Do you see what I see

1AM Friday night.

Went to another bedroom to say goodnight to Nashy but he just came out from the room’s bathroom and was not in his seat. Too bad I saw this on his computer screen.

OMG. Hahahahahaha.

“Masa sekolah dulu Abang dengar lagu-lagu yang tak ramai orang layan.. Metallica.. Nirvana.” Kata seseorang itu pada suatu ketika dahulu.

OMG. Hahahahahha. Dah kantoi, cakap sebab bosan tengah siapkan model pulak.


#phdmemories #ourbattleisnotoveryet #nevermindBSBwilleaseyouthrough hahahahahaha OMG!


Ownership Isn’t Real, We Rent This Life

Manhattan Beach Ocean Photo

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
–Lao Tzu

There was a time when I could describe exactly what my life would look like in 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. It felt so grown up and reassuring. I was the man with the plan.

There was a time when I envisioned a beautiful home with a yard. It had windows overlooking an ocean. It’d be mine. I could wake up to it every day.

There was a time when I owned a car and wanted to buy an even nicer one. I held my smartphone, but wanted a newer one. I was obsessed with latest upgrades and features.

There was a time when I looked at my ratty spiral notebook and needed a chic Moleskine. Imagine what it would be like to write in those acid-free pages and flip open that iconic cover.

Largely, those days of desire without logical reason are dying out. I’m no longer urgently pursuing or planning for material possessions. Nowadays, the white picket fence isn’t for me, and I’ve finally realized why.

Life is exceptionally fragile and short. Think about it, our 70, 80, or 90 years represent but a fraction of the Earth’s existence. We are little blips on this planet, and unrecognizably small objects within this solar system, galaxy, and universe.

From the time we exit the womb, we are bombarded with messages that demand our attention. They don’t stop until we do. All five of our senses are put into warp drive, as they begin to process everything around us. Despite our relative insignificance, we cling to material goods and messages — buying whatever we can afford and socking away the rest for rainy days.

These messages beg us to consume, own, and carve out space. They tell us that, with maturity and income, you should own a residence. We are expected — from employers to families to spouses — to buy a car to get to work. But ownership is a figment of our capitalistic imaginations. In this economy, it’s easy to be pulled into a mental trap of expectations and hopes for a possessive future.

Each step countering the current culture of consumption is like running into a 50-mph headwind — you’re not moving fast. Bucking the status quo means isolating yourself from society’s expectations of amassing wealth. But the reality is we don’t own anything — ever. I mean it!

We are simply temporary custodians — holders — of physical objects that we lug around. We fill containers, storage warehouses, and entire homes with stuff. We bear witness to various forms of mass, but all fade — like us. Even the most prized possessions will transfer to someone else or perish. No matter how much home and life insurance we take out, we will eventually pass away.

Truthfully, we rent this life. It’s not solely ours to destroy, abuse, love, and cherish. We share this rental with everyone. Any rental necessitates respect. Destroy another’s property or object, and you’ll be on the hook to replace and/or fix it.

There’s more to life than amassing more than thy neighbor. Forego the mortgages, down payments, and constant maintenance. Choose a life that honors and recognizes everyone. When we rent this life, we recognize that we are just maintaining it for future generations.


17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter


Intelligence is flexible and there are a lot of things to give it a daily boost. For smart thinking your mind needs 3 things:

  1. To be trained in thinking processes
  2. To have plenty of information
  3. To focus on a problem or idea

For example, Thomas Edison was able to think of his light bulb because:

  1. He was a trained logical thinker
  2. He knew a lot about electrical engineering
  3. He focused on solving a problem

Here are a bunch of things to do every day to help your mind to think smart.

1. Drink 2 glasses of water within 30 minutes of waking up

Since you’ve been asleep for hours, your body has not gotten water for 6-9 hours. Water is needed for the filtration of waste products and fluid balance. Two big glasses of water offset the fluid deficit you had from sleeping. Studies on kids (study 1, study 2) show that drinking more water increases their ability to complete mental tasks. Make sure your brain is not dehydrated at the beginning of the day already.

2. Read a book summary during breakfast

Reading books is great, but breakfast is far more suitable for something shorter. Instead of reading news articles that have little impact on your life/intelligence, read best selling book summaries. You can find summaries by:

  • Googling your book title + summary, for example “7 Habits of Highly Effective People summary”
  • Use a summary subscription like Blinkist or getAbstract

3. Listen to stimulating podcasts/audiobooks during your commute

Even if you spend only 10 minutes on your bike like I do, load your phone up with intellectually stimulating audio. Good sources could be:

  • TED talks (their app lets you pre-download audio so you don’t eat your mobile data)
  • Blinkist has some of their summaries in audio form
  • Audiobooks you purchased
  • Podcast of your favorite authors

4. Drink green tea while working

Where caffeine makes many people anxious, green tea (especially Matcha tea) contains l-theanine. This aminoacid causes an increase in alpha brain waves in the brain:1-s2.0-S0924224499000448-gr3In practice this means that where coffee can induce anxiety, high quality green teas cause a relaxed focus without inducing sleepiness. This is also why l-theanine is available as a supplement to aid in relaxation and increasing cardiovascular health.

