"What are you playing at?"
This phrase could easily sum up how I felt when I read the sentence "What I should have done". I mean, come on! How is it not a trap? If this question, I might say, is a stormtrooper, it is the worst trooper of them all because it just can't miss hitting the right sections of my memories.
First of all, we need to make things clear; after six and a half years, give or take a month or two of taking medicine, living, learning and growing up in Egypt I am confident enough to say that I am satisfied enough with what have become of me. In a way, I am more confident with myself, I have just finished medical school (which is a huge deal itself), and I have made wonderful friends whom I will haunt to death if they skip jenazah prayer for me when I die.
Nevertheless I do have a few regrets here and there like everyone out there, and somehow if you string them up together I do have that feeling of a huge disgusting pile of shit dumped on me, as I am sleeping in my bed, early in the morning, after a very, very tiring day. You know, the sort of things that can piss you off like nothing else.
You see, I have a lot of things I wished I'd done these past years and now I can't decide from where to start.
One of my favourite hadith is the one that says 'He who knows himself knows God." Personally I have always struggled with myself, I was never at a point where I am comfortable with who I am and I have always worried how other people see me. The thing is, I am a dude; a huge one back in Malaysia in fact. My lack of confidence bothered me so much that I've became more insecure with me acknowledging my insecurities. That is what we called a vicious cycle in the medical world. So I looked into that, finding ways to improve myself from all the angles I could find, and by doing so I overlooked some other parts of me that needed to be developed.
The general assumption of Malaysians is that an Egypt-graduate, whether he or she is taking either medicine, sharia or ulum al-Quran, should become an ustaz that can lead prayers, tahlils, give khutbah and should know what is halal and what is not. We should be proficient in Arabic in a way that we shouldn't need a tafseer to read the Quran. Obviously the general population had it all wrong. Even a PhD holder in sharia can't just interpret the Quran willy nilly. Anyway, all misconceptions aside, we are expected to know more that those who take medicine in the UK, for example, and this is the least that we can achieve to edge us more than graduates from other countries.
We should have a strong grasp on the Arabic language. Stronger than being able to ask the 'ammu in the store how much is something without knowing that that thing is called in arabic. "'Ammu, da bikam?" is just not enough, man. Neither does "mumkin takhfeed shuwaiya". So yes, the fact that my Arabic is so abhorrent does leave a sizable mark inside me. My stomach churned every time I was reminded with the fact that I can't speak Arabic fluently, not even the Egyptian dialect. So maybe, if I could turn back time, I would push myself to speak Arabic more, because hey, even though I don't look it but I do wish I could someday memorize and understand the forty hadiths and the Quran.
Back when I was just in my first year, I heard stories of my seniors who went to the local villages, slept with the locals, eating their food and learning their culture. I remembered back then saying to myself, I will do that someday. Days went by and today I am less than one month shy from going back to Malaysia for good. I wish I could learn how to make a proper plate ofkoshary. I wish I ask that 'ammu what kofta is made of. I wish I stopped that herder who brings his goats to eat at the garbage sites around town and offered him a cup of tea. Living with other thousand of Malaysians have made us excluded from the world we are living in, we are a community who do not wish to assimilate with the locals. If you look at it properly, you should understand that this is rude and insulting to the locals, as if we are better than them (which we are not!). So if I could go back in time, I'd ask myself to go learn how to make a perfect plate of sweet, spicy koshary lahma or a plate of togen.
Living in a small town in a foreign land doing one of the most tedious fields in the modern world can make you feel empty inside. Naturally, everyone needs something to keep them sane through the year. While some sing or play instruments, others read and expose themselves in the virtual world by writing or blogging on a semi-personal level. Others spend their time in the stadium drenching in sweat and joint pains, which they perceived as fun for some reason beyond my understanding. As for myself, I find joy in reading and writing but somehow they eluded me. I did not spend my time doing either of those, instead I remembered pointless nights when I did nothing for a period longer than I care to admit. I was a lazy arse, hell I still am! I also have always admired the guitar and the piano, but I did not pursue my interest, and just recently I found a sport that I genuinely can play well enough. Due to the fact that I have always been bad at sports, finding one that suits me is a very big deal.
I wished I have done more with my time. I wished I'd write more, learn more, try new things earlier. The years I've spent here in Egypt were my golden years, where I could learn and experience as much as I could without having to think about responsibilities other than studying. I've realised that once I finish medical school, real life begins. I have to think about paying bills, about where and how to settle down, about my family and most importantly, my career as a doctor which has been my biggest aim in life since I started doing medicine.
Ah, all these negativities are getting to me. In spite of all the things I wished I had done, like I said earlier, I am glad I turned out to be this man I am today. I may not be perfect, but as a believer I understand that where I am today is where Allah wants me. Do I wish I turn out better? Hell yeah! But I am content with what I am and there's nothing I can do besides looking forward and work with what I have.
Here's to another fifty years of achieving great things in life!