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Mistakes

Monday, August 31, 2020

 



This life really challenged me in several ways and navigating through it really made me traverse difficult terrain. I made countless mistakes. The difficult part for me is remembering every single mistake I have made up to this point and trying to move forward and live with them. These are the kind of memories that keep me up at night for hours as I fall into a spiral of anxiety thinking about how I could have done things differently. My worst mistakes are the ones in which I hurt others intentionally or by accident. Those are the ones that really haunt me. 


    I think back to when I was younger and my sister came into my life. I was not very nice to her for several years because she became my competitor for attention. That is a story for another time but the way I treated her as a child haunts me to this day. I would not want to play with her and would not include her when she wanted to be with my friends. I felt so vicious for always trying to push her aside. As the years went by she distanced herself from me and I fear we have permanently damaged our relationship. Her ideologies are different than mine and that tension continues to exist to this day. It is hard to distinguish what part was my fault and what wasn't from that time. I do understand all of it wasn't my fault and that based in my situation that I cannot be blamed for everything I did because I was a child but in my head, it was all me. I chose to behave that way in that time whatever the reasons behind it might be. It is difficult for me to not accept the responsibility for my actions. This is also not made easier because from an early age one of the ways my parents disciplined me was to tell me that I am old enough to know better and I cannot blame anyone else for my actions. In some ways, they are absolutely right but on the other hand, I have been hearing this since I was five or six years old. I don't think this helped fix the situation. By the time I became cognizant of the damage that had been made in our relationship, it was too late to mend. Although we are cordial with each other there will always remain a canyon over which the bridge is permanently burned. 

Prague Part 2

Friday, August 28, 2020

 



We woke up early around eight am for the start of our tour of Prague for the day. A shuttle picked us up from the hotel and drove us to the entrance of Prague castle. It was a chilly slightly damp morning with a light low fog rolling through the silent city. It was around this time I realized that my jacket would probably not be enough to keep me warm today but it was too late and would hope the body would have enough energy reserve to work a little harder in maintaining some amount of sustained heat. Our tour guide was pointing out points of interest along the way but I was still in the process of waking up so his words jumbled in my head in a sleepy haze. I was excited but it just took my brain a little while to rev up. 


    As we arrived at the entrance of the castle, the sheer size of it brought awe. It was beautifully perched on the top of the hill overlooking the land surrounding it. I imagined with what pomp and circumstance the kings and emperors would have lived during the peak of its splendor and what secrets must be hidden within its walls. Our guide explained to us that this is the largest palace in the world which made the structures even more amazing but also provided a tiny reminder that we would be walking a lot today. 

Happiness

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

 


Sometimes there is this overwhelming feeling that the world requires me to present myself as a happy and cheerful person in a constant and predictable matter to the point when that isn't happening, it can upset those around me. This demand to be a stable, patient, and ever-smiling human can be an exhausting task because it is just not humanly possible to be presentable at all times. But based on my upbringing, I learned that it was easier to not show any other emotion other than this particular one because it will unsettle them. I am not just talking about strangers or coworkers, this includes everyone, especially family and nosy aunts. 


    Somewhere in my early years, the grooming had begun. Children were meant to be seen as pleasant sweet faces that would be able to recite whatever the parents wished on command to impress the relatives and family friends. They were always meant to look presentable and greet all their elders in a calm and respectful manner never raising their voices or eyes. I was told to not talk too much unless a specific request was made so that I did not embarrass my parents over my antics. I could not voice my hunger, fatigue or any other issue which if by mistake I did would be met with a silent but piercing glare from my mother which would squash any intentions I may have wanted to present. It was a very confusing time actually. Sometimes an adult would give me a gift and I was supposed to politely refuse it but if they kept insisting, my training had taught me to eventually comply and accept whatever the adult was requesting of me. My parents however would not be pleased with this behaviour and it would be termed disrespectful to have listened to the other adult in this particular moment. But I was also taught that it was rude to say no or be upset over being given something. How does one proceed in such a situation? 

