We are all going to die

We are all going to die

SAM_0864Today, I want to write about a talk that I recently attended. The speaker, Dr. Abraham Verghese, a well-renowned physician and author, was awarded an honorary degree by McMaster University.

I first heard of him through his contribution to the foreword of memoir by neurosurgery resident, late Dr. Paul Kalanithi. Dr. Kalinithi’s battle with mortality, portrayed through his writing, makes you realize how unpredictable life is and uninvited death can be. Similarly, Dr. Verghese’s talk, or rather the conversation with Dr. Verghese as it was called, provided me with a dose of much needed inspiration. He spoke in a tone that not only captivates the audience’s attention but also respect, answering questions candidly to give a sense that he is a man with humility. Of course it is difficult to judge a person from one encounter, and that too an indirect interaction. Maybe I was mesmerized by his eloquence and directness.

Or, maybe I fell victim to that effect (cannot recall the name) where you like someone famous more after meeting them simply because you met them. I am certain such an effect exists and I learnt about it in one of my psychology courses, but of course I cannot seem to recall the effect or to which concept it is related. This may not be the first time I experienced this ‘effect.’ I believe it to be quite common although it goes unnoticed, as most of the time we do not question ourselves on why we feel the way we feel.  From what I remember, and from what makes most sense, the reason why we like people more after meeting them is due to something called the familiarity effect. Description is pretty intuitive — the more familiar we are with someone, the more we like them.

To come back to Dr. Verghese’s talk, his opinion on two points stuck in memory more than others. Firstly, when asked about his career as both a physician and an author, he corrected the questioner by saying that he does not identify himself separately as physician and author. Instead, he identifies as a physician and believes that writing is something that comes naturally to all of us — essentially suggesting we are all authors. I have to say I agree with him on this. We have authored, or will author, some sort of writing in the course of our lifetime — be it a book published by a reputed press; a newspaper article highlighting an opinion, or disputing another’s opinion; a personal diary of a young girl [Anne Frank]; or a blog. I can relate to Dr. Verghese’s point because although you may not consider me to be an author, I like to believe I am one. Not because I am famous for my writing, or because my writing inspires many, but because writing is my way of speaking out even if no one is listening. To me, an author is someone who writes a story or shares an opinion, not necessarily someone who sits at a typewriter (or computer) all day to produce something that will help make ends meet.

Secondly, Dr. Verghese grabbed the attention of the already captivated audience by saying these simple, but somber, words: We are all going to die. Followed by, ‘Hope this does not come as a surprise to you.’ As mentioned by Dr. Verghese, and also told by Dr. Kalanithi, an encounter with mortality — or the thought of it — is a grim wake up call to honour and celebrate life by doing what we love, or by loving what we do. In an eerie way, death — or rather the fear of it — inspires us to live. Something to think about until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A work in progress

A work in progress

It has been a year since I started writing in this blog. Time flies. Seems as if it was just yesterday I felt my life was heading nowhere, and I had to think of different things to believe I was put on Earth for a reason. Maybe it feels like all of this happened just yesterday because the fire within me to find my purpose in life has not yet been extinguished. It is quite disappointing to know that a year has passed but you are still at a standstill. Who says the Earth does not revolve around me? Sigh.

Well, I have to admit there has been some progress. In the beginning of this year, I decided to study for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) with hopes of applying to medical school, of course. But, the excitement did not last long. Thinking of the (im)possibilities of getting into medical school — being a tiny speck in a pool of thousands of competitive and intelligent kids — sent me into a downward spiral. I don’t mean to use a cliche, but during the past few weeks I have felt as if I am on an emotional roller coaster. One minute I am happy and motivated, and the next I am doubting my abilities to pass the MCAT, let alone get into medical school.

We all need motivation now and then; some more than others. Ever since I made up my mind to apply to medical school, I worry that my so-called ‘dream to be a doctor’ is driven by extrinsic motivation. I bet you will soon (if you haven’t already) open up a tab to search up ‘extrinsic motivation’; it’s great if you do. I am hoping to educate through storytelling — just one of those things I do (insert smirk emoji). So yes — we are said to be extrinsically motivated if our behaviour is driven by external rewards such as money, prestige, grades, etc. We are said to be intrinsically motivated if we do things because we simply enjoy doing them. The following study serves as a great example to help understand the difference — paying children to draw vs. allowing children to draw at their own interest, with no reward. The results of this study are pretty interesting — researchers found that children who received a reward (the children knew about the reward prior to start of experiment) were not as excited to draw, i.e. spent less time drawing, than children who did not receive a reward.

