The Hong Kong (Mis)Adventure

Assalamualaikum my dear readers,

Alhamdulillah, after passing my CASC exam, I had received a lot of inquiries for tips on how  to pass the CASC exam. And the answer is….

…..I really don’t know. Haha. Really!

Because there were certainly a lot more candidates who were much better than me but did not make it anyway. I have several practice buddies for CASC exam, locally in Alor Setar as well as in other places and let me tell you, sometimes who ended up passing and who didn’t make it surprised me too. Some who I personally know are so good, did not make it. Some who I feel are okay (not excellent, not bad, but average) made it.

This is a real puzzle for me when it comes to CASC. (In paper A and paper B … it is different. If you study, if you know what you know… and if you answer the questions based on what you have studied… chances are you will make it. The outcome largely depends on YOU yourself, and of course, also by the will of Allah).  We have had some candidates who were very good… some of them were so motivated that they took BOTH the master pathway and the parallel MRCPsych pathway. Some of those who made it in the master pathway with no record of failure during their master exams had to sit for CASC 3-4 times before they finally passed. So please don’t think that the MRCPsych exam is easier than the master exam. It isn’t. Likewise, I also don’t think the master exam is easier than the MRCPsych exam. They have different criteria and system in grading their candidates and regardless of which pathway you choose, you must find ways to beat the system in order to pass. It’s like playing two games with different rules. You cannot expect to win in one game by using the strategy employed in another different game. Get it? Even though I made it with CASC, but who knows whether I would pass if I took the master exam instead.  So, kudos to those who took BOTH exams… you guys are really awesome!

You see, I am the sort of person who has a very internal locus of control (and this is not necessarily good, either). I believe that, Insya Allah, your success in life depends on you MOSTLY… with some minor external factors minimally influencing the outcome. But I must admit that when it comes to CASC… my locus of control really shifted. Big time!*LOL*. Because I could not explain how come some outstanding and experienced candidates from other countries who are already a consultant in their own countries could not make it in CASC. It really puzzled me.

And I put it down to rezeki and fate. At the end of the day, it really is!

Just pray HARD for a miracle…. for things to go smoothly for you during the exam. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for you to be struck by an epiphany of wisdom while performing your task in the CASC station. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for the examiner to suddenly perceive you as outstanding, nice, likeable yadda yadda yadda.

My Chinese friend Dr. C was my study and travel buddy for this Hong Kong CASC, and had been a witness to my 5 prayers per day routine while travelling. Like me, she had an attack of post-exam anxiety after we went out of the exam hall (because the exam was a bloodbath of trickeries and ambiguities in how they set the task in each station, I tell you!). So she started to say “I think I will go to Temple while waiting for my CASC result”. *LOL*. And another friend of mine teased her by saying “Oh, only now you remember God, is it?” *LOL* (Muslims pray as an act of worship, 5 times a day. We do not necessarily pray for something specific while worshipping. Even if we had perceived ourselves as sufficient in everything, we would still pray 5 times a day for the purpose of worship. God is to be worshipped…. not only when you need something from Him but especially when you don’t. It shows sincerity when you worship Him anyway even when you are already satisfied with whatever He has given you. But yes, even Muslims would pray much harder and more frequently during exams. I am guilty of that too…Haha. May Allah forgive us for whatever conflict of interests is going on in our mind while worshipping Him. And may Allah guide us to worship Him with better sincerity in the future. Well, just to clear that up.)

This shows how very MUCH the candidates’ locus of control would shift when it comes to CASC. Those who don’t pray would suddenly feel like they should visit the temple, LOL. And those who don’t believe in any deity would suddenly invoke the name of God they don’t really believe in.

And me? I just pray even harder.

25 candidates were successful at the MRCPsych CASC Examination in Hong Kong held in October 2019. A total of 46 candidates sat the examination. So, the overall Pass Rate is 54.3%

All in all, I had passed 14 stations out of 16 stations. The passing mark was set at 63.7%. And Alhamdulillah, I obtained 70.8% in the exam. That is the miracle I was praying so hard for and I am so grateful that Allah had granted it for me. Allah has been Most Beneficient and Most Merciful towards me for granting me this happiness. And trust me, dear CASC candidates out there… just do your best and pray hard! Ask your parents and loved ones to pray for you too. Pray for each other. And Insya Allah, you will make it. (And just some tips… it is better to do your CASC in the UK straightaway. Invest a bit more money and just get it done once.)

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Alhamdulillah… it is official!
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The morning CASC stations results
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The PM CASC station results

 

But let me tell you, my dear readers, there were a lot of misadventures that I had to go through before Allah gifted me with this happiness. As my sisters would know, I had created a hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan to describe my Hong Kong CASC Journey. Haha (So, if you think you are going through a hard time now, the harshest of storm precedes the appearance of the clearest sky. Have faith… your turn for happiness will come, my fellow comrades. It is just a matter of time. Believe it… and PRAY HARD!)

Want to know why #RanjauSepanjangJalan was chosen as my hashtag in describing my CASC journey in Hong Kong? Hahaha. It is a quite funny story, but it is not at all informative or illuminating in any way. So you guys can skip reading the contents below and do something more productive with your time (seriously… be more productive). I am just writing them as a personal record for myself, and if it benefits you, well and good. And if it doesn’t, well, you have been warned.

***

#RanjauSepanjangJalan: The Novel

My dear readers, are you familiar with Shahnon Ahmad’s literary work entitled Ranjang Sepanjang Jalan? Shahnon Ahmad was a Sasterawan Negara, as you guys probably know. (He was also famous as the writer of SHIT, around the era of Malaysian political turmoil in 1998.) When I was doing my IB studies, I had to do a literary analysis of Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan as part of my IB syllabus.

It was the most boring (but thought provoking) ordeal I had  to do as an IB student. Sorry Mr. Shahnon Ahmad…. I didn’t really enjoy reading your book at that time. I have always been an optimistic person and this book did not celebrate my values of ‘hard work begets success’. So, I positively hated it! I am the ‘happy-ending’ kind of person. I personally feel, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending (sure you can die in real life… but you still have the hereafter to look forward to where great things can happen and you get to enter paradise. Yes bad things like divorce can happen…. but it is not yet an ending. You can go on with your life and attain more success with or without your spouse! Nothing bad in your life is an ending! You decide, with  the help of Allah, to make the most out of  your life). In my books, good MUST prevail. It MUST! And I am quite rigid and autistic about it, LOL. Hard work must be rewarded! Struggle must end with success. Those are my values and I would NOT read any fiction that does NOT celebrate my values.

Unless it is an academic reading. And so, I had to do it. *LOL*

SYNOPSIS (my version)

Till the end of the book, the family of Lahuma and Jeha with their seven kids were filled with one trial after another. They were a family of paddy planters during the 1960s, which was around the time when the Malaysian government encouraged farmers to make use of modern farming techniques. But Lahuma and his family were persistent in using the traditional method of farming even though they hardly made ends meet. Lahuma passed away in the middle of the book from busung (can you believe it? Busung is like ascites, right? I could not remember Shahnon Ahmad describing the cause of the busung), leaving Jeha as the sole breadwinner to the seven kids. Jeha had some sort of mental disorder  (not properly described and thus, I could not come up with a diagnosis. Most likely, Schizophrenia) due to the stress of the trials that she had to go through after Lahuma passed away. There was one time when Jeha was traumatized by an encounter she had with a SNAKE ‘ular tedung selar’ at the paddy field (the snake is the decisive factor of why I choose my hashtag, LOL).  Jeha was even committed to Tanjung Rambutan at one point. It was so depressing and there was no happy ending!

Have I said that I hated it? So, I am saying it again. I hated it! Hahah

But Alhamdulillah, my version of #RanjauSepanjangJalan had a happy ending. Haha.

***

#RanjauSepanjangJalan: My MRCPsych Casc Hong Kong Story

Let me enumerate all my ordeals in a chronological order (because INTJs LOVE logical order):

Ranjau No 1: The Hong Kong riot

My two friends and I had already planned to take our CASC exam in Hong Kong in October even though we knew that there would also be one CASC exam in  the UK in September. The reason was financial in nature. I could not afford to go to the UK for my exam with the savings that I had at that time.

So I decided to do my CASC exam in Hong Kong. Even though I knew that there was a political turmoil going on in Hong Kong at that time (between the Hong Kong freedom fighters and the Hong Kong government who is subservient to the China mainland leadership; and it is still ongoing until now), I was hoping that the political upheaval would settle down by the time I would be going for the exam (yup, sometimes I am too unrealistically optimistic and it can be a bad thing. Haha).

Sadly, I was mistaken.

So some had advised me to cancel my plans to go to Hong Kong. But I had already paid for everything! So, I just decided to trust fate and go for it. In my mind, I was like “I can die anywhere. No one can escape death, right? You can die while you are in bed because your time on earth is up! So just go and hope for the best.” 

Some had suggested that I should just ask my parents for money to go to the UK. But I have never been the sort to do that. I was not brought up freely asking parents for money for non-necessities (and exam is not a necessity! I grew up during an economic downturn in 1997/1998 and I knew the value of money. I didn’t simply ask my parents for money as a child and I won’t do it as an adult). I used my own savings for all my exams… and if my parents wanted to sponsor anything, they freely offered it to me without me ever asking. I am an adult and I do not want to rely on their money. I made it a point to only spend on what I could afford myself (because I tak suka berhutang… even for credit cards)… but if they want to give me some money as a show of support for me, I will take it. But I don’t want to need it. It is a matter of pride and principle for me that even without their money, I could still take the exam with whatever I could afford myself. If I couldn’t afford something myself, I should simply adjust my needs and wishes according to priority.

I knew I could afford Hong Kong. And I knew I could not afford UK. It was a pretty straightforward decision, in my mind. My parents did offer to sponsor my flight ticket and hotel rooms … but by that time I had already paid for everything. Their money came as an extra I could replenish my bank account with. (Thank you, Mamita. You are awesome!)

So decisions had been made… and every day, my two study buddies and myself followed the news in Hong Kong, hoping things would settle down. But the situation persists until now.

Below is the picture of the Hong Kong police on standby in the MRT, preparing to deal with the riots. So yup, the Hong Kong riot was my first #Ranjau.

My Macbook screen cracked 

Just one month before my exam, my Macbook screen was somehow cracked and I could no longer use my Macbook to study. Unfortunately, all my notes and CASC videos were in my Macbook.

It was so stressful.

I checked the Swift store for the price of repairing or replacing the Macbook screen. I was heartbroken to find out that the cost was RM2100. That is almost the cost of a new Macbook.

At that time, I had just spent a large amount of money paying for my CASC exam, my flight tickets, and my hotel room and I had put aside some money for my expenses in Hong Kong. I could not justify spending more money that I didn’t have to repair my Macbook. There was an option of using my credit card… but like I said, I don’t like to do it. I am uncomfortable with unnecessary debts. I felt like perhaps, I could still study even without my laptop.

So I downloaded all the CASC videos into my mobile device (google drive app) and I just printed out my SPMM notes so that I could study without my laptop. The most amazing thing happened, my dear readers. I could focus better without my laptop to distract me. With my laptop, I tend to use more You Tube/ Netflix and social media. My brain no longer associated the usage of laptop for pure studying. Instead one can argue that laptop is now used more for entertainment than studying per se. Haha.

