It’s beginning to look a lot like the new year

4 Jan

So it’s time to put away the wrapping paper, wash away the crumbs in the empty cookie jar, remove the reindeer antlers from your dog’s ears and call it a day, it’s the new year and Christmas is over.

The Google image below appropriately depicts my general demeanor over the end of the holidays.

Thanks Google for the image

I’m having the worst case of the holidays-are-over depression.

I’m back at the lab and even before I could refill my water bottle (I’m still trying to avoid coffee), my supervisor came in to update me on what I have to do for the year before my all important confirmation presentation in August. He was pretty relaxed but just listening to him made my eyes glaze over. The bio-safety cabinet was fully booked today so I’m grateful that the only slot available allows me to do something as mundane as preparing media today.

I still have to stock up on chocolate and biscuits so that I can face the new year like a boss! (can you tell I’ve been reading too much 9gag?).

Speaking of Christmas…

One of my cousins was in an accident a month ago. He was on a bike and had just left the house to go get dinner when he was rear ended by a truck. Quite predictably he flew from the bike and even though he was wearing a helmet, the impact smashed it in two. His body was quite literally torn from limb to limb. He was in a coma for two weeks and the doctors told his mother to be prepared for the worst.

When I visited him on Christmas eve, I was stunned by the gaunt figure looking back at me. His lip was swollen, his legs bandaged, his head sporting a gash so deep it hurt just looking at it.¬†He lay there and could only say ‘water’, when this was a guy that used to chatter unstoppably. It struck me that this young man had to relearn at 17, what he had perfected by the age of 2.

We humans, think we’re so invincible when all it takes is one event to break us like dolls. And yet, as fragile as we are, God made us just as strong.

With inbuilt mechanisms that rely on a divine Hand to start rebuilding that which is broken.
With antibodies and phagocytes, defense armies that are deployed to track and immobilize sources of infection.
Proteins are made to begin rebuilding tissues and connecting to bone.
Individual units that begin working together with a single mission.

Like a wasteland after devastation that recovers into a lush rainforest.

It is this precise, highly ordered system that makes it so difficult for me to believe that we are here by nothing more than a chance, a series of random steps that happened to benefit a group of organisms. Call it what you want, ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’ but everything around us screams with a perfection that can only be born in the Mind of something greater than just fate.

Within one week, I visited him three times and every single time I watched him improve from strength to strength. Within two days he started moving his arms and legs, saying more words and yesterday he was demanding for food.

That boy will walk out of that hospital, a living miracle.

Which makes me think; Christmas is more than a season, it should be a way of life. Long after the tree has been pulled down and the presents have been opened and devoured or worn or hidden away (or even regifted)…what happens then?

Mary and Joseph didn’t just pack up their things, say goodbye to the shepherds and move on their merry way. The baby that lay in the manger on that day grew into a man with a mission that he fulfilled to the letter.

Now that the Christmas season is over, it would do us well to remember that our life’s purposes are yet to be fulfilled and we have been blessed with an entire year with which to continue on with the next part of our journey.

Time is something I know I take for granted but look at what happened to my cousin. None of us is immune from what life may throw our way and we need to use the time that we have to do what needs to be done.

So yes, the season is over but its reason is far from over. Time to pick up our things and move on to what we are truly meant to be doing. Happy new year everyone. God bless us.

Tingle bells

20 Dec

And so Christmas is upon us again.

I’ll be honest when I say I’m really trying to get into the spirit of the season – the actual spirit. Not gifting or decorating but trying, really trying to be grateful for what I have and trying to help those who have less. I know I’ve whined about not being able to do much on a student’s salary but when it comes down to it, I have all I really need with me. The fact that I even earn anything is a miracle.

I’m grateful for this postgraduate program that I’m on. I know it’s early days yet and the old me wants to be very careful about how optimistic I sound for fear of jinxing it but the other side of me is saying, failure is part of life. Just because you don’t write about it or say it out loud doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Success, I’ve heard, isn’t measured by how many times you achieve something but for every time you pick yourself up with every fall. It’s easy to run when you’re already up, the true measure of a champion is the tenacity with which they pick themselves up after they fall.

