The math person myth

I have been tutoring my sister about basic math for TPA exam. The story goes all the same, most of the time she struggle with math to the point where I feel that how can one not know such basic things? It’s either she forgot the concept behind it or she’s not careful enough. Turns out my sister is not alone.

There is common stereotype among men and women that women generally are bad at basic math. And what I mean with basic math are those skills of algebra, trigonometry, logical deduction, or maybe a bit of calculus. That might be the reason why less and less women pursue education and career in math or STEM field. I was curious to see why and when it all started? If women were not born with math inability (of course they are not), when did they see themselves failing? In fact, as far as I can remember back in primary school it was quite the opposite, of all friends who were good at math were girls -and they are excel at other subjects too. According to one article in Psychology Today, things get flipped around during adolescences time.

Most of us, especially in adolescence, want very much to be romantically desirable. Girls in particular are socialized to see this as an important goal, and both sexes attempt to achieve the goal by conforming to cultural norms of what women and men are “supposed” to be like. Women are expected to be communal and nurturing, and to pursue careers that allow them to express those qualities – like teaching, counseling, and of course, nursing. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to be dominant, independent, and analytical – qualities well-suited to business, finance, and science.

That was not surprising especially in this hyper-connected time where girls turned being adult faster than ever -thanks to the romantic movies and social media hype. My preposition if the above hypothesis holds true is the earlier girls enter their adolescence, the earlier they believe that math is just not for them. While it’s true that women are wired to be wanted and desired, what is not true is the assumption of qualities behind of being wanted. That being math and science nerd is mutually exclusive with other womanly type. I tell you, they are not. Two years ago, when I pictured my ideal type of women, she would be an intelligent, polymathic book-lover, cultured and with PhD in math or science, and funny. Well today I realize my fiancee is having lesser qualities than those. But she’s great!

Now can the situation change? Of course. Carol Dweck, in her book Growth Mindset, presented two alternatives belief about one’s ability and intelligence.

  1. You have certain amount of intelligence, and you really can’t do much to change it.
  2. You can always greatly change how intelligent you are.

While I belief that there are few prodigy kids in math or other fields who were fortunate to start doing what they are doing since very early, and there is no way I can be smarter than Terence Tao for instance. But Dwecks idea is not about who is better than who. It’s about answering this question “how can I become an inch better in this skill today than yesterday?”. I care about this issue because I belief that math is very important skill as much as reading and writing for children regardless of their career they later pursue. A good foundation in math would make any future intellectual pursuits easier. And to women of today who think math is not for them, think about what would you pass down your children to believe about this very important skill, let alone to teach them.

I want to close this with the story of my early childhood who got introduced into math education -thanks to my mom and my dad too. One of the heartbreaking story I was told was, my mom knew she wanted to study math education in IKIP Surabaya (or UNESA as of today). She wanted to become high school math teacher. But she should face a high wall from her conservative parents, thought that college degree is expensive, long, and useless as for at the end she would end up being a housewife anyway. So she went to diploma, a much shorter degree, to become primary school teacher instead. Life was not always easy for her but the spirit to provide good education remain still. She purchased me lot of books. She was my first math teacher. And more importantly she introduced me that math is not that difficult.

Let’s Talk about Imposture Syndrome

NUS
Source: Todayonline

Bulan Mei lalu berita yang ditunggu-tunggu akhirnya keluar juga, saya berhasil diterima di program Master of Science in Computer Science, School of Computing NUS. Nampaknya saya bisa meyakinkan dewan admission NUS bahwa saya akan bisa thrive di program S2 CS meskipun dengan latar belakang S1 EE dan 2 tahun pengalaman kerja. Layaknya semua berita baik, semuanya terasa berjalan cepat dan kemudian menjadi biasa saja. Mengutip Andre Agassi, a win doesn’t feel as good as a lose feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last long as the bad. Not even close. Maka kemudian yang tersisa sekarang adalah perasaan imposter syndrome dan berpikir bagaimana agar studi S2 saya jauh lebih berhasil dibandingkan saat S1 dulu.

