.) The bottom line is, I have been surviving on my own money ever since I was 20 years old. And now, because of what Ku-Shan did, I will have to break my clean track record and my principle on this!

Breaking my principle would be so painful! It would be like tearing my heart apart! (Yeah, I can be melodramatic when I am in the mood. Hahah)

Kak Ain, being so nice and neighbourly, of course had said that there was no need for me to pay for the handbag and the backpack. I admit, I was relieved when she said that. But I felt so terribly guilty. I went to work on Monday with a terrible sore throat, a hoarseness of my voice and a heaviness in my chest. That heaviness is, of course, the weight of my guilt.

I decided to punish all my cats! All of them are grounded! I am going to put them in their respective cage for one week! Maybe more!

But when I heard them meowing non-stop, wanting to be let out of the cage and taste again the freedom they have been used to for  the past 3 months, my heart softened a little.

But still…. I don’t know how to strike a balance between giving them their freedom to roam freely but at the same time making sure  things like this won’t happen again.

I am the sort of person who is once bitten, a thousand times shy. I learned so well from mistakes so that I would never feel the same pain again. That is just the sort of person I am. What had happened is horrifying and I was only lucky that my neighbour was so nice about it. The next neighbour may not be as patient! So, I MUST not take any chances. The next time I let them out of the cage, it would only be inside my own own house! 

But how about their freedom? Is it fair to them? Is it morally required for us to think about what animals might feel? Are animals entitled to their freedom?  I really don’t know. I can’t decide.

This is not totally Ku-Shan’s fault. Even as I was telling Kak Ain ” Sorry sangat. Ku Shan ni jahat sungguh. Nanti saya kurung dia!”… in my heart, I knew she is not a bad cat! I only said that to Kak Ain to convey my remorse and my regret on Ku-Shan’s behalf.

In actuality, Ku-Shan is very disciplined, but also an active and curious cat who likes to run around and unfortunately, her curiosity often gets her in trouble. She is fully toilet-trained! She pees and excretes her poo only in a proper litter box. I don’t use regular sands for her litter, instead I bought the premium crystal litter for all of my cats. None of them would pee or excrete their poo anywhere in the neighbourhood even when they were allowed to roam freely in the past 3 months. They don’t just pee/excrete in any sands or any grounds. They are used to the crystal litter that I’ve trained them with. Below are the pictures of the usual brand of crystal litter that I usually used for my cats. The texture of this litter is very unique and my cats were specifically trained to do their business only in this sort of litter… so  that they won’t dirty my neighbours’ house and grounds when I set them free. My cats are very disciplined!

What was Ku-Shan supposed to do when she was stuck and unable to get out? I mean, she must be suffering in the three days when she had nothing to eat and drink! She must be feeling really scared too for that three days! Poor Ku-Shan. But at the same time, poor Kak Ain and her family! When Ku-Shan finally returned home, after hugging her to my chest, and feeding her an enormous amount of food, I straightaway caged her and not pay any attention to her howling and meowing of wanting to be let out of the cage. But deep inside, I felt so terrible about it.

I felt like a mother who wanted to scold their kids for bad things that have happened but at the same time didn’t know how the kids could have done any better in that situation!

I really don’t know what to do. Can I afford to let them out again? My instinct said I can. But my fear of things going awry makes me hesitate.

I leave you, my dear readers, with my facebook status regarding what had happened. A lot of my friends and even my own mother (Yes, my mother has a facebook account! haha) commented on my status. Their comments were so amusing! Apparently, many of them have had experiences of their cats being naughty towards their neighbours. Some of them even said that their cats have ‘menjatuhkan maruah keluarga’ hahah (probably by impregnating other female cats in the neighbourhood). At least, I was smiling while reading their comments, even though my heart was in agony for leaving my cats caged. *sigh*

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Effort And Sincerity

Once upon a time, me and my sisters were at a small hotel in KL, feeling hungry and needing something savoury to eat. The problem was, we didn’t have any transport and the only options were the food stalls around the area.

We are not picky eaters, exactly. We are not food connoisseurs or anything. We can eat at stalls, mamaks, or gerai tepi jalan, medan selera…. whatever. As long as the place is clean, then we will eat there. 