Studying Abroad for Medical School

Monday, August 24, 2020

 


Depending on where you go to for medical school, if you plan on returning back to either Canada or the USA, there are some strategies that will help you manage your time better and help you start preparing for your return. I realized that a lot of the American students at the university were well prepared right from their first year. They knew what books to use, what programs would be helpful in studying and preparing for the USMLE, and how to balance their time between studying for local exams while also continuing their preparations for the USMLE board exams. 


    I realize I went into studying abroad without putting much thought into it or preparing myself for what I may need to return back. I was quite lost for a long time and did not know how to ask for help either. Also, at the start of medical school, I was pretty certain I would be returning back to Canada until my husband walked into my life and changed everything. So if you are considering studying abroad and returning to the USA, here are a few ways to be extra ready for the journey ahead of you. It's always a good idea to talk to some of the senior students in your program and acquire some tips and tricks for how to do well at that particular school because each school will present with its own unique challenges and methods. 

Who Am I

Friday, August 21, 2020

 


    Even after surpassing the third decade of my life, I find it very difficult to answer this question without the help of others. I don't know why I don't see anything when I ask myself this question. I could answer any questions regarding who I wish to be or who I am supposed to be according to the way I conform and bend with the relationships and expectations formed around me but I don't know if that person is truly indicative of me. I feel as if there is a continuous conflict deep within me to strive for perfection where there is none and since I will never achieve that, I refuse to even acknowledge the person I am with all my imperfections. 


    Even if I were to ask others about myself they will paint a portrait of me through their eyes based on what they have seen while with me but rarely have they observed me when I am fully exposed and raw. I can count on one hand those special individuals in my life who have walked with me through all the ups and downs in my life and the moments where I wanted to hide who I had become or what I was doing. I have been down many paths and not all of them were cheery straight paths with colourful guiding fairies. 

Let's Talk About Mental Health Part 2

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

 


One of my relatives was studying abroad for his master's degree and doing well overall until two months before his thesis was due and graduation, his computer crashed and he lost two years' worth of research and work. This loss hit him like a truck and he was in a state of extreme stress and anxiety because his work was unrecoverable and he did not have any backup. Being a naturally cautious person, he could not figure out how he let this happen and devastate him. Everything was out of his hands. He slowly started to withdraw from his friends and family, stopped meeting with people, let go of his activities, and eventually, started hearing voices in his head that told him others were trying to hurt him. With the help of his sister and mother, he did graduate from the university but not the same person he used to be. He visited a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with schizophrenia and started him on antipsychotics but because he was alone, he did not trust the medication prescribed to him by the doctor and refused to take it so his condition continued to worsen. 


    He returned back home to Pakistan after graduation but was unable to work towards the bright future he was supposed to have and instead became a recluse in his room. He soon was unable to complete simple daily tasks and would even refuse food at times when he suspected someone was trying to poison him. His father tried to help him find simpler office jobs in hopes he would be able to become independent but the culture in Pakistan did not tolerate his unusual behaviour and anti-social nature. He had nowhere to go and no programs available to help him rehabilitate into society. The doctors kept prescribing him pills despite the fact that he refused to take him and there was a delay of several years before he was put on an injectable antipsychotic. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing fight for him now in a country that does not tolerate or accept people with mental illness. 

Prague Part 1

Monday, August 17, 2020

 

Prague Castle with view of St. Vitus Cathedral

One of the trips I took during medical school was to Prague, Czechia during Easter break. With a few other friends, we booked a bus roundtrip ticket and stayed at a Marriott a few tram stops from the city center. The bus ride was eight hours long, the longest bus trip I have ever taken. Our bus was full of students headed to different parts of Europe. Looking back, the bus ride was an interesting experience and very cheap compared to flying but the flight would have been only two hours long and on a trip of a short interval, that would have given me more time to explore the city. 


