Ramblings of an overworked ENTJ

Truth be told, I have always had the reputation of a hot head who is neither lacking in opinions nor shy with sharing those opinions. However as I grow older, I have come to understand that being brazen rashness that may have by mistaken for bravado and may be even admired in your twenties is not cute when you are in your 30’s. As I begin to explore the idea that may be there is a different way to view and process things rather than just the usual I think I am right so therefore I am right.
During the pass decade I have grown so much and gotten so much more than I have ever hoped or planned or even dreamed of. But in order to understand my journey may be it’s important to understand my history up to this point.
I am the fifth girl in a family of 8 and growing up I was sort of a conundrum in the sense that even though I was clearly an extrovert and mostly outspoken and outgoing, I spent most of my child hood as a bookworm. Spending hours in our family library which is really an overstatement. It really was a small room may be 4 x 6 m with a small dingy window and poor ventilation with a collection of books that my dad a journalist had collected over the years. It was in the tiny room that my family and I affectionately called “small room” that I was introduced to Dicken’s flair, Bronte’s eloquence and Twain’s story telling abilities. It was my chance to escape into a world of possibilities and I lived an enchanted life.
It was a kind of escape and as I began to delve in the literature I felt liberated of sorts. It was at this time that I realized that I did not have to live solely on the basis of my experience but I could begin to draw from the experiences of others. I began to entertain the idea that there is more to life and to the world that just what I had seen or experienced. Also it did not hurt at all that my father was such a great story teller who had spent the majority of his working life travelling for his job.
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Planning

Let’s just be honest, planning is boring, tedious, time consuming and just not sexy. It takes insight and foresight to plan. You must take into account strength and weaknesses, timing, age, background, education etc, etc. As you get more and more adept at writing plans, you will quickly become acquainted with the economic term “opportunity cost”. Opportunity cost has been described by economists as “the basic relationship between scarcity and choice”. This principle hones on the concept that the true cost of a good is not what you pay for it but rather it is what you had to forego in order to get that particular good. Here is an illustration from http://www.theeconomist.com; going for a walk may appear to cost nothing, until you consider the opportunity forgone to use that time earning money. The fundamental problem that economics addresses is how to meet unlimited wants with limited resources. Opportunity cost therefore is an important tenet in answering that question because it probes us to ensure that resources are indeed being used efficiently.

Lets apply this principle to out personal lives, we all have unlimited wants (aka dreams) but we have limited resources such as time, money, intelligence, patience, support etc. Planning allows you to more accurately evaluate the cost of a decision. I remember one of my mentees and she was definitely a procrastinator. She had been taking nursing prerequisite courses for over 3 years and as I listened to her talk on and on about the challenges of taking more than 2 classes a semester and being fixated on getting into a prestigious program which had rejected her multiple times before. I finally got fed up and told her, “I appreciate your perseverance, but just remember that for every year you decide to delay, you are losing on average about $100,000 a year from future earnings”. The true cost of the decision to delay is not just another year, it is the loss of a potential $100,000 in income. It is the time you will lose by having to delay retirement in the future. It is the time you will lose with your family in the future. It is also a loss of the compound interest you will have gotten from savings. Within a year, my mentee got into a nursing program. Not necessarily the program of her choice but definitely got good training and now she works a nurse in her field of choice.

In conclusion, I urge you therefore to view planning as a GPS system. It calculates the time (true cost) of reaching your particular destination (your dream) by taking into account multiple variables such as distance, time of day, traffic, roadblocks, setbacks, accidents, other drivers on the road with you, the topography, the seasons of the year etc. Let’s not be arrogant enough to think that we can free style or way through life. If God himself makes plans, how can we be exempt? I leave you with a quote by William Gibson from The Economist.

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First World Problems: Vaccines cause Autism—Seriously?

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I just read a post on KevinMD’s blog by Matt Anderson, MD which totally resonated with me. It is titled: IF YOU THINK FAKE NEWS IS BAD FOR POLITICS, YOU SHOULD TRY BEING A PHYSICIAN.

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Okay,  I am so sick and tired of this untruth which has been promulgated like wild fire around the world for 2 decades. It has been debunked by multiple other studies and the paper who published the initial study in 1997 has since retracted it because, it turns out the physician who first published it falsified data. The association between MMR vaccines and Autism has since been COMPLETELY DISCREDITED due to serious procedural errors, undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, and ethical violations.

Andrew Wakefield, the British surgeon who published and initiate this farce has since been discredited and has lost his medical license. Turns out he is no longer a physician but decades later medical doctors are still undoing the harm that was done to the public health community. Check out this page on  debunked myths about vaccines.

