snippets…because i’m too busy saving lives

in the past whenever i heard of the death of a child, i thought, “oh he/she lived such a short life.” now that i have a 4-year-old niece who brings me both joy and annoyance daily, i realise so much is invested in a life that eventhough 4 years can be seen as nothing compared to seven decades, it’s still 4 years of milk formula and sleepless nights and anxiety over delayed speech and overreaction to small milestones and stationery and pink dresses. it’s 4 years of love and losing a part of yourself to someone else. that’s not a short life.

perhaps the build up to this realisation is part of the reason i have abandoned ambitions of becoming a paediatrician. at least an adult would have spent some of his/her life independently. but a child…a child cannot stand alone, and to lose someone who is made up almost entirely of the people around him/her is too much to bear.

i’m may draw some flack for saying this, but i am now wholly convinced that anyone with any illness requiring any kind of surgery should head straight to a government hospital and be patient about the timing of intervention.

the laws of my department dictate that every referral must be attended to as promptly as possible. this differs from my previous workplace where referrals can be dealt with over the phone and instructions to admit a patient can be made via verbal order. this makes work rather difficult at times and i’m thankful the patient load at my current hospital is pretty bearable in comparison to other centers.

it does test my patience when i receive a referral for an illness that doesn’t warrant one but i’ve found that it pays off to disguise my displeasure with jokey sarcasm and a smile and do my best for the patient before resuming my precious sleep. i’ll be at this hospital for a couple of years and it’s best to maintain as good a relationship as possible with everyone there.

plus it all becomes worth it when i get an apology for a crap referral or support when i am obviously bullied into managing a case that isn’t even within my, erm, “jurisdiction”. hehe.

part of me wants to publish my monthly on call schedule and tell everyone with abdominal pain to abstain from seeking treatment at my hospital on those dates so i’d get some sleep during my calls. also, if you wanna get into an accident and break some ribs please stay away from the sungai buloh area. our stock of spirometers is depleting at an alarming rate.

and don’t drink and drive or fail your suicide attempts if you wanna avoid getting an unnecessary amount of large bore (read: very painful) venous cannulas inserted on your limbs. you’ve been warned.

i love being back in the klang valley. makes being a part-time fangirl very easy. it’s a pity that job costs more than it pays (it pays zero) and lands me a sore throat every time.

wait, that did not come out right.

wokay back to saving lives. *dons cape*

optical tango

i looked into the windows of 17 souls last night.

they belonged to strangers with whom i had no prior contact other than the handshake and nervous exchange of names seconds before we sat down and looked into each others’ eyes. the clanging of a cocktail shaker indicated the end of 60 seconds of quiet gazing and, after a burst of inevitable laughter, the line moved right onto an encounter with another pair of unfamiliar eyes.

it was an exercise tyra banks would certainly approve of. 17 attempts to get smizing down pat and perhaps mesmerize someone enough to come back and strike up a conversation outside the awkward non-staring and irresistible face-making. that’s the premise of eye-gazing, a silent speed-dating concept that first emerged a couple of years ago in – where else? – new york.

i had the privilege of attending the very first one in kl last night, organised by a couple of guys who seem to enjoy putting together unconventional parties at hip joints in the city. it wasn’t something i would normally go for, especially since i don’t already know any of the participants or even the hosts for that matter, but i’m in the midst of renovating a couple aspects of my life and what could be more un-lishun-like than an evening of optical tango?

optical tango. good lord. i’ve run out of alternative ways to describe eye-gazing. gonna stop consulting the thesaurus before things become any more cheesy.

so. eye-gazing. it was harder and alot more exhausting than i imagined it would be. first of all, we’re generally not a culture that embraces eye-contact or any form of body language, much less in a setting that’s supposed to be aimed at encouraging attraction.