Imposter syndrome adalah perasaan dalam diri bahwa keberhasilan yang kita capai adalah karena keburuntungan -dan bukan karena talenta atau kualifikasi yang seharusnya. Misalnya bisa saja professornya ngantuk saat menilai berkas saya. Perasaan tersebut kembali datang ketika hari sabtu lalu saya menghadiri acara graduate students formal dinner yang diadakan oleh NUS Graduate Student Society. Saya berkenalan dan ngobrol banyak dengan beberapa mahasiswa dari India dan Pakistan. Ada mahasiswa MBA yang bahasa inggrisnya mirip orang amrik meskipun ternyata dia orang pakistan, so smooth, fluent, and confident. Ada arsitek yang sudah bekerja di banyak negara seperti Dubai, London, dan Chicago, namun memutuskan untuk melanjutkan studi master di bidang urban design. Saya bertemu dengan alumni IIT Bombay -the most competitive school in India, their acceptance rate is less than 2%, even smaller than MIT- yang akan PhD di bidang Biomedical Engineering, yea I could smell his intelligence right away. Saya juga sempat berbincang dengan seorang mahasiswi PhD di bidang South East Asian Study asal India dengan background 1 bachelor dan 2 master di bidang ekonomi dan public policy. Gelar terakhirnya didapat dari London School of Economics, that’s a huge one! What is this place? Satu sisi saya senang bisa satu ruangan dan mengambil inspirasi dari orang-orang luar biasa ini, sisi lain saya berkata, do I really belong here?

Sekeras apapun saya pada diri sendiri, ternyata itu tidak akan mengubah apapun. Suka atau tidak, merasa pantas atau tidak, faktanya saya sudah terdaftar sebagai mahasiswa S2 NUS. Mulai saat ini saya harus percaya bahwa mereka juga senang dan bangga bisa kenal saya, udah yang penting percaya aja. Saya juga harus terbiasa mengabaikan perasaan imposture syndrome dan mengubahnya menjadi motivasi. Put it this way, imposture syndrome adalah pertanda bahwa kita merasa inferior terhadap orang lain. Orang yang tidak pernah merasa demikian berarti antara dia tidak pernah bertemu orang baru diluar sana, atau dia tidak lebih baik dari yang sebenarnya dia pikir. I may still have imposture moment, but not an imposture life.

5 Things I Like About Living in Singapore

Living in Singapore for the past few years has been a great learning experience for me. I had been to Singapore prior to working here, mainly for business trip and short vacation. Till that moment I knew Singapore is great country, clean and well integrated public transportation, and many great places to visit, but to have stayed with the locals is another experience I can’t find in tourism brochure. Here are 5 things that I like the most about Singapore.

  1. Singapore is well connected. It is designed to be connected all around the city without people having difficulty to locate from one place to another. Public places are always easily accessible with public transportations. MRT Station is connected with shopping center which is connected with public library and sport center within a walking distance.
  2. Pedestrians walkway is everywhere, sometimes equipped with a canopy on top of it that surely makes people rather safe and convenient for walking. The city seemed to be designed to encourage people walking as many places are close each other. You know why most of the Singaporean having slim body? I guess because they have engrained a habit to make significant number of steps everyday, it’s 5674 daily steps in average according to survey by USA Today.
  3. Singapore Library. I really love library, I wish I could have one in my house. What can I say about singapore library, from the building side, it’s pretty simple building with 2-3 floors of books collection yet it feels just right. There are another 4 revamped library buildings recently open in Sengkang, Bukit Panjang, Tampiness, and Bedok. I went to try my self in Bukit Panjang, and the architecture was amazing. With the ornament dominant color is whitish and grey, the book shelves follow the maze shape of discovery. There are some spaces for reading dedicated to different ages; adult goes to a stacked of floors with half rounded table each, kids got quirky sloped sitting areas which makes interesting spot for reading with their parents. There are also many events in library like the one that I missed so regretfully -a talkshow with Physics and Chemistry nobel prize winner. All information is accessible through NBL apps.
  4. Singlish. Singlish is another kind of english with mix of mandarin (or hokkien) accent, the sound and sentence forming follows it. It’s weird the first time I listened to it because I struggle to understand clearly so much so that I frequently asked my friend to repeat every time they speak. Sometimes I laughed when everyone laugh of someones jokes in Singlish, just to not look like idiot. Now that moment is over, I got used to it already. I can talk Singlish as much as Singlish can. Apart from the famous words lah, lor, leh, I can now understand few slangs or expressions like; walao eh (frustration maximum level), wa piang (despair expression), paiseh (sorry), kena hantam (got hit), cheem (difficult), shiok (nice, great), and many else. I would say Singlish is very effective form of daily english where you only care about the important message on the sentence. For example; this also can, how come like that, …then how ah. Now the best part is even Singlish seems to be ‘broken’ english, most of Singaporean I meet speak good english in formal occasion, good use of grammar and common idioms. It seems like they have two modes of english; formal singlish and conversational singlish.
  5. Food variety. Singapore is home for many great local foods, from chinese, malay, and indian, all blend together making its own uniqueness. It’s very often I visit Food festival all around the city; Thai Food Festival, Malay Food Bazaar, Singapore Food Festival, Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar (this one is so shiok) are among few I can recall. I also like attending evening live music on the lane park in CBD area, it’s served with local and western foods and drinks. Enjoying food with friends on the evening like this, where acoustic music gets in, was one of the best scene. And the fact that halal food are not difficult to find makes it even better.