5. Take naps during the day

Napping helps your mind refresh. It’s been shown that napping during learning increases learning speed. Your mind has a rhythm that determines when it gets sleepy and when it needs sleep:Daily-Rhythm-Sleep-Wake-CycleAs you can see on average people feel more sleepy than usual between noon and 4 PM. This is a perfect time to have a nap, and will increase your alertness and productivity for the rest of the day. Personally I’ve has good results with post-workday naps too (around 6 PM).

6. Don’t take sugar during the day

In fact, if you can cut it altogether. But if you can’t for whatever reason, just make sure not to have it during times where you need to focus. Sugar highs and the following lows are not good to keep your brain functioning smartly. What does work very well are fatty acids. Try to switch any sweet stuff during lunch for something more substantial like fish or eggs.

7. Do social media / meme websites only a couple of times a day

The brain adapts to the information you throw at it. If you bombard it work non-stimulating and fast switching information your focus will get destroyed. Keep your brain functioning on a higher level by throwing stimulating things at it. If you feel the need to procrastinate, set a timer  and don’t get lost in mindlessly scrolling.

8. Play games instead of watching series or movies

Watching tv is a passive activity. Your brain is consuming information, but not processing or interacting with it. Substitute or supplement this entertainment with gaming. A 2014 study showed that even a simple game like Super Mario has visible impact on brain plasticity (flexibility). Another piece of research covered by Forbes shows the same. Actively engage your brain where you can, instead of letting it slumber passively.

9. Read a book instead of watching tv

Similar to playing games instead of watching tv, reading a book is an active exercise for the brain. Where watching video entertainment is a passive consumption of information, reading a book requires your brain to actively construct mental images of what you are reading.

10. Do some programming

Programming is a great way to learn to think logically and in patterns. Coding used to be hard to learn but with free websites like Codeacademy and free/paid platforms like Udemy it is easy and fun to learn. Consider it the next level of puzzles. As an added advantage learning to code in your free time increases your employability in the job market.

11. Watch TED talks while cooking

Preparing dinner is a great time to catch up on some cutting edge developments in Technology, Education and Design ( It turns what would otherwise be downtime into a fascinating and stimulating block of time. It’s like watching the news, only you are watching the world’s most inspiring individuals talk about their work.

12. Do some simple exercises during the day

The body and the mind are strongly connected. Physical fitness helps the brain function well. You don’t however have to go to the gym every day to benefit from this (though you can of course). Doing some push-ups throughout the day and walking or skipping up some stairs has a great impact already. Try to do something physical every hour or so, even if it’s just getting up, stretching a little and tensing all your muscles as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds.

13. Spend time with someone smarter than you

Habits are socially contagious. It is a well known fact in science that obesity for example spreads through social networks (link to research). The habits and thinking patterns of those you spend time with rub off on you. Expose yourself to people who are smarter than you in order to benefit from them.

14. Talk to people who disagree with you

Get into (friendly) discussions with people who disagree with you on any topic. Arguing with them allows you to either:

  • Sharpen your arguments
  • Be convinced that you are wrong

In both cases you win. In the first you convince the other person by out reasoning them, and I the second false logic you previously had is not eliminated.

15. Go for a walk in nature

Walking through nature has a number of benefits:

  • There is more oxygen since plants produce it
  • The human mind calms down when surrounded by plants
  • Walking helps your blood circulation

Having a walk in a park at lunch time can greatly help you work smartly for the rest of the day.

16. Carry a notepad

Great minds like Leonardo Da Vinci always carries a notepad. They used it to jot down ideas, sketches and questions they had for later review. Having a little book on you and writing down interesting things can greatly help you train your curiosity and logical thinking.

17. Take 10 minutes at the end of the day to plan tomorrow

By planning tomorrow the day before you begin the day with a plan. This allows you to work much more productively. Many people are busy all day, but not actually productive. A great part of being smart is knowing that hard work is inferior to smart work. Pick your battles in advance.


10 Mind-Blowing TED Talks On How To Be Confident, Gorgeous- And A Better Person

Who else loves Ted Talks (and Lifehack)? This compilation is too good to pass!

1. Your Body Language Influences the Way You Feel

In this video, social Psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses research that shows how body language shapes your reality. Our posture and nonverbal communication not only influences how others perceive us – they actually change our body chemistry. Controlling your posture and training yourself in ‘power posing’ significantly increase your chances of success. You’ll not only seem confident, but actually be more confident! Try her tips and see for yourself.

2. Love What You Do

In this funny and audacious talk, Larry Smith, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, explains why you will fail to get a great career. He bluntly reveals the absurd excuses provided by people who are afraid to look for and pursue their true passions. In Smith’s words, “Wasted talent is a waste I cannot stand.”

