In 2020 I was elected to SAYAS. At the first induction meeting I heard about the blog, and was so keen to get involved. As it turns out, the SAYAS ExCo were hoping they’d find someone “so keen to get involved” and before I knew it I became the incoming blog editor, responsible for my first cohort of SAYAS bloggers in 2021. My role was to continue running the blog as smoothly as the previous editors had done, and I was very fortunate to have an excellent 6-month handover from the previous editor Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz. I was also encouraged to bring in my own ideas and innovations.
And so… the postgraduate SAYAS blogger #dayinthelife vlogs were born.
The background to this was covered in one of my first editorials – Down the rabbit hole… and into the world of ‘Study Tubers’. As you’ll read, in February 2021 I made a promise: “My own ‘day in the life’? Watch this space”. Those reading the blog all this time have had to “watch this space” for much longer than I’d initially thought when I wrote that. As it turns out, filming a day in your life is actually a lot more difficult than these prolific YouTubers or indeed our own SAYAS bloggers would make it seem.
Actually filming yourself isn’t objectively difficult. You unlock your phone, swipe across to your camera and click record. You ramble at your phone for a bit. You record a video of your cat You set your phone, camera or iPad against a stack of books and start a Timelapse, recording yourself typing away. Easy.
What is less easy is getting around to it. Choosing a day that feels sufficiently interesting, but not SO interesting that there isn’t time to film. Choosing a day where you have the self confidence to speak to a camera. Choosing what to wear. Brushing your hair. Finding a day that ticked all of those boxes took me 2 years.
There were a few failed attempts in those 24 months. I’d start filming and then get so engrossed in what I was doing that I would forget to keep going 2 hours in. Or, I’d start filming, and then something urgent but confidential would come up, and I’d have to start. Or, on a few occasions, I would start filming on a day working from home, and my cat would sit on the phone I was recording on! I thought it would be fun to film a day doing fieldwork, but realised on -10°C morning in eastern Lesotho last June that between holding equipment, logging data, and planning routes on a tight schedule, it just wasn’t practical to film.
So, eventually I set a reminder on my phone for a random date in January and stuck to it. Perhaps a good lesson in motivating ourselves when doing things outside our comfort zone. Create a non-negotiable.
As expected, the filming wasn’t that difficult. Thanks to modern technology, you can do it all with the equipment that you have. Film on your phone. Edit on the pre-installed software on your computer. But oh was the editing the challenge. This is where it becomes both technically difficult and time consuming.
Step 1: download all of the video clips to the computer. Well, this took a few attempts. Big files. Loadshedding. Slow(ish) internet.
Step 2: Import them, organise them. Quite easy, when you have the hang of it.
Step 3: Editing. This took ages, but was fun. A creative project. Speeding up some sections, finding Creative Commons licensed music to play in the background. Clipping the music track. Doing this, you do have to become very ok with what you chose to wear that day, the sound of your voice, and any other insecurities you have. If you squirm, like I do, every time you listen back on one of your own voice notes, this will definitely be an uncomfortable few days!
Step 4: Export. This should be easy, right? No. Exporting to your computer is a very slow process as you’ve created a very big file. Then trying to upload it to Dropbox to send to our SAYAS YouTuber and current co-chair Prof Dustin van der Haar to process. Those were another two days spent practising skills in patience. But, here is the outcome:
So, what have I learnt? Definitely that I wouldn’t make it in a career as a YouTuber. I don’t have the self-confidence or the patience. I’ve learnt that as productive as I usually am, there are places where procrastination sneaks in. This was one of them. I’ve also re-learnt how important it is to make science and scientific careers accessible. To pull away the veil and mystique that hides our day to day lives. As difficult as it was, I so strongly encourage my fellow scientists to film their own day in the life. To show that we really are all human! I hope you enjoy this insight into a Day in my Life!