2016…

… was the year I blogged the least! I was busy saving the world myself.

It may be possible that every year of our lives is a set with its’ own unique challenges, but 2016 was really an uphill challenge for most of the year. But like bad comes with good as its’ counterparts, there were sweet moments that just reminded you that hard and good times are just a test of faith.

Faith, a heavy 5 letter word.

On Medic Life.

The cusp between 4th and 5th year is a notoriously difficult time for Cardiff Medics. All med schools have their own way of organizing their curriculum, and Cardiff schedules students to sit their 4th year final exam and OSCE 2 months before the 5th year final OSCE and first out of three knowledge papers.

Individually, all these exams are crucial, with the overall score from 4th year contributing directly to the Foundation Program rankings which determine your choice of jobs and the 5th year exams being the determinant of you graduating as a doctor.

January till July was one long term broken up only by bank holidays, revision weeks and stolen moments that had to be taken to maintain sanity (haha, I am very guilty of self-declaring holidays!)

There was a critical time in June, 3 weeks before our finals, when Ramadan was upon me, and I was willing myself to keep on swotting for finals in the heat of the North Walian summer, one of my placement partners got involved in a fatal car crash.

I don’t really know how to describe the exact feeling. It was surreal to say the least, especially because only a week earlier we had both been with a patient who arrested and we were there to see his resuscitation process which ultimately failed. I remember distinctly our conversation on the way back to our accommodation about how the resus teams’ procedure. Then a week later, he would have been the recipient of such procedure.

Medics on away placements together are a close knit group. Looking back, I may have been numb initially at the loss, but I can’t deny it knocked the miniscule momentum I had for studying out the window.

Dear Rav, may you rest in peace buddy.

On Life in General

The characteristic that I envy the most in people is the ability to be positive and stay positive despite all the odds life throws at you.

I think I smiled the least this year.

Astaghfirullah, I know it is a sign of ingratitude towards the blessings Allah has bestowed upon me, but it is a struggle for me to not turn bitter and cold inside.

A few things happened, regarding family and relationships that pushed me towards the apathetic-bitter emotional spectrum. It is at a time like this that the weight of ayats that I have heard a few times like,

al-Baqarah: 216 – Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.

al-Fatir: 2 – Whatever Allah grants to people of mercy – none can withhold it; and whatever He withholds – none can release it thereafter. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

becomes not just words to comfort but something to put conscious effort into practicing so as to not breakdown and just give up.

A conversation I had with a good friend as we reflected on how we have changed since the kiasu-ist days of SPM and pre-uni, he reminded me to forgive everyone, especially myself and seek help from God to forgive myself. It is Allah that is the Master Planner of all His slaves and everything happens for a reason. Bearing a grudge against myself, and blaming myself is an inevitable habit that I am trying to break.

My only advice to anyone who is or was in a dark place like I was: Seek help.

I know sometimes it was a burden to even put how I was feeling into words, much less talk to someone else, but keeping quiet can cause you to over-estimate situations and is not good for mental health.

On Happier Things

Another one of my girlies, Rifhan, tied the knot this year! There good ol’ stork dropped 3 more bundles of joy at the Nik household. And last but not least, alhamdulillah I passed those said exams up there so inshaAllah I will be graduating come July. I started going to gym this year and it has been one of the best things about this year, and I finally ran 10K in one go! It ain’t much but it’s a start.

Had my first Hari Raya Eidulfitri and full Ramadan in UK.

It’s been satisfying to finish most of my rotations and experience a lot more of what Medicine has to offer. It’s also good to finally end the to stay for F1 or not dilemma. Yes, I’m testing the waters of this adulting thing.

I also finally bought myself an A6000 Sony camera second hand from Ebay. It’s been the best buy of 2016 for me though I am a bit slow at learning how to fully use it.

On ‘Worldly’ Things  

In my humble opinion, it’s been a pretty anti-establishment year with Britain leaving the EU and Donald Trump making it to the White House.

The plight of Syrian refugees worsens, and those heartbreaking videos of people saying their last goodbye in Aleppo L Bombings in Brussels, killings on Bastille Day and in Berlin. Back home in Malaysia, sighs, the currency flip flops, job prospects for graduates remain elusive etc while Bersih returns. The Rohingya continue to be oppressed while Aung San Suu Kyi keeps silent.

A new virus, named Zika, pops up with the threat of microcephaly for the unborn and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Read more professional views on any news site but I sincerely pray that people don’t forget their humanity and unite for the sake of it.

InshaAllah, Rabbi yassir wa la tu assir, may 2017 be a a better year that brings everyone closer to Him and finally tick those resolutions off your list!

Of Random Shots/ Various Moments

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Escape after 4th year finals, Nyhavn – May ’16.

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Stockholm- May ’16.

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Virgin zipliners no more. 

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Come Raya with us- July ’16

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My 2016’s favourite graduate! – July ’16

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Strokkur in all her glory- Dec ’16

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Aurora hunting, Reykjavik on Christmas eve.

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errr undefined- Dec ’16

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Aurora borealis- Dec ’16. Temperature: -2.3C

 

Somewhere in Rhyl-ality.