3. Trust Your Feelings

In this video, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor describes her experience of a massive stroke. Because she is a scientist with a vast knowledge of how the human brain works, she was able to observe her loss of body functions: speech, motion, and logical thinking. After losing touch with her rational mind, Jill experienced the ‘right-side’ brain- the purely emotional part of her brain- which she describes in her talk. It’s a fascinating story!

4. You Can Be Happy, No Matter What Life Circumstances You Face

Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and author of Stumbling on Happiness, explains why most of us do badly in our lifelong pursuit of happiness. In his talk, he uses clinical research from psychology and neuroscience to prove we can be happy – even if everything goes totally wrong. He also says that getting things you want can give you exactly the same amount of happiness as not getting them at all. Check out his advice on how you can use the “psychological immune system” inside your brain to create your own happiness.

5. Embrace Your Vulnerabilities

Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, offers deep insights from her 10 years of study into human emotions in this talk. She shares her personal quest to explain that embracing your vulnerabilities is the key to finding inner peace. In a funny way, she explains why accepting your imperfections, loving with your whole heart, practicing gratitude, not being afraid to apologize for your mistakes, and believing that you are enough are the major components of creating a better humanity.

6. Confidence Stems From the Belief That What You Do Is Right

Dr. Ivan Joseph, Athletic Director and Head Coach of the Ryerson University Varsity Soccer team explains in this talk why confidence is the most important skill in life. You need to practice confidence and be aware that you’re good at what you do. With this belief (and persistence), you can achieve anything. Joseph demonstrates the importance of self-affirmation, interpreting reality correctly, and accepting feedback positively.

7. Looks Aren’t Everything

Cameron Russell, a gorgeous model, gives an honest talk about how superficial physical appearance is and how easily it can be transformed. She says that everyone is just a human being with their own struggles, whether you’re a model who won the “genetic lottery” or an obese man going bald. Everyone has to learn how not to feel judged. You should not feel overwhelmed by interactions with people who seem more attractive or powerful than you because every single person in the world has their own insecurities.

8. You Are What You Eat

Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, discussed how she used the lessons she learned about cells to cure her multiple sclerosis. She shows how she used her diet to help her deal with multiple sclerosis, which had led her to using a wheelchair. In her talk, she shows the importance of eating real, unprocessed foods and getting more of the vitamins, minerals, and essential fats our mitochondria need to thrive. In the talk she also discusses why she opposes the sugary, white flour-based products that fatigue us instead of giving us the energy to live.

9. Emotional Hygiene Is Essential

Psychologist Guy Winch explains in this talk how neglected emotional pain can dramatically influence our happiness, success, and life expectancy. He explains that people go to the doctor when they experience certain types of pain, but neglect their emotional states (even though these can lead to serious medical conditions). Winch shows that changing your responses to failure, battling your negative thoughts, taking action when you feel lonely, and practicing emotional hygiene should be the start of your quest to reach your highest potential!

10. You’re the Only Person Who Can Define Yourself

Lizzie Velasquez, a 26-year-old motivational coach and the author of 3 books, was born with a rare disease which makes it impossible for her body to create fat. She describes the day when (as a 17-year-old girl) she discovered a YouTube video with 4 million views and thousands of mean comments naming her the “World’s Ugliest Woman.” In her talk, Velasquez gives her honest and powerful opinions on why you are the only person with the power to define who you really are.


go be great, peeps

Responding to a new virtual friend I made tonight. Thought it would be of some benefit to the many more random virtual friends I have out here.


Dear Aini Marina,

My name is M, from University of :-) , Canada. Actually I already wrote an email to you 2 days ago and I thought it was successfully delivered while it was not. I keep on checking the email to see any replies until it appeared to me that the mail was not sent. :P

Dear M,

This is so nice to hear from you. Every now and then I would receive emails from fellow grad students like you and it’s nice to know I’m not alone :) I hope you find the Canadian weather bearable by now :D

So here I am, writing it all over again.. Sebenarnya dah lama nak contact u since I saw someone put your ig post in DSG fb page. I was amazed that you have 2 small kids and graduated your PhD with flying colours. U just get me inspired and makes me want to know the secret of your success. I then read your blog and feels really like to talk to you about all those things; family, kids, study etc.

I also have two small kids..4 and 2 years old. The previous semester was quite challenging because it was my first time attending classes in north America. I’m sure you understand the hectic life of a student that have to attend classes and do projects and assignment beside research proposal. But in terms of time for my kids, I still can rely on my husband because he is at home taking care of them. Now that my husband is going to enroll his PhD starting this September, we have to send them to childcare which is very costly here. How did u handle this anyway? We have applied for the childcare fee subsidy in January but sadly we are not eligible until we file our first income tax.

