Lately I have been experiencing a lack of motivation, or sometimes none at all. There are times that I felt like just quitting my job and lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling. Or sell muffins.

The problem is not just the lack of motivation. Thing is, I am very close to passing my specialist exams. Or let me rephrase that. There is only one step left to go before I pass this three-step set of exams, then they can consider giving me a specialist post somewhere in the ministry of health. How many times do I need to sit for this exam, I don’t know. Many people pass in the first sitting but some needed a few attempts.

My extremely motivated friend has been telling me about courses, mock exams, practicing, and how to look out for the exam date. She’s been really great since we passed our second part together. I know, I was super energized when we first passed that part too. Even a close friend of mine who did not sit for the same set of exams has been encouraging. “So, when’s the final part?” he’d ask. “Quickly pass your exams and get out of this place as soon as you can!”

However, the past three months have seen my spirit dwindling away. “I don’t want to be a specialist. There’s too much responsibility.”

I wondered, is it just that? Was I just thinking about how many people would depend on me; the house officers need guidance, the medical officers would need help, the consultants would need me to be tip top on my management so they could trust me, and firstly and most importantly, the patients need to know that they could trust me.

Well, the main reason that I took these exams was so that I could improve my knowledge thus I’d be able to serve better.

It doesn’t make sense to back out now, knowing that I’ve sacrificed so much time and money, as well as other people’s time all this while to pass those two steps. I don’t know whether it’s just the worry about the responsibilities, or fear of the exam itself (it includes speaking to pseudo-patients and examining patients and speaking to the examiners, call it stage-fright perhaps), tired of exams, poor motivation because I don’t know what’s next, nobody to share the success with, or I’ve just become lazy.

I do wonder if other specialists felt like this when they were sitting for their specialist exams.

I do wonder if this is normal.

Then I tried to picture all those faces who meant a lot to me in my career path.

Dato, first and foremost, who has been like a father to me, encouraging and helping me every step of the way.

Dr Richard, who has helped me with his time and energy. While being a consultant, he took my medical officer calls so that I could take days off to prepare for my exams.

Dr Nick, as helpful as Dr Richard has ever been.

My dear friends and colleagues who have been there for me, supporting me, lending their ears when I need someone to talk to, those who were in the same boat and who were not, who covered my work during my absence as I studied for those papers.

My parents.

My grandpa and grandma, although they are no longer here, but I’m pretty sure they would want this for me too.

Then I was brought back to a conversation with a middle-aged lady doctor a few weeks ago.

* * *

She grew up overseas, although her parents were officially local. She finished medical school overseas and came back here to start working and raise her family.

She aspired to be a specialist in internal medicine, but there was a problem. In order to get into masters programme or to be promoted in government sector, one needs to be confirmed in a government post. If you want to get yourself confirmed, you need to have a pass in our local formal language in our high school exams. As she grew up overseas, she did not have that qualification.

So she had to sit for the language exam, sadly she could not get enough credit for that.

In the end she decided to leave the government sector and became a GP.

“There was no point staying. I could not get into masters programme, neither could I get a promotion, my petty salary would remain petty. I might as well go somewhere else and practice.”

Then she looked at me and said, “Please don’t quit your job. You have this opportunity so go on and pass your exams. Whatever happens, don’t quit.”

* * *

At that time we weren’t talking about me, how that conversation came about is another story of its own.

Since then, everytime I think about holding my future back, whenever the thoughts of “I just want to lie in my bed and stare at the ceilings” come across my mind, I’d remember her story.

It’s a story of a dream crushed by beureaucracy.

It’s a story of ambitions not reached.

I’m pretty sure a lot of good may have come through that. Yes, many people may have blamed the government for that lack of one doctor who wanted so much to be a physician, but as Muslims we understand that everything happens for a reason, or many good reasons indeed. Muslims believe that rizq (sustenance plus God’s blessing) is everywhere, you just need to work for it the right way.

But I’m not talking about paperwork here.

What I’m saying is, I have this chance to succeed.

I have this chance to make a difference, for my life and those around me.

I have this opportunity to progress in life, especially so when I’m alone and no distractions like crying kids or a needy husband.

I have this opportunity, and not just that, I have people around me who love me, or at least love this noble profession that much that they would give me all the support, time and energy they could, just to see another doctor pass her exams.

I am very blessed and lucky indeed, to have friends and colleagues who understand each other, and would help each other towards our goals, because we’re all in the same boat.

It’s about being thankful for all the opportunity that I have.

It’s about being thankful for this life, even when sometimes things don’t go my way.

* * *

No, makcik, I’m not going to quit.

I might feel tired, I might feel worried, but I’ll continue with my fight, my struggle, one topic at a time.

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