Isn’t that mind-boggling?! You’d guess the children who received a reward to have done a better job. Goes to show how prevailing systems, such as schools, may be causing more damage than good. Most of us go to school to ‘learn’ whatever is taught, cram for a test, and hope to God we pass the course, subject, etc. Schools have merely become a lifestyle, and are not used for their intended purpose. Grades motivate us, getting to the best universities motivate us, yadi yadi yada… We have no value for the essence of education. We no longer love learning — at least not everyone does. I am not accusing everyone else to shrug the guilt off me — I was the same! I studied for the grades. Studied to get a degree. Studied so that I can get a job. And now what? I have that… what have I learnt? I am not sure what the right system is, but I strongly believe the current system is not motivating us to do what we love.

I voice all this is to highlight my own doubts about my future. I no longer know what I love doing. I used to know, or I thought I did until I was exposed to the field. It was not for me. Now I need to find a different road to take — one less boring, as opposed to one less travelled (Robert Frost reference; yes, that’s the extent of my literature knowledge). So coming back to the MCAT, I am not sure if I want to do medical school. I believe the best way to find out is if I shadow a physician/ surgeon to get a taste of what it is like to wake up every day to save lives, and at the same time lose lives.

Until then, I shall continue to study. I am trying not to study for the sake of getting great MCAT scores, but to know a little bit more about the world. Isn’t there a saying — the more you know, the more you don’t (or something like that). This is absolutely true. I have realized over the past few months that I know very less. And I am excited to know it all, or at least most of it, but it is overwhelming, I don’t know where to begin. But I guess that is the beauty of learning; you never know what you don’t know. Before I go off at a tangent, i will bid adieu. Until next time 🙂

Metamorphosis: from rejection to hope

Metamorphosis: from rejection to hope

The year is almost coming to an end and I must admit I am looking forward to the new year. A new year — a new beginning; new opportunities; new resolutions. I realize the ‘beginning’ I eagerly wait for is merely in my head. Come January 1st 2017 there will be no new beginning. As in, there will be no changes to how or what I eat, drink, sleep; no changes to who I talk to, meet, work with; no changes to where I live, where I work — simply, no changes to any major aspect of my lifestyle. But, I will mark the 1st day of the new year as the day I undergo metamorphosis… for the 20-something-th time. I will vow to change my habits — minimal as they may seem to you — to better myself. I will join million others to make resolutions for the new year. But maybe this year I will actually stick to them. (Who am I kidding, right?)

Regardless of if I will stick to my resolutions, I am ready to move on to other, better things in 2017. Why am I so ready for 2017 you may ask. Reason: 2016 is the year I experienced hurtful rejection for the first time in my life. I don’t mean to sound like an over-achiever who has always got what was wanted. What I mean to say is that when I am surely and truly certain about something, I work hard for it and eventually achieve it. So when I was rejected by something I deeply cared about and wanted in my life, I was devastated. Especially because it was over something I had no control. I felt helpless. I doubted myself day in and day out for at least 2 months. To quote Jon Bellion’s hit, I was at an ‘all time low’. I showed a side of myself I haven’t confronted before. And to make things worse, I was not the only one who saw this horrific side. To say the least I was embarrassed not only of being rejected but also of the immature way I acted following rejection. I felt lonely as I did not think anyone else would understand what I was going through. No matter how many times I tried to communicate what I felt, I was told that I am better off the way I am. I knew that already. I knew that if I was a third person looking at my situation I would have probably said the same things. But I could not just snap out of it, no matter how much I tried to. So I let myself feel the pain, and I paid the price of being viewed as pathetic.

Four months later I can say I do not feel the pain of rejection as much, but my pain level is not yet at zero. I am working on it and will continue to work on it. This is why I need the new year to start. So that I can leave the embarrassment, pain, hurt in the past and move on to become better. Hey — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, am I right?

I believed busying myself with task after task was the best way to combat the hurt, and I was right on many levels. One of these levels being I had no time to think about what “the experience”. Another being I did not have time to worry about what I thought others felt about my situation. Yet another being I was working towards a goal that kept me moving forward.

The year 2016 was not hopeless altogether. I learnt a lot about myself. I experienced new things, tried new things that I did not think I would like. It was a year of experience, and in a way experience is a means of achievement. And 2016 is the year I started blogging — something I brushed off for a long time because I am a poor writer. So, I am grateful for the ups and mostly downs of the year because it made me who I am at this very moment.