There are other things that I love like having interaction with local community club, volunteering to non profit organization, or exploring jogging trail and park in the northwest border of Singapore. Of all many things I learnt from is that I understand being minority is not easy, all you hope is to meet nice people surround you, and being kind to them. Dump all stereotype and society generalization, people are more complex than that. When you experience good things being minority, you will make sure good things happen to the other end when you’re being the majority.

Management Lessons from The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project is novel about IT, DevOps, and helping business to win in a competitive retail market. A lot of friends in office recommended me this novel so I decided to give a shoot. They all say it’s so resonate with life in IT company; development, quality assurance, deployment, bug fixing, and system down, are just few examples of day to day typical encounter for us. Life in IT is hard, and this novel make me realize that it’s even harder when you have no idea how to manage that complex work. So this book for me is more like business and management lessons for whoever want to solve complex problem from higher level. I always thought what’s executive management people actually do. Because at the end, it’s all down to engineer people like me to solve their problem, the escalated issues, the bugs that always exist, or some tricky way to solve problem and then once it’s solved the credit goes to management people like engineer don’t exist. What’s so great about them that they deserve higher credit (and paycheck)? This book answered that question. In fact the book gives me as sense of problem solving skill that is more sustainable in the organization.

Think of it just like two complementary different set of skills, one focuses on low level problem like designing architecture, or finding the most efficient algorithm. That’s great and hard skill to be mastered at, and every IT industry is rooting their business to folks like that. The other one focuses on much higher level. These people have little idea about code implementation and how they work, they might not even know how to code effectively. But these people are so great at planning the work flow, managing the resources over works, and preventing minimum outage from happening. These skills are different level of intelligence, their brain work differently compare to the technical geeks, it’s more on looking problems from higher system. People who master on this has laid their way down to the leadership path. I find my self appreciating executive people more than before. Let’s accept this, they have more pressure, more complex problems, longer work-hour, and of course more paycheck!

Before going further, what is DevOps? DevOps is set of practices/formula that aims to integrate the process of software development and software operation within project. In other words, DevOps is continuous software project life cycle from the moment the code is checked in until the code package is deployed in production to finally reach customer as finish goods. DevOps make sure that project is delivered on time with full required features at minimum defects. This book in a nutshell talk about DevOps principles and why they are important to business. These principles could also apply to non IT work for example manufacturing process. In fact most of the case studies are derived from manufacturing line because their entire work flow is more visible, hence it’s easier to track them down. There are three principles in which all DevOps pattern is derived from, they called The Three Ways.

First Way, always think the entire performance of system as opposed to specific performance of department. This will help us understand how to fast flow of work as it moves from Development into IT Operations.