So without my laptop, I got more things done, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes Allah’s help comes in the form of calamity and we are without wisdom to know the reason behind what has happened. So trust Allah and do your best. Plan with what you have. It will never be ideal. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy a good laptop to help you study. But if you can’t, make the best of what you have. No one can say for sure that you would not succeed just because you lack certain material comforts. Just do your best with what you already have and pray that it would be enough. Remember that when things are difficult, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending, ok?

URTI at the start of my study leave

You know, I am very bad at being sick. I would be so lethargic and would only stay in bed during weekends. When I go to work while having URTI, my friends can actually notice that I seem lethargic, irritable and less animated than usual. Even though it is just URTI! (other people handle URTI with much better poise and grace, I must admit. Well, not me. But I would still go to work because I could not justify getting MCs for URTI. However, at work, my suffering shows on my face. LOL).

You see, I am allergic to Paracetamol and NSAIDs. I don’t take any meds when I am sick or in pain. I could take Tramal, I suppose… but Tramal makes me dizzy and groggy.

But the good thing is, Alhamdulillah, I rarely got sick. But when I do, it hits me harder because I could not take anything for it.

Of all the time to get sick, I got sick just when I was starting my study leave. And it lasted a few days during which time I was quite unproductive with my study. That was a few days of my study leave wasted, my dear readers.

So many stressful ranjau, huh?

Interrupted study time during study leave

Those who knew me knew that I am a social hermit during exam times. I simply can stay in my house for an extended period of time without meeting anyone when I am studying. And I have no problems doing that because I am an introvert. I feel okay doing things alone and being alone. In fact, I am at my best when I am in peace, away from outside noise and disturbance. My hobbies are mostly solitary; reading, writing, blogging… even hiking, I can do it alone!

But CASC is not the sort of exam that you can study alone, I am sure fellow candidates know that. And this is a struggle for me. For the CASC practice during my study leave, I had to take a shower, dress up and wear tudung and all… and then go out and drove to the clinic to our study room to practice with my study buddies… those activities took precious time AWAY from my studying and memorizing tasks! While I was doing Paper A and Paper B, I could cover a lot of topics because I didn’t have to take a shower until I was about to perform my Zohor prayer….I could study continuously without pause from the time I woke up until around Zohor time. There was no need for me to get out of my house at all because I didn’t get involved in any study group for Paper A and Paper B. And to me, I studied better that way. I don’t like interruptions in my task once I have gained the right momentum and have zoned out into the task. But with CASC prep, just when I was getting into the task, suddenly I had to stop my studying and prepare to go out for study group meeting. There were many frequent pauses instead of continuous studying. I don’t like that kind of pauses and disturbances.

So in a lot of ways, CASC was a challenge for me because there was a huge deviation in my study patterns.

Also, around this time, my parents went for umrah and left our cats outside their home in the cage. They had hired someone to come every day to feed the cats so that I wouldn’t have to go out of my house and drive to their house just to feed the cats. Unfortunately, due to frequent storms in Alor Setar (and thus causing electrical power outage), the automatic gate in their house got stuck a few times during my study leave, and I had to go settle the matter so that the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could enter the house and feed the cats. But when you think about it, I might as well feed the cats myself since I had to go out anyway to let the lady in. Adeh! Really… this was also an interruption for me.

These are the kind of  things that don’t bother most people. I know that. But it bothered me because I was not used to studying with this kind of frequent interruptions. I am the sort of person who plans my activities and I always have things to do. Unforeseen interruptions are mostly unwelcome to me. (Even when I am free, I have fictions to read. So I don’t actually have free time because whenever I have free time, my default mode would be to automatically pick up a book. That’s how I rest. Or I will sleep. Sleeping is also an activity…the purpose of which is to gain good rest for your next activity. So really… what free time do I have? None! So be honoured if I spend my time with you. If your plan is sudden but I accommodate you anyway, it must mean that you are important enough to me to the point that I am willing to alter my plans for you… otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it! LOL. I am the sort of person who is not comfortable with people saying “Let’s see how it turns out”, to explore what happens next. Adoi! I am more comfortable with “Let’s plan how this is going to happen” Hahha.)

But deep inside my heart, I wonder if this is probably Allah’s way of teaching me to be more flexible, to be more comfortable with sudden interruptions and to be less bothered by unforeseen circumstances. I mean, I have to grow as a person. And flexibility is my area of deficit and weakness. And maybe this is something I need to grow to be good at. (Well, that was what I told myself as I was dealing with those interruptions. It was actually a form of self-consolation LOL) All these while, my family and friends accommodated my needs for certain orders and I have no reason to change and be more flexible. To me… being on time is good. Having a plan is good. Why should I change? Convince me that your method of “no plan, no specific time, and let’s see” is better than my method. LOL.

So I have never had to be flexible. Because people adjust to me (and in their opinion, they were compromising. To me, they were not compromising… they were just doing the right thing. They were not following me per se; they were just following the right way and the efficient way of doing things. If they could come up with a more efficient and timely way of doing things, I would follow them too. Nowadays, I can be flexible with change of plans. But I am still very particular about time! I don’t think I will ever change in that!)

So it takes these kind of unforeseen interruptions to make me be more flexible. I could not blame anyone for electrical outage following a storm… so I simply had to adjust, right? Storms are natural occurrences. They happen through nobody’s fault. There is no specific time for storms to happen too. Haha! And if I am going to learn to be more flexible, I can only learn when something like this happens! Things that are beyond my control and NOT caused by someone’s lack of punctuality or someone’s lack of efficiency. Otherwise, I would never change. And Allah knows that. So He taught me how to be flexible in this way.

Well, as it turns out, I was going to need the lesson when I arrived in Hong Kong.

Luggage Lost In Hong Kong Airport

Okay, in general, I don’t trust Air Asia airlines. I have always been loyal to MAS. But my Chinese travel buddies (who were also my tour guide in navigating the Hong Kong MRT from the airport to our hotel at BlueJay Residences) preferred to book the Air Asia flight because it was cheaper. So I followed their plan (because I needed them since I could not speak Mandarin or Kantonese) and we booked the Air Asia flight from KLIA2 to Hong Kong.

But because I didn’t trust Air Asia, I decided to place all my exam stuff (the exam documents, some of my exam notes, my exam outfit, my exam shoes and some miniature toiletries) into my hand luggage so that if my checked-in baggage somehow got lost, I would still have the most important stuff with me.

See? It’s not so bad being a rigid planner, right? Part of being a rigid planner is anticipating bad things that might happen and make contingency plans for it.

Because my dear readers…yes, my baggage did not arrive with me in Hong Kong. Adeh! Even though I had most of my important stuff with me, but I also STILL needed some of the stuff in my baggage. I didn’t have any other change of clothes other than my exam clothes. My contact-lens solution was also inside my checked-in baggage. The books that  I had planned to read in the next two days before the exam were also in the baggage (even though I did have the more important notes with me in my hand luggage. Still, it was a bother!)  I also had my Brahim’s pre-cooked food inside my baggage… so, my source of halal sustenance for the next 5 days was lost to me. I remember thinking, “I am going to have to shop for bread… and hopefully they have IndoMie here. Takkan nak makan roti sampai 5 hari!”

And to make matters worse, I had only very limited funds with me because I did not expect to have to pay for anything other than taxi fares. And Hong Kong is an expensive city.  In a lot of ways, I was really unprepared to deal with a lost baggage.

Below is a video of me walking around town searching for cheap clothes, only half an hour after I had reached the hotel. I was tired after the journey from Malaysia to Hong Kong…. I had wanted to rest and then get some study done at night. But instead, I spent most of the afternoon walking around town to replenish some of my supplies and then I slept that night without studying because I was so exhausted.

Thinking back, sleeping without studying when the exam was so near was a HUGE change of plans, for me. It was something I would never have done in the past. But I guess, I was finally able to be flexible about the whole thing. *A proud moment for me. LOL* Or maybe, I was just too tired to stick to my plan and thus to make myself feel better, I simply chalked it up to me being flexible. Haha.

 

Luckily, later at midnight, I received an email from Hong Kong airport service that they had been successful in tracing my baggage and I could pick it up the next morning. Dr. C was so nice when she offered to go back with me to the airport to pick up the luggage with me.  She was worried that I would get lost if I went out by myself. Again, we had actually planned to study the next morning…. but we had to pick up my baggage at the airport instead. Again… I dealt with the change of plans with as much poise and grace as I could. LOL. Throughout the journey to and from the airport, Dr. C and I practiced our CASC stations on the train. For someone who hate practicing or studying in a noisy environment, I have to say that I did quite well adjusting to it. *Proud Of Myself*

It’s good to know that at the end of the day…. I could still go back to my survival principle of “You have to do what you have to do. If you have to adapt, then you have to adapt and do it!” Alhamdulillah, Thank You Allah for letting me adjust to the whole drama of lost baggage with manageable level of stress. I don’t think I could have handled it well if I hadn’t had the practice during my study leave, courtesy of the storms. LOL.

Below is the video of me using a hair dryer to dry my clothes after washing it…because I really did not have any more change of clothes.

 

The whole experience taught me that indeed, I could live with less. We can always make do and we can find ways to deal with having less. In that short time when I was without most of my stuff, I realized that I could still survive with whatever I had in my hand luggage. I just had to be frugal enough in my spending, and only spend on cheap food for the next few days (I did find bread and IndoMie for dinner) and I just had to be diligent enough to wash my clothes frequently and use  the hairdryer. There was one point when I came to the conclusion that, “Yup, even if the airport service never found my luggage, I will adjust to this just fine. I just had  to put in more effort, that’s all. But I can do this.” (I was surprised that I could think this way. Previously, it would take much longer for me to snap out of any disappointment and to feel okay about an undesirable situation, given my ruminating tendencies. Haha)

Not one hour after reaching that conclusion, I received an e-mail from the airport service that they had been successful in tracing my luggage. Alhamdulillah. Perhaps – I’d like to believe – that Allah wanted to teach me a lesson about dealing with delays and interrupted plans in a calm manner. Perhaps He wanted me to learn how to make the best out of botched plans and still be okay about it. And having learned the lesson by coming to the conclusion that adjusting is not that hard, He returned my stuff back for me as a reward.

Alhamdulillah.

And here comes the snake to complete my #RanjauSepanjangJalan

On the day I arrived in Hong Kong, my brother-in-law went to my parents’ house to feed the cats because again, the automatic gate did not function and thus, the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could not enter the house. Before going to Hong Kong, I had passed over the job of dealing with the gate and feeding the cat to my brother-in-law (Alida’s husband).

While dealing with my luggage being lost at the airport, suddenly I received a Whatsapp message from my younger sister, Alida, telling me that her husband had found a snake on top of the cats’ cage. Oh my God.. I had just arrived in Hong Kong with a lost luggage, and now there was a snake posing a danger to the well-being of my beloved cats!

Could the day go any worse? I wondered to myself with a heavy chest.

Luckily, the snake did not yet had the opportunity to bite my two cats. Kuja and Ku-Ni removed themselves from their customary position at the top of the cage and stayed at the lower level of the cage. I have another cat named Ku-Shan but she was in another cage and was not in any immediate danger like Kuja and Ku-Ni were.

When I saw the picture of the snake lying on top of my cats’ cage, I felt my stomach drop. The snake was not exactly as big as a python but it was not small either! And I didn’t know what type of snake it was and whether or not it was a dangerous kind.