So me and my sisters walked around the many stalls around the area, trying to choose which stall was the best to eat at. I noticed a bunch of young kids at one of the stalls there had poured some water at the ground surrounding their stall so that the wind would not scatter the dust away into their small stove or bother their customers. They were just a bunch of teenagers but they caught my attention.

“Weh, jom makan sini.” I suggested to Alida

Alida agreed because she too had noticed what I noticed. Then all of us siblings ended up eating there. 

It was a simple effort. But it made all the difference in where we chose to eat.

And when one of the kids took our orders, we could see his polite respect, his effort to make suggestions about what was the best to eat at his small humble stall.

I could see his genuine pride for what he did as a living. He may not be able to do much, but he would do what he could. That was all it took to win our hearts.

***

I think that I am not exactly the most social person in the world, either in the social media or in real life. Social media to me is more as a tool to propagate a certain worldview, a campaign tool to get people to pause and realize how ridiculous society really is (my own paltry version of ‘kritik sosial’ just like in the literature that I read, hahha) or to stay connected with friends.

Mindless socializing is not my forte (even though I could do it, if I have to).

But when I finally do socialize, I make an effort. And I am sincere with the effort I make.

I am not only sincere with what I say when I am being nice, I am also very sincerely earnest in what I say when I am annoyed.  By reading my blog or what I wrote on whatsapp, you can tell whether I am joking, happy, annoyed, about to burst out or downright furious at something. Hahah.

My friend used to tell me “Afiza, you are so good with words. How come you cannot find a prettier way to express yourself when you are annoyed?”

I laughed out loud. Can you see how brilliant my friend is? That was a backhanded compliment at its best. Very diplomatic of her to compliment my literary skill (a sure way of warming my heart, making me more receptive to her suggestions or criticism) and in the next breath telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I express myself when I am annoyed have a lot of rooms for improvement. (She is a master at diplomacy without making it fake! And that’s rare!)

I don’t socialize much, but when I finally do, I try my damnedest hard to be genuine. The point is, you know that you are interacting with Afiza, as how she really feels and how she really thinks. If I am annoyed, you know it. If I am amused, you know it. There is no misunderstanding.

True, I could have found better ways to express myself when I am annoyed. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I can’t be diplomatic. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the skill to butter up to my superiors and be nice to authorities. I just don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t have the mental capacity and the language skill to couch my words in a manner that is more pleasant while delivering my message, but I just don’t want to.

I. DON’T. WANT. TO.

Not because I can’t. But because I won’t.

If I had wanted to, I would have done it! Make me want! Or make me feel like it is VERY IMPORTANT in this particular context for me to be diplomatic, then I will do it.  I do it with my patients, for example. Counselling, Motivational interviewing…. it’s all about giving a certain message in a manner that the patient can see, understand and accept. Another way of looking at it is explained by Wilfred Bion in his Containment theory. We do it all the time during therapy.

Bion’s theory (1959, 1962) explains how a mother receives unwanted and/oroverwhelming projections from an infant, processes them and then returns the experience to the infant in a modified, palatable form. This process also occurs in therapy with the therapist acting as a ‘container’, taking in thoughts/feelings from the client and re-representing them so they are both more understandable and less potentially destructive.

When I am doing therapy, I am working. My working persona, as Jung would term it! Not my real personality.

But when I am not working, I have no reason to contain anything. Hahah.  You will get me all raw and unprocessed. My own version of being a straight talker (because I think normal people should be able to take the truth without me having to dress it up the way I did with my clients and patients. If I have genuine respect of your intellect, I would be straight and honest with you. The moment I think your intellect cannot handle it, then I will try to be more diplomatic. So when I am being honest and blunt, take it as a compliment! Hahah. It means that I think your intellect can pass muster. Being blunt is also my own way of weeding out who I can be friends with and who I should only bother to communicate when there is a need for me to do so. As a result, I surround myself only with people of similar wavelength as me. Real, genuine people who would not act like they are in a drama all the time. Hahha)

Putting a lot of emphasis on being real and genuine, I was quite affronted by people who simply copy-paste messages of birthdays, Hari Raya wishes, CNY wishes, congratulations or condolences in whatsapp groups!