secondly, and most disturbingly, i had trouble deciding what to do with everything from the eyes downwards. do i smile? how can i smile for a minute without it turning into a snarl (which, unfortunately, my smiles tend to go)? do i keep my lips pursed? should i show teeth? if i swallow will it be mistaken for…something else? what if i yawn? do i sit forward? relax towards the back? put my hands out? cross my legs? uncross my legs? what?

the gazing did eventually become easier. while the initial minutes felt like an eternity, the last ones went by rather pleasantly and i guess everyone was surprised by how much more relaxed we became after a few. gazes. after a few gazes and a few of everything else too, i’m sure!

it became pretty obvious by the end of the night that most of the participants were, like me, there out of curiosity and not in the pursuit of love. at the end of the second round of gazing, i felt as though i was participating in a team-building activity at the company retreat. perhaps one or two guys were actively out to pull, but everyone else seemed content with just making it through the whole experience and gaining a few new contacts in the process.

so would i do it again? yes, but to be completely honest the next time it would be on the context of actually hoping to meet someone special there. it’s much too tiring an exercise for casual socialising. there’s no way to look right into a person’s eyes without investing a little into the gaze and to come away with merely an experience feels like being shortchanged.

there’s almost certainly going to be an episode two to this eye-gazing party thing. the post-event questionnaire sounds like there’s another one in the planning and already a colleague of mine has indicated his interest in taking part.

looks like optical tango is here to stay!

names

gary, howard, jason, robbie, mark.

ginger, baby, scary, sporty, posh.

justin, jc, chris, joey, lance.

brian, kevin, AJ, howie, nick.

you knew their names by heart. you had their faces on your bedroom walls. you copied lyrics into a pretty notebook. you waited patiently by the radio to record their songs onto a tape. you bought magazines with them on the cover. you hoped your parents would bring you to their showcase here. you went to your friend’s house after school to watch their videos because she was the only one who had satellite tv. you wished you lived in manchester or florida.

your taste in music changed as your grew older. when they eventually stopped performing together, you mourned but not for very long. your priorities changed to include financial independence. you valued knowledge, relationships, life purpose more than being in the presence of mortal idols. you found yourself burdened with a couple of debts in the pursuit of the above.

now, you finally feel like an adult responsible for things other than yourself…

…and the damned backstreet boys decide to grace the stage at an accessible venue with an affordable entrance fee and you forget you’re 28 and save lives for a living. for that one hour in the middle of a late-twenties-early-thirties crowd, you are a 12-year-old girl who knows all the words to all the songs and has perfected the dance moves a million times in her dreams and is convinced howie d will marry her one day (no, he won’t).

you think you’re too old, but some things never get old.

20 years on, i’m still a downright fool for the backstreet boys. hearing them sing the a capella break down bit in “all i have to give” was the most surreal moment of the night, even more than watching them do the iconic 90s “get down” choreography that is best performed in loose metallic sweatsuits. oh, and i finally told – okay, screamed – howie d that i loved him, which was a pretty cathartic experience!

okay, i exaggerate.

alot of childhood dreams came true that night. if 12-year-old me knew that this would be possible one day, she would have been less upset about missing that one showcase the boys did back then. she would have also spent less money on magazines and posters and put more of it into the “send lishun to england to watch take that in concert” fund. haha.

oh messrs littrell, richardson, mclean, dorough and carter…thanks for helping this little big girl check off another item on her bucket list and giving her a royally sore oropharynx just in time for her call tomorrow. it was a pleasure!

passion addict

i’m addicted to the passion of others.

my mother is a talented storyteller. i grew up on the story of a pretty little girl raised by a loving father and selfish stepmother. she later met a man with nary a streak of romance in him, but won her over with his humble honesty. she spent her life imparting wisdom to whoever would listen – in the classroom, through the airwaves, at home – and lived by the simple philosophy of “forgive, but never forget”. the story has been told and retold countless times; i have yet to tire of it.

i first heard his name at a gathering i had no business being part of. after grazing through the pre-event activities, i caught a glimpse of his tall figure at a booth selling shirts and buttons advocating knowledge and empowerment. it wasn’t the last i saw of him – he has the ability to attract a bevy of followers who gladly join in his (ridiculous number of) ventures and for a short while, i was one of them. he used his “powers” for good when he could have easily manipulated others for evil and that makes up for all the bad haircuts in the world.

