Minefield

Sasha once asked what I wanted to be in the future.

When I was younger, I wanted to be lots of things. My first ambition was to be a vet, together with my best friend Natalie, since we loved pets so much. Later, as years go by, my ambitions varied almost every month or year. I wanted to be a teacher, doctor, fashion designer, housewife (yes I’ve thought of that), artiste, lawyer etc, until I started secondary school and discovered my passion for writing. Since then, I’ve wanted to be a writer or a journalist.

But my parents wanted me to be involved in the medicinal field. I know a lot of people would say “you should only choose your career path based on what you love, what you want to do, instead of what other people want you to do” and believe me, that’s exactly the tactic I worked in arguments and I’m not trying to make my parents look like the bad guys here because they do have a point, that is, a writer’s job is unstable and unpredictable. What I had in mind about being a writer was writing a bestselling book and have it interpreted into a movie and earn lots of hard cash and being named the next Rowling or something, but things like that are bullshit and always never happen to young, new and inexperienced writers, and they didn’t want me to end up jobless, penniless, or with a book no one in their right minds would want to read. That kind of thing is damn near impossible so they advised me to go for a job that can earn me money for real, and if everything goes well, well, there’s my time to write a book. I accepted this, and agreed with delving into the medicinal field.

My dad suggests being a pharmacist, since pharmacists are hugely in demand nowadays, especially in Australia so that’s what I should aim to be if I want to further my studies in Australia. An orthodontist wouldn’t be bad either, they suggested, and personally, I think I would enjoy being an orthodontist more than I would a pharmacist, because in my mind’s eye, a pharmacist is a huge, paunched, middle-age man reading the newspaper and looks at you boringly when you enter a pharmacy and go up to the counter to ask for this and that. I now know that’s not it, I really do, but I still think I would be more interested in orthodontics, me wearing braces and all plus my curiosity driving me to be interested in this field.

Then again, sometimes I would daydream, something I do quite often. Before I continue, you should know (and everyone who knows me must already know) that I hugely despise hospitals and needles and all that. Two months ago, I went to the hospital for the first time since about a year or two to visit my grand-aunt in Penang, and as I passed by wards and sick patients, I couldn’t help but feel like throwing up. Walking in hospital corridors makes me think morbid thoughts. I hate the blank white walls that make me picture all sorts of gruesome things and I hate the huge machines and equipment and the tools and just everything. Whenever I’m in the ICU, my heart always thump uncontrollably whenever I look at the ECG/blood & oxygen/response/blood pressure monitor, always afraid of hearing those beeps, my paranoia driving me into thinking something was wrong when the beeps pick up pace. Until now, I am still terribly frightened of needles. I’m not exaggerating when I say I can feel the air knocked out from me whenever I see a needle. I can’t even hold or look at Heart whenever he is injected. I literally screamed when Soo Pei showed me Ah Kong’s amputated toe at the hospital yesterday. Basically, what I’m saying is, I can never be a doctor, or work in a hospital.

But, as you know, I’ve been to hospitals quite often lately, and I think we can all agree that the hospitals and doctors in Alor Setar are pretty shit. Doctors can tell you you have disembowelment problems when in fact you have intestinal cancer, or they can tell you nothing serious is happening to you when you go for a check-up, when in reality you are experiencing renal failure. This is all true and has happened to people I know. My grandmother and grand-aunt are examples of this stupidity and by the time they finally took a car ride down to Penang to get a real check-up, they are admitted into the ICU immediately or in worse situations, it’s already too late. So this made me think that I might actually want to be a doctor, and come back to Alor Setar and work in the hospitals here, and maybe, just maybe, driven by my determination to stop this stupidity from continuing and my irritation at their stupidity in general, I might just make it, and then we don’t have to suffer from all this false pretenses.

Another field I might go for is veterinary, my first ambition from childhood. Again, as you all know, there is only one vet in Alor Setar and I’m not going to name names since you should already know who he is, and as you all know, he is also complete shit, but no one can actually argue with him because he’s the only private vet in town, and you can’t argue with the only person who can save your pet’s life. So if I really do become a vet, I’m going to open up my own shop in Alor Setar, right next to his if I can afford it, and treat people and pets better than he ever did and show him what a complete douchebag he is.

