This nice new problem. (Alternative title: I hope it’s a tumor.)

It may not be new. It may just be an old problem that’s only now starting to prevail because people are finally starting to get sick of it. Or, better yet, because people have reached the end stage of their sickness and now have no choice but to retaliate.

That can’t be right.

Before you go off assuming the worse, I should give you a:

***MARRIAGE FOLLOW UP***

I am not sure what I wrote in my last post, but I’m still happy with my marriage and everything is kosher. We are always happy to see each other on the weekends, which means we are tolerating each other well. Neither of us smells, thank you Jesus. I will soon start a blog with the wife about our adventures and day-to-day, so friends and families far away can keep up on us, because this is not the place for that. Moving on.

So this new problem I’m having, or just beginning to notice, has to do with my face. My mouth, to be specific, in layman’s terms. My speech, actually. My behavior, if you will.

It wasn’t always like this. In first year of Medicine, whenever there needed to be held a serious conversation which required patience and placidity, I was always the first one to be called upon by my peers. This usually meant speaking to a pretentious, and particularly rude, member of the staff or negotiating terms with the college administration on certain issues. People, strangers (I’m thinking of my barber, who didn’t know me too well at the time) would point to me and say that I was the coolest cat they had ever seen. In terms of temper, I must clarify. I could really take the bullshit, you know?

Fast forward four years into the future, and I kid you not, I am at my wits end with these assholes. I find myself constantly being constrained and pulled back by my friends in situations that are likely to set me off. Of course, friends are not always there so more often than not, I find myself in fierce arguments and pointless quarrels with unexpecting strangers. It’s a classless thing to do. I have never felt good about it afterwards, and I guess that’s why I’m so bothered by it.

I often find my friends cleaning up after me. Tidying up whatever mess I’ve created and pulling me out of terribly difficult situations. One friend has been particularly good at this, I will thank him eventually. Going from “Hassan, you do all the talking” to “Hassan, don’t say a word!” has not been a pleasant experience. The friend I mentioned earlier said to me that it’s not what I say, but the way I say it. Or something to that affect.

Excuse the poor paragraph structure, I’m on my phone.

So I’ve been up all night, really ruminating over one such instance that occurred earlier tonight. It really has to be the way I said what I said, because what I said wasn’t something too unreasonable. I didn’t have a pretentious tone, as most people would assume. I was humble, but it still set off a heated moment and before I knew it, I was seeing red.

This keeps happening to me. I keep losing my cool, and although I’m never one to start cursing, I am sure the things I say are more hurtful than arbitrary curse words, so to speak. Physical brawls are not my thing. I am afraid of getting beat up, but I was awfully close to risk it today and that’s what I fear the most now. I thought maybe I was just frustrated or overwhelmed earlier, but this has gone on far too long and I’m afraid it’s only getting worse. I am actually starting to hope that it’s a pathology of some sort, because I don’t think I can find the source or the solution for it otherwise.

I’m too close to the finish line to do something stupid. I need peace, and, ugh, I hate to say it, but I need to be constantly at war in order to attain it.

Take me home.

I live on a deserted island.

Not really, but I might as well be. The way I feel right now, a deserted island might actually be a much better setting than my current location. Not only because of my ceaselessly welding neighbor and the loud public transport that runs all night on an adjacent highway; but also because I would like to stare into a deep, blue (or clear) body of water. Stare into the abyss, as they say, and have the abyss stare into me.

This is probably one of the most discussed Nietzsche aphorisms ever. Lost in translation, it is supposed to read roughly like this:

“Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”

In interpretation, the first sentence tells us that we become what we hate. We take on the traits of whatever evil deed or person or habit we pursue. The second sentence tells us how it happens. Some argue that Nietzsche clearly commands you NOT to battle with monsters, but the Hollingdale translation suggests otherwise. According to that, the first sentence says “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby becomes a monster.” Followers of this translation believe that Nietzsche is simply asking one to be more cautious when involving himself deeply in a conflict which is evil in nature.

I, on the contrary, always felt that this quote should be openly interpreted. It has always allowed me to learn something about someone from their explanation of it.

I never got past basic Philosophy in college, primarily because other disciplines closer to my career goals required my attention, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. Philosophy is practical poetry to me. I don’t think of things in the same terms as I once used to. Not when I’m in Pakistan at least. Burdening myself with my own thoughts is the last thing that I need. Recently, however, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this quote.

Battle Not With Monsters:

I won’t bore you with too many “when I first came to Pakistan” stories, but this is sort of important. When I first came here, I was repulsed by the general insensitivity I witnessed everywhere. Now, this may in part be due to my particular location and company. I didn’t realize that until at least two years into my stay.  I have seen the softer, much more elegant and humane side of this country now that I’ve been here for almost four years. When I first came though, and my friends would testify to this, I was on a never ending roll about how cold hearted and thick-skinned the people around here are. The incident involving the brutal deaths of two Sialkoti boys, for example. Don’t even bother looking it up. It’s too graphic. Just take my word on the fact that the murders were public and absolutely barbaric.