Gila malas!!

For example, when someone’s mother pass away, the first person giving the condolence message in the whatsapp group is the only one who actually puts a sincere effort to write his message properly. The rest of the whatsapp group members then simply copy-paste the first message ad nauseam, ad infinitum. It feels like you are reading repetitive spam messages instead of a genuine expression of sympathy and empathy towards your friend who has just lost her mother.

How can the society be so insensitive and so lazy!

Orang cakap aku tak diplomatik! Tapi sekurang-kurangnya, when I do socialize and communicate, I am sincere about it and I actually make an effort.

Instead of copy-pasting the same thing, I wrote a different message of condolence into the whatsapp group! It was my way of saying that I actually thought of her while she was dealing with the lost of her mother, that I had bothered to compose something out of my own heart and mind.

A minute later, the rest of the other members (who had not yet said their condolences before) copy-pasted MY message and turning it into another set of spam!

Adoiii!!  *tepuk dahi* (By the way, when did I give anyone the permission to plagiarize my message? Haha.)

What the hell hangpa semua ni! Pemalas nak mampus!

To be honest, aku pernah jer tak wish birthday and tak ucap takziah in whatsapp groups. Maybe because I am not particularly close with that person and therefore my wish (or lack of) would not really mean anything to them one way or another. 

But when I do finally write something, I compose my own! 

Maybe it is the writer in me that makes me so fastidious and fussy about showing some effort when you are making your greetings and wishes. Maybe this is just my personal pet peeve because I am so used to communicate my thoughts in writing, so that I become quite particular about the lack of genuine effort and warmth in what is supposed to be a sincere, personal wish of condolences by your so-called friends and colleagues.

But heck, this is not supposed to be my own pet peeve. Anyone with common decency should have thought about this too.

When I scrolled back the messages in the Whatsapp Group, I took note of people who actually bothered to compose a different message or insert their own personal message in the Whatsapp Group. And my INTP mind started analyzing the pattern (as it tends to do all the time. INTPs like patterns) People who I noticed had written different messages are either people of genuine kindness and warmth to everyone (one of my female specialist is like that), or people who are actually really close with the person suffering the lost (even though in other occasions, they too are copy-pasters).

So my mind came up with these conclusions/patterns: 

1)If you are genuinely saddened by someone’s lost because you are close to this person, then you would show an effort to express your feelings properly because you honestly feel sorry for them in view of your friendship. And because of your close friendship with this person, you feel compelled to personalize the message because you WANT this person to know that you SINCERELY share her sadness. Generic copy of condolence won’t do justice (in the context of your close relationship with this person.)

2)And if you are someone with common sense and common decency even though you yourself are not personally close with the person suffering the lost, you would also bother to compose your message properly. (this is because being a nice person is who you are and you would extend the same kind of thoughtful personalized message to everyone suffering such a great loss, regardless of the intimacy of your relationship with them. One of my specialists is like that. She is genuinely kind-hearted and nice.)

3) The rest are just actors and players (or perhaps robots that have been programmed to repeat or plagiarize) pretending to do what the society expects without having to really think about it or making any real mental effort. (And these are the ones that annoy me. At that specific  time, I don’t respect them or their sentiment).

I do personalize my messages and wishes. But it’s not because I am a nice person all the time. It’s because I am so rarely nice that when I am FINALLY being nice, I will make a real genuine effort. Or else I wouldn’t even bother.

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***

Please don’t bother to wish me anything (birthdays/ condolences/ congratulations) if you are just going to seem like you are suffering from echolalia. The writer in me do not feel anything (no joy, no gratitude, no respect, no real warmth) with such messages. I wouldn’t even remember the people who copy-paste the same darn wish over and over again like uninspired spammers with nothing better to do. If I am ever tested with the loss of my beloved mother, I don’t want anyone to display such a lackadaisical attitude with the way they express their condolences to me. (I might not even announce the matter in Whatsapp group and just personally call my boss to inform the matter privately and quietly in order to avoid reading copy-pasted messages and having to pretend that I feel thankful??! about what you so effortlessly and thoughtlessly plagiarize. Gosh!) The loss is devastating to me! And you are just copy-pasting like you don’t really care? How dare you! (I understand you may not mean it that way. Maybe you do genuinely think of my mother when you are copy-pasting that message, but how would I know that… when your effort is so paltry?!)