“music really isn’t supposed to be perfect. it’s all about people relating to one another and doing something that’s really from the soul,” says tom petty in a scene from dave grohl’s rockumentary tribute to the analog neve console from sound city studios. it was 100 minutes of the kind of love we look for our whole lives – unrelenting, overwhelming, inconceivable love. musicians i’ve never heard of spoke about sound and words and tape. i felt a little dizzy after watching the film and i knew that, for once, the long island iced tea was not responsible.

i’m addicted to passion. some of my favourite books are autobiographies because you need to feel strongly about something in order to write a couple hundred thousand words about why you do the things you do in your life. i attended a conference on bowel surgery a few days ago and the most enjoyable talk was delivered by a british surgeon who helped develop a device to reduce the effects of faecal incontinence. he invested significant energy into the project and i could hear only pride as he described his work, determination as he spoke about the challenges ahead.

what others’ passion gives me is a great hope for what is to come. this world cannot be so bad if there are people who believe in leaving a legacy. my mother’s determination to make lemonade out of every lemon has helped me see that life is only as long or short, enjoyable or torturous, as i make it to be. but it accentuates the absence of passion in my own heart, whether it be passion for medicine or the things i enjoy doing. there just isn’t anything worth sacrificing for. nothing that moves me, motivates me.

so i feed on the enthusiasm of dreamers, casting my net ever further for a passion of my own. i’m just not happy where i am.

uninspired

it’s hard to write a blog post that doesn’t come out sounding like the juvenile whining of an ingrate when my life hasn’t been particularly extraordinary lately. the same old elements are there – love both unrequited and tried-but-failed, soul-draining work, hedonistic escapes – and the players are unchanged, which means it’s the usual spin and familiar selection of topics left for me to write about.

i’ve found it increasingly tiresome to watch and compose stories about the people who walk in and out of the coffee shops i sit in. they’re hipsters trying desperately not to blend in but being very successful at doing just that, young families hanging onto the remnants of their carefree youth, couples having brunch the way brunch should be eaten – with someone special.

it makes me all the more self-aware that i don’t fit into any of the above categories. i’m usually there on my own, feet tucked beneath me on the sofa nearest to the window, book in one hand and coffee in another. i’m seeking a few extra hours to myself, but once i get there i feel obligated to write a tale about the man gesturing passionately while talking politics with the faceless woman opposite him. or spin a tale about the men next to me, who are obviously the stereotypical “couple having sunday brunch” but are making an immense effort to disguise it.

the romance of having a heart etched into my takeaway flat white disappeared once i realised that every barista practices his/her craft in every espresso-based drink. the monotony of complaining about work leaves me more drained than the work itself. the constant worry about my parents’ health and dwindling lifespan. the despair of looking for passion and finding nothing there.

and so we’re back to the juvenile whining of a 28-year-old pretending to be a doctor.

i’m uninspired.

old age

“you meet someone, get engaged a year later, married 6 months after that…”
“isn’t that really fast?”

perhaps it’s old age speaking, but after the fancies of youthful naivete fades away, you realise it’s the big things that matter. not the flowers, the wining and dining, long walks on the beach. it’s how finances are managed, where careers are going, whether children are wanted, in what faith those wanted children are raised, rainy day plans, respect, integrity, patience. after the sacrifices and compromises, if some resemblance of love still remains…that’s all that’s needed, isn’t it?

when you’re younger, it takes a longer time to see the big picture. the complexities of life become clearer when there’s a debt to pay and the responsibility of aging parents to take on. you find there isn’t much time to spend on the frivolous aspects of courtship, that you’re lucky enough they even want to be near you and all your eccentricities, that they’re a keeper.