I’m sorry if I seem too harsh, but how can you not be mad at someone who criticises and blames you when you bring your pet to him? You are a doctor. You doctor my pets. I did not ask for your opinion. So you shut your mouth. I paid to get you to save my dog’s life, not to hear you call us stupid fellows and praise yourself endlessly.

Anyway, so this is what I have in mind for my career path. It might all seem very well-planned, but I am still really, really confused and indecisive and can’t seem to make up my mind about who I want to be.

This morning in school, we had two talks, the first by a doctor from Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital about medicinal field, and the second by two engineers from UNIKL about engineering field.

I can honestly say the first talk really made me open my eyes, besides giving me dreadful scare. She, Dr Fikriah, was an ex-Asma student. She used to be the head prefect, president of the school marching band, and head of PRS. This really impressed me. It wasn’t really a wonder she is a doctor now. She described her experience of graduating and entering medic school and how got to be the person she is now.

She didn’t get straight As in her SPM, so she studied in a local university, at USM. She took up medicine and studied for 5 years (if I’m not mistaken). The effect of her speech has worn off of me now at 6.17pm, whereas I was passionate for a blog post in the morning, hearing her talk. There were loads to study, and when she and a bunch of other candidates sat for the first test in medic school, less than half passed, and those who failed had to repeat another year again. I know many have told me this before, but hearing her say it like that, with me indecisive about my career path, I felt really, really scared. Besides, she also said to take up medicine, you have to be strong and determined, because it is a very tough journey, and most of the tests are also conducted orally. It was like a huge boulder had dropped in my gut. I’m not strong. I give up very easily. And if you didn’t know yet, I’m afraid of public speaking. So what am I going to do now?

At that moment, I was paralyzed with fear, really, and I didn’t know what to do. What if taking up medicine wasn’t the right path for me? She said a few of friends had to be admitted into psychiatrist wards in their medical journey, and I have a feeling I could end up horribly too, the time comes. I don’t know. I was right about “toughening myself up for the future” in one of my previous posts. I just hope I’ll be able to make it through.

Boy, this year is starting quite scarily. I know I’m thinking and worrying too much, but I can’t help worrying about the inevitable. It’s what I do.

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Author: Michelle Teoh

23-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

3 thoughts on “Minefield”

  1. If you want to do medicine, you better make sure you get straight A(s) cos you are a Chinese. You might get into the better local private ones with slightly less than all A(s). If Dr. Fikriah had been a non-Malay, she would not have been a doctor unless her parents can afford to send her to study on their own. So, being strong and all that would be secondary. You have to be strong and determined from right now. Study hard first. It’s normal to be indecisive at this stage. But realize this… this is Malaysia where double standards still rule… basically you have to work harder than your Malay friends, plain and simple. Such a sad thing to say. Also, you will find many of your Malay friends being offered all kinds of courses after the SPM. If you have anything short a perfect result, you are likely to have to depend on your parents for support.

  2. Heya! Just in case you don’t know who this is, I’m the older sister of the freaky girl called Aifa.

    Yeah, that one.

    Anyhoo! Take it from someone who is almost bald from too much hair-pulling, you’re not over thinking and you’re not making a decision too early. Seriously. Once you finish SPM, you’re going to be grateful for making an early decision.

    Oh, and btw, even if you say that getting a job as a pharmacist or whatever is ‘safe’, and if everybody thinks that way, what shall happen to to the population of writers? Zilch, honey. So who is going to write then? Nobody.

    Not that I’m demanding you to ditch everything and become a writer. Just, you know, don’t scrape that job off your list.

    It’s simple, really. If you’re good, you’re good. And if you’re a damn good writer who ends up selling Panadol behind a counter (I’m quoting you, even if it is not verbatim!), than do you know what it’s called?

    A waste.

    So think about it, Michelle! Or Mitchy. Whichever you prefer, really. 🙂

    Good luck with form 4!

  3. Amal, how dare you! Oh and Michelle, if you’re gonna take medicine then don’t kill yourself by worrying that you might end up in a psychiatric ward in med school because it’s actually not so tough as Dr Fikriah described. If the current situation is the same as it was before then how can we explain the over abundance of doctors in the country. And so we have these doctors who are not passionate about their job. So what I’m trying to say is take up this field if you have the drive!

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