I’ve just submitted my application for 2017’s Foundation Program (FPAS). Not so symbolic, rather an obvious sign that I’m at my last leg of med school.

5th year is a bit anti-climatic to be honest. I feel like the worse is over. The majority of my swotting was done throughout the January till July. Evidenced by the lack of blog posts (perhaps?) With final OSCEs and the first out of three attempts at the final knowledge paper conveniently out of the way (Alhamdulillah!) I feel I can focus more on Medicine. Ironic, I know.

Without the pressure of exams, I know that I’m studying now because I want to be a competent doctor. Surprising for a self-professed consummate Asian education style student, not stressing for exams has made me study more. Haaa, I must’ve finally drilled the concept of “menuntut ilmu dengan ihsan kerana Tuhan” into my thick skull. Even chasing skills has taken on a more serious feel cause I know in 10 months, the inability to site a cannula, catheterize a patient or get that ABG in one attempt will not bode well.

Back to FPAS, I’ve applied to stay in Wales. It isn’t so much a love-hate relationship nowadays, Wales and I. Familiarity is comforting. Familiarity is re-assuring. Wales, I suppose, is home now. And ranking “home” as numero uno wasn’t the big decision.

The decision to stay in the UK for F1 and F2 was.

The major factors motivating this decision is

  1. The lag time between graduating and starting a job as HO in Malaysia.

The media call it a back log, but I think that is only partially true. I’m pretty sure the fact that there have not been any new HO posts created, although the demand for HOs are high in recent years. Why? I think anyone who has been following Malaysia’s updates can speculate.

2. The training environment in hospitals

You’re treated as an individual, your learning and progress is a concern and prioritized. It’s very independent, you do as much or as little as you want within the remit of your syllabus. Should you wish to be more and excel, the avenues are endless. And I love it. I may have not taken much advantage in my salad years of 1st, 2nd and 3rd year (pardon the immaturity of my former holiday loving self). Looking at the accolades of my colleagues who have used the opportunity to the fullest, I feel like if you want to thrive as a doctor, be involved in research, make a name for yourself in the field, the UK is an excellent place to do it.

 

It is tough times to be a prospective junior doctor in Malaysia. The cut in scholarships for further training added to the months of being unemployed post graduation, means climbing the career development ladder has become tougher, finances have become the main issue and it is more competitive in an already notoriously demanding career. Arguably, all careers are demanding but that is a discussion for another day.

The alternative of staying to complete my training in UK is a possibility. But the sacrifices involved are mainly to do with family. My own and the family I wish to build someday. The fact that my parents are not getting any younger. The wish to settle down and have someone in my corner to turn to is no longer a secret when one reaches a certain age. It’s so common I doubt it stirs up any gossip or any notice once a person gets past graduation. It’s also not much of a social life for me here. My own increasingly introverted nature and the cultural divide has meant that though I get along rather well with my colleagues, I don’t foresee much of a social life once I start working. It just isn’t the same. British methods of social cohesion in pubs and nights out, I’ve never participated in.

It does get quite lonely halfway across the world, 7 to 8 time zones away from Malaysia.

At the end of the day, I hope for the best, and pray to Allah to show me what the best decision is. I can’t see what the future holds, and I trust Him fully.

These life decisions are those roads in yellow woods that diverged and I don’t know if this path is less traveled by, but I know for sure without a doubt that one path will shape me for better or not, there is no turning back.

 

3.16 am.

To where do your thoughts linger off to when work is keeping you up at night?

Tonight, mine is on a Whatsapp conversation with a girlfriend with good news. The kind of news that makes you grin from ear to ear and reflect on how connected people are.

In an immense web, one person is linked to another by an event, a series of interactions, or perhaps a mutual acquaintance on social media, so immense you can’t even fathom how 2 people who are seemingly unconnected inextricably are.

Awe for the All-Seeing and All-Knowing cannot be kept at bay.

Other more disjointed theories like Many Worlds Interpretations or parallel universes co-existing and ‘Do we see the world as it is or as we are’ do crop up.

And even more awe for the Master Planner when I think about all the sequence of events, experiences, interactions and instances that you thought was your own but was actually divinely driven that lead you to meet and know the friends you cherish.

The one-time-bump-in-the-corridor, just-happen-to-be-there, mutual-interest encounters that He put in everyone’s lives that have produced the lifelong friendships that you have now. The faces of my dear friends flash by and the perfectly aligned circumstances that lead me to each one of them. That truly is The Uniter (al-Jami’i) at work isn’t it, bringing together your hearts, and made the bonds of your hearts firm together.

Imagine cumulatively, all those people and circumstances arranged into a systematic chart, then include shared friends and similar circumstances between the people on that chart. Overwhelming, no?

Which brings me to a series of clicks back in 2011, that lead to random strolls through someone’s thoughts, that lead to intrigue, sustained enough by destined encounters, followed by a resolution … and today, you are the person my mind is lingering off to at 3.16 am.

Masha’Allah. Hope that you are irreplaceable, too.

Al-Ghazali on the ending of our earthly chapters.