So I’ll say it – I’m really enjoying this program right now. I was so traumatized by my previous laboratory experience that I had completely written off any and all research-related work. In reality however, I think God made me wait until I was mature enough to undertake it again. It’s undeniable, I cannot consider a career in academics if I do not have a research background. Maybe one day, it would be possible for me to just teach and leave the researching to those better suited to it than I, but until that day comes, I’ll follow where I am being led.

I’m grateful for family, who loves me unconditionally and who has always had my back. There aren’t enough words left for me to describe just how thankful I am for them.

I’m thankful for the fact that Barath is back in my life. I’m thankful for the journey we are taking together and although it gets a little scary sometimes, I know that as long as we do this together, with God at the helm, this is definitely a journey worth taking and that I am truly enjoying.

And I know the following is going to sound petty but – I’m thankful for my car. As reluctant as I was to get on the road and handle the other mad drivers on the road, the courage God has given me to force me behind the wheel has allowed me to do so many things with an independence I wouldn’t have been able to do had I not pursued a driver’s license and been blessed with the finances to put a down payment on a car (and pay the loan every month). Nothing beats the knowledge that come what may, I have my name on a property that is my own. Yes it’s a small property and it’s beaten up and is a nine year commitment but it is still mine. There’s something very liberating in that.

So looking back on 2011 I would have to say that it has been a good year. As always God has been as tangible as a scarlet thread, running through every event of my life, tying it together in a bundle of goodness, the Author of all things and the Maker of everything beautiful. One of my bosses once told me that at the end of every day we should be able to look on it and think of everything we have accomplished. A day well spent, doing something good for someone else, would make it a life where we didn’t merely exist, but lived.

It’s all the difference between just floating through life, another breathing body making a statistic – or an individual alive with passion and humor and love.

Btw – Happy birthday Barath. I dedicate my 275th post to you. For seven years and hopefully, to seventy more? ūüėÄ (Here’s me again trying not to be superstitious and being brave enough to say exactly what I want out loud)

Round World

27 Oct

It’s the day after a mid-week holiday and I’m at work under the following circumstances:

1. It is the morning after a late night out.
2. Failure to sleep in this morning as previously planned, eyes popped open at 6.30am as usual.
3. Cells are growing well and require no further disturbance until tomorrow.
4. Supervisor’s room still appears to be dark and indicates he is still on leave.
5. I have a great review article on the human papillomavirus life cycle in front of my desk which I have no remote interest in reading at this time.
6. I’m streaming Carly Simon in one ear and have several blogs I’m simultaneously reading on different Internet tabs, doing some internet banking on another and chatting with a friend on the last.
7. Slight glee that I managed to get free parking today due to the student’s SWOT vac.
8. There is a grand total of 5 people in the lab today, with everyone else on an (intended or otherwise) extended holiday.
9. Awareness that this is a superbly useless post.

Shine a light in my eyes why don’t you?

11 Oct

Is it just me or is everyone in my graduating class getting engaged and/or married and/or having babies? It seems like Facebook is now awash with photos and status updates featuring two thirds of my friends walking down aisles or serving tea to their in laws or squirting babies out of their private parts. Either that or they’re carrying somebody who has 50% their genetic material.

I guess 25 and 3/4 years old is a good time to start settling down. I’ve got great grand aunts who are asking about when they’re going to get invited to my wedding and if they can help my mom look for anyone for me. *scowls* I’ve got older colleagues asking me if I’m married as they know “good men who are praying for a spouse”. Needless to say that one got me politely declining and then running to the toilet to giggle hysterically. It’s not that I’m not thinking about it, I am. We both are (this is me telling you, boyfriend, that we are thinking about it), but there are quite a few things to clamp down on (e.g. finances, due to my current student status). That however is too long a story to tell people who are inquiring about my marital status so I just smile sweetly and say I’m seeing someone.

