Most Eventful Ramadhan & Eid

Assalamualaikum, guys. I hope it is not too late for me to wish all my blog readers Eid Mubarak and Taqabbalallahu Minna Waminkum. May Allah accept all the good deeds from you and from me. Amin.

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I have always loved the month of Ramadhan since I was a child. This year’s Ramadhan, however, was quite eventful for me. But I still treasure it, nonetheless.

In the middle of Ramadhan, I had to sit for my CASC exam and oh boy, it was like walking through a journey of a treacherously thorny path for me. At the end of the exam, I was drained and exhausted with a heavy feeling in my chest about all the possible (imagined or otherwise) mistakes I might have committed. My apprehension was made worse by the post-exam discussion session that we had self-torturously embarked on among ourselves. (Worst idea ever to have a post-exam discussion! Only worsen my fear) During that discussion, I came to realize that some of them had done this CASC a few times in the past… one candidate had even done it for 5 times. And they were so good and so experienced but they still failed… and I am just a newbie. I knew my chance of passing was very slim. But I didn’t want to lose hope just yet.

After I got back from CASC exam, my mind was perhaps too preoccupied… I missed a step and fell down the stairs at my parents house, spraining my left foot. But because I had only just returned from exam leave, I didn’t feel like I could get an extended MC just for a sprained left foot even though this felt like the worst sprain I have ever experienced in my life. So I went for my first post-exam on-call with a crutch. It was a terrible on-call, not just because of the amount of the on-call cases, but mainly because I noticed how everyone was staring at me when I walked with a crutch along the hospital corridor. Not exactly the best feeling ever.

I felt so self-conscious that I decided to not use the crutch anymore the day after. Luckily, by my next on-call, the pain got much better and I could weight-bear already, albeit with a funny gait. It wasn’t the most fun experience I have ever had.  Adeh. I ended up spending the rest of the Ramadhan at my parents’ house instead of returning to my own place because my left foot was still too painful for me and therefore any help I could get with free meals preparation would be much appreciated. (Muchas gracias, mamita and papito! Your ever loving daughter loves you) The good thing was, I got to spend a lot of time with my parents in Ramadhan and buka puasa meals tasted much better (And it’s also great because it’s been a long time since I last feel like an only child. LOL.)

I went through the middle part of Ramadhan feeling like I was going to have to start collecting more money for my next CASC attempt. At one point, I decided to stop worrying about the result and just focus on getting the best out of Ramadhan first. Priority must be set straight, I had to firmly tell myself.

I had a good Raya celebration on the 1st and 2nd day of Raya with my family and friends.  As usual I had a ‘beraya & bermaafan’ session with my parents, my sisters and their husbands (This year, tak cukup korum. Two of my siblings celebrate raya at their in-laws’ houses.)

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And we also had our annual outdoor #OOTD Raya pose. Haha. There were a lot of ridiculous pictures of us acting like cheaply-paid models, displaying  baju kurung in an outdoor photoshoot session. 😛 I will only be showing you a few here. The rest look too ridiculous for public consumption. *facepalm*

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On the 2nd day and 3rd day of Raya, I went out with two of my good friends. Because these two don’t know each other, I had to arrange to meet them separately.  These two are among the ‘wajib jumpa time raya’ people for me, despite the fact that I do meet them quite frequently throughout the year, anyway. I also attended a few open-houses organized by colleagues and friends. All in all, I really kept my promise to socialize more after exam. I did it! Haha.

 

But on my 3rd day of Raya, the anxiety about exam came back because it was the day my exam result was going to come out. I placed all my tawakkal in Allah because I knew I didn’t do as good as I hoped to do in the exam. I told myself that I would accept whatever result that I would be getting.

***

Dear readers,

I was quite disappointed that I did not pass my CASC exam. In order to pass the CASC exam, there are TWO criterias that must be met:

1)you must reach the passing mark

AND

2) you must not fail more than 4 stations out of 16 stations.

The passing mark is 62.7. My mark is 63.3%. So, I did reach the passing mark but I failed more stations than I should. That happened to a few of us. And there were also some of us who only failed 2-3 stations but unfortunately did not reach the passing mark. It was the most disappointing thing that could ever happen to a candidate… when you made it in one criteria but did not make it in the other. Gosh, so disappointing. Overall, around 47% of the candidates had passed. The rest, including yours truly, will have to prepare for another CASC attempt.

