What’s PDPA for

Doctors may be able to save my lives, but I’m not sure if I can trust his words anymore.

Just last week, I got a call from my doctor asking to postpone the appointment in light of the CoronaVirus. He mentioned that it’s best to stay away from the hospital, offered to ship my prescription and informed me about my MRI results. I had a slipped disc.

“Hold up. Could I get those scans and ask for a second opinion?”


I received a report in the email, but not the scans. I spoke the doctor again asking for the actual scans. He mentioned that it can’t be sent over because of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). I suggested then to keep the appointment and I can come to take a photo of his computer screen.

Again. “No, you can’t. PDPA”. [At this point, I was about to reach through the phone and punch him].

“It’s my data. Why can’t I get them?”

As much as I did not want to come to the hospital, I’m in pain and I want to fix my back. I tried repeatedly to understand why can’t I get the scans, my scans. Again, PDPA.

End of my patience, “could you quote the exact section in PDPA where I can’t get a photo of my scans?”

He acknowledged and said that he would come back to me.

The phone rang. This time, he found a solution. He’s going to print the scans out. Boom, problem solved.

Except, what really happened to PDPA?

Of course, this article isn’t really about PDPA. It’s about taking the courage to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry”. Because in the short term, we might be able to get away with the uneasiness of owning up, while costing us the trust and reputation that have been built over decades.

Because in the long term, we all win. We keep our reputation and, in the meantime, learn something to use for the rest of our lives. To be the kind of person that adopts the posture of learning instead of covering up.

How to resolve guilt

Are you shocked by your own selfishness? Feeling guilty about leaving food on the plate when children are starving, not finishing that book you bought or turning down the ex-convict asking for donations. 

Here’s the conflict. The first kind of guilt is relatively easy to discern and easy to solve – when someone is asking more than you can give, you turn them down. But I wonder if we have the tools to solve the second kind, the more difficult kind. 

Consider this scenario: 

David grew up in a family with both parents that loved him dearly. When he got married, his wife moved in.

And as most family goes, there were little fights along the way. But nothing too big that couldn’t be solved with small compromises and a good night’s sleep. 

In a series of events, a fight broke out between David’s wife and his mum. His wife loves experimenting in the kitchen and David’s mum is particular on how cooking should be done. In a rage, David’s wife packed up a suitcase and left the house. She couldn’t compromise anymore. She wants her own freedom and cannot stand to live another day with David’s mum. 

David needs to make a choice, to stay with his mum or leave with his wife. He was conflicted and felt horrible about this.

In this scenario, it’s normal to feel guilty because we have bought the story that we are indebted to our parent, to our spouse, and the people who helped us along the way. 

Perhaps the non-obvious choice is this. Occupy Yourself – just like Occupy Wall Street – is about taking back the power from banks, Occupy Yourself is about taking back your own power. Because no one should have the power to guilt you into anything. 

Guilt is perhaps just a sign that your priorities are in conflict. A sign to sit down and think deeply about your values. A sign for you to take responsibility. 

In the end, you have to decide for yourself. No one can help you, not even this article. 

Re-thinking success

Here’s why it’s so hard. Because as human, we are outcome-driven. And the thing about questioning and planning is that it is less about outcomes than it is about avoiding mis-steps.

So, the easy-hard part is to make a million dollars. The hard part is to stop after you made a million dollars. And the hard-hard part is to ask why a million dollars will bring you everlasting happiness.

The journey of vulnerability

We have seen celebrities like Ellen and many other coming out, gathering millions of fans in the process. 

Our culture has benefited from the courage of people such as Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela.  

Yet, we are at the dark corner wrestling if we should tell our loved one the truth. Creating multiple threads in our mind, to make sure that we don’t hurt them, and in turn, hurt ourselves. 

Why is vulnerability so difficult, yet so useful?

Because the best kind of vulnerability takes work. The work to accept yourself with all your truth. The work to find and cultivate a tiny group of fellow travellers. The work to earn the privilege to share your story, in a way, that others can relate. The work to see the fear of others, and in return, be seen. 

So no, being vulnerable to your parents (in one sitting) is not a good idea. Sharing your truth that might get you hurt is not either.

There is a stepping stone to being vulnerable. There are skills to learn, trust to build, and courage to gather. You rush it and you’ll slip. 

  • Non-violent communication
  • Telling your story
  • Conflict resolution and issue identification 
  • Giving and asking feedback

Slowly but surely. It begins with accepting that this takes work. And it might be worth it. 

Coming to terms

I have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant. 

And for the most part, I have no idea what’s it like to have cancer, or to have my parents die in front of me. 

Perhaps the worst thing we can say to someone in that moment is the truth. Our truth, that “everything is going to be okay.” Because it is not okay, at least not for them. 

In that moment of an instance, our good intentions can cause pain and suffering. And what’s worse? We’ve closed the door to actually allowing  someone to ask for help and making it difficult for us to learn what they might actually need. 

We’re not wired to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s not our first instinct. So when we extend our heart and our feelings to another, when we imagine what it must be like to be them, we expose ourselves to risk. The risk of feeling bruised, or of losing our ability to see the world from just one certain point of view.

It’s easier to walk on by, to compartmentalise, and to isolate ourselves.

Or we can begin with this… “I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine how it’s like for you and it must be really difficult. I just want to let you know that I’m here. I am here for you.”

Show up with our presence and empathy, keeping our judgement and clever solutions to ourselves. 

Pray that one day they will come to terms with reality, a friend by their side. It’s difficult, but it’s precisely what someone might need from you.