Second Way, amplify feedback loops between Development to Operations, in my office we called it Retrospective. It’s an hour session to evaluate the past project of what goes wrong and how to improve it in the next cycle. But my case is a practice within the Development side, Second Way talk about cross functional feedback. This is the most critical part, if you understand it well, you could solve some serious problem related with work throttling which is the heart constraint of any business process. The goal is to keep up with the market demand by doing continuous delivery. In manufacturing they have a measure called takt time, which is the number of cycle needed to keep up with customer demand. If any operation in the flow is longer than takt time, you will not able to keep up with customer demand. For instance, company want to deliver two features to the market in one week time. But the deployment time (or final assembly time in manufacturing) takes 1 weeks to fully operate with the new changes, which in turn impossible for business to keep up with the market demand. Having feedback loops would allow us to identify which part among the process becomes the constraint and therefor try to minimize the takt time.

Third Way, create culture that foster two things; continual experimentation, taking risk, and learn from failure; and understanding that repetition and practice are prerequisites to mastery.

I would recommend this book highly to people trying to understand higher level thinking in IT business, what those calibre of CEO or VPs think in mind when problem arise, pretty interesting for me. The only downside of this book is that it’s quite hard to read by non-IT people, but if you’re patient enough until every terms are explained that shouldn’t be major problems. Go read!

What Women Need?

I want to share some thoughts about women from men perspective in general. I can’t speak about particular woman as this is rather generalization for common sense. It’s strange that I recently got stumbled into men and women psychology topics, having read from books, article in Reddit, and experience my self, and I found it is interesting in a sense that having understanding about why women act in particular way could lead to how men position himself to better treat them as a woman, as a human. Why this is important because I think majority of men, including myself, fail to understand their primary needs which is resulting to not able to fulfill them and eventually become problematic in a relationship.

Women have needs, not wants. Their primary needs are comfort, sex, and validation. These needs won’t necessarily come from one person, and often are delegated amongst individuals and social groups. On the other hand, men have wants, and rarely have needs. We want success, strong body, power, money, fame, friends, and of course, sex. What is the different between wants and needs? Wants are something you can’t never get enough. If men have money, they will work harder to earn more even if they don’t really need that much money, it’s just a desire to want more and more. Needs are something you can’t live without. Something that once they’re fulfilled you don’t need anything more.

When a woman says she wants to feel safe, she want to open up emotionally with someone who loves her. She want to be listened. It is not uncommon fact that women tend to talk more often compare to men in private conversation -like negotiation or personal relationship, or in short, emotional talk. That’s why researcher said a woman has ‘beta orbiters’ or bestiesOften times beta orbiters are men, it could be from someone who is her manor just-another-nice-guy-who-i-can-talk-to. She does with her female too of course -but only with her best friend, because most women don’t actually trust most other women. As a grown up men, you don’t have to be beta orbiters to have women talked to you emotionally. Ever. However you do want her to feel comfortable around you. That’s why men need to set up a boundary of what qualities that make them rise better then her beta orbiters. I was thought that when approaching women, always keep in mind to make her feel that whatever you want for her is actually win-win. Do not lower yourself because of the-so-called out of league women, or put your self in a superior position so that you have tendency for one night stand. Either way is bad choice.

I can’t talk much about the second need, but having read from many sources say that one of the common perception among people is believing women do not want sex. They do need sex as much as men do. Problem is society has been consistently saying that women should not be too apparent to show her sexual interest over men, otherwise they will be judged as an ill-repute women. I rather agree of this approach though. I personally think that way make them more attractive. I don’t know.

When a woman says she want someone to treat her right, to give her compliment, or to be aware of her appearance, she’s talking about validation. Jessica Velanti, a proud feminist, once complained about consistent cat calls out on the street in one article, but one year later, she blames society for making her miss it. That’s because she needs validation. The reason why instagram is flooded with women selfies, wefie, or her best pose is because instagram provide them instant validation using the number of likes and comments. They feel more validated to have your pictures lauded. The same reason why women tend to be attracted into men with power (handsome, money, fame, designation, etc) because she feel more validated when she’s noticed with the success of her man. Internally, women are insecure because society tell them to be everything and nothing at the same time. And since women live with the outside validation, it’s the constant encouragement and holding-back from society that make them confused. Sadly this is how our society works. I personally think that women need of validation is not a bad thing. It is how they manage the feeling is crucial. Husband is even obliged to give his wife constant compliments, in other word, validations.