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I just told Alida to call abang Bomba because I really didn’t think it was safe for my borther-in-law to deal with the snake himself. At that time I was thinking…. wow… my CASC journey this time was filled with such tribulations from the very beginning, culminating in the appearance of a snake threatening my beloved cats. I had double whammy of worries to deal with simultaneously… lost baggage in a foreign country, limited amount of money to deal with the difficulties and the fear for the safety of my beloved cats. What else could go wrong? Hopefully, my exam will be something that goes right, I remember wishing. Please God, let this be the last #Ranjau, I had prayed hard. (But no, my dear readers.  It turned out that the tough exam was my last #Ranjau. Haha! Adeh.)

While telling my sisters in our siblings Whatsapp Group about my bad day, I joked with them that what I had been going through for the past few weeks reminded me of the novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan by Shahnon Ahmad. “In fact, there was even a plot involving a snake in that story,” I told them. They all concurred wholeheartedly.

And it was thus that the hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan was born in describing my CASC trials and tribulations.

 

***

After the exam, my friends and I were left dazed by the level of difficulties that we had encountered in the exam. We felt like some Asian actors in the CASC stations were not helpful and were withholding information despite us having asked plenty of open ended questions. We wondered whether their level of English was not sufficient to be able to provide us with a good answer when we asked for it during the exam. We noticed that the Caucasian actors were more helpful and forthcoming in giving information when we asked an open ended question. (Some of the candidates, including myself, had written a complaint about it to the college. We felt like the college should know about this so that it won’t happen again in the future. I will, Insya Allah, write about this in my next post. So stay tuned, yeah?).

We were quite worried about how our results would be. But what is done is done. It was time to hope for the best.

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Our worried face, after the exam

Right after the exam, we went sight-seeing at Aberdeen… not like there was anything much to see. It was just a fishing village, really. So, we simply went for a short boat ride, had our dinner and then went back to the hotel.

 

 

The next day, I went to Ocean Park which is a popular theme park in Hong Kong to reward myself after the crazy exam and to have a reason to shout on top of my lungs while riding the roller coaster. We wanted to go to Disneyland initially, but then we found out that there was probably going to be a riot there. So we had to cancel the plan. It was so sad because really, I have never been to Disneyland before. And I was so looking forward to it.

But again… I was getting better with change of plans these days. Hahah. So we improvised on the plan and went to the Ocean Park instead, which was also an enjoyable outing, Alhamdulillah.

 

I enjoyed the 20 minutes cable car ride.

 

I also enjoyed watching various species of sharks in the shark aquarium. I had never seen a shark before… so I told myself that this outing was also educational. Haha.

 

This one below was an insane ride. They turned us over 360 degrees up the sky. It was crazy fun! Greater thrill than the roller coaster! (By this time, you will probably know that I am a thrill junkie. Hahha. Which is quite weird considering that I am an introvert. But when I do decide to have fun, I REALLY do it! I just feel like, if I am not going to pass this exam, at least, I have had some fun out of my Hong Kong trip. LOL. Otherwise, it would truly be wasted money.)

 

I am glad that after all the misadventures and the #RanjauSepanjangJalan I had had, Allah gave me the happy ending that Shahnon Ahmad did not create for Lahuma and Jeha. Haha.

And for that, Your slave is forever grateful, Ya Rabb.

And to those who did not make it in CASC this time, Allah will give you your own happy ending one fine day. You will do well, next time. Keep practicing and pray hard for the best outcome. Do not give up. It is just a matter of time and you too will make it in the end, Insya Allah.

There will be times when you feel like nothing will go right and everything is always going wrong in your life. Hang on… pause for a minute. Exam is not everything, at the end of the day. It is great when you pass any exam. But not passing it is not the end of the world. There are OTHER aspects of your life that are equally important. And Allah certainly had taught me about that when I failed my first CASC attempt just a few months prior. So I do know what I am talking about. Some lessons must be learned the hard way… and it will make you a much better person, Insya Allah.

I do receive a lot of personal messages through Facebook asking me about MRCPsych and CASC. There were some personal messages from Master students too (not just in Psychiatry but in other fields as well). Some asked me practical questions about the exam which I always tried to reply when I had  time… but I did not always have the ability to reply to everyone. And I am sorry about that.

Some contacted me to ventilate about their difficulties and trials while pursuing their post-graduate studies and I myself could not help much because I did not know some of them who had contacted me through Facebook. I could not tailor my advice accordingly when I don’t know you. In psychiatry, there is no place for generic advice when dealing with contextual problems. And I regret that I really could not help much. Please seek professional help if you feel like you need support to go through your difficulties in life. I could not help you through Facebook, as much as I wanted to.

But know that whatever difficulties you had in your life, it will pass. You will learn a great life lessons out of it! It serves a purpose. Nothing that Allah does is random. Believe it!

So to those who are feeling hopeless while facing their difficulties, I created this post for you. I might not be able to respond to all of you personally, but I hope you can get some hope and motivation out of what I had written. I wish you would know that I had had my difficulties too and in the end, I made it by the grace of Allah.

I repeat, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending. So, bersangka baiklah with your Lord. And you will get what you expect from your Lord. I am not saying these things out of my own mind… but this is Allah’s words in hadis Qudsi.

Aku mengikut sangkaan hambaKu kepada Ku, Aku bersamanya (memberi rahmat dan membelanya) apabila dia mengingati Ku. Jika mereka megingati Ku dalam dirinya nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam diri Ku. Apabila mereka menyebut nama Ku dalam kumpulan nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam kumpulan yang lebih baik daripada mereka. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sejengkal, Aku mendekati mereka sehasta. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sehasta Aku mendekati mereka sedepa dan apabila mereka datang kepada KU dalam keadaan berjalan, Aku datang kepada mereka berlari’

(Hadith Bukhairi & Muslim)

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

Remembering The Grace Of Allah

I know. I know.

I know… that it has been more than 2 months since I last wrote in this humble blog of mine. For the countless times, I had broken my promise to write consistently, at least once per month. But, my dear readers… trust me…. I have some really good reasons for not blogging once per month as I had promised.

Reason No 1: My Macbook screen was cracked and broken a few days after I posted my last blog post in August. And I took my sweet time repairing my Macbook screen because the repair cost was too expensive for me, especially since I had just spent a lot of money to pay for my CASC exam. I just couldn’t afford to repair my Macbook screen just yet. (Very good reason, no?)

Reason No 2: Exam! (Enough said. LOL)

My CASC exam was held on the 18th of October 2019 in Hong Kong. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the hardest exam of my life. At the end of the exam I felt like crying bloody tears. There were 16 CASC stations altogether and we were allocated 7 minutes to perform the task in any particular station. My problem with CASC was that I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to perform the task to my heart satisfaction. So, there would be times when I covered enough depth… but not the range that was required to pass the task. That was what happened during my first CASC attempt. My study partners were always telling me “You tak payah tanya dah yang lain-lain tu. Cukup criteria for diagnosis, move on. Tak payah tanya everything. Banyak lagi nak tanya….past psychiatric history, family history, risk assessment, coping, drug and alcohol. Kalau tanya detail sangat, yang lain-lain tak sempat. ”

Okay, but that is my problem. I whiningly told my friends “Susahlah. Aku rasa tak puas kalau aku tak tanya bagi habis semua symptoms for that diagnosis even if symptoms yang aku dah dapat tu dah cukup untuk diagnose. Tapi mungkin dia ada more symptoms yang aku tak cover lagi, right?” I would still feel like I might have missed something. That was the OCPD part of me that was ugh!! really troublesome for me. I just didn’t have enough time to cover the task for each station to my heart satisfaction.

There was a time when I had to give myself a serious pep talk. “Afiza, this is not about your heart satisfaction. This is about the examiner’s satisfaction! Please get this into your head! Just because you have covered the depth that is required to make the diagnosis, you still wouldn’t pass if you didn’t cover the range of the marking scheme. Range and depth! Not depth alone! 7 minutes is all you have and you cannot be too detailed on just one thing. Prioritize! Come on!”

CASC is so different compared to Part A and Part B. In Part A and Part B, I could still indulge my OCPD-ness to a certain extent. For example, for each question in Part A and Part B… even if I already knew that the answer was E, in my head I would still go through my own method of reasoning regarding why A, B, C and D were not correct. I just had to check and double check each answer even when the correct answer was quite obvious already in the first glance. I did all that because… yup, I have some OCPD traits that just could not be ignored at times. LOL.

But CASC was a whole new ball game. I had to learn to think quickly and to not ruminate. I had to learn to cover just enough in depth and then quickly move on so that I could cover the breadth/range of the task. It took hard, intensive practice for me to overcome and suppress my obsessive tendency but Alhamdulillah… as the exam date was geting near, I was able to overcome the urge to dwell on one thing in too great a depth. But ah… it was hard. I am the ruminating type. When something doesn’t make sense or when a story just doesn’t have enough details to it, well… it bothered me. (Which kind of explains why even as a child, I had a lot of questions about anything that was taught to me especially in learning the religion. The same obsessive ruminating trait that was so bad in exam, was the same trait that allowed me to discover the beauty of having real faith and real conviction in my religion. Because I questioned stuff, I now understand Islam better and it was the best thing that could ever happen to me especially when I was in my early 20s. So yeah… I don’t always regret having this OCPD trait. But I must admit it can be troublesome in certain situations… such as in exams. LOL).

***

There was one time when I was so frustrated while studying for CASC that I felt like giving up. Seriously… CASC is the worst exam for many of us. The financial burden was huge! Some people had to borrow their parents’ money to take CASC exam one more time because they had already run out of all their savings courtesy of previous payments of past CASC attempts.

Some of the candidates were already consultants or specialists in their own countries… but they took this MRCPSYCH & CASC so that they could work in the UK. They were so much more senior than us…. what chance do we have in competing with these people?

There were also times when I felt angry at myself for not passing CASC the first time. Doctors are always hard on themselves when they don’t pass exams, you know. Because the experience of failure is so rare and far in between. Most doctors are top students their whole lives. When they got into medical school, then they realized that there were so many other people who were just as good and clever as them, if not better. Then they would feel overwhelmed by the competition. And if they actually fail, they would feel like the stupidest person on earth. Even though failing your professional exam is quite common, it is still a bitter experience for any doctor to have to undergo.

Alhamdulillah, Allah created me with an ability to self-motivate. I am a very optimistic person, in general. And for that, I thank my parents very much. My father always encouraged repeated efforts in order to gain success. The concept of putting in an effort was very prominent in my upbringing. “Kena usaha! Sampai dapat!”. And until now, I internalize that concept. And it is a very motivating concept. Because my dear readers, Allah sees your effort. And I believe it wholeheartedly and behave accordingly. I don’t believe that my effort guarantees anything. I just believe that effort is required to qualify for God’s help. And I need His help in everything that I do. And therefore I have to make myself qualified for His help. So I put in my effort, hoping it would be enough.

And it is true that it is in the remembrance of Allah that the heart finds rest. It is really difficult to feel bitter about not passing an exam when I know that Allah has blessed me in every other aspect of my life so mercifully… that it would be very stupidly ungrateful of me to indulge in endless self-pity. I was afraid that Allah would punish me for being an ungrateful slave. Very difficult to pity myself after that. LOL.

One of the ways I calm myself is by reading and writing, which is something that I am sure you guys already know about me. I love reading stories and seerah. I also love composing poems of religious themes because I think they are motivating, uplifting, always relevant…. well, Islamic poems are evergreen, no? Because Islam will always be relevant in our daily lives as Muslims.

So I wrote a poem to remind me to be a grateful slave of Allah. To always be mindful that I also have another test to pass. The test of patience and fortitude and the test of NOT despairing of Allah’s mercy. And the outcome of this test would only be revealed in the hereafter which makes it far more important to me than passing CASC would ever be in this world. It doesn’t even begin!! to compare!