I was disappointed. But I accepted it (because what else can I do right? LOL)

I gave myself 24 hours to grieve properly. And then I told myself that I must get over it, stop feeling sorry for myself and start to DO SOMETHING (as in, study again, of course! What else, right? Gosh… so exhausting! But the truth is, the most exhausting part is remembering the money I had burned for this exam. Ouch! The pain is real! A lot of us MRCPsych candidates are struggling financially. That is one major stressor for all of us.)

But I couldn’t even grieve properly because I had relatives to entertain and my mom needed my help in the kitchen. Actually, come to think of it, that’s a good thing because it stopped me from ruminating over my result. Because my result had come out during the festive season, I had to be less self-absorbed and focus on helping my mother to entertain the guests.

I still remember how I had reacted when I failed my Add Maths as a Form 4 student back then. That was the first time I had ever failed at anything. It was such a HORRIBLE feeling back then. I was so self-absorbed, refused to talk and just ruminated for a few days straight LOL. But maybe it is a sign of maturity now that I could simply put aside my disappointment and responded to my environment properly, be sociable and just entertained guests like nothing really disappointing had recently happened to me. If I were still my old self, I would probably just shut myself in my room and ignore everyone after announcing to my family that I want to be by myself. I would  then pick up some fiction and simply escape reality by reading the story of another person’s life hahha. Yup… that was me as a teenager! (But I am so much better now, ehem, I think. Perhaps because as I grew older, I have come to realize that most things that I used to care about was not as important as I made it out to be. It is nice when things go your way. It’s good when things are calm and rosy. But when things don’t go your way, you are going to have to deal with it, respond accordingly and persevere. But, this is easier said than done. Because first of all, you have to calm the tumultuous turmoil in your chest. And that is HARD, my dear readers. But again, you have to do what you have to do!)

It is no use to deny that the weight of disappointment is always gonna feel heavy in your chest. But the point is not to let it overwhelm you. Keep your balance.

The day after I got my result, I felt like cancelling the plan I had made with another good friend of mine to meet up with her. I haven’t caught up with her for 2 years though we always keep in touch through whatsapp messages. She is one of my best friends during housemanship and now she is already a Paediatrician. But I just didn’t feel like going out the day after my disappointing exam result. Just wasn’t really in the mood. But then…  I told myself, “Afiza, you had wanted to meet up with her for so long. Just because you fail an exam, why should you change your plan? It doesn’t make it right for you to cancel a plan that you had committed to. Both of you had set aside a specific time to meet up and she had probably cleared her schedule for this reunion…. is it okay to break a promise just because you are disappointed? Buck up, girl! You are better than this!” 

I know it is not okay to cancel a plan that we had SO CAREFULLY laid out with each other many days prior. (Because both of us were always so busy to meet up properly, before. We doctors are not really spontaneous people and every get-together is NEVER a spur-of-the-moment thing.) And really, I also wanted to meet her. I knew she was going to be a breath of fresh air that I was going to need. So, I decided to go and see her in Sungai Petani as we had planned.

 

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And I am really glad I did that. The force of her insightful wisdom was what I really needed at that time. She is one of the wisest person I have had the fortune to know. She shared with me her own struggle when she was studying to become a Paediatrician and now she’s already doing her gazettement. She really did lift up my spirit in that 3 hours I had spent talking to her. I am so lucky that I am surrounded by inspiring people like her. It makes it easier for me to emulate their spunk.

So, can you see now why I feel like I’ve had such an eventful (or stressful) Ramadhan and Eid? Haha. It was like I was thrown into a roller coaster whirlwind of feelings and emotions in this particular year of Ramadhan and Eid. Feeling blissful and happy about Ramadhan and Eid in one moment, and then feeling anxious about results in the next moment. In one moment, I would feel thankful that I get to experience Ramadhan and Eid one more time this year, and then in the next moment I would feel sad about not passing the exam. I couldn’t even cry properly because even though emotionally I feel sad but intellectually I knew that I have so much more to be thankful for that it wouldn’t make sense for me to complain about anything. I would be an ungrateful slave if I complain about petty stuff when He had given me so much throughout my life. How He had guided me in the past when I was lost  by throwing me into the midst of the kind and wise people I had met in Australia! How He had blessed me with comfort and love from the people surrounding me. How He protected me even when I didn’t deseve it!