it doesn’t take 3 or 4 years to get there once you’re 28.

perhaps it’s old age.

let go

when i went for my great graduation trip to the uk a couple of years ago, i planned my itinerary down to the last minute. my train pass allowed me 8 days of unlimited travel, so i visited a total of 8 towns in 14 days. i looked up train schedules, worked out travel times and budgeted what was necessary for each attraction. it was a little rushed but i covered most of what i wanted to see and i came home tired but satisfied.

an unplanned, impromptu trip is almost inconceivable to me. when i met the irish couple who came with just an idea of what they wanted to do in malaysia but nothing much else, i thought they were nuts.

then, i met suzie.

it was a short trip to penang to celebrate a friend’s wedding. i went on my own, had a pleasant flight, but then was faced with the prospect of spending 74 bucks on a solo taxi ride to batu ferringhi. as my turn at the airport taxi counter approached, i looked to the back of the line, hoping i’d see a tourist who may be heading for the beach as well. there, two turns behind me, was a tall caucasian lady who looked really lost. i decided to do something completely out of character and asked if she were going in the same direction. to my surprise, she was heading to ferringhi as well and, in what is either a happy coincidence or divine intervention, her hotel was located right opposite mine!

suzie, as i found out, was in penang just for the weekend. she had flown in from melbourne the night before and decided to book a ticket to penang as she heard it was a place well worth visiting. she knew nothing about malaysia, wasn’t aware it was thaipusam the next day, and asked what she should do during her time there. before i launched into my role as an ambassador in denial, i thought – holy crap! all she did was catch a flight to a state she knew close to nothing about, had nothing planned out, and brought nothing other than a tiny backpack that contained goodness-knows-what! and i had a proper carry-on with three changes of clothes, a set of clean underwear, heels, and a toiletry bag full of makeup and other miscellany!

when i met suzie again the next day – yes, we split a cab to the airport too because (surprise, surprise!) we were taking the same flight out – i found out that she spent the previous day at the pool and even managed to check out the thaipusam procession. she was pleased with her (painfully) short stay in penang and looked forward to spending the rest of the week in kl. i helped her work out the details of getting back to her hotel and we went our separate ways once we landed.

what amazed me was the ease of her trip to penang. she came alone and by sheer luck got to share a taxi (twice!) with a friendly malaysian who wasn’t out to rip her off, who even bought her a box of tau sar peah, and she got to chill out at a nice hotel with a nice stretch of beach and experience one of the most colourful festivals in the country. all without much planning at all!

i haven’t gone on a trip out of the country – other than singapore, but that’s basically my second home, so it doesn’t count – since my fortnight in the uk. it’s stressful just booking the flights and timing it so i’d be able to check into my accommodation yet not waste too much daylight. there’s the duty of meeting up with friends who live in whichever place i visit, and the attractions i want to see. if a museum is on the list, i have to allocate at least 2 hours for it. then there’s checking out noteworthy cafes and slotting in time for anything unexpected.

that’s right, i even plan for unplanned things. an extra 1/2 hour for an interesting antique bookstore, or an additional hour at the park. maybe another 20 minutes at a small museum or a walk through a pretty arcade.

perhaps i need to learn from suzie and that irish couple. although a well-planned trip ensures adequate “coverage” of the place i’m visiting, it leaves very little room for me to meet people who can give me helpful tips on what to do or where to go. suzie would have prolly missed out on thaipusam or tau sar peah if she hadn’t met me. she could have paid more than she should have for a rented taxi to the city or been late for her flight to kl because she didn’t anticipate the traffic.

my graduation trip, or even the many little excursions to singapore, could have been very different if i had just let go and let life, coincidences, divine interventions, whatever, lead the way. who knows what opportunities and experiences i’ve missed by being such an uptight type A woman?