The Year 2021 in Review

First, the stats:

I wrote 71 posts (not including this one) amounting to 28,036 words; that’s half a DPhil’s worth of words! Traffic continues to improve, with 9,628 page views from 5,336 visitors to the site over the course of the year. My readers are overwhelmingly from Malaysia, although I am both humbled and pleased to see readers coming from a growing list of countries (see below).

One thing I’ve learnt this year is the value of thinking in terms of quarters when planning out your year. I’ll describe my planning process in my next post, but before that, let’s review the 4 quarters that made up 2021.

Q1: January to March

I started the year admiring the beauty of nature in Two Views, Neurons in Nature, Dendrite, and Dendrite, Again. This will be a recurring theme in my writing; the most important lesson I’ve learnt this year is how therapeutic it is to spend time in nature. The paradox of our modern world is that we are becoming increasingly detached from the world despite living in a hyperconnected environment. I can go on and on about this topic but I’ll save it for a later post.

In February, a dear friend passed away suddenly, leading to an outpouring of grief in Farewell Old Friend. For me, it was a timely reminder to check on family and friends more often, something which I have, regrettably, failed to do in recent years. Note to self: must do better!

Q2: April to June

This was a relatively quiet quarter. I got the first of my two (now three!) vaccine jabs at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford. The world around us was slowly opening up, with restrictions being lifted in stages.

I also wrote a couple of articles elsewhere. The first was Dua Dekad, to commemorate two decades of leaving my beloved alma mater MCKK. The second was an article for The Star, which I co-wrote with my friend Dr Khor Swee Kheng in response to some vaccine hesitancy in Malaysia.

Q3: July to September

My family and I did a whole bunch of travelling during this quarter. Partly, this was a response to my complete failure to see many parts of the UK when I was an undergraduate here. Back then, I was more of a Europhile (hah!) and therefore ended up planning trips to countries like France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy etc. The combination of Brexit and the pandemic made the choice simpler. Alhamdulillah, in retrospect, I consider myself blessed to have been given the chance to see how beautiful the rest of the UK is. My dream is to one day return to North Wales to explore the place further.

Q4: October to December

After pleasure, comes pain. Back to the DPhil grind, except that it no longer feels like a grind, rather a pleasant journey into the world of neuroscience. No, I do not wish to downplay the seriousness of the work or the difficulty of the process. I’m referring to how I view my DPhil now; it’s not something I have to do, but something I get to do. Being able to spend a few years learning, researching, reflecting on a subject in-depth, especially something as fascinating as cognitive neuroscience, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One thing I’d like to do in the future is to guide and encourage more people (especially my medical students) to pursue a similar path.

While we’re on the topic of pain and pleasure, I somehow managed to get a ticket to witness two of my favourite football teams, Manchester United and Liverpool, battling it out at Old Trafford. Except, instead of an all-out battle, what we all got was more like a playground scuffle in which one kid grabbed the other, gave him a wedgie and forced him to say “Uncle!”. United are now under new management, but I think the players have really let Ole Gunnar Solskjaer down with their attitude. If they’re not careful, they’re going to do the same to Ralf Rangnick. No wonder Gary Neville called them a bunch of whingebags the other day! Sure, they won against Burnley last night, but come on, it’s Burnley…

Liverpool are in a better place than United, no doubt, but they too need to improve if they want to be serious about challenging Manchester City for the title. The next few months will be very interesting if you’re a fan of the English Premier League. My own philosophy when it comes to football is to not get too emotionally invested in the success of a particular team. That way, I get to enjoy the football more no matter who’s playing!

And with that, I bring the year to a close. Thank you, dear readers, for getting this far. I hope that you have had a meaningful year too, and that 2022 will be better than 2021 inshaAllah.