I did not know about the DSG post, but it’s nice to know I am doing my bit to help spark some inspiration (although unintentionally). I have no “special secrets” to success. Masa tamat undergrad dulu, rajin jugak lah entertain interviews from mags and newspapers on rahsia kejayaan and what not but now, after having survived grad school – and having given birth to two kids along the way, looking back at all the write ups tu rasa nak laugh them off je, like what a joke, because nothing can be comparable to the amount of pain endured to earn these two graduate degrees, and all that was said earlier on what it takes to succeed tu tak terpakai sangat at this stage. Undergraduate level was a clear cut affair. Grad school is a different animal to tame altogether. The two just can’t be compared. The only reason I made it through was that I never gave up and kept marching forward regardless what got in my way. And I made sure to stick to my routine, rain or shine or hailstone or during days yang rasa nak terjun bangunan. I also do not feel sorry for myself for having to go through a lot of hardship (that even maternity leave was never in the picture), because I work with an end in mind. Just remember, we’re never too busy, it’s all about making priorities. Don’t wait till you find the right time to do work, you never will. You make time for things. Put it another way, you don’t actually have time for TV/elaborate cooking/doing leisure things but you make time for it.

I can totally relate to how you feel right now – trust me, I have been there, and gone through it all. Being a grad student, especially one who’s sponsored by the gov hence limited funds, limited time, memang rasa serabut sentiasa. There’s the academic work load to keep up with, then the RA/labwork duties on top of your own academic milestones, and then there’s the housewife duties, the mummy duties, and most of the time, there are 1001 other things that just do not go our way i.e. health insurance issues, childcare costs, masalah elauns, masalah sponsor tercicir tak bayar yuran hence 1001 implications as a result, kereta rosak, anak sakit needing major surgeries etc. Awal awal (like where you are now), memang rasa down sentiasa each time masalah datang, but lama lama tu, after having dealt with so many challenges along the way, you will be so strong to the extent that tak kisah apa pun yang datang, it just can’t hurt you anymore. That setiap masalah tu ada penyelesaiannya, that you just have to remain your composure to work it over (walau payah macam mana pun or besar macam mana sekalipun masalah tu) and not be too reactive about it. And like I said, as long as you don’t give up, and keep marching on, by God’s grace, you will get there, to the finishing line.

Sometimes there are sacrifices you have to make, sometimes, there will be times when you have to make difficult decisions and there are trade-offs that you have to face as a result. And tell yourself that’s okay. That sometimes it’s okay to settle for a little less, e.g. a little less than perfect school work because your kid was sick, or a little less than perfect childcare because you can’t afford the ideal one (and by the way, at one point I sent my son to an Indonesian family for childcare when both my husband and I were students in Illinois, which of course, this was sad to think because you would want the best for your child but just couldn’t afford it). Never try to achieve perfection in grad school, I can tell you that was the reason why I was near breakdown point in the first few years. All my ups and downs were chronicled in my blog – if you really need to know the daily drudgery I went through.

And this is the advice my dad gave me: Grad school is just an exercise. An exercise to learn about your field, and what it takes to do sound research. Not “the” perfect research. It’s not the time for you to come up with a groundbreaking finding and what not – that will just eat up all the time and energy you have. It’s not the time for you to impress everyone with an out-of-the-world research – that can come later through sponsored grants during your academic career. Just do the right thing at the right time. Don’t try to do everything right i.e. perfect. If you have to reach a certain milestone by a certain date, by all means, reach it asalkan kerja tu lengkap. Tak perlu cuba achieve perfection – because it never will.

And it will only make you procrastinate. Also, with whom you spend your time with also impacts your overall progress and motivation. Bak kata Pengarah EM Chicago disini, kalau baju pun kita pilih betul2, siapa kita nak berkawan, nak berapat, lagi lah kena pilih betul-betul because it might as well determine whether or not you will finish your studies in a timely manner, or if you ever finish at all. Don’t feel sorry if you must miss Malaysian/social gatherings occasionally and what not just because you have work to do or a deadline to meet. Not suggesting you become a reclusive hermit either – just telling you to always prioritize.Part of my success was because my close friend/department colleague in Malaysia is a very hardworking lady who attends UW-Madison at about the same time I attended UIUC (and have also graduated last year too, only earlier than I did!). We kept each other motivated and to always stay on track. The other person is my husband. If you haven’t already, you should find that one person who can be your guiding light – apart from your hubs. Trust me, it works.

Semangat untuk studi pun sekejap tinggi sekejap hilang bila terfikirkan hal-hal kecil yang belum selesai. Belum termasuk urusan-urusan di Malaysia lagi.. How do you maintain your spirit…I have been here for 7 months and not 1 day did I not think about going back to Malaysia…

I live by the rule of “Just do what you have to do to live with a smile” ..Sometimes you just have to drag yourself to your desk to do your work. Sometimes you have to drag yourself to lab meetings.

Things don’t come for free, either you pay the price up front (by working hard from day 1) or you have to pay for it at a higher price later i.e. bila dah kena extend, you have to live by your own means, silap silap (and mintak jauh) if kena terminate from your hiring uni back home, you have to pay back the scholarship received which would have otherwise been free. I’ve seen too many a times the problem with us Malay students ni is we have a serious issue of priority bila dah duduk overseas.