Everyone’s ‘all time low’ (you can see that I am loving this term) is different than the other’s. Leave out the individualistic differences, heck there are temporal differences within the same individual on what is considered an ‘all time low’. I am an example of the latter. At one point in my life I was extremely (financially) broke and wished I rather be romantically heartbroken, which I thought was typical for someone my age to go through. Needless to say, when I was heartbroken years later, I wished I rather be broke. This goes to show how difficult it is to relate to someone who is going through a situation you think is similar to yours, because fact of the matter of is we experience life — all its highs and lows — in our own unique way. 

So, if I am to reflect on my experience, which you may think is insignificant, I will say these words to whoever is going through a phase of rejection or ‘all time low’,

You are strong. When you question your ability to move forward, remember that you are your biggest inspiration. You have done substantial things in the past; you can get through this. You are going to work really hard and you will do great things in the future. In no time this hardship you are experiencing right now will seem insignificant. Because you are strong.

I have repeated these words (or rather the essence of it) to myself almost everyday of the past few months. It is almost like having a conversation with yourself, trying to persuade yourself to believe in yourself. It will undoubtedly take time; but I am certain I will move forward to a point– sooner than later, hopefully! — when this situation seems insignificant. Until then, I will….

Keep an open mind. Accept everything with a grain of salt, [even this post]🙂

Basic day at being average

How likely are you to think you are above average? Apparently, most likely! I remember learning about this in one of my psychology courses. It is called illusory superiority, or the above-average effect. When asked to rate yourself compared to the public, you would most likely respond that you are better than the average person, i.e. you are above average. This is problematic and illogical because if you think about it not everyone can be above average. It does not add up, literally.

But I am not here to give you a lesson on how you need to recognize your true potential so as not to overestimate your capabilities. Nope! In fact, I want to share with you a moment in my life when I felt like I am above average when in fact I may not be.

To start off I want to introduce a term that I did not know until very recently: basic. I do know the basic definition of the word; what I mean is the ‘urban dictionary’ definition of this word — unsophisticated.

So it went down when my colleague/friend made an impromptu request to watch a movie that evening, and I agreed right away which surprised him a little. When I said, “I am a spontaneous girl” he responded with “That is a such a basic girl thing to say.” And I am not going to lie, but that hurt! Now I know I am better off than to assume that whatever anyone says is true. But it got me thinking — am I basic?

To be honest, I have been under the impression that I am better than average in every aspect, even with knowledge of the above-average effect. So when my colleague pointed out that I am basic, it got me thinking. Why does it bother us when someone assumes we are just average? And all I could think of is that we try to protect our egos on the daily. The past few months have been quite a hit to my self-esteem and maybe my colleague’s comment hit home run although it was minor, in retrospect. We do not like to accept that we are simple, basic and average folks. Normally, we think the best of ourselves and aim to be better. So when someone defies this perspective you will most likely deny the comments and continue on with your beliefs. And to be honest, that is what I will mostly likely do as well. There is absolutely no wrong in being basic or average. Kudos to those who have accepted their average-ness and are happy with that. I someday hope to reach that level of acceptance. Until then…

Keep an open mind. Accept everything with a grain of salt, even this post🙂

 

 

What if

How many times have you replayed a scene in your head, each time with a different ending: “should have said this and done this” or “should not have said a word”?  I bet at least once in your lifetime. Truth is we often regret what we do (or don’t do) and ponder over the could’ves, should’ves, would’ves. Some move on fairly quickly with little regret, but some take years to recover. Well, it all depends on the depth of your regret, but what I am trying to say is that what you regret may not be something I consider worthy of regret. We are all different; each regretting a different lifestyle choice or career choice.

But why do we regret? Why not fix it as it happens? Why do we hold back our feelings and words?

I am a believer of being in control of our behaviours, not so much our feelings. If you are angry at someone you may not be able to change that feeling towards him, no matter how much you try, until you calm down and look at the picture in a different perspective. But what you can control is how you act. We have control over throwing a vase and cracking his face open (apologies for my graphic imagination), or saying something harsh that will hurt his feelings. You can stop yourself from acting out.

But more often we let our feelings get in the way assuming there is no control and act out. And later… regret!

So, what if we could go back in time and change the way things happened? Would we still regret our decisions? I bet we would, ’cause at the end of the day regretting is easier than accepting our decisions and moving on.