There must be a never ending ordered list of questions that people can ask you depending on the stage of your life.

1. When you’re 3: What is your ambition?
2. When you’re 7: Which school are you going to?
3. When you’re 12: What did you get for your UPSR?
4. When you’re 15: What did you get for your PMR? and in tandem with that,
What education stream will you be going into? i.e. Science, Arts, Humanities.
5. When you’re 17: What did you get for your SPM? in tandem with
What are you planning to do with your life?
6. When you’re 18-21: What college /¬† university are you in? What degree are you pursuing?

(Note: If you don’t have an impressive answer to give to question 6, prepare to come up with a template of socially acceptable answers i.e. I’m planning to travel the world / work at the UN for experience/ work in my dad’s business – because “I’m not quite sure what to do yet” simply will not cut it)

7. After a degree: What’s next for you / Where are you attached / What do you do? becomes the social norm. This continues for about 2-3 years and for females,
8. Around age 24: When are you getting married ? (Note, it’s not: are you seeing someone, are you thinking about getting married? No, it’s a point blank, only-one-answer-suffices question)

From ages 24 onwards until marriage comes along these two questions: When are you getting married? and What are you doing now? will crop up at various dinner parties and social functions.

Once you do get engaged, all everyone will be interested in is:
9a. When’s the big day? (when all they’re really interested in is question 9b)
9b. Am I invited?

10. After marriage, you would think that they would give it a rest but they then start, not even 24 hours after the wedding night is over, demanding ‘When are you going to have babies?’ Forget that you may still be in the midst of enjoying wedding bliss, forget that the sperm might still be traveling to the egg, no, it’s when are the babies (plural!) going to emerge.

Once you’ve popped one out, either by demand or neccesity, the questions cease for awhile when they see your pucat muka, your panda eyes and your hair sticking out in 2012 different directions. They pat your hand and tell you with an all-knowing tone of voice that this is pretty much your life for the next twenty years.

About two years after the first baby, they start to get a little bored and then begin again with question 10. Again and again and once you’ve had two, they ask about the third. After which, they begin to ask

Q11. Why won’t your husband leave you alone?

The Belled Cat

4 Oct

Today is the one month anniversary of the start of my postgraduate program. My supervisor who walks like a cat, managed to catch me on Facebook 3 out of the 3 times that I was on it. Hence I’ve developed a habit of looking over my shoulder every few minutes. He probably doesn’t know about Facebook and most probably doesn’t care but they are paying for my tuition here so let’s not take any chances.

My duties with my previous employers are almost over. Now all that’s left is the forecasting and tabulation of all the marks and I can officially hand over my work and receive my August pay. Why am I still working for them you ask? Because my contract stipulates I have to give 3 months notice, the last day of which has to fall on the last day of the term, i.e. November 18; or I would have to pay the college back for every month without service. Clearly once I got my scholarship I could not wait until November 18, neither could I afford to pay them roughly 4 months pay. Hence as a practical arrangement, my boss and human resources arranged a barter trade of me marking the remaining assessments, to complete forecasting and to be available for online tutorials should the need arise, in return for a waive of the three months pay.

Naturally I leaped at the opportunity and for awhile have been working at the lab during the day and marking at¬† night; a hellish nightmare of which makes me appreciate every working individual who is managing a full time job and full time study. And this is me not having a bunch of children to feed, bathe, spend quality time with and have them manage not to hate me because “mommy is never home”.

This is one of the reasons I’m happy I’m pursuing a postgraduate now, when I’m young enough to run around and survive on 4 hours of sleep and where my commitments are few and superficial. I don’t have young lives whose emotional stability depends on my physical availability or a household who depends on a two income salary. I don’t have it all figured for the rest of my life but I think everyone who has ever had to make a difficult decision has learned several things.

1. To strike while the iron is hot.
2. That sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. The worth of those sacrifices will eventually be outweighed by whatever you are giving it up for.
3. That some decisions have to be made by considering the long term impact.
4. Nobody has all the answers except God. Sometimes leaving Him to answer some questions for us is the best course of action.