Meanwhile in Africa, 1 in 5 children do not have access to life saving vaccines (WHO). An estimated 3 million children under the age of five will die each year in Africa and most of those deaths could be prevented with vaccine administration.

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine  is the particular vaccine erroneously linked to causing Autism. Now let’s compare and see what happens if your unvaccinated child gets Measles, Mumps or Rubella.

For some, this is unimaginable. but I grew up with family members who did not receive appropriate vaccines at birth who now have permanent brain damage due to inaccessibility to vaccines. I have seen firsthand what lack of vaccination can lead to and it is not pretty. 

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Measles: CDC Fact Sheet
-Lifelong brain damage
-Deafness
-Death

Mumps: CDC Fact Sheet

-Meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)
-Deafness (temporary or permanent)
-Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
-Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty
-Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females      who have reached puberty

Rubella: CDC Fact Sheet 

-Brain infections and bleeding problems.                                                                                                  -Rubella is most dangerous for a pregnant woman’s unborn baby. As many as 85 out of 100 babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first 3 months of pregnancy will have a birth defect. Infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, or birth defects like deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, and heart defects.

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Child with Measles.

In summary developing countries have 99 problems and fake news about vaccines and autism is not one of them!

I recognize we are all overworked, over exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friend, family member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

Share your thoughts below, I can’t wait to hear from YOU!

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Forgiveness

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Forgiveness just like diversity is great idea until you have to do something about it. It is a concept that sounds great in theory but it is very difficult to practice. One of my new year’s resolution is to be more forgiving and who better to practice on than family? Like most people, I struggle with forgiveness and it is sometimes even more difficult to forgive those who are closest to you.

I am reminded of these words by Thomas Szasz “The stupid neither forgive or forget; the naive forgive and forget ; the wise forgive but do not forget”.

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I have learned that forgiveness is more about you than about the people you are forgiving. I realize that forgiveness frees you to be vulnerable again. Now vulnerability is a word that is not really part of an “independent” woman’s repertoire but may be it should be reintroduced. It allows us to be open to possibilities, it frees us to welcome the possibility of being surprised and even swept off our feet by the nuances of life.

I am also reminded of an all to familiar quote from Alexander Pope: “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. A quote from his work “An Essay on Criticism”.

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Last year, I heard an awesome song by Takesure Zamar Ncube which is now my anthem for this year. The title of the song is KUREGERERA IN ADVANCE-  (meaning I forgive you in advance) – Click on the link to watch the song. The song is sung in Shona, a South African language but it speaks volumes and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Forgiveness is not a process that you can embark on with lukewarmness it takes gusto and strong will to forgive someone and to live in that forgiveness. I am well aware that living in forgiveness is whole separate topic. It is easy to forgive someone you see once a year but living with someone whom you have to forgive or you have forgiven is another cup of tea. I had no idea about the meaning of the word until I got married. There is nothing like marriage to teach you about forgiveness and humility. I leave you with a quote from George Foreman “Forgiveness is that subtle thread that binds both love and friendship. Without forgiveness, you may not even have a child one day”. In the interest of keeping families together and living our best lives; let’s embrace and learn the science and art of forgiveness.

 

 

Gone

Whatever happened to childhood? Childhood has become more and more abridged in the post millennial era. The innocence of childhood has become a thing of the past much like Afros and wide leg pants. I reminisce about my childhood much like my parents reminisce about the music from the 60’s and 70’s. The innocence of childhood is a jewel that future generations have been robbed of. If one is not allowed to be a child, how can they be expected to mature into an adult? I recently came across a book by David Elkin called “The Hurried Child” which was first published in 1985. In his book he warned about the danger of rushing the process of growing up. He cautioned about the perils of having children make more and more adult decisions each day.

An interesting point he brought up was the commercialization of childhood with million dollar industries promoting products such as “Einstein baby” who are built on stimulating children from the time they are in the womb until they start school. We now have devices that allow pregnant women to “stimulate” growth and brain development while in the kids are in the womb. Interestingly, the brain managed to develop just fine on its own for centuries. I wonder if Einstein’s mother regretted not stimulating him enough, how about Edgar Allen Poe, Sedar Senghor, Bronte, Chinua Achebe, Shakespeare, Ferdinand Oyono and Marie Curie?

Nowadays, it is par for the course to hear parents boasting about how precocious their children are. I often ask my self does it really matter if your child starts walking at 9 months versus 14 months? A friend of mine boasted about how smart her child was because he could turn on her iPad at 8 months. I was puzzled by her sense of pride given that iPad usually have one button the front and if you let a baby droll on it long enough they will figure how to push the “one button” on the device and eventually turn it on. What is the incessant rush to meet milestones anyway? It’s not like learning the ABCs at 18 months versus 24 months makes the 18 month old a savant since he got a “whopping” 6 month head start.