Even now, I can feel the wave of love coming from family and friends when I am feeling disappointed and defeated. That is indeed a blessing.

 

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Alhamdulillah for great family support and friends with positive outlooks. Anything more that He decides to give me would only be a bonus and I realize that. Passing an exam should not be anyone’s main focus in life, right? (But oh, it would be so nice to have passed. Really, I cannot deny that. But I am putting stuff into proper perspective in order to bounce back and fight another day. I am gonna beat  the crap out of you, CASC! Haha. Insya Allah).

Now, it’s time to resume my studying and prepare for the next CASC exam.

Wish me luck and please pray that I will have the strength and fortitude to go through the exam again.

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

 

 

 

Glorious

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

My dear readers, I have a bad news.

I failed….

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Alhamdulillah, it was glorious!

 

Glorious

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

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


So I charged ahead, went to war,

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


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

-Afiza Azmee-
3/11/17
9.50 pm

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

Post-Exam Promises

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

 

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

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

P(event) = 0.9999999

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

My post-exam promises always consist of:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am aging! *sobs sobs*

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

It is a life makeover. *sigh*

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

 

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

 

 

Why Taking An Exam Is Good For You

The real title of this post should be:

Why Taking An Exam Is Good For You : An Attempt By The Author At Positive Thinking When Facing Mental Torture And Suffering.

Haha.

But it’s too long for a blog post title, no? So I decided to make it concise and do all the necessary elaboration in the actual post itself.

Joke aside, I personally, do believe that taking an exam is good for you, not just intellectually, but also spiritually (and when you actually pass the exam, it is also good for you emotionally as it raises your self-esteem; even when you KNEW that your success has very little to do with your own effort and ONLY because Allah has blessed you with it.)

My study leave has just started today for one month! Woot! Woot! #Happiness

But instead of studying today, I spent half my day sleeping (because I only had 2 hours of not-so-good-sleep last night) and the other half of my day was spent blogging and reading (ehem, I read non-academic books. I told myself that this is one last fiction that I would read before I start studying SERIOUSLY).  I think I deserve the rest after the crazy hectic on-call I had last night! I should have known that I can never get away with a relaxing on-call on my last day of working before my study leave. The universe just never works that way with me. I am not the sort of person who subscribes to the notion that certain colours can exacerbate or reduce the level of on-call hecticness (aka jonah-ness). But I had worn black blouse, black pants, grey shawl and cream shoes (just in case, you know.) All those are very unobtrusive, non-striking colours. But I think, God has punished me for doing that! Maybe He is saying “You should have known that colours have NOTHING to do with jonah! That’s khurafat and you should have known that. You claimed you don’t believe such a thing! But your action proved otherwise! Now, here you go! You are, hereby, punished with the most unrestful on-call you have ever had for a long while! Enjoy!!”

Okay, God… I admit, I deserve it. Please forgive my stupidity! I will actively wear red next time I am on-call. I will prove to You once again that I don’t believe such a stupid khurafat of jonah-colour crap ever again! *facepalm*

Since I am officially on my leave for a month for studying, this post is my attempt at pumping myself up for the upcoming exam.

Here it is! My list of reasons of why taking an exam is good for you! (If you can make yourself believe it. Heheh)

1)It feeds your intellect.

This is, like, self-explanatory and self-evident. Human beings are intellectual creatures. One of the core feature that differentiates human beings from other creatures in  the animal kingdom is the fact that we are a thinking, analytical machine by virtue of having a mind, and not just a brain. The brain is the physical element of our thinking machine. It is the hardware that most animals possess in varying degrees and levels. Whereas, our mind is the sophisticated software that turns our brain into a functioning one. 

And every software must be updated to keep it relevant! But some people are too lazy to update their software (their minds!) because they are comfortable with the way things are already. They didn’t know what they didn’t know (and therefore their ignorance is bliss) and what they already knew has been enough to keep them going, so far. (I mean, I went for on-calls just fine with what little knowledge I had before taking Part A and before studying for Part B, right? Even without studying for any exam, what little knowledge I had was enough before, no?!) So, of course, in such a situation, no one would have the impetus to want to update their software. Because you don’t really have the urgent need to do so!

Then, comes the scary exam! NOW! Now,  the impetus and the urge to update the software intensify! And you can no longer postpone the update process this time. Hahha.

