Growing up in the mountainous landscape of the eastern Free State, I had enormous dreams. I imagined performing on some big world stages with the biggest names in the industry. But I guess that I was robbed of singing talent for some or other reason. Well, I wouldn’t have made it in sports either. No Pop Idols, no Olympics… maybe I had something else? I think it is important to realize that the path I took was really meant for me. In 2015 I decided that academics is the way for me, but since then, doubt has reared its ugly head many, many times.
The 2017 academic year was the longest year of my life. Over and over, I asked the question, “How many weeks do we still have to go before the 31st of December?” Sometimes I said this as a joke but a lot of times I meant it. I wanted to rest. Take a break from it all. Go on a journey where it’s just me and my thoughts, because then I would get peace of mind and be able to discover what else I’m good at. Maybe right there I would get the courage to pack up my stuff and leave this life behind…no…maybe right there, alone with my mind, I would discover that I do not have to be made for it to find myself in it. Maybe it is just a journey I have to take and I’m glad I took it. I learnt a couple of lessons last year.
Time is of the essence, use it wisely. I found myself, at times, stuck on a task that is due the next day or in two days. There’s something to be said for procrastination – it works when you have only one thing to do. But having another big deadline on the same day makes it impossible to just sleep and push it off to the following day. This embedded in my heart the words by Benjamin Franklin, ‘Never leave that until tomorrow which you can do today’.
The task is always easier with just a little help. I learnt that there was no way I could make it without asking for assistance from time to time. Throughout my undergraduate degree I didn’t see the need to consult with the lecturers because I felt they had already said a mouthful in class. However, being an infant in the research field means swallowing my pride and asking for help from people who know better than me. I began to ask for help as often as I could. That paved my path and I think it made 2017 a little better, my days a little brighter and my struggles a bit more tolerable.
Giving up is never an option. It may be a temporary solution but then waking up in twenty years and realizing that I could have been ‘That,’ had I not given up is not the life I am planning for myself. Studying when I’m tired, staying awake when I should be sleeping, drinking endless cups of coffee when everybody else was building their social networks with the help of some liquid courage… This often made me consider giving up and leaving this place. But then, my plan is to deviate from normality. Hence, I stayed on and I kept gathering the energy and the strength not to give up no matter how strong the desire was.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. One of the reasons we give up so quickly is because we surround ourselves with people who do not understand why we do what we do. Choosing people who encourage you to hold on a little bit longer because they have been through it before makes the journey worthwhile. It doesn’t make the slope less steep, but gives you the strength to keep climbing.
Yes, I could quit. Sometimes I lay awake and wonder what would have become of my life if I’d dreamed of being a kindergarten teacher or a chef, but you know what, I would never quit. Apart from the challenges and the time that moves at the speed of light on submission days and at a snail’s pace when approaching Results day; I am enjoying the ride. I would not substitute this journey of learning for anything in the world!
As the greatest have said, never stop learning because life never stops teaching.