If this week was a ride, it would be a roller coaster. Not just any roller coaster, but a roller coaster at the crossroads. Carrying my jittery, anxious self through two new health care services daily at the Klinik Kesihatan Kuala Lumpur (KKKL) has been a series of ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures, wonderful welcomings and painful rejections. But this time around, I’m stronger and my skin is thicker – because I’ve seen and done this before, I’ve experienced worse dismissals and the only way to deal with these negative, non-constructive emotions is to numb oneself. Surprised why medical students come out on the other side as cold and distant doctors?
On the subject of numbing emotions, I’ve also messed up a romantic pursuit this week (or so I conclude for now). I swear it gets harder and harder as the time goes by. It feels like I’m running through potential lovers with no meaningful connections established, so much so that I’m starting to feel like a commodity. One that can be liked transiently, swiped left and right and blocked on an impulse at the simplest inconvenience. It’s no wonder my community is moving further away from establishing sincere relationships towards lust-filled one-night-stands. We go on cycles of chasing the unobtainable because unrequited love feels unreal and therefore, not forbidden while being loved genuinely by someone else sends us down a spiral of hate, shame and guilt through projection of the darkest parts of ourselves onto them. To be true to myself is to admit that temporary flings will never be me and the only viable option is to resign to the universe and wait for the inevitable deadening intensity of care for romance. Oh, the thrill of life.
While I was drowning in all that somber, sappy, mixed emotions at a cold clinic (both the literal environment and the working staff), my phone buzzed with an unexpected email notification. I was invited for an interview for a prestigious program that could possibly define and change the course of my entire career. A corporate/business-style interview with a distinguished panel of CEOs, politicians and scientists who’ll gauge if I’m worth investing half a million ringgit on. I admit, this is a whole different ball game, in a corporate environment that is almost alien to the usual health care setting I’m accustomed to. For now, I am feeling keyed up but I need to turn this state of agitation to my working advantage because this opportunity is too large for me to pass on upon. I may never encounter a huge crossroad like this ever in career or my life and this realisation leaves me empowered, motivated and encouraged.
I end this non-directional pep talk for myself with an abbreviation inspired by the field I am most passionate for. I came up with this abbreviation early in med school and it reminds me of my values and ideals that kept me going through tough times. By putting this up here, I hold myself accountable for continuously upholding these values and not forgetting where it all begun, especially when the times get hard.
Novelty – to strive for originality and appreciate that innovative ideas come by pursuing genuine passion, following your own arrow. But also keep in mind that no man is an island, every finding is medicine is built by standing on the shoulder of giants.
Inquisitiveness – never stop asking questions, question practices earnestly even if it means going against the hierarchy and in the event of a burnout, take a break to go further.
Political inclination & Proof – to be apolitical is a privilege that doctors who genuinely care about their patients (who are part of a society) can’t afford. Also, practices, decisions, advice and policies must be evidence-based.
Audacity – don’t lose your moral compass manoeuvring through life, just because you can’t beat them, doesn’t mean that you have to join them.
Heritage & History – if you think something you’re attempting feels heavy and unachievable, trust that someone has attempted and succeeded or failed and learned from it. Seek for help when necessary and stay humble.