Lazy people like me need exams to read something academic. Otherwise, I will only read fiction. I can’t help myself! I am not really an academician (that would be my elder sister!) and I hate studying, until I am forced to do it. At which point, I will tell myself ‘you have to do what you have to do, Afiza’ and I will then start studying regardless of how I feel about it. 

So, exam is great because it forces you to upgrade your brain software in a manner you would not be motivated to do, otherwise.

So, yup, I love exams! (Ehem!)

 

2)It feeds your spirituality

This is quite difficult to explain. Because this is only my personal experience with regards to exam.

The thing is… I pray more during the time of exam. *sheepish grin*

I am usually an early sleeper and also an early riser. I am not the sort who would sleep after subuh because my most productive time is in the morning! When exam is near, I rise even earlier to study. Sometimes, I was up at 3.00 a.m.

Wallahi, I don’t have the highest level of iman to always perform the tahajjud prayer every night like some other  more pious people out there.  When I was a medical student, I used to wake up early for studying and simply got started on studying straight away. But, perhaps the usrah sessions were so successful in changing my dunia-oriented self (my naqibah should be proud of her achievement in changing me, lol) that  there was always this feeling of guilt inside my heart telling me “You are soooo dunya!  You can wake up early to study for exam, but you cannot offer a few minutes of tahajjud prayer? Afiza, buck up, will you?!”

The guilt prompted me to be more worshipful, I think. It brings me closer to God.

But there are times when I questioned my own intention. “Do you pray all these sunnat prayer because you are really being more pious now, or is this just a temporary thing while you are struggling with exam?”

Errmm…..

Well, I don’t think I am the only one like this. Most of my friends are like me too. We even talked about it and discussed the issues when we were in med school. And we came up with a conclusion that everything needs a level of forcing (and a conscious effort) before it can become a routine that would evolve into a sincere deed. The same thing goes to fasting and the obligatory 5 prayers. When we were kids, we were forced to do all those things before they became something that we now do sincerely, right?

All I can say is, please God, correct my intention and make it easy for me. I mean, really, life is a struggle and we all have our own personal jihad. This one is mine! Once upon a time, I did not even feel guilty when I didn’t offer tahajjud and simply started on studying straight away. Now, at least, I do feel something whenever I abandon my tahajjud in favour of immediately starting my study. So, that is an improvement, right? Hopefully, if my intention needs correcting, Allah will help me correct it as I go along. Amin.

 

3)It builds character

If you pass your exam, you learn to be grateful. You see people who have taken the same exams multiple times and work as hard as you do and yet they still do not pass… and you are grateful that Allah has eased your way for you. You know, your effort does not guarantee anything. You are only doing your end of the bargain. The other end is totally up to Allah. Allah does not guarantee anything out of your effort but Allah asks you to put in the effort, regardless.

tie your camel

 

On the other hand, if you fail your exam, you learn the concept of humility. And you develop the character of persistence, perseverance and grit, as you push yourself to take the exam another time. And another time. And another time. (But God, please, not another time. Hahah).

The prophet had said, whatever happens in the affair of a believer is good! Remember?

affairs of believer

Whether you pass or you fail, it is good! So don’t worry about it (but honestly, I am just an ordinary human being. Of course I worry about it. LOL! But only to a certain point, and then no further! This is how I keep my life sane. Whatever I feel…. it will only be up to a certain point, and then no more. Whether it is sadness, grief, fear, pain, love…. I will put a limit to it in terms of intensity and duration! And then, my rationality will kick in, and hopefully, I will make myself do the right thing. Learn to feel the right thing. I think that is the best Modus Operandi for not getting a mood disorder when we are assailed by life’s trials and tribulations. Put a limit! And tell yourself, that’s it!)

 

4) Exams make me read something I would not otherwise have read. And exams make me watch/listen to YOU TUBE videos I would not otherwise have watched/listened. Exams broaden my horizon!

I would be lying if I said that I only study academic books without taking any ‘lagha’ rest in between. Seriously, I am not an angel. I have to rest, you know. Haha. 

When I am not facing any exam, I don’t feel guilty reading commercial fiction, or listening to pop songs or watching movies on the internet and you tube.

