As each year ends, I take time to reflect on all that I have done, what I have achieved, and what could be better. During this time, I use a gardening model where I use headings inspired by gardening to reflect on my year.
Flower – what I loved about the year
Fertilizer – things I could add or improve on
Weeds – things that were a distraction or I could leave out.
One of the best things I developed this year was the ability to learn and be teachable. I have loved the tenacity in me and the way that through all the curveballs life has thrown at me, I have remained teachable and a better listener than I have been in the past. I was fortunate to be part of the SAYAS 2022 blogging team and this came at a point where I doubted myself and my ability to do anything. I saw this as an opportunity to let people see another side of me, a side that is not only academic but spoke about the realities we face on a day-to-day basis.
I have appreciated blending into the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campus and being part of the inorganic and nanomaterials group. I have learned to make friends, and I have learned to be patient and understanding. I have and continue to learn diligence and excellence. Through being part of both the SAYAS 2022 blogging team and chemistry at UKZN, I have learned to love and respect my work. What I put out there is the only impression people will have about me. I have also learned that people are not always against you but their criticism directs you on the right path, sometimes it may not be easy to swallow the truth, but we have to for growth. I have also appreciated using the therapy facilities provided by the university which helped with my mental health during the hard times.
Many distractions have come along the way. Things that I cannot go back to and change but can do better for the future. One of them is dwelling on the negatives. Like many people in the PhD journey, I have had funding rejections and rejections from publishers. Sometimes, I would take longer to snap back to reality. I also wish I was a better planner; chemistry requires a lot of experiments and one should plan to make the work cohesive. I have worked on it and continue to.
As 2023 awaits, I intend to improve my networking skills, attend more conferences, and learn how to collaborate with other scientists. I have honed my skills in writing and editing, through my supervisor and Jen, the SAYAS editor. I have also been learning to be patient with myself and my work: when experiments don’t work, I have been learning to be patient rather than frustrated. I could also add more fun to my life, read more books, go out for breakfast alone or with a friend, or learn a new hobby. Three words that summarize my 2022: growth, tenacity, and patience. I also intend to learn more about money and have financial literacy. Many postgraduates are funded by the NRF or the CSIR and other funding institutions (private or public). The money comes as a lump sum to most of us, and we must use it well to sustain us through the year and into the year that follows before the funds are released again. We sometimes get it wrong, due to financial responsibilities of our own, this is one of the goals I want to improve on to become a holistic being even as a postgraduate student because finances play a pivotal role in this journey.
A phrase I wish to go to 2023 in is ‘leap before you look’. We are often told to look before we leap but I want my 2023 to have an opposite narrative. I want to start taking risks, apply for more scholarships, network more, collaborate more with my peers or even seek mentors from seasoned professors. I want to believe more in my chemical reactions and myself. I want to take a leap of faith in everything I do and let the universe run its part. 2022 has been a year of learning and opportunities and 2023 has to be taking a leap of faith.
The opportunity to be a SAYAS blogger is one I will cherish for the rest of my life. I have learned to conquer my fears and put my best foot forward. I have learned to be a better science communicator without being too scientific. This has made me understand my work and the works of others better because it made the work relatable. I have appreciated every moment of 2022 and believe that 2023 will be better.