Somewhere between the 20th and the 21st Century, parenting turned into a sport with today’s parents trying to outdo each other by attempting to impress others with their children’s exploits. Parents became expert raconteurs and parenting groups turned into braggart-fest with the main goal being to outshine the next parent with even more grandiose exploits. Parents went overboard and created a subculture where mediocrity was celebrated, hard work was unnecessary and everyone was declared a “winner”.  I would caution today’s parents that being proud of your child is highly encouraged but you should not turn a private parent-child moment into public showboating. Otherwise they are at risk of conditioning their children to seek and eventually crave public praise and recognition at all cost. Children are our offspring – yes and perhaps our greatest accomplishments but they should not be treated and paraded like animals at a country fair show prancing around looking to win the first place ribbon.

The combination of electronic over stimulation and parenting styles influenced by state fair competition rules has led to a generation of children who have grown up hurriedly and experienced things too fast without really learning much about life.

We are left with self promoting, self declared life coaches who can write code eloquently using python, ruby on rails or java. These young adults are assertive, confident, go-getters who are ready to prove their worth. But they are also afflicted with approval addiction seeming to need validation for every aspect of their lives with “likes” and re-tweets. These precocious kids have grown up to become “emerging adults” who never want to leave the nest. Emerging adults are the new age class which includes people between the ages of 18-29 also known as “late bloomers”.  They are well spoken, educated and entitled cynics who are so self assertive they don’t need go through life’s lessons. At the end of the day who needs life experience when you can just “google” it or read a blog about it. The following quote by Maya Angelou articulates my views on the evolution from “precocious children” to cynical “emerging adults”: – A cynical young person is the saddest sight to see, because he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

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Construct

 

Social constructs have always been one of my numerous interests. I find socially engineered problems of particular interest. One of the topics I am greatly concerned with is the insolence and lackadaisical approach to life that teenagers in the western world seem to adopt. Imagine my surprise when I first immigrated to the United States at age 18 and encountered the self absorbed, rude and myopic view that teenagers tend to have. I was flabbergasted by the laxitude with which teenagers were treated in America. I was totally aghast when my freshman class spent an hour session on strategies for success in college such as waking up early and making sure you did not miss 8am class times. I was perplexed that the professors were using valuable class time to review what most people would consider basic home training.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that my University had a major called “undecided”. I remember asking my advisor “how could anyone be allowed to matriculate if they are undecided, they could not even decide on General Studies?” It wasn’t until had been in America for at least 3 years that I began to get a glimpse into the real problem. American teenagers are treated like “mini gods” by their parents. Most of them have little to no responsibility. Sometimes their parents have to bribe them to get their attention. Children make inordinate demands on their parents who willingly pay them gladly for fear that their children may resent them for being seen as inferior to their peers consequently causing them to not fit in. The fear of not fitting in is a problem which seems to drive parents into shopping binges and frenzies. Personally I believe we should instruct teenagers that the expectation is that they not fit in with their peers but rather fit in with their families and communities to become contributing members in our society.

I wondered how American teenagers managed to develop such a knack for carefully engineered and executed temper tantrums as well as an inordinate sense of self entitlement. Pop culture and iconic teen movies such as American Pie seem to potentiate this idea that any and every thing is excusable because one is a teenager. I finally came to the realization that from the time most teenagers are thirteen their upbringing is essentially mortgaged out to after school programs and activities such as sports, clubs, hobbies, jobs etc. On average, a 16 year old American teenager spends about 10-15 hours a week at home actively interacting with their families. However, most of that time is spent complaining, fighting with siblings, throwing tantrums and arguing with parents for less strict rules etc. How can we really blame teenagers when a recent survey by Commonsense media showed that parents of tweens and teens spend more than nine hours a day on average on screens.

I remember growing up in Cameroon, West Africa where most days I was expected to have dinner with my family, actively contribute to the upbringing of my siblings and to the balance of our household. I am not implying that no youths in other cultures have temper tantrums. However, they are not considered a rite of passage, they are considered more of an anomaly. My point is, high school students can not be treated like mentally incapacitated citizens for 4 years with no sense of responsibility or duty then somehow magically transform themselves into responsible adults who make positive contributions to society. One can argue that most high schoolers need to spend even more time with their parents since they are so impressionable at that age but somehow this society accepts the fallacy which purports that the relationships teenagers have with their friends is sacred and even more valuable than their relationship with their families. I want to debunk the lie that fitting in with friends is an absolute necessity. I personally remember very few people that I went to high school with. I remember most of the people who were in my specific area of specialization but on average I do not remember at least half of my high school class. In general, most relationships formed in high school do not carry over into adulthood – so why spend so much time on them?