But when exam is near, my superego told me that I MUST use all that time for studying ONLY and reading something ‘lagha’ like a mystery or a thriller or a fantasy would make me feel so damn guilty!  But my id wants me to rest and read fiction. So then, my ego forces my id and my superego to compromise by making me read a non-fiction book or  a classic literature, instead. This is actually how I started reading non-fiction books such as ‘The Doctor In The House’ (autobiography of Dr. Mahathir) or ‘The Authorised Biography of Nelson Mandela’ and ‘Moonwalking With Einstein’. (I comfort myself by saying that when I read those books, it is not exactly wasting precious study time. Because reading non-fiction actually update my store of general knowledge, even when it is not academic-specific. But it is STILL knowledge, right? Then the guilt is settled and I get to relax. hahah.)

When I want to rest from studying, instead of picking up the latest John Grisham/David Baldacci/Matthew Reilly/Jeffrey Archer books (all of them are my favourite commercial fiction authors) I picked up best-selling non-fiction books that I would never read otherwise. And I will surprise myself when I discover something new and I will feel amazed that I could enjoy other books other than my usual commercial fiction. 

Likewise, instead of watching YOU TUBE videoclips of western pop songs (I am sorry, God), I actually listen to nasyid. Hahah. This is how I come to know a lot of nasyids when I was in medical school. Thanks to exam! (My sisters laughed at me in disbelief when I told  them that I did listen to nasyid when I was in medical school. Because I never did, before that. I was more into Backstreet Boys and boybands etc etc and so were my sisters. So I kind of understood why they found it so surprising because even I was surprised at myself too. A lot of changes in myself happened when I was in Australia, when I think about it. I think my spiritual growth accelerated exponentially when I was in medical school overseas, where Islam was the minority. Weird, isn’t it?)

Here is one of the nasyid I actually put on repeat when I am studying.

I have also discovered classical musics by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Vivaldi. You can find in YOU TUBE a video with the title ‘Classical Music For Studying!’ Hahha. Really awesome! My personal favourite is Vivaldi’s Winter (Four Season), which is arguably, the best study music ever! Here is the video… listen to this and wait until you get to the chorus. Hehehe.

So you see, I have a list of what I call as my ‘study songs’. These songs are a perfect in-between that would satisify my superego and my id! So, I can enjoy my time listening to these songs in between my studies without suffering from any guilt!

When I want to watch something else other than YOU TUBE tutorials of statistics and neurology, instead of watching YOU TUBE movies like I usually do, I watch lectures by Nouman Ali Khan, Yusha Evans and Dr. MAZA instead. This is actually how I discovered these precious gems in the ummah when I was in med school. I had wanted to watch something fun when I was resting from studying, but my superego could not handle the guilt of wasting precious study time by watching ‘lagha’ movies. So I decided to watch religious lectures instead. And I discovered something even more valuable than anything else; the CORRECT understanding of my religion that years and years of studying Pendidikan Agama Islam in Malaysian schools did not give me! I also discovered the wonder of comparative studies on religion! I also found out that all those Israillyat stories that I had stupidly forced myself to believe as religious -even when my instinct cautioned me that ‘this is weird’ when I first heard it – were all really false, just like what my instinct had told me in the first place. I discovered that my religion makes sense! That it is logical! If something religious doesn’t sound logical, dig deeper, investigate further… until you find the truth! I discovered that religious authorities (even JAKIM) can be wrong and can confuse the masses! I learn to use my brain as a filter before I let ANYTHING or ANYONE to influence my idea of what is right and what is just and what is true!

And I learn to like things I never thought I would like. Now, I have started buying non-fiction and literature books even for the times when I am not studying for any exam. I have also started listening to those nice, innocent, classy ‘study songs’ even when I am not actually studying. I have also started listening to lectures at least a few times every week even when there was no exam to prepare for.

See, how exam has broaden my horizon, expanded my outlook and changed my habits even in the times  when  I am WITHOUT any exam !! It is amazing isn’t it?!

***

It is only through exams, tests, and trials that you learn to become better than you once were! Not only in academic exams but also in life exams. Your lost! Your sadness! Your fear! Your anxiety! When you face them, you can bet your life, you will be a stronger and better person for it! That is like sunnahtullah, like the law of the universe. 

So…have I convinced any of my readers that exam is good for you? I have even convinced myself at the end of this writing! Haha. Please tell me that I succeed at sounding positive about all these!

😉

Pray for me, my dear readers. I need all the prayers I can get.

Until next time, take care!