So I moulded my thinking accordingly and asked Allah to forgive me. I wrote the poem below around 3 weeks before my CASC exam in order to gather my thoughts properly. It was the most therapeutic thing I had done in a long time. The title of my poem is Remember.

REMEMBER

Once upon a time,
I stretched my arms faithfully upward
Supplicating in silent soulful solitude
Hoping You would deign to look downward
And grant Your slave in prayer stood
All the wishes and dreams of her heart
to fly to heavens, a brand new start.

But the hand of fate was full of pain
Dreams of mine went down the drain
I wondered why my prayers were in vain
When You have the power to grant my gain.

Did I not to You faithfully worship?
That You had so forsaken me
Have I not for You a love so deep?
That You entirely shunned me
Have You withdrawn from me Your favour?
To bleed my heart all over.

But immediately I felt a twinge of shame
What You must think of me, I’d take the blame
As I imagined the response You exclaim
To this ungrateful slave that I became.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
When you prayed to me with outstretched hand
For things you thought I wouldn’t grant
Instead I bestowed you a better one
Gratefulness for Me you displayed scant.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Sins You committed I’d overlooked
Without you begging My pardon
Still your soul-cleansing I undertook
All that you lost I then returned.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
All the promises to Me that you broke
Hoping it would be of little concern
Still your heart purification I undertook
Your will and resolve I then hardened.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Good things happened you didn’t ask how
Glorious miracles you asked to allow
They happened without your bargaining vow
How could you forget all my blessings now?

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Did you suppose things happened in coincidence?
Did you not see the purpose in all happenstance?
Should everything go your way in every instance?
What do you suppose your reason of existence?

I remember now, Ya Ilahi,
And fervently I promise to do better
Pardon this slave, in need of Your favour
Forgive my sins past, present and future
Have mercy on my soul now till the hereafter
Only to You I place my worries, my fear
I accept Your decrees, doubts burst asunder
Whatever transpires, to My Lord I surrender.

-Afiza Azmee-
29/09/2019
6.00 pm

***

Dear readers,

Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, has bestowed upon me his blessing once again.

Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. A wave of happiness and gratitude filled my heart so overwhelmingly that my eyes teared up as I informed my parents the happy news. That I have passed my CASC exam.

I imagine that once upon a time when Allah had created the story of my life in the Luh Mahfuz, He had probably written “Today, Afiza will be filled with happiness for passing her CASC exam.”

Alhamdulillah, Ya Rabb.

 

 

 

 

Playing Verbal Fluency Game With My Nephew (And I Lost)

Salam Ramadhan guys,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a blessed and productive Ramadhan. Just hang on for a moment while I wipe away and clear out all these dust and cobwebs in my website. 😛 Been awhile since I last clean up around here. Adeh!

Gosh…. it’s been quite some time since I last update my blog. I have been super busy with studying. I always promise myself that I will write in my blog AT LEAST once a month. Just because writing is therapeutic for me. And because I want to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by exercising my mind in a mental gymnasium of creative written expression. Haha. But obviously, I have failed to write anything in the month of April. So here I am… planning to make it up by promising myself to write 2 entries in the month of May. Hopefully, I won’t break this promise too. (Gosh, I need to step up!)

My exam is next week, peeps!  I have come to the stage of tawakkal already. I have accepted that I will never be able to cover everything and I am gonna forget stuff. I am just human, after all. I accept that we can only try our best and the rest is in Allah’s hands. I will try not to be so neurotic towards the end of my exam preparation, ehem! Just ‘enjoy’ the exam , right? (Yeah, right. Haha. I am not THAT positive, yet. I can NEVER enjoy exams, darn it! ) 

Please pray for me, folks. I need all the prayers and good wishes I can get. And the best part of this is, we are in the blessed month of Ramadhan…so hopefully, all of our prayers will be granted by Allah. I remember how I took my final high school exam (SPM, of course) in the month of Ramadhan too. And Alhamdulillah, me and most of my friends got straight As for it. So, I hope I can repeat the same feat for my final specialist CASC exam in this Ramadhan too. (But I have come to know that the passing rate for CASC exam is only 50%. So, there is only 1 in 2 chance that I can make it. Oh, is there a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? LOL.)

Well, we have to do what we have to do, don’t we?

But whatever the outcome is, I will accept it, move on and act accordingly. I can always take it another time if I can’t make it this time. That takes the pressure off my shoulder somewhat. (But, ah… if only money grow out of trees, I will be one heck of an avid gardener. LOL. This exam cost me almost RM11,000 in exam fees and preparation course. And that is excluding my flight ticket and accommodation. *sigh*)

Such is life, folks. Not everything is a bed of roses. Even roses have thorns. We take risks, face the consequence, move on and persevere. Well, life is like that. Like riding a bicycle, people say. You can’t keep your balance if you don’t keep moving (well, unless it is an exercise bike… which is stationary anyway. In which case, the purpose of moving is to lose weight rather than to keep your balance. Which reminds me, that I haven’t exercised for awhile now. *sigh*)

And that is why, ready or not, I must take this exam. Keep on moving. Maintain my balance.

 

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While revising my academic materials, I was reminded of how I had played ‘verbal fluency’ game with my nephew one year ago. (To those who don’t know, verbal fluency is one of the cognitive test administered for frontal lobe assessment in the clinic). I laughed in the middle of studying this part of cognitive exam because I remember how I had lost to my 6 year old nephew in this verbal fluency game.

Guys, ageing is real! I lost to my 6 year old nephew that day, you know! God, the horror of it! Of course, to Eshan, I had said, “I only pretend to lose to make you happy,”

Of course, he didn’t believe me. Haha .

So please play this game with your family members as a form of mental exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s, ok! This is one of my favourite games to play with my nephews and nieces (because I am too afraid to play Scrabble or Chess with them… the shame will be too great if they defeat me in those too. Haha. Eshan and Aayra are making me feel my age so acutely. Seriously, guys… not even kidding.)

 

 

In that video, all of us were wearing purple for the wedding of my younger sister. We were all exhausted after entertaining all the guests and the kids were bored, so we decided to play this game while waiting for our Asar prayer. Yup, we left our parents in the ceremony hall to entertain the guests themselves. *walk of shame* #IKNowIamBad 

My parents were pseudo-cool about it…. they didn’t mind me and my siblings’ disappearance act a’la Houdini in the middle of a wedding. LOL. They are so used to it and have become habituated to their children’s lack of social skills. We always avoid socializing more than the absolute necessary amount. Haha. (But they did say, “Nanti korang juga tak kenal saudara-mara. Asyik tak mau sembang dengan orang.” Hahha. But then… I blame my father’s genetic. He is even worse than me when it comes to small talk. My mom is the only one who is good at it in our family.)  I didn’t even know most of the guests anyway. And making small talk with people I don’t know is one of the things that I dread. Not that I have social phobia or anything like that… hahah. I just don’t like crowds and noise too much.

And verbal fluency game is more fun anyway! LOL.

 

Notice how I went blank a couple of times and Eshan just couldn’t wait to count to ten as fast as possible so that he could win. Hahah. He is more competitive than my Kak Long ever was.

In the second video, even Aayra (my 5 year old niece) was helping me. Oh, the shame. (What was wrong with my frontal lobe, guys?!)

I swear, after exam is over, I am going to time myself for 1 minute and practice coming up with as much words as possible so that I can beat them in the next battle. Practice makes perfect, right? Raya is coming soon and they are gonna ‘balik kampung’ to my parents’ house…. so we can have the next battle during Raya. We will call it Aidilfitri Verbal Fluency Contest, si? #AndJustWaitEshan #MakNgahWillMakeAComeback #MakNgahWillDefeatYou 

For the record, I know what bison and walrus are (I know how they look like in the kids dictionary hahha), I just don’t know what they are called in Malay (excuses, excuses LOL) But ah… I have such a smart nephew and niece. I have to step up my game and be careful not to lose to them in the future. Adeh!

One day, I am gonna organize a verbal fluency test in Malay….. Eshan and Aayra will not defeat me in that one. Because my Malay is better than theirs (I hope!)

***

I leave you guys with a reminder (especially for myself) to enjoy this Ramadhan and make the best of this month with prayers and excellent good deeds (exams not withstanding). May Allah strengthen our faith and make us among the righteous in the hereafter. Amin.

Until next time. Much love and May Allah bless all of us.

MRCPSYCH, The Road Less Traveled

A few days ago, a couple of medical graduates who are currently waiting for their housemanship posting had asked me to brief them about the MRCPSYCH program and how it compares with the Master program.

In my conversation with them, I addressed a lot of issues regarding the specialty training in Malaysia and the issues surrounding our training. The stigma, the challenges, the difficulties, the hard work.

This post is inspired by my interaction with them.

***

The thing is, my behaviour has always been consistent. I have always spoken up about the same kind of issue, over and over again. 

I don’t agree for anyone to persecute a whole group just because they are ignorant or biased in their views. I don’t agree for anyone to persecute a whole group out of a mistake done by a few people in that group. I don’t agree for anyone to badmouth a whole group for incompetencies committed by some in that group. Because racism and Assobiyah is a sin in my religion!

If we are Muslims, we surely can relate. When Bali bombing happened in 2005, many Muslims in Australia felt the heat. Islamophobia and hate-related crimes increased. It was not surprising to encounter some rednecks shouting at us “Go back to your country, you turban-head!”

My experience in Australia shaped me so much, to the point that I have perfected a very sharp vision of how not to overgeneralize a whole group for some idiotic things committed by some of the people in that group.

***

When I was a HO, I felt so angry when I heard some of the consultants in the hospital talked badly about Russian grads or Indonesian grads or Ukraine grads. I was an Australian grad, and therefore I was spared the stigma. But even then, it was said “Overseas grad are not as good as local grads. They are not good at setting brannulas. They are not exposed to procedures as much!” Pffft! But one month into your first posting, ANY HO can set the brannula regardless of where they grad! One month into medical posting, ANYONE can do procedures for Peritoneal Dialysis and short lines and long lines. So, what exactly is the big deal here?

So when I was a junior MO, I wrote a long blog post defending the Russian grad. (It can be read H.E.R.E.) I wrote that, contrary to people’s belief about the Russian grads (that Russian grads had achieved bad SPM results and should not have been qualified to go to a medical school) those who were government-sponsored to Russia were actually the cream of the cream in our SPM batch. They went to Russia based on their trial results! It was the government policy AT THAT TIME, to send brilliant people to Russia. I went to Australia based on my SPM result… not my trial! So these government-sponsored Russian grads were actually excellent students.

A lot of the Russian grads (some of them my friends) had widely shared the post. It became viral in no time. I was quite surprised.

And now, we have had many specialists and even consultants in various fields who were Russian grads. In fact, there are still many MOs who are currently doing their master training who are Russian graduates and they are just as good as the local grads or the UK/Ireland/Australia/NZ grads.

See? All your skepticism and your ‘budget bagus’ statement and yes, your arrogance!! have been proven wrong! Any incompetency, attitude problem or lack-of-knowledge in a Russian grad, they are personal to that particular person! You are not being fair when you overgeneralize the whole group! Yes, you had PERSECUTED the whole group just because they were weak and disadvantaged

When there were so MUCH brouhaha about how HOs in the shift system would never be as good as us who were doing our housemanship in the on-call system, I had been very consistent in defending the HOs in the shift system! Even though I was a HO during the on-call system, I NEVER act like I have a crystal ball to see the future and automatically KNOW that none of them will be just as good as me.  I defended the shift system many times! Because I don’t,  and NEVER WILL condone anyone to persecute a whole group or a whole system for any mistake or attitude issues done by some people in that group or in that system! How can you be so small-minded and so certain that the whole group in that system will never be a good doctor just because they have a different training than you! I have many friends doing internship in Australia, UK, New Zealand and Ireland… all of them are good doctors now even though the shift system is implemented there. In fact, the irony is, we send our undergrads to learn to become a doctor in those countries who have been doing the shift system for decades! And then we have the cheek to bash the shift system?!