    Nevertheless, we were on our way in a double-decker bus full of colourful people and varied scents lofting through space. There was a washroom on the bus but I have an aversion to using cramped smelly washrooms in spaces where there is a possibility of getting stuck and extremely strong odours. So as you can imagine, I held my bladder tight until we reached our hotel. One of the pros of long drives is watching the scenery change and transform as the landscape and cities change. This constant motion drifts my mind into different mazes of my imagination in which I get lost as I daydream and conjure up thoughts that I feel based on what I observe outside my window. The music I am listening to on long trips is always on random shuffle with the hopes that it helps mould my thoughts and musings to match with the scenery before me. In this way, I traveled through Europe with the melancholy of Bollywood love songs, the mesmerizing sounds of ATB, punctuated with varied rock and pop music. The takeaway from this is that having a window seat is a must. 


The Feminine Divine

Friday, August 14, 2020

 


The feminine being is an alluring and immaculate creation that harbours the nurturing essence because the womb is the nucleus of creation. She provides strength and belonging to those around her and is gifted with the patience and strength of a warrior, the problem-solving of a scientist, and the compassion of a caregiver. Basically, she can be whoever she wants to be. But why is it difficult for most of society to embrace this power and strength of the female nature? 


    The girl and the woman as they continue to grow undergo a lot of pain and suffering that they bear with incredible strength but are meant to be kept hidden from outsiders. The birth of the female child, in some parts of the world still is not celebrated because she is a burden to the family. In fact, in South Asian culture, the birth of a girl in a home could mean bad luck or instead of celebrations welcoming her into the world there is grief and anger. A burden because her sexuality and phenomenal ability to bear children must be carefully controlled by the men around her so that her choice to proliferate and procreate is by the ones who want their genes to be the ones that are passed on. It is the paternal lineage that matters yet the man does not have control over whose child is actually born unless that watchful eye is ever vigilant on what enters his woman's womb. However, it is the woman's body that suffers monthly because of her menstrual cycle and undergoes incredible changes to bring life into the world. The immense pain and permanent changes that she undergoes to procreate a being are not celebrated or appreciated to the extent they should be. 


Let's Talk About Mental Health Part 1

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


One of my uncles was working abroad when he received the news that his mother passed away. Unfortunately, the announcement reached him pretty late and he was unable to return to Pakistan in time to attend the funeral and say his final goodbyes. This incident affected my uncle greatly to the point he stopped going to work and shut himself in his bedroom refusing to speak to his wife or anyone else. This behaviour was met with shock by the rest of the family and nobody understood what was happening. My uncle was eventually diagnosed with depression but he refused to take medication at first. Family members would come to visit to console my aunt and try to interact with my uncle to try and help him out of his "gloom" because forcing him to sit and talk should help him recover. He refused to meet with anyone. The news spread like wildfire through the family and everybody offered their opinions and advice but nobody truly acknowledged that depression could possibly be so severe. His major depressive episode lasted at least a year before he accepted any form of treatment and slowly started feeling better. His recovery still required a year's worth of therapy before he became a functioning adult again. Even now, discussing what happened is taboo within my family because mental illness is an uncomfortable topic for everyone. 


    In my culture, mental health is swept under the rugs like a dirty secret that cannot be shared because it will ruin the reputation of the entire household. This fear is generally warranted as well because when others in their community find about it, the family might have difficulty finding marriage proposals based purely on the connection. The knowledge punishes everyone. In this toxic environment, finding and receiving help becomes a tricky journey due to the fear of being found out. The suffering is considered a trial of God and it must be done with patience and silence. 

Life Begins Now

Monday, August 10, 2020

 

Walter Mercado

It is ten minutes past midnight and I have just finished watching "Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado" on Netflix with my husband. I absolutely enjoyed this documentary and I feel inspired by Walter Mercado even though I did not grow up watching him. But his words flow with determination and truth. "If you don't adore and value yourself, you can't love anybody else," he said. "Love starts with yourself."


    His message to everyone before he departed from this world was very clear and he lived by his words until the very end. This might seem like a reminder arising from a strange place but there is a very unique energy that even you would embrace if you felt it emanate from someone. In many ways, I have lived by his philosophy too, and will continue until my very last breath. For those of you who might be confused as to what I am talking about, let me explain myself. 