And so I am happy. Which is a good place to be.


Go Fish!

26 Sep

listening to: Keane¬†“You follow me back with the sun in your eyes.”
currently reading: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I sat down with the boyfriend yesterday and he helped me to do some budgeting to determine my current financial status as a student. And by ‘helped me’,¬†I mean I lay down with my face buried in a pillow to brace myself as he delivered the news as to whether I would be eating from hand to mouth for the next three years or not. He sprouted off words like ‘minimum margin’ and ‘recurring expenses’¬†but the bottomline is, after taking into account all my monthly commitments, me¬†living at home and still¬†leeching of my parental accomodation is saving me a bucketload of money.

Thank goodness for tutoring, which I’ll have to amp up on in order to help me earn enough to add to my savings (which is deplorable for a 25 year old) and for the odd chocolate, which the boyfriend has adamantly budgeted to the ‘miscellaneous’ column rather than ‘monthly commitment’ one.

The thing is, I’ve been in school for approximately¬†19 years of my life. I spent¬†4 years in toddler bliss, 2 years working and now a few months shy of 26, I’m back to university. My EPF has barely had time to start up and I’m back to being a non-taxpayer. I need this rationale¬†to be able to explain to myself why my bank account is scraggly thing that exists only as a vessel to hold my Chipsmore money –¬†once my salary comes in, it¬†lasts long enough to pay all my monthly commitments before it’s gone again. ¬†

¬†However, as my accountant aka my boyfriend aka my¬†Zen Master¬†kept saying as I was moaning into my pillow regarding the state of my finances and lack of chocolate funds, ‘Sacrifice now and you will soon see the rewards that follow.’ And that’s true, all those years that I’ve been studying, actually moved me into the best position for this opportunity and being on scholarship right now is one of those gifts.

These next three years, granted, are not going to be easy ones but it is however a terrific investment, one that my parents started for me and my brother ages ago and turned out to be the one that keeps on giving.

So I guess I have my parents to thank when they decided to “teach me how to fish” rather than give me a fish for the first few years of my life and then throw me into the ocean to fend for myself. Now, I just have to suck it up and keep the investment going hoping that at the end of three years, it bears fruit that can be used for the next stage of my life.

And I am well aware that this post is disjointed but it is only because I’m switching between windows for Facebook and to read journal articles. Ahh, the life of a student. I’ll do better next time, promise.

The New Student

5 Sep

So my first day as a PhD student was… uneventful. Which is a good thing. Just the basic ID getting, desktop cloning, yes I’m the new student, yada yada yada…

After the numerous amount of people that keep saying how much like a student I look, they finally got their wish and¬†I’m finally back to being one and can I say I’ve missed it!

It is awesome being a student, really. The reality is that¬†I can not comb my hair and not get judged for it, because, I’m a student! I can ogle cute foreign exchange students and not feel like a pedophile because a) they are of age and b) I’m a student!

I am assuming that I won’t be so uber perky about this six months into the project but for now I will revel in my joy and uncombed hair and I will wear shorts because I can ! Because.. and you guessed it .. I am a student!


The Domino Effect

30 Aug

It’s been too long and it’s not¬†as if I haven’t tried to write. I have started countless paragraphs and began numerous posts only to have something come along to catch my attention and send me hurtling away from the computer to something else. But when I realised that my friend managed to blog before and after her labour (believe me I’m sure she would have blogged during the labour if she could have! that’s you¬†Melissa), then¬†me¬†tying up loose ends at¬†the job I just left¬†should have no excuses.

So as my boyfriend lies on the couch and watches a rerun of State of Play, I’ll take the liberty of my freedom to update¬†you on the situation of a few things.

So remember ?

It has taken me about two and a half years from the time that post was written but after two years in academia, an opportunity has presented itself to me in the form of a full scholarship to pursue a full time PhD in cancer research. Although my mind ran through about 50,000 different permutations of every option I could take besides this one, my mother helped clear things up for me by declaring in her usual inspired one liners, “You would be stupid not to take it.”