Anyway, when I first came here, I fell sick a lot. I made appointments with the best doctors available and I was appalled by the lack of compassion they showed towards their patients. Something about walking into a clinic and speaking English with an American accent gets their attention, but those who don’t, basically get shafted. I often found myself in situations where I would have to take a relative or a family friend to the doctor with me. They admitted that the doctor never bothered to pay that much attention when they were being chaperoned by just a regular chap or by themselves even, for that matter. I was flattered, pleased and overwhelmed with frustration at the same time. I promised myself over and over again, that when I start practicing medicine, regardless of my demographics, I would be as generous as humanly possible towards everybody.

I am now four years into my medical education. Two of which involved actual interaction with patients in a clinical, hospital setting. Our professors don’t practice what they preach. I doubt they even consider doing so. They will tell us to be extra courteous and attentive towards the patient, the bedside manners they teach are commendable, and 10 minutes later they’ll be examining a patient while chatting on their cell phone. I should state that it’s a government hospital. Patients are provided with cheap healthcare at the cost of quality. Not to be confused with proficiency, which is still quite high, to my surprise.

I have yet to speak up against that nonchalant attitude. Whenever I witness it, I stand there and wonder why the attending would tell us something and do the exact opposite. I wonder why no one in my batch is even considering the idea of speaking up against it. In my head, I imagine telling one of my professors off and then I remember how some of them have a tendency to hold grudges against students and screw them over when exam time comes around. So I stand there, quietly. I scowl, sometimes. And while scowling, I wonder if I’ll eventually justify their behavior in my head & become what I hate.

Abyss Gazes Into You:

When we see something, we see it through the lens of our own mind. In the example above, a friend standing next to me might be perceiving the situation in a completely different context. He might be admiring the doctor’s ability to multi task, or he might be condemning the doctor’s inattentiveness to his wife on the phone. The fact that me and my friend are both perceiving the same situation differently suggests that there isn’t anything there at all. The doctor, and the patient, are a part of a void. A vacuous space which drags you in to itself. You empathize with the nothingness, you begin to fill it with things only you can comprehend and thus, you begin to view yourself through the eyes of that void. The abyss, the emptiness, stares back at you. There is nothing scarier than what it sees, because you see it too.

I just want to be myself when I get out of medical school. I want to remain in the same spirits that I came here with. I will battle not with the monsters, for I do not wish to risk becoming one. I will continue to gaze into the abyss. The abyss will save me.

Post Exam Post: It’s the end of the world as we know it…

…and I feel fine!

I didn’t think I could do it, but I am not half bad at starting a blog post with lyrics. Thank you, R.E.M.

It’s over. Third year exams have finally come to a slow, yet screeching halt. Unlike most medical schools in Pakistan, my university had decided against adapting to the module system. This means that we have profs, the shorthand for “professionals”: a once-a-year ordeal that assesses your ability to absorb, retain and recall information from any number of books designated to that specific year. This system has its pros and cons. I don’t find contemplating over them very entertaining, so I don’t really care. You may think about them in your own head, at your own convenience, and keep them to yourself.

Excuse me for taking off on a tangent again, but you must understand, my brain is still going haywire. I still haven’t started actually speaking in complete sentences and that maybe the reason why this blog post will be a bit longer than what you’re used to.

So, as I was saying, the exams are over. I am jaded. My family and close friends are just as relieved (if not more) as I am that the third of five gruesome rounds has come to an end. At this point, no one really cares what the result may be. I kept everyone updated on how the tests went. For those of you who weren’t in touch, it was OKAY. You must understand that we don’t have designated textbooks for subjects. The examiners are allowed to ask you anything even remotely related to the field of medicine, and you can not circumvent their questions by telling them that the information was not conveyed in the book you studied from. Pharmacology, for example, has it’s own bible, appropriately named after the author: Katzung. Anyone in the field, or close to it, would understand what you’re referring to at the sound of that name. We do have typical examination questions, but we can not look at any piece of information and say with sheer certainty that “No way! That will not be asked.” As a matter of fact, if you skip something before the exams under that assumption, it’s highly likely that you will be asked that very question the next day.

So, as I was saying, I did okay. Some of my answers to the exams made a lot of sense, whereas a few questions prompted me to pull rabbits out of my hat. It was all very magical.

Out of part habit and part tradition, I stay awake through the night immediately before the exam. I know it’s not healthy, and some have argued that it may hinder my brain’s ability to function at full capacity, but I like it. It works for me. When I walk into the examination halls, I am usually one unicorn short of a bad acid trip. I feel like I’m floating, and when that question paper falls in front of me, it is the only thing I can focus on. It becomes literally impossible for me to recognize any sounds nearby and my eyes are usually glued to the task at hand until I’ve filled both booklets with some sort of gibberish that I won’t remember past the hall’s doors.

I’m not exactly sure how to feel. Over the last few years, I’ve developed into an optimist. Or, to be more precise, I’ve started to suffer from a lack of cynicism. Does my statement contradict itself? Ponder.