Having a spouse who takes care of household and child-minding business while you’re at school is a blessing indeed. But also consider it lucky that your hubs is also going to embark on the same journey. You will be on the same page most of time, and will be more understanding of each other. Too often when the spouse is on unpaid leave/not working, the one studying will always feel obliged to “entertain” and most certainly give up on precious hours by seeking fun/leisurely things to do when it could have otherwise been spent getting significant work done. Sometimes, the motivation to do work is never there when seeing your spouse seronok melepak depan TV/main game – true story – because rezeki for my husband to land on an academic job and started his grad studies only came in early 2011 – a year and a half later after I did. So prior to that I was always a bit “bitter and miserable” because it’s like I’m on this hard, dry journey all alone. So yes, take it as a huge blessing that your husband is going to embark on the same journey, although I can tell you it’s not going to get the journey any easier (but definitely make you stronger).

Well I am good at rambling and I can go on and on and on. But let me direct you to two books that have affected and moved me greatly. I hope they will help you with your journey as much as they did to mine and perhaps help you become so much more. Set aside some time to read these, you’ll thank me later :)

The ONE thing, by Gary W. Keller & Jay Papasan – just buy on Amazon or something, and here’s their website for more resources after you’ve read the book:

I can never stress you enough how great this book is – I wished it was available when I was in high school. I would have been an Einstein or a Bill Gates by now. Lol. To the very least, it made me sew for the first time. Lol.

How to Write A lot by Paul J. Silvia.

You may not be on writing stage yet, but you’ll always have some writing work to do, and tons of other academic deadline (requiring you to write). This book will actually tell you how to just sit at your desk and do your work and just get it done. It was that close friend of mine who recommended me to read this and God bless her, this was the book that made me feel so determined to finish off my work that I unexpectedly was able to get the PhD done in 3 years (..I was expected to finish this year the earliest actually).

Seriously, sometimes all it takes is a good book to move you to do great things.


I write this not on purpose to tell all my problem..I just want to hear how did you deal with yours.. Thank you very much for your time to read my email. Salam perkenalan.

My pleasure. Sorry for being incoherent with my thoughts. I am actually in the middle of packing up and working on a research grant+preparing lecture notes at the same time. Just 4 more weeks to go before I board that flight back home (for good)!! Add me on Facebook or something! :D



Peace and love,


*I might as well just copy and paste this on my blog yeah? It’s getting a little dusty in there these days! :D

Bye now! Go be great!


Forgot to address one of your main questions, childcare:

My masters and PhD was obtained from the University of Illinois. My husband did his Masters there too, he started his Masters the semester I gave birth to our firstborn. It was a bit of a struggle at first, both studying, and a newborn baby in the picture. We then sent our son to a kind Indonesian family who was willing to be paid only 1/3 of the price of standard childcare (not cheap enough for a grad student, but affordable enough). This was after months and months of searching for affordable care way before my son was born but just couldn’t find any. There were times when the lady was unavailable attending to her own children’s schooling matters so either one of us will give up class to take care of our son if it happens to be on a day when we both have classes. The sacrifices, and trade-offs I mentioned earlier!

By the end of 2012, we moved up to Wisconsin because my husband was going to enroll in a PhD program in Milwaukee. His field of specialization was not available in UIUC so this is the closest uni to UIUC for me to travel back and forth to finish off with my own PhD (4 hours travel by car). By this point we already have two children, and I no longer have classes to attend on the UIUC campus (hence the move was possible). So in regard to childcare, both my husband and I divided our time as equal as we could. His classes would normally start at 4.00PM onwards, so during the day I would be checking in to the local library to do my work, and go back home before my husband has to leave for class. Normally he will arrive home around 9PM, and around 11PM macam tu, after household chores dah settle kan sama sama, then we continue to do our school work till 1 or 2 in the morning. If he has morning classes, then my turn to go to the library would be in the evenings. Macam tu lah lebih kurang..

Sometimes ada preschool yang murah (usually under church, but not christian-based pun) that you can try to find. Just keep asking around, don’t give up. I really hope you will get to find the solution that works best for you.

Chin up, life is never easy :)

Salam Perantauan

During musim bulan Ramadhan & Raya ni, Malaysians abroad are synonymous with Salam Perantauans.. I think it’s this particular thing that have in one way or another motivated people by the dozens untuk simpan cita-cita nak belajar overseas – sebab nak masuk column Salam Perantauan. 8-)

During my first raya here back in 2009, I was too absorbed doubting my very existence being accepted into the MS-PhD program, and homesick some more, to be bothered to give a shot nak submit a wish. Then I think it was the following year, in 2010, when I started to get a hang of things, that I sent to not only one, but (paling kurang I think) to five news outlet in Malaysia. And guess what? It all got published -both online and in print- somewhat during the same week of Ramadhan. Sampai naik malu pulak sebab terlajak jakun ^^’

We then sent only a picture of Ayman the following year (2011) and decided cukup-cukup lah tu, because we knew we were going to be here for quite a long time anyway. :P

I googled to see if masih ada any of the online versions we sent, and yes, masih ada, so I’m cutting and pasting it here, for the sake of memory <3

salam perantauan



I believe in this kind of magic

Scroll further down this post to read: KISAH MAGIK: IMPOSSIBLE JADI POSSIBLE. APA RAHSIANYA?