To rub salt to the wound, you are annoying me by spamming the group.

I appreciate genuine effort! That’s all! It can be small, it doesn’t need to contain bombastic words ala Shakespeare or Chaucer, but it can be genuine and real. At least!

Even if it contains grammatical errors/misspelled words… I would appreciate it a thousand times more than a thoughtless copied message.

I leave you today with the facebook status of someone whose idea and intellect I actually respect who had said the same thing I am trying to say. Maybe his facebook status could convey better what I really think when I write this post. He wrote about the unfortunate rampant spamming that has become the ridiculous trend in our society during festive season. I agree wholheartedly with what Tai Zee Kin in his facebook status had said. And below, I copied his very thought provoking facebook status into my blog post.

I think, this facebook status deserves a standing ovation.

Until next time, my dear readers.

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Ethics & Professionalism

“Kenapa Dr. Afiza tak jadi MO medical or surgical? Dr. Afiza nampak macam doktor yang patut duduk dalam department yang busy.” One of my HOs had asked me.

So, I told her that I was supposed to be an ENT doctor after my housemanship. But I wrote so many letters to the hospital director to refuse my posting in ENT. In my last letter I had said that “putting me  in ENT would be a waste of time for me and for everyone. It would be a waste of time for ENT department to train me when they know I am going out to psychiatry one day.” After that last letter, I think even ENT department would think twice before they take me as their MO. When I wrote that letter, I imagined that the ENT specialist would feel “dah budak ni cakap terang-terang tak mau masuk department aku, aku pun tak mau terhegeh-hegeh nak ambil dia”. Hahah. But I wrote that blunt sentence anyway. (Because I don’t give mixed signals. Hahha) The purpose of my last letter to the hospital director was  to state in the boldest possible manner that I’d rather be in the busy A&E where I could learn a variety of cases, than be placed in a highly specialized department such as ENT when I KNEW I would be going out anyway. It WOULD be a waste of time placing me there.

I remember thinking back then that if I couldn’t get into psychiatry, I would be happy being in  the busy A&E. I actually enjoyed my A&E posting when I was a HO. No matter how busy it gets, you can get off immediately once your shift is over and there is no on-call!  So yeah, I don’t like heavy on-calls like the ones they have in  medical or surgical. I have other interests in life such as reading, writing and hiking that I really don’t think I would be happy being too busy as a doctor. But I can do A&E. You just need to be fast in A&E and no matter how busy it gets, once your shift is over, you are done! Tomorrow is another day with another set of patients.

Maybe my HO’s observation that I should be in a busy department sprung from the fact that I have a type A personality. I want things to be done fast. I walk fast, I talk fast ,I drive fast… I even eat fast. In fact, my brain is always busy trying to think about making  things even faster. For example, I never park my car on the porch of my house because I wouldn’t be able to get moving fast. If I park my car inside the porch, I will have to open the gate first, then get into the car and reverse my car out of the porch, then I have to get out of the car and close the gate, and then I have to get back inside my car and only then I can start moving. See how troublesome and time-consuming it is!

Instead, I just park my car directly outside my front gate. So that when I want to go somewhere, all I have to do is get inside my car and just drive away. It’s more efficient and less time-consuming.

If I ask for something to be done, I want it to be done fast, especially if the completion of my task depends on YOU doing your task, FIRST. If your work doesn’t affect my work, then I won’t mind one way or another. I am pretty easy going actually (I think, haha). As long as my work is not affected by your progress, I won’t really notice your activities in the office.