So, besides the fact that my motorcycle was stolen today, on the morning before the very last exam (didn’t even have any pictures of her), and besides the fact that I suffered an injury so bad while playing basketball that I can’t even walk straight anymore, life doesn’t seem half bad. I sat down and looked back through my mind’s window over the last three weeks, and I can’t tell you how confused I am.

First of all, I’m not sure what to do with my hands anymore. I am used to holding a book in one hand, and a sandwich/cell phone/another book in the other. Secondly, I’m not sure what to do about what I have done over the past few weeks. Anyone who was not in the field of dreadful, over-burdening, ass-kicking academics, managed to fail me during my time of distress. Perhaps it was their lack of consideration, or my inability to thoroughly communicate my predicament, but people just refused to understand what I was going through. If you’re one of those people, I thumb my nose at thee! Unless I’ve done something offensive already, like curse at you and shun you out of my life, in which case you should know that I am considering apologizing. It’s highly probable and definitely not impossible if you play your cards right.

Thirdly, I plan on cleaning my fortress. My hermitage. My ivory tower. Living by myself this year was both a blessing and a curse. I had no one to revise and discuss academics with, but I had plenty of time to tend to my own needs, at my own convenience. I have, however, let a “mess” accumulate in places it shouldn’t even be found and this is high time for organization. My books are on the floor along with notes and a few writing utensils. I have books covering well over half of my bed. There are books on chairs, and on the kitchen counter. There are books on top of the fridge, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found a few inside the fridge as well. I have books in the bathroom! As a matter of fact the only place which does NOT have books right now is my study table. It harbors my clothes. Convenience, you know.

 

Actually, to accommodate your short attention span, here’s a to-do list you can skim through and giggle at. I don’t want to be TL;DR’d in the comment box. 

1. Apologize to everyone I offended. Tell them it was exam time. For those who don’t care about exams, tell them I was dying.

2. Scrutinize the exams, the examiners, the university, our system of education and of course, the government.

3. I’m going to learn how to sleep again.

4. Catch up on some reading, once my eyes stop twitching. I have A Case of Exploding Mangoes and How It Happened on the list. Don’t judge me.

5. Find out if knitting is still cool and maybe hangout with the knitting types and knit me a sweater.

6. Catch up on some movies & TV shows I only have the urge to catch up on during exams, and never afterwards.

8. Think of number seven.

9. Reward myself with some awesome, home-made food. Despite the fact that I haven’t cooked a meal in at least eight months.

10. It’s sports week, so I’d like to play some basketball again if my injury allows it.

11. Hit an expensive mall. Drool over all the cool stuff I’ll be able to buy once everything starts to pay off. Motivation.

12. Browse the interwebs to my heart’s content! Without the slightest amount of guilt, I will dedicate one day to laying in bed and just surfing through random stuff while I chow on some insanely spicy snacks and wash them down with the darkest, unhealthiest of sodas.

13. Enjoy the sun. The rise and the set, both. A bit in between too, perhaps. I figure I still have 2 more weeks before a full blown summer meltdown.

14. Study. It’s an ugly truth and I hate to admit it, but it won’t be long before the next profs come crawling up on all four limbs, grinding their teeth, drooling at the corners for a piece of our young, tender brains.

15. It’s only appropriate that this blog post ends with lyrics from the same song it started with. It’s time I had some time alone.

 

…and I feel fine 🙂

Med student: One leg in fourth year, one leg in bed.

Two months away from finals, the insomnia starts to creep its way into my nights.

Nights are a peaceful time for someone living in a commercial area, on the main road. Traffic dies down and the welding neighbor goes home to his wife and kids. The sunlight is too damn bright in this region of the world and that stops being a problem at night. Phone stops ringing, people stop hammering at your metal door, you don’t have to worry about doing dishes, or cooking, or eating. You have the perfect excuse to put every chore and errand off until tomorrow because, well, it’s 4 in the morning! EVERYTHING can wait. 

It’s just so peaceful! It’s the perfect time to stay up and study, or watch a movie, or get blitzed, or eat pomegranates…whatever your vice is. 

Personally, if I’m not studying or writing this blog, I like to think about how wonderful of a choice doing medicine in Pakistan was. As illustrated below:

banging head on wall

Me contemplating my career choice

Recently, our professor of forensic medicine revealed the only criteria we will be graded upon come finals time:

1. Behavior.

2. Attendance.

Since I like staying awake at night and catching up on sleep in and/or during classes, this becomes a problem.

Every time I go to attend his lectures, which by the way are now delivered directly and ONLY to me out of the 100 students present in the lecture hall, this is how I look.

asleep in class gif

Great for torticollis.

Below is how I think I look:

cozy nap

just minding my own business…

and yet this is how my professor perceives me:

tossing and turning gif

A distraction to other students.

 

Is it really that distracting?

Just let me be. I learn better outside the lecture hall.

So, this is where I stand.

I’m two months away from entering fourth year and I can’t seem to change my habit of staying up at night.

The professor is notorious for failing students on a whim. All king shits of turd mountains here are.

Coffee, lets elope.

Here’s a tater for the hater.

tater