    How many times in your life did you prescribe yourself happiness in the near or distant future? How many of you are always looking into tomorrow to feel fulfilled because when you reach that goal then you will truly know joy? For example, I have heard that "when I graduate from high school and am admitted into my top choice university I will be so happy," or "when I get married then I will be happy." What about you today? Why make happiness a distant dream that you may or may not reach and why do you only deserve it after you have accomplished something? The journey should be just as meaningful and fulfilling as when you finally reach your goals. Finding that balance, however, is one of the mysteries of the universe. 


Eccentricity

Friday, August 7, 2020





Will my wrinkles 

in time come to be 

from an endless bombardment of paranoia 

or wisdom of life? 

one or the other 

soon shall be seen 

mark of a warrior 

or the psychotic toxins in me 


Although I initially wrote this poem in 2008 as supposed satire when I was still in my twenties, I feel as every year passes, this poem rings truer to my reality. At this point, I am just hoping it is the wisdom creeping up on my face as some fine wrinkles make their grand appearance. I do believe I have learned a lot over the years and made peace with reality in a way that I can help my future children navigate their lives. If I had kids in my twenties I would not have been able to provide the steady hand that I have today because I would still be figuring a lot of things out while also trying to raise them and so in some ways, maybe for me, this later marriage is a blessing in disguise. 


    

    As life continues to move forward, as I know it will, I just need to remember that my strength is founded on the challenges that were presented before me and the steps I took to push myself out of my comfort zone. When I look back at my life, the moments that stand out the most are the struggles that I overcame. I so clearly remember that when I was going through them I thought there would never be that light at the end of the tunnel and I would remain forever ensnared in my current gloom. But life is never stagnant and even when I chose not to move, life still kept moving. 

Fantasy vs. Reality

Wednesday, August 5, 2020



The great timeline. In my teenage years, I had my whole life planned out regarding when I would get married, where I would go to school, who I would become, and when I would have kids as well as how many. There would be a happy ever after and I would buy a house with a picket fence and life would be perfect. By the age of 25, I would complete a family medicine residency and get married so that I could have kids by 27 or 28 living in that perfect house with my perfect husband. It was a beautiful fantasy perpetuated by all the older women around me encouraging me to dream this dream into reality. 

    I find this fantasy of mine even more entertaining by the fact that my life up until that point was anything but perfect so why did I so firmly believe that my future would fall into my lap just as I had planned? The optimism of a child is ever abundant. I blame my wild and colourful imagination and reading too many novels to the point of perfected escapism. This was my vacation from reality because everyone seemed to tell me things would be better once I am an adult. All the fun things I wanted to do would be done with a husband without any mention of responsibility. In our culture, there is a very common saying among mothers when they don't particularly agree with a certain activity or want to see their daughters traveling or spending time with friends that "you can do all this after you are married to your husband." In an indirect way, they mean that your antics will not be our problem anymore and once you are married your husband and in-laws can decide whether you are allowed to do these things. However, being young and wild, I interpreted this to mean that once I am married, I will be able to do whatever I want whenever I want. 

Unexpected Discovery

Monday, August 3, 2020






I must admit that I was initially reluctant to marry the man who eventually became my husband. My mother was also hesitant to bring him up with me and procrastinated for a few weeks before deciding to tempt fate and ask me if I would once again consider a "Rishta" (proposal) because of the previous disaster. One month before my mother asked me, this man had already seen my photos and accepted he would talk to me if I was interested after he returned from his boys' Vegas trip.

    I was in Europe in my third year of medical school and was just beginning the second semester when during one of our video calls my mom introduced the subject to me. I am not sure why, but at this point, something inside me nudged at me telling me I should talk to him and see where it goes. I told my mother to not have any expectations regarding this matter because I was going to take my time and approach this very cautiously because by this point in my life I had zero faith in the male sex. Therein me lay a pile of disappointment from boys I had considered and courted in the past along with some of their families as well. Before, I would have tolerated the pain they would dish out in hopes for a better future but I learned, albeit slowly, that people do not change by being kind or patient with them. There was no "killing them kindness" going on in my life. This time if someone hurt me, I would walk away quietly with my head held high because I did not have the time, energy, or emotional capacity to allow that to continue in my life. And so, ever so cautiously, with a few hesitant palpitations, I sent my very first text message. 
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