To me, work performance is the ultimate goal in your working life. I don’t want to be involved in office politics, administrative stuff, gossips and conflicts… as long as they don’t bother my own work and my own performance, I will steer clear of non-doctor activities. I want to be a doctor as much as possible rather than being an administrator, peacemaker, mediator, conflict-solver etc etc. I have zero interest to lead or manage people, nor do I have any desire to be led and managed by others. I would follow whatever the majority has decided to do (if I agree to it. If I don’t, I will certainly speak up), and I would keep on doing my work as I always do. I won’t get into conflict with you as long as your conduct doesn’t bother me. I would never willingly accept being tasked doing the MO roster or being in-charge of other people (I had to do the roster when I was a HO in A&E and it drove me nearly loco arranging for everyone’s leaves and requests. I promised myself that I would never again take on the task of being the captain of any department). I want to go to work, see my patients, and come back from work to read my books or study for exams.  My external life must remain pristine, neat and uncomplicated because in my internal life, I have a rich universe inside my head. I read, and then I think about what I had read, and then I research/google about matters I have thought about,  and then I write about what I’ve thought over. Then I repeat the whole ‘read, think, research, write’ sequence.

(To be honest, my internal life is much more interesting than my superficial external life. Haha)

I have no time for dramas. (Having said that, I WILL be a drama queen should you ever decide to bother me with your ‘entah apa-apa’ ideas that affect how I do my work.)

But when the office politics or personal conflicts start to affect your work or my general surrounding, then I will start noticing. Orang yang tak bergossip macam aku pun boleh jadi bergossip. Hahha. I am usually the last person to notice anything, but when I finally do, I will start paying attention. And then I will start thinking about it… the ethics of it… the professionalism of it.

Because other than reading, I am also very interested in matters of ethics. Books and ethics are the reason I choose to practice psychiatry. Have you ever noticed that a lot of characters in novels deal with personality? (and thus are psychiatry related) The villains in mystery novels have antisocial personality disorder, for example. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes as an opium addict, did you know that? And addiction IS part of psychiatry. A lot of themes in novels deal with psychosocial issues…. a fight for justice, a fight to break away from poverty and bad childhood circumstances, a struggle to overcome some form of traumas so that the character would emerge to become a strong hero. These are all psychiatry-related issues and stuff which I have been fascinated with since the day I could read…. which would be at 5 years old.

And I grew up reading John Grisham’s books. The theme of all his novels are law and ethics related. And thus, medical ethics was my favourite subject when I was in med school. 

And one of the most emphasized aspect of ethics in medical school were conflict of interest and ethics in the work place.

***

I think most people have forgotten their ethics these days. It pained me to say this, but Malays especially are really bad at work ethics. Isn’t it such a tragic coincidence that ‘Malays’ sounds just like the English word ‘malaise’, the meaning of which is hardly flattering. And even the Malay version of ‘Melayu’ makes you think of a withered, shrunken flower.

Malays, in general, tend to allow their personal emotion to spill over into the professional realm and cause chaos in BOTH realms. Their ethics are haywire.

What do I mean by that? Well, I have a list. 😉

Romantic Relationship In The Workplace (intra-department)

This is a NO-NO!! I don’t care whether it is between staff nurses and PPKs or between doctors and staff nurses or between fellow doctors. It’s just really bad ethics! I am not even going to touch on the ‘dosa pahala’ and the morality of your conduct towards your legal spouse at home. But the workplace affair that you have is bound to affect the dynamic in  the department. If your workplace love affair then suffers through a break up, can you imagine how havoc it would be for the rest of us who might feel compelled to take sides just because they are good friends with one of the parties involved? The awkwardness of it is just not worth it!

Ni tempat kerja, bukan tempat ada affair! Get your personal life sorted out!

And if your spouse creates havoc in the workplace because of the affair you have with your colleagues, I am not likely to have a lot of sympathies at the downfall of your reputation at the work place. You put yourself in that situation and you better get out of it without affecting your work performance. The bottom line is work efficiency!

Last but not least, tak malu ke?? People talk about you, you know! It’s degrading, humiliating and an insult to your self-worth. Bagi aku, point malu ni dah cukup untuk menghalang niat untuk mewujudkan office affairs! If you still want to have affairs, at least one of you must have the decency to get out of the department first before you begin any such destructive affairs.