Lastly, I think I learn a lot knowing about these stuff, Human psychology is amazing. Blame biology if you think they are wrong.

2 Poor Kids

I don’t want no time on the big screen

I’m okay with me and my jeans and you, and you

They think it’s a shame

That the world will never know our names

But I think that’s okay

Cause love gets ruined by money and power and fame and

We’re just two poor kids from a really rich city

Cause we’ve got love story unlike the rest

No fancy suite and no fancy dress

(Ruth B – 2017)

Hope

Pagi tadi di sepanjang MRT menuju kantor saya membaca sebuah pertanyaan di Quora tentang Happiness. The question is summarized as following; What is happiness? Why would we want to be happy? And how to be happy?

To answer those question one need not to be philosophical. And it turns out to be simple answer. It’s the hope. It’s that hope that made a child is so excited about being Astronaut. It’s the same hope that make us believe for a better tomorrow.

There is one line that keep me thinking along the way.

Funny thing about hope – hope itself is often better than what you are hoping for.

Never lose hope! Not only that is a source of happiness. It’s also what drive me motivated everyday!

On Choosing

I’m 25. And I’m in a good age to be confused by life.

Beberapa bulan terakhir ini saya sering ‘galau’ tentang masa depan. Ada beberapa pertanyaan yang mengusik, misalnya;

  • What is my career goal(s)?
  • How would I achieve it realistically?
  • Do I need backup plan?
  • When am I gonna get married?
  • How would we compromise our dream each other?

Berbicara tentang career goal bukanlah hal mudah, terlebih karena saya pribadi memiliki ketertarikan akan banyak hal. Saya suka programming dan problem solving. Saya sangat suka mengajar dan berbagi. Saya tertarik dengan dunia bisnis dan startup, saat ini sudah ada 2 ide bisnis yang sedang saya garap prototypenya. Akhir-akhir ini saya juga tertarik di dunia public speaking dan effective communication. Dan satu lagi, saya suka dunia literacy. Duh! Apa yang salah disini? Bagaimana saya memutuskan karir mana yang bagus untuk saya, dan untuk keluarga saya kelak?

Bagi saya memiliki karir yang baik dan fulfilling sama pentingnya dengan membangun keluarga yang harmonis. Saya akan menghabiskan minimal sepertiga dari waktu saya untuk karir. Saya ingin setiap hari bangun pagi dengan semangat membayangkan hal-hal menarik apa yang akan saya kerjakan, dan pulang kerumah dengan rasa senang bertemu dengan istri dan anak-anak. Memiliki karir yang baik besar dampaknya terhadap keharmonisan rumah tangga.

Saya tipe orang yang ingin istri saya kelak bisa mencapai keinginan dan mimpi-mimpinya, tanpa harus melupakan tugas utamanya sebagai seorang istri dan ibu. Saya ingin dia juga memiliki karir yang bagus, apapun itu pilihannya. Sehingga ini bukan cuma tentang saya, ini tentang kita. Saya percaya bahwa karir adalah marathon dan bukan sprint. Di usia 25 ini, saya sudah membayangkan akan ada usia-usia emas dalam karir, seperti usia 30 yang sudah seharusnya memilih satu bidang expertise tertentu, usia 35 saat dimana saya semakin matang dan berpengalaman, usia 40 dimana saya yakin adalah usia emas untuk menjadi seorang leader dan mentor, usia 50 adalah usia seorang leader mencapai puncak wisdom, kemudian akan ada usia 60, 70 dan seterusnya. Hal-hal tadi mungkin terdengar oversimplified, artinya tidak menutup kemungkinan saat usia 40 saya berpindah karir, tapi itu adalah buah dari proses berpikir saat nanti.

I think I’m overthought about future. I better rest now. And I’m feeling a bit better after writing it down here, at least it doesn’t sound as bad as I thought it was.

Cheers!