In my department now, we already have MOs who did their housemanship when the shift system was already implemented. And they are just as great a doctor like the rest of us seniors! In fact, banyak lagi senior yang baloq liat compared to them! Again, all your ‘budget bagus’ statement that this shift-system will produce bad MOs have been proven wrong! Any bad MOs prevalent in the environment stems from their own personal issue and again, it is ridiculous to persecute a whole group based on mistakes done by some in that group!

***

External Pathway Vs Master Pathway

There have even been a lot of ‘budget hebat, aku paling terer’ statement when it comes to bragging about systems in specialty training.

Nowadays, there are already many specialists and consultants who were the product of MRCP, and thus they received less criticism than us MRCPSYCH. But still, you can hear people saying things like “MRCP is not as good as master”.

But the reality is, there are NOW many consultants who are the products of MRCP, some of them are cardiologist, respiratory physician and gastroenterologist ALL OVER THE WORLD. When you say they are not as good as the physicians in the Master pathway, what exactly do you mean? On what basis do you say that? Is the Master qualification recognized all over the world outside Malaysia like MRCP? No! Do you have an objective scale in which to measure how better the Master pathway is compared to the MRCP? No! Or are you just giving an emotional statement just because you disagree with the MRCP physician’s management? Or maybe you have had an inter-departmental issue or disagreement that would have existed anyway regardless of whether the physician is an MRCP product or a Master product?

This is what is happening with MRCPSYCH too. Unlike MRCP, we are only just recognized in Malaysia around 2013/2014. So everyone is having an adjustment disorder about the whole thing. And of course the most logical thing to do – in their opinion – is to bash the MRCPSYCH system and comparing them with the master system in an unfavourable manner, despite the fact that the MRCPSYCH system is recognized the whole world over!

Now, my question is, how sure are you that MRCPSYCH system which is world-recognized will never produce good psychiatrist like the master system? Do you perhaps use a better and different book than us? Do you use special Malaysian-made books that cater specifically to Malaysians psychiatric diseases? (Or do you, in fact, use UK-based books and some of our MRCPSYCH notes too, hmm?) Do you perhaps have a larger amount of greater professors and lecturers compared to the rest of the world? Do you read different journals than us? Or do the people doing the master pathway are somehow less forgetful, more diligent, more up-to-date in anything compared to the MRCPSYCH students? I mean, WHAT?

Oh yeah… maybe the master students were more ehem, GUIDED by lecturers compared to us who were so-called ‘study sendiri-sendiri.’ But then I have checked with several master students too… not just in psychiatry but also in other fields…. they were always told “La ni kita adult learning ya. Bukan semua kena spoon feed. Kena belajar sendiri and tahu apa nak belajar.”

Hahah. So what is the difference, then? Kau belajar sendiri, aku pun belajar sendiri! And nowadays, how many percentage of your time are spent at the uni, especially if you are an out-campus student and also doing various rotations all over KKM facilities? The same KKM facilities that we the MRCPSYCH students use!

Oh yeah… master students have to do thesis! MRCPSYCH tak payah.

So what? I am not going to be a researcher. I am going to be a clinician! You choose master, you deal with YOUR requirement. I choose MRCPSYCH, I deal with MY requirement and the requirement set up by KKM. I pay using my own money to train in MRCPSYCH pathway. If you want MY requirement to be the same as YOURS, then maybe the amount of financial support by the government to MRCPSYCH candidates should be the same too. Everything should be the same then! Tak payah nak buat two different pathways if you guys are so KIASU to question why MRCPSYCH candidates don’t have to do any thesis. My question is, why didn’t you choose MRCPSYCH if you had cared so much regarding how we don’t have to do any thesis? Does doing the Master thesis help you being a better clinician? How much difference does it make? I want to know. And if you think doing this thesis makes you into a MUCH BETTER clinician than the MRCPSYCH candidates, then you shouldn’t feel so bad that you get to do it. Shouldn’t you want what is best for your adult learning despite what other people are doing in another pathway? 

One last point about doing thesis! It would be UNFAIR and VERY UNJUST for anyone to suggest that the MRCPSYCH candidates should do a thesis, just like the Master candidates. When you are doing a master program…. OF COURSE you have to do a thesis! All master students in OTHER FIELDS also have to do a thesis to be eligible to get a MASTER DEGREE! That’s why nama benda ni MASTER PROGRAM! Whereas, MRCPSYCH is a MEMBERSHIP program! We don’t get a MASTER degree despite the fact that our syllabus are the same with the master program. If we ever want to pursue a PhD in the future, we have to get a master degree first before we can do a Phd! But for you guys who are already doing the MASTER Degree, if ever one day you want to do a PhD, you can straight away do it because you already have a Master Degree! Get it? Faham tak beza Master dengan membership program? Semua Master degree kena buat thesis, regardless of their fields… faham tak? How is that FAIR and JUST for you to suggest for us to do a thesis when we are PAYING OUR OWN WAY for an exclusive world-recognized membership program and NOT for a master degree? Semua nak sama rata… tiba-tiba at the end of the day, korang dapat master degree tapi kami pula dapat membership of Royal College of Psychiatrist? Nak sama rata celah mana?? (Gosh, aku  tak faham how some people utilize their minds! So weird how they want everything to be fair … as long as in the end, it STILL favours them!)

So, if you are a smart person who JUST KNEW DEEP IN YOUR HEART that you don’t want to do a PhD in the future and you don’t want to become a lecturer or a researcher and you just want to be a CLINICIAN, you would have chosen the MRCPSYCH program! Simple decision making, isn’t it? Tapi kalau kau nak jadi CLINICIAN tapi nak juga ambil Master Degree, that’s YOUR choice! Mungkin kau rasa Master Degree lebih hebat, lebih seronok, lebih banyak pengalaman…. for whatever reason… that is YOUR choice! Jangan nak suruh kami pun nak kena buat thesis! Siapa suruh kau pilih Master?? Lepas tu nak jealous dengan kami pula? Kemudian at the end of the day kita sama-sama buat thesis, tapi kau dapat Master Degree, kami dapat Membership! Banyak cantik! Fair sangat lah tu? How biased is that!

In many parts of the world, most doctors only do a Membership program rather than a Master program because as a doctor and a clinician, that is already ENOUGH. Malaysia should have its own Membership Program for post-graduate training without having to go through the Master system. Maybe this is something we should start looking into! UK has it (RCPsych UK), Ireland has it (RCPsych Ireland). In Australia and New Zealand, they have a regional membership program called The Royal College Of Australia and New Zealand and their candidates also don’t have to do any thesis! Semua orang yang buat membership program, memang tak payah buat thesis! Faham tak? Please get this into your head.

If we have our own local membership program, only then it is fair for you to do some comparison between MRCPSYCH and the local membership program. Candidates can even decide to do BOTH the local membership program as well as the MRCPSYCH program just to get an extra international recognition. (Maybe we can set up a Royal College of Psychiatrist of Malaysia? Or maybe we can collaborate with regional countries and make it into an ASEAN College of Psychiatrist or something. Tak payah dah KKM nak bayar duit kepada universiti untuk train specialists! Besides, most of  the KKM facilities are being used for master training, anyway kan?) Let’s just keep the master program for those who want to become trainee lecturers. Of course trainee lecturers have to do a Master program (and therefore a thesis) if they want to become a lecturer or a researcher or an academician.

Look, at the end of the day, all of us have a choice! We choose according to our own views about what is beneficial for us and how it would fit our commitment and lifestyle. You had a choice too. Once you have made your choice, you really should stop questioning regarding how greener the other side is.

And before I forget, please remember that people who live in a glass house shouldn’t be too quick to cast stones.  The Master system is also very vulnerable to criticism. At least, I TRUST the integrity of the MRCPSYCH pathway. I mean, we NEVER heard any incidence of someone getting hold of leaked questions. We NEVER heard other candidates complaining about how they were disadvantaged because  they did not know about the leaked questions until after the exam… because that kind of thing just does not happen. There is a reason why MRCPSYCH is world-recognized. Because we adhere to a very strict exam guidelines standard and  procedures. Can we say the same about the Master system? Think about it before you say anything disparaging about another system. There are good and weak points in BOTH systems. You are welcome to point out the weakness in my system, but you too must be ready to hear your weakness being pointed out in return. Fair, ok?

***

Now, let me be very clear why I chose MRCPSYCH over Master.

It does not have much to do with the fact that MRCPSYCH is recognized all over the world, even though that is a really good aspect of doing MRCPSYCH! I don’t think that having a world-standard recognition automatically makes MRCPSYCH better than the master system (yup, unlike some people, I don’t feel the need to belittle other system. I think belittling others is a sign of insecurity! But if you belittle mine FIRST, I will certainly retaliate. So jangan nak jolok sarang tebuan unless you are prepared to be stung. Because I will sting you!) Like I said, we use the same books, the same syllabus, the same DSM-5 and the same ICD-10. MRCPSYCH is not better than the master system or vice versa. Please be CLEAR on this!

The reason I chose MRCPSYCH is because I am already used to the freedom and the ‘adult learning’ in the western system! I am free to explore knowledge and form my own opinion without having to navigate politics in the uni. I don’t like those things! I am very outspoken too. I don’t think I can tolerate the Malaysian mentality that outspoken-ness is equal to arrogance (Not all Malaysians are like this, and not all workplace have mentality like this. Even my workplace is generally nice and supportive. I need to put this disclaimer so that no one ends up with their feelings unnecessarily hurt).

I avoid any type of environment that would try to regulate or institutionalize my thinking and my ability to speak up about anything that is wrong or unjust. That is THE ONLY REAL reason I chose MRCPSYCH over Master.

I have heard some disturbing stories about the master system (not necessarily in psychiatry but in other fields as well. I don’t think this is the norm in the master system… but it can and does happen). My friend had told me regarding one student who was quite outspoken regarding her dissatisfaction in the master system, and because of that, she was barred from taking an exam. I asked my friend “Perhaps, she has an attitude problem? Was she always late or did not perform her responsibility well? Was she MIA? Maybe she didn’t finish her assignment?”

My friend said, “No, she was just more vocal about what she found wrong about the master system. So she made a few enemies. She had no knowledge issues. When she takes her exam in the next sem, she passed with just one attempt… she is quite intelligent actually.”

I was bewildered by that story. How can you bar someone from taking an exam just because she speaks up against the system? How dare you! I told my friend “Kalau aku kat tempat kawan kau, I will sue the uni! And I will send complaint letters to many people in KKM! See me in court!”

My friend laughed, “Lagi teruk dia kena nanti. Kami semua ‘yes boss’ ja la,”

There was also another story regarding how ‘adult’ the learning really is. You just did everything and you had to pay for it too. “Kami yang organize kursus. Kami yang dok organize lecturer mana nak bagi talk. Kami yang kena jadi MC, kami yang kena jadi usher… tapi kami pun kena bayar RM500 untuk kursus tu, Padahal kami yang organize. Ramai orang tak puas hati… tapi senyap jalah.”