Personal Conflict Impacting On Work Accomplishments

Go ahead and fight with your colleagues if you have to. But never let it affect your work performance. No matter how angry you are at your colleagues/subordinates/superiors, your work must be well-done.  No ELs/MCs or asking to be transferred to a different unit just because you just had a fight with someone in your unit. If you have to communicate with your enemy to get the work done, then you have to do so despite of what you really feel. I can have a verbal argument with anyone, but if my work requires me to communicate with the person I have just had an argument with, then I WILL do so. It is a matter of pride for me that no personal feelings should ever cause my work to suffer. This is nothing extraordinary; just normal, expected professional behaviour. 

It would be the height of unprofessionalism for you to recruit supporters to your side and cause division within the department. If you have a problem with person A, then that’s on you and Person A. There is NO NEED to go to your boss, crying and asking your boss to intervene on your behalf. No matter how good your relationship with your boss is, crying and ‘mengacum’ about your colleagues is just not professional.

In general, spilling tears in front of your boss is just not allowed, okay! We are all adults here! Settle your problem among you guys and don’t bother your superiors with petty office fights.

In general, I don’t like crying women. Go ahead and cry in the toilet, if you must! Don’t do that in front of others! I think, crying publicly is a manipulative behaviour. If you have a point or an argument, say it clearly and professionally…. or even unprofessionally loudly, if you have to! But crying is pushing it beyond acceptability. If I were the boss, I would never let such an act influence me in a positive manner (ONLY in a negative manner).

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Taking sides

No! Double no! Especially if you are a boss! You must investigate the matter properly. It’s not enough that you are fair; you must also be SEEN to be fair. At least, be a good listener to BOTH sides.

Injudicious Emergency Leaves

I have never taken any EL since I came into PSY department (touch wood). I understand that some people have a lot of trouble and commitments in life and EL cannot be avoided entirely. But efforts must be displayed to minimize the frequency of ELs as much as possible. Maybe if you have taken one day of EL when your child has fallen sick, then the next day you can arrange for your spouse to take up his/her share of caring for your child too. This goes to BOTH men and women. Child rearing is not only the job of a mother. A father must take part too. Whenever I heard that a female colleague had to take ELs a few days in a row because her child was admitted into the hospital, I would roll my eyes and think inside my head, “Suami kau buat apa?? Dia tak boleh function ke? Korang tak boleh selang-selang or take turn ke?”

My mother and my father gave me the work ethics that I have now. The only ELs they have ever had when they were still working were when their parents passed away. Me and my sisters were healthy as a child, and we have rarely been admitted into the hospital for anything. So, I guess, my parents were lucky with us. Furthermore, my mother had a reliable domestic help when we were children. My mother said “Kerja elok-elok. Kalau perlu orang gaji, cari orang gaji. Mak sangat-sangat jarang EL. Mak sangat tak suka bila kena pi kerja, ganti orang EL. Seboleh-bolehnya cuba jangan menyusahkan orang”

From 2013 until now in 2017, I have never taken any EL. All my leaves are planned. I don’t know how the future might turn out to be… after all, my commitments are very little now and therefore I can afford my ethics in this. Maybe in the future when my commitments grow bigger and varied, I would have ELs too. But my point is, be considerate and judicious in what you consider as emergency. Kalau sikit-sikit nak EL, orang yang easy-going macam aku pun (ehem!) akan bengang!

Being On Time

I think that I am pretty punctual. There have been times when I arrive late to work, but it is not very frequent at all. Usually it happened when I have stayed up late to study (or to finish a novel) and thus accidentally wake up late. Or it is raining and there is an accident on the road causing me to be stuck in traffic jam.

I can get to work in a 10-minutes drive. So I usually start to get out of the house at 7.45 a.m. Usually my punch card would show that I arrive at 7.55 and occasionally 7.58/7.59. When I still lived with my parents, they would always nag me about it. “Waktu mak kerja dulu, setengah jam sebelum masuk waktu kerja, mak dah ada kat tempat kerja.” Then my father would add something along similar lines. My parents are a strict disciplinarian. 

I told them, “Mak, angah pi kerja sampai on time lah. Lepas tu angah terus pi ward and buat kerja. Angah jarang sangat nak dok kat pantry makan-makan macam orang lain. Orang lain sampai lagi lewat daripada angah, lepas tu pi pantry pula tu. At least, Angah dah makan siap-siap kat rumah.” I would defend myself.