If I learned anything from my parents who raised 8 children on a middle class income, it is that children will always live up or live down to their parent’s expectations. Here are some examples of exceptional teenagers in their times; Queen Elizabeth II was 14 when she entered public service, she was 16 when she was appointed colonel over the Grenadier Guards in the UK. Joan of Arc led the french army to a historic victory at the age of 17 and was martyred at age 19. Bobby Fischer became a chess grandmaster at age 15. Malala Yousafzai received a Nobel Peace prize at age 17 in 2014; she was the youngest recipient in the history of the Nobel Peace prize. She started championing women’s rights at age 11. At age 19, Mark Zuckerberg commercialized Facebook and the list goes on and on. My goal in writing this is to caution parents that by coddling and adopting a laissez faire attitude with teenagers they may be doing them a great disservice by inadvertently stunting their emotional growth and thwarting their ability to reach their maximum potential. I leave you with a definition of social construct: “a social construct is an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society”.

social-construct

NUMB3RS

I have a fascination with numbers and I tend to compartmentalize things in my life and will periodically give myself grades on how I think I am doing in the different areas in my life. Mom Berthina gets a 75.9%, wife Berthina gets an 80%, doctor Berthina gets a 65%, sister Berthina gets 35% and so on and so forth. I try to do this at least 4 times a year to get a a real sense of how I am doing and make adjustments accordingly. I find new years resolutions to be particularly tiresome and irksome since you only think about them for the first few months of the year. I like feedback so much that I even keep a chart on answered prayer request for family and friends. I usually say things like, the average for our answered prayers for the year is 83.6% and people usually give a funny look like what is wrong with you”. I am usually thinking what’s wrong with you? If you are going to bother to pray why not try to be efficient?

I have a constant running timer on the next major event in my life. If you have any doubt, just check out the bottom of the page. I know numbers, I understand them and appreciate that they can give me concrete information without all the subjective fluff. Not saying that the context in interpreting numbers is not vital. As a matter of fact it is critical to accurate interpretations. However it is very comforting to know that gravity is still 9.81 m/s2 . I love that little g (gravity) has not changed. As a matter of fact big G has not changed either. It is still the universal gravitational constant aka “Newton’s constant” and it is still  G \approx 6.674 \times 10^{-11} {\rm \ N \ (m/kg)^2}.

Anyway before I digressed, I was professing my undying love for numbers. I recently sparked a debate at work with a colleague about me grading myself on my wifely duties. I can understand that there is a certain “double entendre” in this statement but keeping that aside, how can you be great at anything without any feedback. Often we get both positive and negative feedback but for some reason we mostly remember the negative feedback. I keep an accurate account of how I am doing so that when I get either positive or negative feedback on my behaviour over a certain period of time, I can compare it to my own notes and if it is accurate embrace it and make the necessary changes and if not, just reject it and move on. Of course this will be completely useless if this were only based on my opinion of myself, I have a group of trusted confidantes (number 1 being my spouse) whom a surreptitiously get to give me feedback, I find that people are a little wary of passing judgement on other people’s life but if you can take the criticism then you may find this beneficial.

I have a rule of 33.33%; I say 33.33% of my time should be spent on my family, 33.33% on personal and 33.33% on my career. Obviously my spouse gets a lot of the personal time because we do a lot of things together. For me it is very obvious that I need this allocation of time to stay in balance. Invariably in life you get unexpected events that throw you out of sync but if you are not careful, you will find yourself hallowed and disheveled because personal time (the most important category) always takes the greatest hit. My advice is to make adjustments as necessary but make sure you pay yourself back that time. My husband used to laugh when I would tell him at the end of a difficult block in medical school; “I owe myself 18.6 hours of sleep, I need that time paid back to be the normal me again” and I would take a week or so to pay it back.

In conclusion this is just a nerdy way of ensuring growth and evolution. This may not be for everyone and some people may have even found it tiresome to read this post. Again you know yourself the best ( or at least you should), if you found it useful, try it out and if you found it cumbersome reject it and move on. That is the beauty of the evolution process; plagiarizing and imitation is highly encouraged because as we know it is survival of the fittest. A personal quote is; “Scavenge the earth for wisdom you never know when you might need her.” It is only fitting to conclude with a quote about balance: “Balance that’s the secret. Moderate extremism. The best of both worlds.” Edward Abbey

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