Imam Al Ghazali woke up one early morning and as usual offered his prayers. He then enquired what day it was and his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazali replied,”Monday.”

He asked him to bring his white shroud, kissed it, stretched himself full length and saying “Lord, I obey willingly,” breathed his last.

Underneath his head rest they found the following verses; composed by him, probably, during the night:

“Say to my friends, when they look upon me, dead,

Weeping for me and mourning me in sorrow,

‘Do not believe that this corpse you see is myself,

In the name of God, I tell you, it is not I,

I am a spirit, and this is naught but flesh,

It was my abode and my garment for a time.

I am a treasure, by a talisman kept hid,

Fashioned of dust, which served me as a shrine,

I am a pearl, which has left it’s shell deserted,

I am a bird, and this body was my cage,

Whence I have now flown forth and it is left as a token,

Praise to God, who hath now set me free,

And prepared for me my place in the highest of the Heavens,

Until today I was dead, though alive in your midst.

Now I live in truth, with the grave – clothes discarded.

Today I hold converse with the Saints above,

With no veil between, I see God face to face.

I look upon “Loh-i-Mahfuz” and there in I read,

Whatever was and is, and all that is to be.

Let my house fall in ruins, lay my cage in the ground,

Cast away the talisman, it is a token no more,

Lay aside my cloak, it was but my outer garment.

Place them all in the grave, let them be forgotten,

I have passed on my way and you are left behind,

Your place of abode was no dwelling place for me.

Think not that death is death, nay, it is life,

A life that surpasses all we could dream of here,

While in this world, here we are granted sleep,

Death is but sleep, sleep that shall be prolonged

Be not frightened when death draweth nigh,

It is but the departure for this blessed home,

Think of the mercy and love of your Lord,

Give thanks for His Grace and come without fear.

What I am now, even so shall you be,

For I know that you are even as I am,

The souls of all men come forth from God,

The bodies of all are compounded alike,

Good and evil, alike it was ours.

I give you now a message of good cheer

May God’s peace and joy forever more be yours.

“Know that death is an expression used for the journey from this world to the Divine Presence, for to Allah is the ultimate return. Anyone traveling to a royal court is in need of three things for his journey: a severing of the ties that keep him from advancing; a preparation of provisions for the road; and an acceptable gift for the king, to present to him and by which to attain his pleasure. Similarly, the traveler journeying to the Divine Presence is in need of three things: preparation of his provisions, a cutting of ties, and the offering of a gift.

The traveler’s provision refers to a deep consciousness of God [taqwa]. Allah says,

“…And take a provision with you for the journey, but the best of provisions is taqwa.” (2:197)

The cutting of ties means a severing of the heart from the pleasures of this world. This is what was meant by the Prophet’s (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) words, “an indifference towards the abode of delusions”.

The gift to be presented to the King is love, the origin of which is in true gnosis [ma’rifah] and faith [iman].”

NB: Firm reminder to myself on being like a traveler in this world. I must not be too attached to worldly things nor be paralysed by the injustice of affairs.

Greetings from a 4th year medic.

I have not written a retrospective piece in a long time. Scratch that, I’ve not written anything in a long time. Since assuming the role of editor for Away magazine, you would think my writing skills would flourish. Au contraire. My criticism, pessimism and grammar nazi-ism has instead reached an all-time high. Hence, I think I should write more myself, in an effort to empathize more with the authors of articles I so often analyse to shreds (the articles, not the people writing them).

To remind myself that to think coherently is difficult and to write coherently is no mean feat.

What to write about?? I guess I could always start with my staple topic: med school.

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Two weeks into the new academic year, and what is expected of a 4th year medical student is dawning.

The 2 main take home messages consultants have given me are:

  1. My FY1 (foundation year- UK’s equivalent to a house officer in Malaysia) job is not far off. The next 2 years will be spent rigorously preparing myself to do the job an FY1 doctor.
  2. I have to choose a speciality soon. This year should be about exploring fully all the specialities and deciding what I would like to specialize in. The earlier I decide, the more I can prepare and focus my foundation jobs to include the general fields I like.

This has, to an extent, overwhelmed me.

  1. The breadth of medical knowledge is immense. There is so much that I do not know. The only thing I am sure I know is that I do not know enough to be responsible for a human being’s life. Not yet.
  2. I don’t know whether I like the speciality that I am considerng enough to want to dedicate my life to it. At this point, I am sure of what I don’t want to specialize in. So maybe I’ll choose a speciality the same way I chose medical school, by a process of elimination.

My priorities in choosing a speciality:

  1. Reasonably challenging- maybe a mix of medicine and surgery? Quite relish complex pathways ie endocrinology and pharmacology.
  2. Generally stable working hours, don’t mind nights once or twice a month.
  3. Not orthopaedics.

Then comes the question of : TO STAY IN THE UK OR TO GO HOME AFTER MED SCHOOL?

Any other fourth year medics out there who would like to share their thoughts, worries and rants upon entering 4th year? Gimme a shout.

That is all. Good luck fellow 4ths. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible. Insha’Allah all will go well.