“Mak dah makan kat rumah AND sampai setengah jam awal” My mom would shot back. Yup! When it comes to punctuality, I can never outdo my own parents.

Punctuality is not even an ethical problem…. it’s our life’s general rule, already. Being raised by two parents who take punctuality seriously, I became quite anal retentive about being on time, myself. Having said that, I don’t go around checking on other people’s punctuality… EXCEPT when it affects my own work. If your being late causes me to be slow in doing my own work, then I will start noticing. eg; HOs being late for morning rounds. Even then, I don’t make an issue out of it, if their lateness is not severe. I will simply start the rounds myself. But if you are 10-15 minutes late, then I will start feeling agitated already. So if you want to be late, please keep your lateness within the acceptable range of five minutes. And that’s the max!

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***

Of all the items in the list that I have enumerated above, romantic affair between colleagues is the most troublesome! If the affair involved a high-ranking officer with his/her subordinate, then there might exist an issue of conflict of interest when the officer in question make certain decisions that may seem to favour his/her romantic interest against the rest of the other subordinates. Then, the credibility of the officer shall suffer. All his/her decisions will be second-guessed and silently challenged behind his/her back.

And if the affair is found out by the spouse(s) of the involved parties, that is a whole lot of another can of worms! Your own colleagues would surely gossip about you. And can you blame them? You are the one who brings that sort of trashy, cheap entertainment into the workplace. They are only responding in kind.

So with all these troubles that would ensue when one is involved in an office affair, it boggled my mind as to why would anyone even bother? Even if you are a two-timing cheating bastard, can’t you at least seek your conquest from another setting or another department? Why must you involve someone at work to enhance your career as a casanova? It would hurt your own reputation and distress the whole department!

When I was a HO, my friend from another hospital told me how everyone in her hospital had talked about how this particular doctor had cheated on his wife with a female doctor with whom he worked in the same department. To make matters worse, his wife was also a doctor in the same hospital. Some of the staff nurses had seen the male doctor with his female colleague outside the hospital setting while they were out on a date and then tongues started to wag and stories about them got spread and embellished to an enormous degree. Do you know how ugly the talk became?

Let me enlighten you regarding how humiliating the talk can be. The dialogue would go something like this:

“Weh, MO mana yang teruk sangat ni? Handsome sangat ke dia ni?”

“Tak handsome pun! Tak layak langsung jadi kasanova.”

“Wife dia cun dak?”

“Cun la juga.”

“MO tu dah ada anak pun dengan wife dia. Baru kahwin jer pun”

“Girlfriend dia lagi cun daripada wife dia kot.”

“Wife dia baik laa…. kesian kat wife dia.”

“Awat yang MO perempuan tu pun gatal sangat. Dah tau laki orang!”

“MO perempuan tu pun dah ada boyfriend sebenarnya.”

“Habis tu? Awat dia pi kacau laki orang lagi?”

“Yang wife dia ni pun, awat tak tinggalkan ja laki macam tu?”

Isn’t it ugly? People would speculate about how you look, how your spouse look and whether your romantic interest is more beautiful/handsome than your spouse. If you are not that handsome/pretty yourself, they would talk about how ‘tak sedar diri’ you are. Hahhah. And then they assassinate your character and shred it to pieces! What would be left of your self-respect? Zip, zero, nada!

10 years hence, people STILL talk about you. Trust me! When a new HO enters your department, the gossipy staff nurses would tell them “Doktor ni dulu… dia… yadda yadda yadda. Dia suka kat bla bla bla. Lepas tu dia bercerai and so on and so forth. La ni pun dia dok….bla bla bla” It would be a never-ending headache, following you around like a relentless nemesis (which might be a fitting consequence to your own terrible mistake).

You might as well just transfer yourself to another hospital to get away from all the talk!

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In general, it is NEVER a good idea to mix business with pleasure. But if you cannot help yourself, at least one of the parties involved should transfer herself/himself to another department as soon as things get serious.