I believe in this kind of magic, and have always strive to taste a piece of it. Even just a tiny piece. I’ve told this same story a few months back but it doesn’t hurt to retell this again.

Truth be told, back then, dengan cuma ada 2 tahun (+1 tahun extension) untuk siapkan my supposedly 5-year PhD program, kurang 1 minggu sebelum cuti belajar tamat masih belum lagi oral defense untuk research portfolio (comprehensive exam kedua), belum pun proposal defense, and obviously, belum final defense (viva). But – going against all odds of the written rules regarding exam timelines – somehow, all that magically happened back to back in that one final week before cuti belajar tamat. Tak pernah dibuat orang sebab tak pernah dibolehkan dalam regulation. And who would have thought – being a constant mediocre in a top-ranked department all the way through – alhamdulillah, lulus unconditionally without corrections, and who would have known, a 5-year program could be done in just 3, even after having to complete tons of coursework, and 4 different intervention research studies. I was totally shaken on my way back home to Milwaukee that very night after the final defense. Magic from the above all the way through. Dan kuasa doa restu ibu ayah. And that night I realized one thing more than I ever did my entire life – that God is Great, “Be, and it is!”.‪#‎alwaysstrivetobeuseful‬ ‪#‎themoreyougivethemoreyouget‬‪#‎anditallgoesdowntoniatusahatawakkal‬ #nodontyougiveupyou ‪#‎tootouchedbythispost‬ :’)

Sepanjang hampir 3 tahun saya menjadi seorang pendidik di UPM, banyak ‘peristiwa’ yang takkan mampu saya lupakan. Yang mengajar saya satu perkara penting: erti kehidupan.

Percaya tak, kisah yang ingin saya kongsikan kali ini boleh menyebabkan sesiapa pun ternganga membacanya. Sebab anda tidak akan percaya pada ‘magik’ yang berlaku. Saya ingin kongsikan kerana di sebalik cerita ini, sebenarnya ada satu ‘rahsia’ kejayaan yang ramai orang tak tahu.

Ceritanya bermula apabila seorang anak didik saya stuck dalam projek ilmiah tahun akhirnya. Ya Allah, Tuhan je yang tahu risaunya saya. Tesis projek perlu dihantar lagi 2-3 minggu. Dengan eksperimen yang belum selesai (baru separuh jalan), hasil belum ada, nak buat eksperimen perlu ‘q’ panjang (sebab nak guna mesin yang orang lain dah ‘q’ panjang), technician tak bagi guna mesin, due date dah semakin dekat.

Akhirnya dia datang jumpa saya. Katanya, nampak mustahil untuk siap.

Benar katanya. Kalau berusaha sungguh-sungguh tapi masih ikut ‘cara biasa’ memang peratus untuk projek tu siap sangat rendah. Sebab masa dah sangat singkat. Halangan dari pihak lain pula sangat banyak.

Saya tarik nafas panjang.

‘Awak kena pakai magik, Zack’ Akhirnya saya berkata. Dia pula pelik dengan kata-kata saya. ‘Magik macamana tu Dr?’

Panjang lebar saya menerangkan, tapi pointnya 2 saja:

1. Dalam masa singkat yang ada ni, give your 100% best effort. Dia tahu apa kerja yang perlu dilakukannya. So saya kata, buat semua tu sungguh-sungguh.
2. Jangan ‘rely’ kat diri sendiri. Kita ni manusia, lemah. Tapi kitakan ada Tuhan yang Maha Hebat, yang sangat baik, yang kalau Dia nak tolong kita anytime kerja kita boleh jadi mudah, boleh settle. So di samping buat kerja dengan 100% best effort, buat benda-benda lain yang Allah suka.

Saya berikan beberapa contoh:
– nampak makcik cleaner, derma la kat dia.
– ngaji lebih sikit
– solat malam
– kalau beli goreng pisang, bayar lebih.
– gembirakan mak ayah, anak isteri.
– buat kerja amal. tolong orang lain.

Sebab saya percaya pesan Tuhan:

Dari Abu Hurairah ra, Nabi SAW, bersabda: “Barang siapa yang melepaskan satu kesusahan seorang mukmin, pasti Allah akan melepaskan darinya satu kesusahan pada hari kiamat. Barang siapa yang menjadikan mudah urusan orang lain, pasti Allah akan memudahkannya di dunia dan di akhirat. Barang siapa yang menutupi aib seorang muslim, pasti Allah akan menutupi aibnya di dunia dan di akhirat. Allah senantiasa menolong hamba Nya selama hamba Nya itu suka menolong saudaranya”. (HR. Muslim, lihat juga Kumpulan Hadits Arba’in An Nawawi hadits ke 36).