And when I was worried that I would not be able to handle it, my boyfriend told me in one of his¬†rare speeches, “Look, you keep saying that God is in control. If He means for you to get this, you will, and if you¬†do, He will take care of you through it.”

So with nothing left but slaps to my face, I swallowed my fears and applied for it and with one miracle after another, here I am, one week to go before I go back to becoming a student again for three years. I have been so busy with transitioning that I barely stopped to think about how I feel but when I spoke to my supervisor yesterday about my project, I found myself becoming excited about it. Labwork may not be my cup of tea but cancer research is something I have always been passionate about.

Before I was very skeptical about going back to a lab, my Honours year was quite possibly one of the worst experiences of my life. There were days when I would lie in bed and not want to get out of it. But in retrospect, that was due to my supervisors rather than the project itself. The experience had so traumatised me that I filed lab work and everything related to it under a folder marked “Do Not Enter” and had completely written it off.

But you know something, God always forces us to face our fears honestly. And He knew that if he confronted me with the chance of going back to do my PhD I wouldn’t look twice at it. So He went about it the long way around, wooed me with a project, a persistent supervisor (who featured in who finally was given a grant and thought of the honours student who sought him out in 2009 and¬†convinced me to write a proposal and apply.

I told myself that as there are many stages before it is approved if I am really not meant to get it, it would be denied at any of these stages. So I played along. I applied and the proposal was approved by both local reviewers within two weeks. Next stage was to send it to home campus in Australia; the usual period for approval by Australia is two months, I was offered a PhD within three weeks. It was one surprise after another. So I told myself, this one is the biggie. Anybody can get an offer, but I need a scholarship to do this. So I began the next stage of applications for a scholarship. There were so many hiccups when I was trying to apply for the scholarship that I thought that this was where I was hitting a brick wall. And when I thought it was all for naught, I managed to tie up the loose ends and suddenly one day I found that I had been awarded a full scholarship.

Just like that. When they called me to congratulate me, I finally began to tremble. This is really it. I had passed all the stops. I had been resisting this opportunity for the longest while and God knew the only way to get me to consider this was to do this in a way that I was accustomed to and that was one step a time. My boss so graciously agreeing to support me and let me resign when I had to was another blessing and the fact that she helped me work out a win-win arrangement with HR so that I could begin my PhD and still help my students was another godsend.

See, I can’t stand it when the dominoes begin to fall out of my control. I would have stood on my head and stubbornly refused to make a change and apply to do a doctorate¬†because I was seized by the fears of my honours year. So God made me stand with Him¬†and watch Him push the dominoes, one by one. He let me know again that He holds every block in His Hands and that if they go down, it is because He deigns for them to do so.

And so six months later, here I am. I’m going to be a PhD student.
Thank you Lord, for I am not afraid anymore. Because

“My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, He who keeps you, will not slumber” (Psalms 121: 2-3)



7 Jul

It’s strange how Joseph was sold by his own jealous brothers into slavery¬†so as¬†to become the Egyptian ruler that eventually saves them all.

It’s strange how Ruth’s husband had to die for her to marry Boaz¬†in order to¬†become¬† part of the lineage that led to Jesus Christ.

It’s strange how the son of God¬†needed to be¬†put to death on a cross in order to pay for the salvation of an entire mankind.

Strange, or predetermined?

God seems to work in a way that turns all of the bitter episodes in our lives into shining moments of crowning glory for Him. I’d like to believe that He works with a goal and¬†plans backwards¬†to achieve it. Only He can see the masterplan while the rest of us are just moaning over the blueprints with no idea of the final product.

There are many instances in my life where I thought I could quite easily cash in my life for something a little less dramatic but from where I’m standing now, life is pretty fabulous. And I can only thank God for being the master contractor.

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‚ÄėCome closer to me.‚Äô When they had come closer to him he said, ‚ÄėI am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.” Genesis 45: 3-5

Come Away With Me

27 Jun

Because you know we’ve only ever had one song.