Instagram and Fake Identity

I am pretty much sure that you who happen to read this are most likely have Instagram account. Yeah, really? who doesn’t? Now, no matter you are an active or passive user, the question being posed is, what do you use an Instagram for? And how does it benefit you? My intention by writing this is to make sense where I have been up to, and hopefully come up with idea of how to fix when things go wrong. This post is inspired by one of my favorite vlogger Nerdwriter about Instagram.

As you might have known, Instagram have evolved from just being a sharing pictures social media into online business tools into being quick famous celebrities place into updating your daily life stories. It is your choice to decide whom to follow and how your feed might be look like. I was addicted to Instagram. There was no single day I didn’t open it. Scroll down, scroll up, likes, comment, check notification -even though it’s clearly nothing up there, update and watch insta stories, has become never ending daily chain of habit. I suspect, I liked to spend lots of time in Instagram because I was in lazy mood, it’s very light content, it’s easy, and it’s just picture -worth of thousand words they say, and most of people don’t like heavy stuff content to read, that’s why posting pictures with a very long caption most probably garner less likes. If I spend too much time on Instagram, chances are I am getting more and more lazy everyday. What I mean by lazy is, there is an unconscious habit being developed to not like reading, to value pictures and any kind of visualization more than anything, to like a beautiful artist more than humans-of-new-york story post. Well I believe one shall be balance on both side, but developing this habit to diminish another is not a good thing. The truth was I was having difficult time to focus on reading. I couldn’t even go 1 hours straight without a break looking at Instagram. I was that addicted. Or maybe I still am.

I might be biased but judging my less focus over Instagram is easy run-away. True there are many factors such as over-worrying of what people think, anxiousness, or just simply  a wrong mentality. Instagram couldn’t be more wrong than contributing self anxiousness, self insecurity, and social acceptance itself. I don’t believe deleting your Instagram account would solve the problem. I think if you do, you are kind of loser over yourself. So I decided to fix Instagram. How so? First and foremost is to be able to know your value. What makes me valuable enough? Is that number of like that does? What if there is no single like for your Instagram post? I have a friend who is really good in photography and picture editing. I have seen his work, he got the skill I admit. But there is one thing that struck me quite surprisingly, is that his Instagram account got little follower, less number of likes, and he rarely post his greatest picture in Instagram. With his good looking face and his work he could have garnered many followers had he decided to do so. When I asked this, he simply answered, “I don’t care how many likes or followers I got. My skill is not judged by any kind of them. I am more happy to be judged by personal and honest opinion like you” And yes, he spent little time on Instagram.

Second thing that helped me go through is to understand the motivation behind every activity on Instagram. Why do you post what you post? Why does it matter to you? I believe that every single reason that backed my activity on Instagram could be reflected to the audience. Social media is very powerful tools to present the conception of who currently you are or who you want to be perceived you are. The system has been built even to fake things up, as it is judged by number of likes or comment The more likes you get the more true it is. When it comes to reasons, I simply avoid such things that could make people being anxious by seeing at my activity as I would feel the same way by looking at other activity. This is very hard because I cannot control people as they cannot control mine. I am myself still learning this mastery though. But one thing to be clear is that to be true to myself, to my own value, that I share something that I think is worth sharing. For instances, I like sharing activity with how-to-information, knowledge, and opinion. Well a little bit of my self picture here and there so that people don’t forget my face, lol. I don’t share too much information about me, about my achievement, about me having fun last night, about what I had for dinner. The worst part of that is actually because we tend to make and exaggerate things up as if trying to say, look I just had fun with boyfriend, I am the happiest person alive and you better envy me, rather than giving proper information to audience. I know few people who clearly are the opposite of what they tend to share, or at least not that of the happiest. Why are we happy making people jealous? Bet because we happened to be jealous a while, and this is the best revenge, my friend!