Inilah magik kehidupan yang ramai orang tak tahu. Ramai orang fikir bila nak berjaya dalam sesuatu, mesti kena usaha sungguh-sungguh saja. Sampaikan nak buat kerja-kerja volunteer pun berkira. Dia lupa yang untuk dia berjaya tu, akan jadi lebih mudah kalau Tuhan tolong. Anytime benda yang ‘impossible’ boleh jadi possible.

Saya kata lagi…yang ramai orang sedekah..tapi padanya sedekah untuk dapat pahala, untuk masuk syurga. Kalau itulah niat dan kefahamannya, itulah yang dia dapat. Kenapa bila soal nak berjaya, mesti patah balik pada ‘usaha bersungguh-sungguh’. Abih-abih, doa kepada Allah.

Betul, usaha kita mestilah yang terbaik. Tapi tak ramai orang faham…yang bila dia bersedekah, buat kerja2 amal, buat benda-benda yang Allah suka, tolong orang lain..on top of usahanya yang sungguh2..kejayaan itu lebih mudah, lebih dekat. Nampak macam akan mengambil masa kita..yelah nak kena spend masa pula buat kerja amal. Tapi masa yang diambil itulah nanti yang akan buat perkara yang mustahil tiba-tiba jadi tak mustahil lagi. Pokok pangkalnya pada kepercayaan kita. Kita percaya tak yang Allah akan tolong kita.

Kan Nabi Zakaria yang sudah lewat usianya pun mendapat zuriat? Nabi Ayub yang sakit sekian lama juga sembuh umpama magik. Semuanya Allah yang uruskan.

Bukankah kita bertuhankan Allah yang sama?

Saya ingat lagi, saya kata pada student saya tu..”Kalau awak percaya dan buat ‘formula’ ni..nanti awak akan terperanjat..projek yang nampak mustahil nak siap ni boleh siap on time. Dan jangan terperanjat kalau awak menang projek terbaik”..sebab kalau Allah nak tolong, anything can happen.

Jawab beliau “Saya dapat siapkan projek ni pun saya dah lega, Dr.”

Saya tahu, dari riak wajahnya..dia antara percaya dengan tidak apa yang saya katakan. Tapi saya amat berharap dia buat 2 perkara yang saya pesan itu.

Selang beberapa hari, dia jumpa saya dan katanya eksperimen dah siap!

Ya Allah, saya tak mampu nak kata apa.

Katanya technician yang pada awalnya taknak bagi dia guna mesin disebabkan ‘q’ yang panjang..tiba-tiba bagi dia guna sebab orang yang sepatutnya guna waktu tu tiba-tiba tak datang. Dan tiba-tiba, technician tu beriya menolongnya dan mengajarnya itu ini. Sampailah eksperimen tu siap dan hasilnya depan mata saya.

Dia sibuk bercerita apa yang ‘tiba-tiba’ berlaku..tapi saya tidak mampu memberi tumpuan. Saya sangat ter-“wow” dengan magik ini. Saya hanyut dalam pujian yang tidak putus-putus kepadaNya, Tuhan yang sangat baik. Saya tahu, Tuhanlah yang buat semua yang tiba-tiba ini berlaku.

Saya tanya pelajar saya tu “apa yang awak dah buat?” Jawabnya, “saya buat macam yang Dr cakaplah”..serba sedikit dia berkongsi cerita.

Ya Allah inilah yang saya namakan magik. Bukan kebetulan, tapi magik dari Tuhan.

Rupanya magik ini tidak terhenti setakat itu.

Hari ini, beliau bersama pelajar-pelajar yang lain membentangkan projek mereka kepada beberapa orang juri. Ada juri dari industri. Ada pensyarah dari universiti lain. Saya sempat menjenguk. Dan baru sebentar tadi, saya menerima mesej “Dr, saya menang projek terbaik. Gold medal (tempat pertama)”

Ya Allah, tergamam saya dibuatnya. Saya salah baca ke? Berulang kali saya tatap mesej itu. Ya Tuhan, janjimu benar. Terima kasih ya Allah.

Kata student saya apabila eksperimennya siap: “Apa yang saya belajar ni saya rasa lebih berharga dari projek itu sendiri”

Betul. Sebab inilah formula kehidupan. Rahsia macamana hidup kita bahagia dan berjaya, jika kita faham yang agama bukan hanya pahala-syurga. Tapi apa yang diajarkan oleh agama kita, itulah kunci kejayaan dan kebahagiaan di dunia ini lagi.

Saya harap ia suatu yang bermanfaat untuk perjalanan kehidupan beliau yang seterusnya. Juga untuk anda yang membaca cerita ini. Jika ada manfaatnya, kongsikan agar orang lain juga tahu rahsia kejayaan ini.


Ayman half whispering to Ayra –

Ayman: Adaa, I think mummy loves shoes. She’s got too many of them! Look!

Ayra: Yah Adaa. I love shoes too! Ooooh, beautiful!

Ibu: What Ayman? Were you talking about me??

