Last month my blog focused on appreciating the loved ones in our lives. Well, I thought this month I should share stories of what, specifically, has inspired that blog.

Mbuyi njoying the fresh air of the ocean during a field excursion
Me, enjoying the fresh ocean air during a field excursion

My late mother, with her unending support for what I do, never understood what I was studying or even why I went into postgraduate studies. In her mind the journey was supposed to be linear—finish basic education, go to university, finish your degree and go to work. I did not blame her though; this is what I was also told growing up, like it was some sort of convention. When I finished my first degree (2016) she was over the moon with excitement. I was too; my hard work had finally paid off.

In January of 2017 I got a call offering me a permanent job. I had a choice to make, between pursuing my postgraduate education, or taking up a stable job. It was not just my personal choice. I had to involve a lot of people. My mother was one, my prospective supervisors, my mentors, and I really needed to step back and think hard about the situation at home. Often, I have discovered, there is a thin line between what we want in life and what we are expected to do. I chose to explain to my mother why I was opting for postgraduate studies and made a conscious decision to turn down the job offer. To this day this was the best decision I ever made—although it did come with its own challenges.

One of these challenges was balancing my academic life and my social life. I did not realise that my social life was suffering until I was reminded. Before the reminder came through, my mother fell sick in the early months of last year. I was devastated and stressed out most of the time. It was making sure that my academics were up to par on one hand and taking care of mom on the other. When she got critical it became worse: I literally just split my time between studying and taking care of her. How I survived such immense stress was always because of her words to me when I decided to go for postgraduate studies:

“If it is something that you want to do, will make you happy and will ensure that the goals you have for your life you can achieve, then go and do it. Remember to be your best.”

It is these words that encouraged me to stay even after her passing. My goals alone (wonderful as they are) would not have given me the strength to go on.

Then: A friend of mine came to visit earlier this year, staying at my house for a week. This was a reminder about my broken social cycles. The conversations that we had about my journey, his experiences as a freshman, how much he valued our friendship and his questions around my time management all made me realize that I invested so much time in trying to exceed academic expectations that I paid little attention to anything else. Not that working hard is  a bad thing — but maybe the frustrations and stress would have been less intense had I just spent some time with people who care.

Having a great time with friends on campus during the academic break
Having a great time with friends on campus during the academic break

Most of the time during these conversations I got to think about all the messages and calls that I got on New Year’s Day. Some people there I hadn’t spoken to in months. This journey really is full of miracles.

So I’ve decided that from today onwards I will continue to do my very best academically and work every day to achieve my goals. Most importantly, however, I am going to put some time aside to spend with my family and friends. These people have sustained me and while working on my dream, I am going to make sure I take them with, so that I regret nothing when I look back.


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