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!)

Screenshot 2017-11-04 07.03.40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Alhamdulillah, it was glorious!

 

Glorious

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

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


So I charged ahead, went to war,

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


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

-Afiza Azmee-
3/11/17
9.50 pm

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

Post-Exam Promises

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

 

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

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

P(event) = 0.9999999

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

My post-exam promises always consist of:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am aging! *sobs sobs*

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

It is a life makeover. *sigh*

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

 

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