Ayman: Noooooo (covers face). I just said you like shoes.

Ibu: Why, that’s right :D :D :D


*Both of the kids call each other “Adaa” at this point in life. I have no idea why :lol:

Now this came unexpectedly lol.


This email from from 5 years ago came unexpectedly. I mean I don’t ever recall writing this all the way back in March 2010, but it captured that moment in time perfectly. That was the 24+ yo me, just in the second semester of grad school, somewhat clueless, somewhat loss, stuck in the middle of so many classes that don’t seem to make sense at all and endless lab work with the research group. That was the semester I took a 20-credit coursework load, working on the Master thesis proposal, doing coding and transcription work for the lab, moved into a another apartment in the middle of the semester (it was inevitable given the location of the lab and amount of lab work at the time), and funnily, trying hard to conceive at the same time, and still very much a perfectionist, trying to keep a clean record to everything, that a few class ditches made me loathe myself so much. That was the 24+ yo me, so excuse the immature language use. LOL. (Scroll over to posts from March 2010, and you’ll know where this post is coming from. Such a crayzayh semester for a 24 yo to handle lol).

Somewhat lost soul back then, tapi confident habis panggil future self “Dr”. That’s the power of dreams actions, I guess. Dreams Actions will get you there.  Small, little but significant actions, no matter at what point you start it will get you there, as long as you keep on marching forward (no matter how many times you had to march backwards!).

Time to write to my 34+ yo self to read in 2020. I wonder what I should address myself. Mak Hajjah perhaps? LOL.

Lesson learned: Never overthink.

Except for the endless battle against my own immune system (read: severe allergies to the Malaysian air, something I’ve been battling since 12 yo anyway), everything went well, as planned.

The flight back home was horrendous, both of them. But I reached home anyway (after not sleeping a wink for the entire 24+ odd hours and ucap syahadah every other minute). Food was good. Weather was good. Being back at the office was good. I especially appreciate the warm welcome from everyone. BTN was good. Semua semua lah. I don’t know why I like to think the worse about everything. All’s I’m doing is worrying over problems that never existed at the first place! Seesh.

Now it’s time to pack up and get ready to meet my one and only nephew for the very first time! :P

London-bound again, come Monday. Will promise self to get some sleep. Kalau dah ajal, tersepak batu pun boleh jadi penyebab, right?

Go be fearless

Less than a month to go and I’ll be on that long trip home – alone. Not something I really look forward to for motherhood has transformed me into an extra clingy person. Clingy to Daddo and both the babies. Not that I’ve ever been an independent person before I got married anyway.. But yeah, what fun is there without them. :cry:

There’s lots in my head right now. Funny what’s bothering me the most is if I will ever make my way round the airport(s) without getting lost. Truth be told, even a flea has greater spatial intelligence than I do. Tsk. The level of its severity is something Nashriq, after 11 years or so of knowing me, has painfully learned to live with. Hahah.  And of course there are greater things to think about .. Especially the risk of not being able to come back here. And the fact that part of my journey will be via MAS. Not that I have lost faith in what used to be one of our national prides, but the grave incidents this year had turned me into a nervous wreck just thinking that nothing, nothing is impossible because the worst case scenarios have indeed happened. Lost as if flown into an abyss without a track, and another blown mid-air. During each air trip I take comfort knowing that there’s the floating device .. and that jumbo jets will glide even if every single of its mechanics malfunctions. But no, from now on I will have to put all my trust in God.

I guess it’s time to go be fearless. Be fearless with the journey itself. Be fearless of what awaits at home. Or to be more specific, at the workplace. Just. Go. Be. Fearless. As you always do, AM. As you always do.

of maggi goreng and that blue robe calit tiga


After over a week retiring early to bed and getting enough sleep (mashaAllah, what great nikmat ample sleep is!), tonight I am back being a night owl helping to proofread my sister’s work sambil teman Nashriq telaah his readings in preparation for his classes that will begin this week  – tapi sekali toleh belakang tadi nampak mcm tgh tgk kartun batman la pulak, ish! As always, bila stay up, perut pun automatic macam macam, hence maggi goreng taugeh setimbun. Exactly at 12 midnight. I guess bad habits are really hard to break :cry:

On a different note, we’ve been out and about with my parents to nearby places. They’ve only about two weeks left here. Their help and sacrifice in helping me make my mission impossible plans a reality can never be repaid. That’s why I’m so so grateful I passed unconditionally! Unfortunately our supposedly elaborate trip got cut short by the kids’ unprecedented condition. SO, I made another elaborate itinerary, booked accomodations wayyy in advance – for May 2015. Yep, I am so making them both come here again soon, USA, take 4! And it’ll all be on me this time, plane tickets and all! :-) Hint: Blue robe, calit tiga ceremony.

Heard my sister’s got an itinerary planned for a trip to Scotland when Mum and Dad visits her for two weeks. I’ll just pretend that I don’t care :lol: :lol:

Ok. Maggi pun dah habis now. Back to work!



"Sometimes," said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart".