Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Regret It All My Life

- Us in Standard 2, 1982 (Azmi is no longer in this picture. His face is just a vague memory in my mind)

In life, we go through many phases. And in life, we discover friendships. As time goes by, I realize that by giving, I am indirectly sharing my life with the people around me. At the same time, I believe by giving, I am also telling my friends how much I appreciate them for all the things that they have done for me. I appreciate them for their sincerities in the friendships they offered to me. I appreciate them for accepting me for who I am and not for what they expect me to be. People sometimes asked me, 'Why do you bother?' To answer that, I have to tell you a story which happened in the past, but transforms my future. This is a true story relating to the events that occurred in 1981 although I only had the guts to put the story in writing in 1994. Those who were in school with me at that time would probably remember how I acted back in those years.

I Regret It All My Life, by Dahlia Zawawi (1994)

Whenever I set my eyes through the windows of my house, there is always one thing that I previous school. Although several changes have been made to the original structure of it, I can still picture myself running, playing and studying there. Throughout the six years which I had spent in that school, there are just too many memories for me to remember them all. But I am sure to recall an incident where I lost a friend. It happened in 1981, when I was in Standard One. My class consisted of about twenty pupils. Years before, the class was not as big as now. It had a small blackboard in front and all twenty chairs and desks were arranged neatly. The teacher’s table was put at one corner of the class with fresh flowers decorated beautifully on it. Because the building was old, you could feel the movement almost everywhere when someone ran in it.

Among my classmates, was this one boy named Azmi who was quite tall, fair and had dark curly hair. My teacher, Puan Rohiah, had him elected as our class monitor. He lived in Taman Sekamat which was not very far from the school and my house. I did not like him because he always scolded my naughty friends and then submitted their names to Puan Rohiah. One day, when I was sitting at my desk, he approached me. We talked for a while and that short meeting made me feel very uneasy. I prayed that he would go away, but unfortunately he did not. From that day onwards, he kept disturbing me. Once, he asked me where I live and he said that he would like to come to my house. At first, I was reluctant to give him my address, but when I saw his gloomy face, I agreed. I kept saying to myself, “What harm could he do to me?” Never at that time had I imagined that my worst nightmare had just begun. It had anyway.

Almost everyday, he would come to my house, riding a bicycle and he would shout my name even though he had not reached my home yet. I was very ashamed with my neighbours especially my best friend who happened to live next door. I wondered what they might think about Azmi. In the beginning, I really thought I would get some support from my mother. Instead, every time he visited me, she invited him to come in! After they talked for a while, my mother would normally left us alone. The visit was so frequent that I did not know what to talk anymore and I kept shouting angrily at him even though it was a very small mistake. There was this one time when my mother caught my bad behaviour and she scolded me in front of him. After that, I was asked to seek his forgiveness. I hated my mother at that moment! But surprisingly Azmi said, “It’s okay auntie, it was my mistake.” I appreciated what he had done although I still could not stop myself from feeling disgusted.

In school, my classmates had started to tease me about him. That made me more uncomfortable because as a little kid, I tended to take these kinds of things seriously. That was when I made my decision. I started to avoid him whenever I could. When he tried to help me, I would say no. If he looked at me, I would turn away. I guessed it was pretty obvious to him that I would never like him, so finally he gave up. Life seemed to be back to normal after that.

However, in the middle of June, 1981, he did not attend the class anymore. I was curious about his absence because my teacher did not even bother to ask where he had gone, as if she had already been informed about it. I could not concentrate in class that day, because I kept looking out for him. It was only after a few days that I learned the truth. According to one of my friends, he, along with his family, had moved to another place. I felt very depressed just by hearing the news. Knowing the fact that I was not informed really hurt me. But deep inside, I admitted that I should be the one who ought to be blamed. I had never given him a chance to be my friend. I did not want to ask anyone where he had gone for I was afraid that people would made fun of me. So, I kept the feeling to myself.

From that day onwards, I try to change my attitude towards my friends and I look at them as precious gifts given to me by God. Now, as I grow older, I begin to understand more about the importance of having friends. I promise myself that I will try my best to accept anyone who wants to make friends with me. Even gossips could not destroy my relationships with them. As long as the friendship is honest, I do not care.

I have regretted throughout my life for what I had done to Azmi. However, at the same time I thank him for making me realize the real value of a friendship. I hope that wherever Azmi is now, life will treat him well, and may he forgive the mistake this little girl had made. Azmi, I am sorry...

Sharing is the joy in my life. If you understand this, you will understand me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

To Write or Not to Write – The Choice is Yours.

To some people, doing a Ph.D. is a hobby. My previous officemate actually did that. He had already retired, had all the money that he wished for, but he decided to do his Ph.D. at the age of 60 just because he loves learning. However, to most of us, Ph.D. is part of a job requirement. As we move along the tedious process - compiling the literatures, identifying the gaps, constructing the framework, designing the applicable methods, analyzing the data and finding reasons why the results were not as expected - then only the excitement and the joy of learning become more apparent.

Often in the course of writing the research, we find moments where writing becomes difficult. Some people call it the writer’s block. In truth, writer’s block does not exist in academic writing. We are not being creative and trying to inspire people. We are just reporting things that we had done. It was quoted in a book called ‘How to Write a Lot’ by Paul J. Silvia – ‘Writer’s block is nothing more than the behaviour of not writing.’ So, the cure for this disease is actually to continue writing. Hmm, how ironic is that…

I often conveyed this to my students – Ph.D. is not for a genius; Ph.D. is for those who are determined. I said this because no matter how outstanding you are, if you are not able to sit down everyday and follow your schedule closely, you will not be able to complete your research. It should be you who chase your supervisor and worry about your deadlines instead of the vice versa. Remember - a good Ph.D. is always a finished Ph.D. Often in the process of your writing, you will come across new ideas and new experiences. Whatever happens, you need to keep bouncing back. You must be physically and emotionally resilient. To do your Ph.D., you need to have a certain standard of maturity in your thinking so that you will be able to see beyond the usual. It is not easy. But…I assure you that it is going to be worthwhile. Be a consistent writer, not a binge writer.

I once read this book by Harry F. Wolcott entitled ‘Writing Up – Qualitative Research.’ He said that in writing, you need to have a plan. And the first thing that you need to do is be clear with your statement of purpose. It is important for the writer to be clear with his goals before he can get his message across successfully. The second thing is for you to develop your outline or list of major topics as detailed as possible. The reason is for you to be able to differentiate the main ideas as opposed to the supporting ones. And finally, you need to determine the basic story of your research. Imagine yourself as a movie producer. What will happen if the storyline is not in sequence and keeps going back and forth? Won’t your audience be annoyed? Won’t the audience feel frustrated because they cannot identify the gist and the ending of the movie? It is the same with the writing of your research. It should be a story. It should be your story. And it should have a sense of clarity to it – the story has to make sense…to the audience.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I am Sorry, but it’s a NO.

Many, many years ago, I was obsessed with kungfu movies. I actually saved my money to buy most of Jet Li’s Chinese movies. And in one of those movies, there was this particular phrase uttered by Jet Li to his son (of course in Cantonese) that I really liked. The phrase actually stays with me until now. Roughly translated, it basically says – ‘There is no need to explain when no one believes the explanation.’ I strongly believe in this. Normally, if I find that explaining is a waste of time and does not provide me any good in the end, I just don’t bother to do it. But last week, I failed to uphold this principal of mine. I was given a task that I knew I would not be able to do well. I was given a limited time to complete it with very minimal information on how to go about doing it. On top of that, it was not even in the area of my expertise. Against my better judgment, I did it anyway. But when I got bombarded for not being able to meet the management’s expectations, I felt compelled to defend myself..mainly because I didn’t like the negative perception that came with the blame. Theoretically, a delegation of work should be accompanied with the transfer of responsibility and accountability. However, lack of information would also hinder the effectiveness of the delegation. It was like you being given a car and a set of keys to drive without the direction of where to go. Still, those who really know me would expect me to find just the right time to interject my argument…and I will do it only once. On that particular day also, I got a very good advice from somebody..’You should learn to say NO.’ Thank you. I will always remember that….


Friday, May 20, 2011

A Journey without Regrets.

I was born ambitious and resilient. And I am always determined to overcome the hurdles that I face. I am never happy when life is mundane. I cannot tolerate my days when they are to be the same routine with little variety. I guess that is one of the many reasons why I continuously forced myself to plough the road and keep moving forward even though at times the journey was painful. That is also why I sacrificed my feelings to do my Ph.D. That is why I drove myself to the hospital to deliver my son. That is why I never say ‘no’ when a task is presented to me. I don’t like to be seen as weak. In addition, I also don’t like to trouble people except my husband as I believe that I am part of him when he took me as his wife. Other times, if I suffer, I prefer to suffer alone.

For the past few years, I worked hard to ensure that I stand equal to others at the expense of my family and my health. Even though I was at home, my mind continued to think about work. When I played with my kids, I was actually thinking of the deadlines that I needed to meet. My heart was always full of anger as I felt forced to do many things simultaneously.

It was not until this one rainy day, as I was driving home that it suddenly dawned on me - as much as I wanted to be successful in life, it would not matter if I fail my family. As a wife, and a mother, I have a far bigger responsibility on my shoulder, one that will last me a lifetime. I am not saying that I will become a great wife, or an excellent mother, but I want to believe that I at least try.

So, on that particular day, I came to the realization that I now needed to prioritize my life. I begin to accept the fact that I am not young and single anymore. Time is not on my side. I am a mother of four and my children’s futures depend on me. Of course, my career is still important. But I learn to be patience. I learn to be able to take one step at a time. I learn not to be very competitive. I now read books like Chicken Soup for the Soul to remind me of what I already have in my life. As much as possible, I try to minimize the work that I bring home especially on weekends. I get involve with my children’s homework and activities. I teach them to see different perspectives in life. I train myself to work hard and also play hard. Of course, sometimes it is very difficult to get a good balance. Still, I believe in the long run it is going to be worth it. I once discovered this quotation – ‘You cannot find peace by avoiding life.’ In life, we make choices. We then have to live with the consequences of those choices. As much as I want to succeed, as much as I want to be on the top of the world, I want more for the journey to be without regrets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. I have lots of friends. But in truth only some prove to be reliable. Only some will be around when I need them the most. Only some actually believe in me. And only some love me unconditionally. I do believe that in life, one can never do without friends. And so, when they leave, life can never be the same ever again.

If I were to describe Jue with two words, it would be fun and shopping. If I were to describe her brand, it will be Coach. Wow! I have never seen her feeling depress or sad. She is always strong and confident. And events in her life always take an interesting turn every now and then – like pages of a novel. To Jue, I hope life treats you well wherever you are. Thank you for the constant inspiration, joy and love you share with me.

This particular friend of mine has the word ‘perfectionist’ stamped all over him. He is a good friend to have. Always willing to go for an extra mile. Always look at things in a positive way. He has a good aura surrounding him and that aura is projected to his friends somehow. A calming effect. This is a friend that knows how to enjoy life. To Tee, I hope you will one day find what you have been searching for. And thank you for always being there for me..through laugh and tears.

Serene is one of the most determined individuals that I know. Although she will only be gone for about 10 months, for me she is still not going to be around here. It is very fortunate for me to find such a reliable friend. And a very optimistic one too. From time to time, she helps keep my feet on the ground. Well, to you Serene, enjoy your life in Perth. Don't forget to come home when you are done, eh.

Frankly, I have always known that when people made their decisions, no tears will stop them from leaving. Still, some parts of me wish that they would stay. Hehe. Good luck you guys and love ya!