I have never been the type to be stressed over good grades, after all I’ve always been my teachers’ favourite throughout my academic life. This was not because I was smart, but simply because I was above average in terms of working hard. Because of this, I can’t remember a single grade where I was not the teacher’s pet; and whenever awards were handed out, or when a school event needed an “A” student’s face … it was usually ME!
One of my greatest moments in life was in fourth grade, when I was called to present an essay I had written in front of hundreds of people. I believe that it was at this point that I fell in love with writing and public speaking, although I do neither one of those things today.
My undergraduate studies were no different from school — I picked right up from where I left off and even did way better, if I may say so myself! Out of the 26 subjects I was registered for, I passed 24 (!) with distinction. My fellow mates nicknamed me 100, and yes, I was that 100% student. Publicly, I was not fond of the name, but secretly, I loved the respect that it came with.
Fast forward to Master’s, did I not see FLAMES!!! I don’t know whether it was a change in environment — I moved from the rural Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape to the oh so metropolitan University of Johannesburg (UJ) — or if it was having my heart broken a month before that big move. The stress and pressure were just overwhelming. UJ is a very diverse university, proclaimed the epicenter of PAN-Africanism and with that comes students from various backgrounds, nationalities and status, and (the horror!)… I was met with other “teachers’ favourites”. These students had been awarded opportunities to come study in South Africa, as they were all top students in their respective countries, just as I was at WSU. This immense competition led to me doubting my capabilities and losing motivation and confidence. As a result, my productivity dropped. My supervisor was also not so easy to impress and as much as he believed in me, his support did not help much.
I had to find the means to deal with all the stress I was feeling, and unfortunately, I found myself running to the good ol’ bottle. Alcohol felt like my only way out; after all, everyone I was doing research with was indulging as well. These people also had their own problems, and even though we didn’t share our issues, it felt good drinking together. Before I knew it, a weekend of drinking turned into a few glasses during the week and eventually I was downing a full bottle in a day alone. Everyone knew that I loved my wine, but they didn’t realise just how much I was drinking. As justification for my drinking habit, I looked to the very public knowledge that most academics were alcoholics. I felt justified to indulge. However, I was falling behind in my work. I honestly don’t think that it was entirely because of the booze, but also a belief that I had lost my sense of thinking, which is key in my area of research – brilliant ideas need people who can think.
Although I couldn’t think straight, I don’t think I was depressed. This is because I did not have all the other symptoms associated with depression such as constant sadness, guilt, suicidal thoughts etc. Of course, there have been moments I felt like I was losing my mind, moments I felt numb and so agitated. I wanted this journey to be over so badly. But every time I thought of where I came from I pushed myself even harder. The transition from a small town to a big city is never easy and this is something most people don’t get. Despite my alcohol and women problems, I drew strength from the fact that I had a mother and siblings in the Eastern Cape who constantly looked up to me, that alone became my push factor. I managed to pass my Master’s degree cum laude!
I have now embarked on my PhD journey and as much as I have not found a proper solution to my problems, I am managing, and I strongly believe that my journey will continue as I continue to flourish as an academic. Let’s see where Chemistry and a creative outlet like blogging takes me this year…
8 thoughts on “Stumbling blocks of an “A” student”
Keep moving 100
I believe in you, you’ll achieve your PhD
Ntwana yase ntsane
Thanks for the kind words of support IBA.
You are touching on some important factors here. Thank you man, this helps a lot.
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Thanks a million, this means a lot me. Do stay tuned for more.
Hearty – eye opening.
Glad you find solace in writing. Perhaps help is on the way. Try praying about it sometimes.
All the best in your PhD journey- you will surely finish.
Thank you sisi, it is because of prayer I am here today, God has been really good and still continues being great, perhaps I’ll share a story about my relationship with God someday.
Well-written, honest and very motivating piece. Wishing you all the best with your studies and may you overcome your social struggles.
Thank you MISSZKY. It is well.