Wow… how, ehem, unique is that arrangement? In the Western country, the trainees would have raised hell if they are treated that way! Instead of barring the students from having exams, they would be scrambling around doing damage control to their reputation. When you pay for something, you are the service-user or the participant of that course! Somebody else should be organizing it! Not you… who had PAID for it! There is an emphasis for getting the value of your money when you are doing any transaction in the Western country! That is just a simple concept of fair dealing!

***

screenshot 2019-01-17 12.25.49
My Facebook Status on October 12, the day when  Dato’ Azman came to HSB for a session with MOs.

Another issue in the Master system is regarding what happens if you want to quit your master program. I had raised this issue myself when Dato Azman came to HSB even though this has nothing to do with me and more relevant to the master students (So jangan ingat aku asyik tulis saja. Bila ada peluang nak cakap dengan orang atasan, I do it, okay! I just need to feel annoyed enough and then I can REALLY speak.) And Dato Azman was quite nice in listening to all the issues I had raised. I applaud his patience in giving us, the MOs, a fair and transparent platform to speak up.

Another friend of mine who was doing a master program in another field had told me that if she wants to quit her master program, she has to pay RM250,000 to the government.  I was aghast!

“Takkan sampai RM 250,000 kau spend untuk belajar kat uni for these few years?!”

My friend told me, “Dia cakap sebab kita ambil tempat orang lain. So dia nak penalize kita dengan RM250,000 tu. Padahal satu semester RM 8000 saja. Kalau lapan semester baru 64,000.”

I shook my head in disbelief. RM64,000 vs RM 250,000. That is almost QUADRUPLE the amount that you actually used to do your master. How can they justify penalising people QUADRUPLE the actual amount of money used? In my head, I went “This is even worse than usury! Riba kot! Even worse than hutang dengan Along! Just because the master pathway had the MONOPOLY in the business of specialty training, it doesn’t make it right for them to impose unjust deals and rules!” (That is why monopoly is bad in any sector. It encourages unethical abuse of power and the consumers have no rooms for negotiations of their rights because they have NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE!)

So on the day of the meeting with Dato’ Azman, I went down to where the mic was and I said, “Many people are interested in  the master program. But you made it so unattractive to us with oppressive deals. When I am doing MRCPSYCH, I know what I would be getting for everything that I have paid. When I pay RM1300, I get the course notes. If I want to join online classes/tutorials, I can pay for it and I get classes/ tutorials. When I want to do mock exams, I pay for it and I get to do mock exams. When I want to do my actual exam, I pay for it and I get my exam. If I fail the exam, I just need to fork out MORE MONEY to pay for another attempt and I will get another attempt. There is no ‘penalty’ whatsoever. The system is so much more transparent, money-wise. I get what I pay for and I KNOW what I am paying for! No one feel cheated or short-changed! So…how can we justify QUADRUPLING the amount of the actual money used just for the sake of penalty?”

Seriously, I was quite outspoken in that meeting. I mean, think about it! Why don’t you penalize the person by asking her to pay another RM64,000 on top of what the person already owed the government? Which means, get the person to pay RM128,000 (RM 64,000 for her own study + RM 64,000 Penalty for the place of others that she had taken = RM 128,000)  That is more reasonable, isn’t it? (but still unfair. In contrast with the MRCPSYCH system, you only pay for what you want or for what you use. It is fair and transparent!)

We call ourselves as Muslims and Malaysia is a so-called Muslim country! And yet in ANY ‘urusan Muammalat’, the Western non-muslims are more fair and more just and more transparent in all their dealings and transactions! That is the truth! And that’s why when I see intelligent, fair-minded Muslims, my heart softens towards them because they remind me of Australia, the place where I had learned to become more mild-mannered after I was impressed by their intellect and their patience and their fair dealings. In their system, they are MUCH MORE Islamic than us! (Bila balik Malaysia, my disposition has suffered a relapse. Hahah. Hopefully, with the new PH government, the environment in our institutions will change accordingly and my manner will become mild again. LOL)

I told Dato Azman, “I am actually doing the external pathway… but I am just speaking up on behalf of my master student friends scattered all across the fields. What is the RM250,000 money for? They learned mostly by themselves just like us in the external pathway… what is the money paid for then?”

Dato Azman raised his eyebrows “They learned by themselves?” He sounded surprised. And Thank God, there were a few MOs (I didn’t know which of them in the audience) had shouted yes! (Hahha. Thanks guys, whoever you guys are, for the support! I needed it at that time! You guys rock!)

I went on to say, “When we were doing our undergrad study, RM250,000 might be a somewhat justified amount for us to pay back. We got a lot of lectures every week, we got tutorials, we got quizzes every month! We could roughly see where the huge amount of money was spent! But with ‘adult learning’, I do not understand what is the RM250,000 penalty for.”

Dato’ Azman had noted what I had said and he said he would think about it and look into it. I hope, he really does. He also gave his email address and he said we are welcome to write to him directly for any issue. He was quite nice actually despite having to hear a lot of issues and complaints by many MOs that afternoon. Some MRCP candidates had also spoken up and supported what I said regarding our issues in the external pathway. MRCP candidates and the MRCPSYCH candidates kind of conquered the mic that afternoon. Hahaha.  But Kudos to Dato’ Azman for remaining calm. (Actually there were so many other issues I had gone to the mic for but not all of them are relevant to this post. Aku antara orang yang paling kerap guna microphone on that day. And seriously, Dato’ Azman was very patient in handling my questions. Tabik spring!).

I think, this is what leadership is about. Listen and respond.

The era of autocracy is outdated and should have been long gone! Dialogue is in! When someone criticizes your system, you don’t bar them from exams! Instead, you engage them in an intellectual discourse and settle your differences. You remain objective and fair towards them. Be matured! We are all adults here! But once you use autocracy in a cruel and unjust manner, you will one day encounter a student who may fight you back and will never stop fighting until she/he wins against the system! The probability is such that when you use the same method over and over again ENOUGH TIMES, one day you will encounter an EXCEPTION to the norm. When that time comes, you would wish you have never used autocracy against the student and had used intellectual discourse instead. Because trust me, some students may have the courage to fight you all the way to the court. Just imagine the kind of damage it would do to the reputation of the system. It is already happening in housemanship  and now our housemanship training has gotten a terrrible name already. So, please use the method of engagement rather than autocracy in anything you do. Because in this generation, the current maxim is “Be fair or Beware”.

***

Some people had also said “Bila ada external pathway ni, kita tak boleh nak control who are the candidates that become our future psychiatrists. Who knows…orang tu ada attitude problem ke… mungkin diorang tak sesuai nak jadi psychiatrist. Kalau dalam master program, kita boleh stop dia jadi psychiatrist from the very beginning kalau kita rasa dia  tak sesuai.”

Wow…. this is SO Malaysian! Do you think NONE of the master graduates had ever had any attitude problem? I can name a few, too! But do I go around saying “See? What kind of bad psychiatrists the master program is producing? And look at the products of master program in other specialties! Some of them molested HOs. Wow… such a splendid ‘attitude screening system’ you have in the master program, huh?And with those who didn’t molest HOs, they simply remained silent out of sheer selfishness and cowardice! What kind of specialists are the master program producing!? Look at how institutionalized their thinking is that they would ignore any wrongdoing just because it comes from someone of a higher hierarchy than them… perhaps because they are so used to it in the master system. Asyik senyum and cakap, ‘yes boss’ or ‘yes, prof” all the time!” Did I say any of that? Ada ke aku keluarkan kata-kata overgeneralization macam tu? Ada aku generalize semua master products as cowards based on that notorious incident? Tak, kan?! Because I am fair in my thinking and my judgment! I don’t over generalize people. In psychiatry, over-generalization is a cognitive distortion, ok? 

Should there be any issues with the attitude of your future specialists, you deal with them when they come along! Just like in anything in the world, you intervene when there are issues! You shouldn’t PRE-EMPTIVELY discriminate the whole group with your snide remarks based on your bigoted, discriminatory unfounded fears! But now, what  we did was the EXACT OPPOSITE! (klasik perangai orang Malaysia! Suka buat benda tak logik!) When there are serious issues with your specialists, you remain quiet and silent because you “nak jaga nama jabatan!”. Bila specialist dah ada isu, kita pula pi buat senyap! Sampai HO pun boleh kena molest for MANY YEARS! (Tapi ada hati nak condemn the external pathway sebab kita tak boleh nak, ehem, ‘pre-emptively screen their attitude’! Wow! Amazing reasoning! Boleh tak kalau ada isu, deal with it then and there?! It is a more logical approach, isn’t it? Tak payah nak kalut risau pasal the future, sedangkan benda yang kita boleh intervene STAT, kita tergamak buat senyap for MANY YEARS! What is that?! How dodgy is our priority!)

If an MRCPSYCH candidate does not perform well in the department, you can talk directly to the candidate and tell the person to improve. The candidate’s particular issues should not be generalized to the whole system! If a specialist asks an MRCPSYCH candiate something that she/he doesn’t know… maybe it is the candidate’s personal lack-of-knowledge and incompetency issues. It doesn’t mean the whole MRCPSYCH candidates are not good. Likewise, I have seen quite a few Master candidates who are not that good… some of them are already a specialist and they can still be confused about certain aspects of patient management. To me, that is just human! I do not generalize that to the whole Master program, do I? We read, we take exams, and then we have a tendency to forget a large chunk of it! That’s why we have CMEs! So that we can refresh our knowledge, get it?

So, when you come up with a statement, please be fair! You might get away with it when your audience are not as out-spoken as me or if they always feel the need to kowtow to people and please the authority. But I am not like that. That is just my personality.

personality

I reiterate that I am not bashing the master system. I  think they produce very good psychiatrists, in general. But my personality, my principle against unjust contract, my aversion to oppression, and my personal inclination, had made me choose the external pathway, instead! It is MY personal choice. And you can openly judge me for it… don’t worry, I will just argue against your points. If you can openly judge my choice, I can openly judge your choice too! It will be fun! But if I speak and answer you back in a way that might hurt your feelings, don’t think I am arrogant. You had it coming. And I am the sort of person who fight ALL THE WAY once I am angry enough!

I have always spoken up against the persecution of any underdog. My behaviour is CONSISTENT. If MRCPSYCH is considered the underdog program, heck, I don’t mind speaking up about it. I have spoken up (written up) for others before… and so, believe me, I have no problems speaking up or writing up for myself.

I will continue to do it until MRCPSYCH is as established as MRCP and any issue will then become redundant background noise! 

***

“Don’t worry, Afiza. Kalau depa dok buat payah, kita pi ja la kat Singapore ke Brunei ke…UK pun boleh. Terus jadi orang sana. Gaji pun lagi banyak. System pun lagi bagus.” Said my friend.

That is true. But it will be sad for Malaysia isn’t it? I understand now how the ‘brain drain’ phenomena befalls Malaysia. People get upset by some bureaucratic red tape and they just pack up and leave! And Thank God, that option is always available for MRCPSYCH candidate

Yup…. with MRCPSYCH, I retain my freedom. Free to speak up. Free to move out. Free to address my concerns and the concerns of my colleagues. I will not exchange that freedom for anything in the world. And if people ask me why I choose MRCPSYCH, this is why!

If you have different values than me, you do you! Live and let live! But if you try to belittle my pathway in front of me just because we have different priorities in life and different lifestyles, get ready for my rebuttals. Because I will give them! This is my promise!