If you are like me who sometimes are tired scrolling up and down lazily on Instagram, I would suggest to move on to another social media which I think is healthier. They are such of Quora, Youtube, Steller, and Reddit. Really, they provide knowledge and information in abundance. Reddit is clearly my favorite. Think I would write about Reddit separately why they have improved my life. Cheers! 🙂

When Breath Becomes Air: a Chronicle of Neurosurgeon Facing Death

when2
Source: indiereader.com

It has been a week now since I finished the book, and I did actually read it 2 times and still got the same goosebumps feeling and misty-eye all around, bet you should definitely too. So I decided to write this, to understand of the emotion that Paul has put me through. I am not going to write book resuming here, rather, I am going to use this book to redo self-reflexion myself, something with life and death I should have raised question earlier. When Breath Becomes Air is piece of art. It’s a memoir of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon Stanford-trained, hold degree in Human Biology from Stanford, double degree in Literature and Philosophy from Stanford and Cambridge, and a medical student graduate from Yale Medical School. In 35 years old, he is one year to go to completing his 7 years neurosurgical residency training from Stanford. He also received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery’s highest award for research. Prior to his graduation, he has been offered position as professor from Stanford Med School and various US top Institutions. What a profile, what a gifted and dedicated young person. He seemed to get what he had dreamed for, become top neurosurgeon, fielded academic career, by right he could see himself and his family in the promised land. But… sometimes things didn’t work out that way, a top neurosurgeon for cancer got cancer himself, out of blue. He turned from being top neurosurgeon to being a meek patient diagnosed with IV lung cancer.

Reading this book I realized how quick one story could be flipped upside down in the face of mortality without asking permission. In a person of caliber Paul, we would see his bright future over the horizon, we could smell things he could accomplish and contribute to humanity. And if only he had not died that early, he would have achieved so much. But life isn’t like that. When death is paying his personal visit, it derails you from trajectory you have worked so hard, alters your plan, and it fucks you over. As medical surgery technology advances nowadays, we can manipulate and gratify and do whatever we could to avoid being die. But we all human. And human do what human can do. We all knee down in front of mortality. At the end, it’s about question Paul has posed, what makes your life meaningful enough to go on for living? Paul realized at the very beginning that what matter is not about being survive or die -he knew that one day he is going to die. He has witnessed often times of his patient miserably survived from cancer; they did survive, but life won’t be the same anymore. They become meaningless. But Paul was different. He embraced death with bravery. As hopeless as it could, he managed to calculate what was the most important things he wanted to do given his remaining time. He would want to make the most out of him even under severe circumstances. Give me number of 10 years, I would return to OR become neurosurgeon. Give me 3 years, I would spend my life writing book I always wanted to write. Give me months, I would spend my days with family. He always knew what make his life meaningful, and whom his meaningful life would be best dedicated for. I was weeping out couldn’t bear his outmost optimism when saying, even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I’m still living. I really felt what he was saying, ended up questioning my self… How long have I actually got left.

I came to understand that shouldn’t we all be like Paul? Paul had become alerted of his mortality waving down the road since cancer disseminated him. And he reacted and planned his life accordingly. What make us any difference with Paul if our own mortality is also waving us? My religion put a high reminder that death could visit any time to anyone in anywhere. I could provide no guarantee a healthy person like me could stay any longer than Paul could possibly do. But maybe -just maybe- our self awareness are obscured by assuming how far that time could actually come. In fact it is not. We should become as alert as Paul did that every second means our distance has been shortened by a second. We have been becoming closer and closer to host our mortality visit. In Islam we are thought that life is not about things being abandoned, also about preparing the next life. It’s not enough to just being good and made meaningful life, it requires more of such religious obligation. And this I think should motivate us enough to prepare even more.

I like this book so much. And I admire person like Paul. He was deep thinker, he was humble, he was brave, he questioned life and its meaning, he looked the answer with philosophy, literature, and neuroscience -how these were connected, he struggled to understand the nature of life and death, wouldn’t death itself be a perfect gift for a person who’s trying to understand it? He said. Reading his writing I felt like he was telling the story as it happened. And it was real, Paul himself is real, as Lucy his wife said in Epilogue, what happened to Paul was tragic, but he was not tragedy. I didn’t feel as moved as reading this when reading Tuesdays With Morrie. Believe me this guy know how to write well. I bet his literature degree had influenced him highly. Lastly I would like to quote his last message to his daughter, which I think very much emotional.

When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.