 

 

 

Love. ‘Nuff said.

 

Ask 100 people to define love and each will have a different take on the meaning. To me, love is accepting and respectibm2ng the other for who they are. Be it your parents, your siblings, your spouse, or your friends — love is respect for and acceptance of you.

Leave out your parents, siblings and friends. The love you have for them and what they have for you is not expected to include sparks and butterflies. Whereas, it is quite common to look for ‘magic’ (for lack of a better term) in a relationship with your significant other. The romance, the tingling feeling in your gut when she looks at you, the way he makes you smile even in his absence; I can go on about this type of love. But does it last? Everyone who is or has been in a relationship already knows that it does not for long. If you are (or were) in a meaningful relationship, this phase of love dissipates and another phase begins: one of commitment. This is when you get to know the person for who he/she really is. This is when you realize the character compatibility.

Even after passing through the initial stages of infatuation, many relationships fail due to lack of compatibility. But is anyone to blame for a failed relationship? Unless infidelity or unfaithfulness is involved, who is at fault for ending a relationship due to lack of similarity, understanding, or  the feeling of ‘just does not feel right’? True, feelings are at stake, and you are expected to be considerate of the other person with whom you spent time together. But would you rather lie to yourself and your partner to spare his/her feelings, or call it quits and deal with the temporary bitterness?

I agree we are supposed to work on our relationships before tossing them aside. Work the indifferences, compromise, trust, and respect each other. But even after all that if the relationship does not seem to work out, why settle for something that makes you unhappy? It will be a different scenario altogether, and a more complicated one, when it comes to working out a marriage. Maybe, if you work out your relationships before marriage, it will not end badly. This, of course, is a large assumption of one’s character. I have never been married so I cannot say for certain what happens behind the scenes in a marriage.

However, there is another side to consider. Is it possible that we fall in love, get to know the person well, and commit to him/her to later fall out of love? Could the reason for unhappy, non-committal relationships be our own insatiability, and not the character of the other? We are raised in a dynamic world, where nothing stays permanent. So, is it unnatural for our feelings to change too? Something to think about.

That said, I am hopeful that despite the impermanence in our lives, we will find a type of love that stays stable over time. Until then…

Keep an open mind. Accept everything with a grain of salt, even this post 🙂

What next?

A year ago I graduated university. I was lucky and got a job right away in the same field I had my degree. Some of you may think, “Well, that is not really luck. It is expected of you to get a job in the field you study in.” But in all reality, it is not that easy. I did get lucky. The job was literally handed over to me; I did not even have to apply. Sorry if I sound like I am bragging, but I want to express my humble gratitude to the universe for making things work for me. Don’t worry. I won’t go on and on about my lucky stars. Just an insight into my life, and possibly many others’ lives.

I am happy. I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like the pay. I like everything about the job. But I don’t love it. I am not head over heels in love with it. I don’t wake up every morning with a smile on my face because I am going to work.

And I think I know why: it’s because I have been in school all my life, aiming to complete things – graduating high school, ending a stressful semester, and obviously graduating university! I have worked around a schedule to achieve something every year. But now that I am working, I do not have a goal to achieve. Of course, personal development is an achievement by itself but it does not come with a piece of paper to say you put your blood, sweat and tears for four years to move on to the next step. It sounds shallow, but what’s the purpose of a marathon without a finish line? I will work, and work, and work everyday! But for what? When do I break off the white ribbon? What do I get in return?

“Why are you whining? Do something about it!” you might say. First off, that’s very judgy of you! But you have a good point. Many of us whine about the present, and hope for better things in the future. And I am guilty as charged; I do the same. This is not the first time I have wanted more things in my life than I already have. Even after achieving the desired things in the future, we want better things. In a nutshell, we are never truly, madly, deeply happy for an extended period of time. Why? ‘Cause we want more, and more, and even more, all the time! Not entirely because we are greedy. But because we need a finish line every now and then. Achieving things everyday keeps us moving forward. We are greedy in the sense to accomplish, no matter how small an accomplishment it is. And it is not a bad thing. In my opinion, it is not a bad idea to have consistent goals for the future to sometimes avoid the mundane daily life. But it also takes away from the essence of living the moment. We fail to appreciate the simple things, and be grateful for what we have.

But life is a constant battle of balancing everything. And I sincerely hope both you and I find this balance, if you are at all in the same battlefield as I am. Until then…

 

Keep an open mind. Accept everything with a grain of salt, even this post 🙂