Disclaimer:

This is my personal blog and my personal opinion on Malaysian specialty training. It does not reflect the opinion of anyone in KKM or in my department. Please also refer to my blog disclaimer on the bottom right side of the page. My blog has been around since 2009 and it has always been dedicated to me recording about my life as a medical student then, and my life as a doctor now. I have always been very outspoken about things even when I was a houseman. My blog is a place for sharing of life experiences, life-philosophy, world-view and opinions as well as for advocacy of the causes I believe in. So, if you disagree with me, I encourage you to have your own blog and advocate for your own point of view. I also encourage you to leave a comment if you disagree with me and we can debate the matter. This is a free country that respects the rule-of-law since Pakatan Harapan won the General Election last year. Which means, everyone can have their own point of view and advocate for what they believe in. Any assumption, presumption, speculation or hurt feelings that result from what I had written are the responsibility of the readers themselves and they are accountable for it in its entirety. 

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!

For A Happy Life, Make Life Decisions Based On Your Cardinal Trait

I was asked for tips regarding how to pass MRCPsych Part A at one shot.

The truth is, I don’t really have any tips. I can only tell them what I did (mainly doing a lot of questions and covering 80% of Stahl’s Psychopharmacology). But how would I know whether any of the things I did were REALLY what made me pass? I have mentioned before that I passed by the mercy and grace of Allah. Even after the exam, I wasn’t able to tell for sure whether I was able to make it.

So my tips would really be worthless. Because some people didn’t do what I did, and they still passed. And some people did more than I did and they still did not pass. So, you can ask me and I will tell you what I did but don’t blame me if it doesn’t work. Hahah.

To me the most important thing is to KNOW YOURSELF. You have to know your weakness and your strength, your style of studying and revising, whether you can deal with last minutes cramming or you are the steady and constant type, whether you are good at memorizing without having to understand or whether you must understand before you can memorize, whether you can study in noise or whether you need peace and solitude, whether you can deal with distractions or whether you need to shut yourself off somewhere to focus.

Once you know all that, you can start planning to study in your own way and style. Never let anyone tell you or influence you to do what they think is best. No one KNOWS you better than you know yourself.

I know I don’t like distractions, even minor ones, when I am deeply enmeshed and engrossed in certain stuff. When I am focused in certain things, I can shut myself off in my house for days and weeks and not contact anyone and just do my thing. Any attempt to contact me would be rebuffed and rejected.

When I was preparing for my exam study, some specialists suggested to me that I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my annual leaves for study time. Instead, I should just come to work as usual  (punch in and punch out to record my attendance) and just be around the clinic without having to do any clinical work. They said that they would allow me the time to study in the clinic, but I must ‘be around the clinic’ instead of at home. Even if I am not doing any clinical work, I must be around, they said. 

I thought that was ridiculous of the admin, by the way! Why should I come at all if you don’t expect me to work? If you only want me to come to work to be around while I am studying, why can’t you allow me to study at home? How come other master students can take unrecorded leaves without having to be around at all? That’s just unfair to me and Dr. T! Until now, whenever I think about how many years I have covered for everyone’s unrecorded leaves… but when it comes to my turn, you guys create so many administrative issues to deny me the SAME privilege that others have enjoyed before me… when I think about that, I become angry all over again. Me and Dr. T got over our anger eventually but damn, it was hard! Hahha. I still feel angry on and off. Which goes to show that I don’t get over things involving fairness and justice easily. I will always remember stuff like that. I might not show my dissatisfaction anymore, but I will always remember it. That’s just how I am. 

I decided that, “Fine, I didn’t need the unrecorded leaves that you so begrudged!” I could use my annual leaves because I had so much of them (I don’t have children for which I have to use my annual leaves to care for them if they fall sick. I don’t even need my annual leaves for balik kampung because my kampung is right here in Alor Star and I can always  see my parents during the weekends. I have so much accumulated leaves from previous years  that I can afford to use up some of my annual leaves to study) Since they were going to create so many obstacles for me to have my study time, then I could afford to sacrifice my annual leaves. But I refused to do something as stupid as just coming to the clinic to punch in and punch out and being around without having to do any clinical work. What’s the point when I KNEW I could do better in my own domain. I study BETTER in the solitary of my own house. I might want to study until 3.00 a.m and not want to have to wake up early just to come to the clinic to punch in and ‘be around’. Or I might want to sleep early and wake up to study from 4.00 a.m non-stop until 9.00 a.m. I might want to wear comfortable clothes while I am studying and I can’t do that if I have to ‘be around’. When you asked me to ‘just be around in the clinic’, you took away MY FREEDOM to arrange my schedule any way I wished at the most critical moment when I needed it the most.

Because I knew myself and my need for peace and solitude, I told them that “I prefer to not be around even if I have to sacrifice my annual leaves for it.” I need my solitude. My time alone. My space. And I will do whatever I can to get it! If it means I have to use my annual leaves, well be it! But I will always remember that other master students did not HAVE to use their annual leaves and simply took unrecorded leaves without having to ‘be around’. No one made a fuss when THEY took unrecorded leaves.

You see, that’s my cardinal trait. I want justice to be upheld. Things must be fair and balanced. In books that I read, the theme of justice and fairness reigned supreme. Most books that I read involved a struggle for justice and a journey to find truth (Books like ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, ‘A Time To Kill’, ‘Twelve Years A Slave’, and many, many more. Especially books written by John Grisham which I devoured in my teenage years. Those books shaped my worldview and my principles in life.).

Another one of my cardinal trait is: being free. Freedom is important to me. I need it so much that I am willing to sacrifice anything I can afford to get it.

So whatever choice I make, at the forefront of my mind, I will always ask my self “Will I still retain my freedom if I make this choice? Should injustice happens to me, will I get the freedom to fight back without suffering unmanageable consequences?”

So some of you without any psychiatric background may still wonder what is this cardinal trait Afiza is talking about. Well here’s a little background story:  Gordon Allport was an American psychologist who was considered as one of the first founding figures of personality psychology. He was also one of the first modern trait theorist of personality. He looked at thousands of personality traits and then organized these traits into three hierarchies; Cardinal Traits, Central Traits and Secondary Traits.

trait-theory

Well… cardinal trait is this characteristic that you have that dominate and shape your behaviour and collectively known as your master control; your ruling passions. It tops the hierarchy of your traits.

Some people don’t have cardinal traits (only central traits and secondary traits) and therefore might find it difficult to understand those who do have them. But to those who have cardinal traits (and there are not few of us who do. I have known some.) they make all their life-altering decisions based on their cardinal traits.

Including me.

Some people with cardinal traits sometimes can make the mistake of choosing a certain life option that opposes their cardinal traits (because at first, they thought they could handle it) and they usually live to regret the decision they have made. It is not easy to constantly and consistently live in a manner opposing your cardinal trait. One day, something got to give.

So, if you have a cardinal trait, you should respect it. Otherwise, you shouldn’t have one (even though whether or not you have cardinal traits is beyond your control). Admittedly, it’s easier for those who don’t have cardinal traits because they won’t be bound by it. But for those of us who do, never make the mistake of tricking yourself into thinking you can be someone you are not.

I believe that we should not always remain the same and unchanged…. because we are not perfect. We should always improve ourselves… but only according to our own cardinal trait.

For example, I don’t want to remain as just an MO even though it is comfortable enough for me. I have to change! I know that. Remaining the same and stagnant does not do justice to what Allah have created you to potentially become. I should improve myself and study to become a specialist. I knew that. But now, I have two options to go about doing it: master program or MRCPsych program.

I knew from the very beginning that MRCPsych program was the one to choose because it celebrates my cardinal trait (even though at that time I did not have any idea about trait theories just yet. I just knew that master program will never be for me)

When people asked me why I didn’t choose to do master and had chosen MRCPsych program instead, I told them a lot of things such as:

1)It is internationally recognized. My undergrad medical degree from Newcastle University is internationally recognized and I want the same for my post-grad qualifications too. (Should I need to move elsewhere outside Malaysia, I would have more choices regarding where I can practice).

2)If I pass this exam, I know that I am at par with the World Standard. Not merely the local standard. (The local standard might also be at par with the World standard but getting the world to recognize that is another matter entirely).

3)I like the lack of hassles and the flexibility.

4)I don’t want to owe the government a large sum of money should I fail to complete the Master program.

I told them a lot of things regarding why I chose MRCPsych  but only one thing matters the most to me: MRCPsych appeals to my personality and my cardinal trait.

As I mentioned before, my first Cardinal Trait is justice. I want justice to be served and fairness to be upheld. Not just for myself but for everyone.

I have heard so many horror stories about the master program. Some of the situations were so ridiculously unfair that if I were put in that situation, I would have the tendency to answer back and argue with my superiors. And if they then make my life difficult due to my inability to suppress my dissatisfaction at them, I would have no choice but to bear with how they treat me for my, ehem, insubordination. Or maybe I will have to suppress my tendency to fight back (and thus I cannot celebrate my cardinal trait of fighting for justice and fairness). At the same time, I could not just quit because I would then be owing the government a lot of money. So, there goes my freedom too… another one of my cardinal trait that I have to suppress if I choose the master program.

So repeating the questions that I always ask whenever I have to make a decision (“Will I still retain my freedom if I make this choice? Should injustice happens to me, will I get the freedom to fight back without suffering unmanageable consequences?”), would a master program ever appeal to me?

Nope! Not in a million years!

Now, compare the situation when I am taking MRCPsych program. I don’t owe money to anyone. I use my own. There are no lecturers or supervisors to annoy me (until I have to do  attachments later on…. but by then, insya Allah, I would have passed the major exams already). Should I, for any reason, decided to quit, I can do so without suffering any unmanageable financial setbacks due to the owed debts.

Of course, I do have superiors in my own hospital that occasionally annoy me (like all superiors anywhere else do. Let’s just admit that all of us cannot be in the same page with all our superiors all the time. It’s the facts of a working life. Colleagues and superiors annoy one another. That’s just how it is). But most of the time, I know I can answer back. Even if they can make my life difficult (most of my specialists are generally nice. None of them are malignant. But I am speaking theoretically and hypothetically), I know I have the freedom to walk away anytime I like after giving them a piece of my mind. I can simply quit and work with my father. No one will have any absolute power over me… ONLY relative power because of their position as my superior. But at the end of the day, I can keep the image of me as a free human being, unafraid of anyone.

How can I do that if I take the master program? How can I retain the mental image of me as a free person, able to say what I want to say and do what I want to do without being afraid of anyone… how can I retain the ideal image of a free self… when fighting back would make my life miserable and at the same I can’t just walk away because I will then have to settle a huge debt to the government?

Our religion taught us to FEAR debt. Because debts can take away your freedom. Debts can force you to remain in an oppressive situation because you have NO OTHER CHOICE. (in other words, no freedom). Our religion doesn’t want us to be in debt because it curbs us from doing what we feel as right… because we are too afraid to speak up. And therefore we were taught to pray the doa that I always say at the end of my prayers; the doa that would help us avoid being in unmanageable debts:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ

“O Allah I seek refuge in You from worry and grief, I seek refuge in You from hopelessness and laziness, I seek refuge in You from miserliness and cowardice and I seek refuge in You from overwhelming debt and from the force of men”.

I love this doa so much. One of my favourites of all time! Seeking refuge from hopelessness and laziness… that’s awesome! Hopelessness is one of the symptoms of depression and this doa reminds us to protect ourselves against it. I also love the part where you are seeking refuge from cowardice! One of the things I never want to be is a coward. And finally…. you are seeking refuge from ‘overwhelming debt and force of men.’ Have you ever wondered why overwhelming debt and force of men are being grouped together in this doa? Because they are related! Once you are in debts, you are weak enough to be forced upon! In the past, your inability to pay debts could turn you into a slave!