If you love your work and you value your reputation, please be professional with everyone at work and keep the relationship platonically friendly. Keep your flirtatious comments to yourself. All affairs start with flirting. So, don’t flirt! If someone tries to be too friendly with you, make your discomfort obvious and better yet, just walk off. He/she will get the idea and won’t try again! Tapi kalau kau pun tak assertive… giving mixed signals here, there and everywhere, it’s your fault! Lepas tu kau dok budget konon ‘aku dalam dilema’. So drama queen! You are the one who perpetuate the dilemma in the first place! G…God!

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In general, if I am nice to you and you are my colleague, that’s just me being kind. Hahaha. My principle is CLEAR about office romance! It’s a dumb thing to do!

Other than via flirting, affairs also get started because a member of the opposite sex starts talking about his/her personal problems to you. Sheesh! If I were the person at the receiving end of such heart-pouring session, I would think “Hiys, hang ni pathetic gila! Hang tak dak kawan lain sama jantina ka nak curah perasaan pasal masalah hang ni? Awat cari aku? Unless you wanna become my patient, I am not interested about your marital problems, especially since you are not of the same gender as me.”

Seriously! What the hell is wrong with people who like to talk about their marital problems to outsiders? Unless you are doing it in a clinical setting, talking about your marital problems to outsiders (especially with one of the opposite sex) is SO INAPPROPRIATE and SO WRONG!  (But then I guess, such conduct is already expected of someone who would have no qualms about starting an office affair and become a cheater). Even if you are in need of a good listener, don’t you have friends of the same gender who might understand you even better? Aku seriously tak faham! What a dodgy way of starting an affair!

My theory is: those who talk about their marital problems to someone of the opposite sex is actually subconsciously already attracted to that person, in the first place. They try to get that person’s attention by pouring out their sob story to this person in a manipulative manner. If this person is smart, he/she would put a stop to such sessions by saying “I wish I can help. But may I suggest you seek professional help with counsellors in pejabat agama, instead?” But if the person is just as ‘gatal’, then he/she would pretend that he/she is just being a kind-hearted, helpful listener to someone with a personal problem. Pffft! Self-delusional, MUCH??

“Maybe office love is about meeting the right person at the wrong place and the wrong time.” My best friend challenged my analysis, laughingly. “Cinta tu buta, Afiza,” My best friend gave me the cliched phrase (just to bait me for a response, I am sure. That’s just like her. Hahha)

Then I guess, love is not just blind but deaf and retarded as well. If I were the guy, I would have a few doubts about falling in love with someone so morally corrupted that she doesn’t mind stealing another woman’s husband. (Is such a husband-stealer the right person? Pfft) And if I were the woman, I would have a lot of qualms about falling in love with a guy who would cheat on his own wife with me. (Is such disloyal cheater the right person too, that you just happen to meet at the wrong place of your office and at the wrong time when he is already married? Come on!) That’s such a sick way to begin a relationship. But then, maybe this is sunnahtullah. After all, birds of a feather flock together, right? And dodgy male and dodgy female are probably made for each other, anyway.

So now the ball is in the court of the poor spouse at home. Would he/she have enough self-respect to leave his/her cheating spouse and move on? Alas, most of the time, they would only break down and cry and beg the cheater to come back into the fold of their loving arms. *sigh*

Sometimes there is no justice in this world. There is no satisfaction of a good ending and an amazing outcome in the stories of real life.

That’s why I prefer books over real life. In the books that I read, the wife will have enough pride and self-respect NOT to beg her cheating husband to come back to her. Instead, she would take matters into her own hands, get some revenge in unique ways, go on to become successful by herself and then find herself another more worthy hero as a replacement. Now, THAT’S satisfaction!

But in reality, the wife would only patiently waits. Konon ‘redha dan pasrah’. Setia ke hujung nyawa, berkorban apa saja. And all such drivel!

Maybe such wives don’t read what I read. *sigh*

***

To all people who are involved in office affairs,

“If it’s the wrong place, at the wrong time… then it is MOST CERTAINLY the wrong person!”

Get over it, and don’t start something that would end catastrophically for everyone involved, only for it to be a fodder for malicious gossip. The tragedy of it all would make you weep.