So this is why I am in love with the doa, which is included in one of the Al-Mathurat verses! This doa encompasses everything I want for myself! From the very moment I learned of this doa and its meaning when I was in medical school, I was struck by how much this doa suits me to perfection!

I work because I like working. I don’t want to have to work for money alone just for the sake of making ends meet and settling debts. That would be a miserable life. I want to work for myself to serve my society because that’s what a good Muslim does. Even if I am ever lucky enough to marry a rich king (haha, not that I believe I am at par with Neelofa who is now gossiped to be in a relationship with one of the royals out there), I will still want to work because being able to contribute to the society is our basic need. It fulfils our needs for esteem and self-actualization (Abraham Maslow theory of hierarchy of needs). It resolves our middle adulthood conflict of generativity vs stagnation (Erik Erikson Theory of Psychosocial Stages). It fulfils our need to create and nurture things that will outlast ourselves.  In fact, being able to function is one of the main criteria being evaluated in psychiatric assessment.

Productivity is what makes us a happy human being, folks.

Feeling useful is a need. Even if you are born rich or a princess, you will still need an outlet to be useful. So these rich people would then devote themselves to charity organizations or to become presidents of NGOs etc etc. When they accomplish something altruistically for the sake of the society, their reward is the inward joy that they feel in their ability to contribute for the betterment of humanity. That’s why… eventually, no matter how wealthy and privileged you are, a life of hedonism and enjoyment would not satisfy you anymore and you will want to find meaning to your life by being useful to the society. Everyone needs something to do! According to Joseph Addison, ‘something to do’  is one of the three grand essentials to happiness.

joseph-eddison

So, work for yourself! Love your work. If you can’t love your work, it might be because your work is oppressing some integral part of either your cardinal traits or your central traits. Try to find another job that is more in tune with your cardinal traits or central traits. But if you need your job and cannot afford to follow your natural inclination (and therefore you have to be practical rather than ideal), have some form of outlets in hobbies or favourite pastimes that would spice up your life.

I will NEVER choose to do anything that goes against my Cardinal Trait, if I can help it. Once you put yourself in a situation that is repugnant to your core principle, you might as well just be prepared to deal with discontent for as long as the situation persists.

So I leave you now with my happiness maxim: “For A Happy Life, Make Your Life Decisions Based On Your Cardinal Trait”

Trust me! I always stick to this maxim and the doa above! And Alhamdulillah, I am content all the time and happy most of the time.

harmony

Intense Alhamdulillah

We say Alhamdulillah so frequently in our daily life that sometimes we don’t even realize what we should really be feeling while we are saying the word. We eat, we burp and we say Alhamdulillah. We sneeze, we say Alhamdulillah. We say Alhamdulillah when people asked us how we are doing.

But are we really feeling grateful to Allah while we are saying it? Or has it become part of our reflex response to everything mundane that we do?

The utterance of Alhamdulillah from someone who has gone without food for the past few days is different from us whose previous meal was only a few hours ago. The feeling of gratitude is immense and overwhelming when Allah finally gives you THAT VERY THING that you want so wretchedly badly that your heart constantly prays for it and at the back of your mind, you are always thinking about finally having it.

And you know that no one can make it happen except The Glorious Almighty.

I have mentioned before that I believe in the sunnahtullah of berusaha. But I also know that there is fate and qada and qadar. I have always known that ‘berusaha’ only qualifies you to be in the race. But whether or not you will win is something that can only be determined by God. Ultimately, God grants you what you work for. You don’t even get to paradise by your own effort. You get to Paradise by the grace and mercy of Allah.

Our Prophet (PBUH) points out this truth as follows:

The Prophet (pbuh) said: “No one of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone.” They asked, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allah covers me with His Grace and Mercy” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 18; Muslim, Munafiq, 71-73).

Our deeds and our worship would not even repay Allah for the gift of a pair of eyes, let alone for the usage of the rest of our senses and our many blessings in life.

Alhamdulillah, my dear readers. I passed my Part A MRCPsych exam.

Alhamdulillah. One step forward to becoming a specialist in the field that I love.

Alhamdulillah for this happiness.

And my Alhamdulillah this time feels way more overwhelming than what I feel after my usual meal. (Haha. Not that I think a meal is not just as important as passing an exam. I mean, if survival is the main aim, food is so much more important than whether or not we pass ANY exam, right?)

This particular Alhamdulillah is intense stuff. Serious stuff, folks! After more than 2 months of excruciating wait, FINALLY Allah allows me a beautiful rest. Alhamdulillah.

And this success feels even sweeter because my good friend and colleague, Dr. T, passed too. We were overjoyed when we found out that we passed from our friend, a Master student in UKM who had checked our results even earlier than us. At that time, Dr. T was busy oncall so she did not have the opportunity to check her result straightaway. As for myself, I was driving back to Alor Star, bringing my staff nurses and PPKs home from our fun kayak trip in Baling. Me and Dr. T knew the result would come out around 8.30 pm on the 17th of February (it is morning, UK time) but we just didn’t have the opportunity to get to it straightaway.

When our friend congratulated both of us (in our own Whatsapp Group created only for the three of us) I was afraid that she had somehow misled me. I needed to see it for myself. Haha. So, I told my staff that I needed more time with my phone even though all of them were already in the car and eager to resume our journey home after the short break in Gurun.

When I finally see it… MY NAME! on the list of those who have passed (or rather, my father’s name, since that is my surname, Haha) I wanted to jump with joy. So, unofficially, my staff nurses and my PPKs who were in the car with me were the first people in my department to know about my passing the exam (other than Dr. T and our  mutual good friend who had congratulated us). I told my staff nurses and my PPKs not to tell anyone in the department first, because I have very specific people I want to have the honour of being OFFICIALLY informed first.

Such as my family.

I whatsapp my parents straightaway because I couldn’t wait until I got home to do it properly. Haha.

And my siblings were like “Okay, esok Angah kena belanja makan!” Hahah. My younger sister, Alida, has been saying “Kak Ngah memang suka buat drama. Hari dia balik exam, muka monyok macam apa. Cakap konon susahlah. Exaggerate la tu. Sebenarnya dia saja kata susah, supaya kalau dia pass, dia boleh cakap kata dia terer.” I laughed out loud. (That’s NOT TRUE, guys! To me, it was the hardest exam of my life. Only about 50% of our candidates actually passed. Out of 661 candidates all over the world, only 346 passed Part A. I have told my siblings, if I pass, it must be because I was somehow triggered to choose the BEST answer. Because correct answers were in the options, but BEST answer is the one they want. It was confusing as hell!)

I had officially informed my dearest best friend too, Dr. F, who has just passed her Master exam Part 1 last December and we are planning to celebrate our mutual happiness once she is back from KL.

The next day (well, this morning), I sent a text to my ex-HOD, Dato’ R, to tell him that Dr. T and I have passed our Part A. I think he deserved to know first because he was the one who had granted us our one month unrecorded leave to allow us to focus on our exam. (I end up using my own annual leaves due to some really annoying administrative stuff. But his intention to grant us such generous unrecorded leaves was clear from the start and Dr. T and I really appreciate his gesture from the bottom of our hearts. In some centers, they won’t even let you get straight study time even if you are using your own annual leaves. So, I am very grateful to Dato’ R.)

And then,you, my dear readers! Officially, after my family, my best friend and my ex-HOD, you guys are the ones I officially inform regarding my beautiful blessing. My happiness is too big for me to hug it all to myself. I am JUST over the moon.

***

I am very blessed for having such a supportive people around me. My family is my pillar of strength. My parents never stop praying for me. They take academic performance seriously and they always push us to continue our studies. When I achieve anything, the first person I want to inform it to will always be my mother. Then, my father and the rest of my siblings.

They give me what I need to put in a good fight and a good effort. As much as I appreciate wishes of good luck and emotional support, I don’t really need it that much (especially the copy-pasted good luck spamming via Whatsapp that people tend to do these days). I mean, by fitrah, Allah gifted me with the ability to self-motivate. Alhamdulillah.

I appreciate practical assistance and practical help rather than just meaningless wishes of ‘good luck, Afiza. Mesti hang boleh buat.’ Hahah. I mean, that is of course very nice of them to say that. But at the end of the day, I can say that to myself too, right?

I appreciate practical assistance to help me with my effort. I don’t need you to teach me or to study with me or to supervise me. Because I can do that for myself. I can study myself! And to be honest, as an introvert, I study best by myself. (I am not trying to sound arrogant here. I just know myself and my style of studying after years and years of non-stop exams. INTJs in general don’t want anything that curb their freedom to do what they think is best. Supervision is good… but not when you are micromanaging! As an INTJ, freedom is so important and being micromanaged will cause us to rebel eventually.)

Give me the tool that I need, and I will appreciate you so much more than if you just give me words of encouragement. For example, my parents support my effort by sponsoring my flight ticket and my hotel room. Money is practical stuff. (Hahah! Take note that I pay my own exam fees. I could have paid my own ticket and my own hotel room, but my parents insisted to pay for my flight and my hotel. So what is a daughter to do but to accept? Haha)

Doa is also practical stuff. My mother especially never stops praying for me. It so happened that my parents’s annual umrah is always in November. My parents just got back from Makkah one week before I was due for my exam and they told me that they prayed the hardest for me. So when I was sitting for my exam, I was accompanied by a fresh doa out of Makkah!! I believe that doa is powerful stuff.

I appreciate past years papers or notes too. Those are really practical stuff I can actually make use of!

The reason I appreciate Dato R so much is because he too had given me the practical assistance that I really, really, really REALLY NEED to help me with my effort. In order to put up a good effort, I need TIME! Time and space to focus and do my thing! And he gave it to me. I don’t think I have ever properly thanked him for it.

I am not saying that when you guys are wishing me good luck and all the best, I don’t appreciate it AT ALL. I do appreciate them, especially personal messages of good wishes that are not copy-pasted over and over again in the Whatsapp Group. Very nice of you to take the time to think of me and type up your personal wish properly to let me know that you want me to succeed. I am just saying that I appreciate practical assistance THE MOST. (because Alhamdulillah, I have enough motivation and encouragement for myself within my own self)

My friend told me that I am a hard-to-impress person. Mengayat, memujuk, memang tak jalan… habis air liur pun tak hairan! Hahah. It’s true. Because words will never be enough to impress me. I know very well how words can be said without meaning it. Maybe because I read and write so much (almost all my life, minus the first five years of my childhood when I was not yet able to read) that I have become an expert in how words can be manipulated, twisted, bent over, rhymed together, and punned… so that I can clinically and objectively appreciate your ability to use your words to be nice or romantic or diplomatic, but that will never be enough for me. Subjectively, intuitively…. I will never be won over by words ALONE.

I need pure, sincere intention as well. And that can only be determined by your actions. To me, Dato R has shown his INTENTIONAL support for me to succeed in my exam by his ACTION of allowing me a one-month leave to focus on my study, just like what he had given to all other master MOs in the past. He WANTED us to succeed. He had proven his intention by his action. (Even definisi iman adalah percaya dalam hati, ucap dengan kata-kata dan amalkan dengan perbuatan. Ucap saja tak cukup, kan? Aku pun boleh ucap apa saja!)

And I am so GLAD that me and Dr. T have been able to show him that we used that one-month time properly. That we did not abuse his trust. What he gave us, we were able to make use of. Alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah for everything!