Am I different? I am a post-grad student but also just a young person

I know a lot of you think that post-graduate students have it all figured out. They have everything under control. I used to think the same thing as well. But it is not the case. We do not have it all under control. I know for sure that I do not have it all figured out. My life is not as perfect as you would think. I don’t think anybody has a perfect life. I go through the motions of everyday life like any other 26-year-old guy. I would like to believe I grapple with all sorts of issues, problems, or challenges that other people my age have. These include issues with romance, economic independence, and so forth.  Today I am just going to share in passing my romance journey.

I have a grandmother who is in her late 70s. She is a typical grandmother with typical elderly comments every time I give a call or visit her. I last saw her recently during the Easter holidays and she asked me two questions that I did not know how to answer. The first was “where is your wife, or at least a lady friend”. The second was “and what about kids”.  These are the two most annoying questions, and I just cannot bring myself to tell her that romance-wise it is just not working out for me. I know if I say that she would probably say “it is because of the big books you are always reading and that computer you treasure so much”.

And that is the problem, romance is not working out for me. I do not think it is my fault though. I buy roses and chocolates, open the door for her, hold her hand in public and I always text “good morning/night”. I think of myself as modern gentleman, if there is such of course.  However, it seems there is always something I do wrong or just cannot get right. I am not sure if it’s the fact that I am 26-year-old man who sill watches WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) or there is something else. But then come to think of it, no woman can stand a 26-year-old man who still watches WWE and gets sad when his favourite wrestler loses a match. I am not sporty and WWE bridges that gap for me, but it is just a lot for her to understand.

My point is, there is nothing “different” when you are an academic. The truth is we are all still human. I feel what others feel. I do what others do. Do I go partying? Yeah, I do.  I also like paintball shooting and quad bike riding, it is super nice. Most of the time I enjoy the company of those who are not academics. It is in this company that I get to take off my academic helmet and engage in debates about what really affects us and how can our societal problems be addressed.  Most importantly I get in touch with the truth. Those who are not guided by academic code of conducts but are yet still morally upright always remind me that at the end of the day, I belong to a community of different people with different hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It reminds me that there is more to life than sitting on my laptop the whole day and thinking about academic conferences, journal publications and critical theories. It keeps me in touch with the fact that not everything can be solved through academic research and approaches and not everything is taught and theorised. All these reminds me that, we are all human at the end of the day.

Nurturing sanity

It feels quite bizarre, writing about crafting in times like these. The ongoing extraordinary situation of living through a pandemic has had a lot of people flaunting their acquired skills on social media – whether it is knitting, doing yoga or learning a new language. Anything one can learn online is being marketed with excessively motivational tones.

We have indeed had to find ways to entertain ourselves during the COVID-19 crisis and its restrictions. In the midst of it, the lives of UCT students were, once more, abruptly disrupted. I am writing this blog with an eye on any news update regarding the fire that has been raging since yesterday (18.04.2021). It has forced students to evacuate their residences again with only their most needed possessions, and tragically reduced much of the rich contents of the Jagger Library to ashes. I feel gutted with every wind burst that I hear pushing past my window as it has me imagining the firefighters in an uneven battle with nature’s forces. The interviews I conducted with first-in-family students of the engineering department around this time last year for a project I am assisting Dr Renee Smit with had already given me a glimpse into the effects such ruptures can have.

The shared topic the group of SAYAS bloggers had decided on a while before this disaster is ‘I am a student, but I am also…’ and was meant to be a fun change of pace, talking about our hobbies, interests, and passions. I, too, have cultivated some habits that have helped me to keep my mind from wandering into unwelcome directions and reduce some stress. And even though it seems absurd to discuss them in this acute and painful state of things, it is perhaps just the right topic and something I may attend to after writing this.

The quaint little hobby I want to share with you today must therefore be viewed against this backdrop: we all need things to keep us sane, especially in unpredictable times. Sometimes, the more ‘mundane’ they are, the more enjoyable and settling. When I initially told my mom on the phone that I was doing embroidery, I could sense her grinning through the phone. ‘We had to embroider place settings at school’, she commented (probably with an eye roll). My embroidery is a little different from what my mom was taught at school and she has become a big fan of my designs. Here are a few to give you an idea.

I’m having some fun designing these pieces. The repetitive pattern of sliding the needle through the fabric and seeing the predetermined pattern emerge is calming and helps me maintain an illusion of control – even if only for a moment. It also helps me engage with my own body and how it has been changing (perhaps I should extend my repertoire to male bodies as well). For some reason, the human outer shell and what it appears to hold together has a mesmerising effect on me. Likely also because (or the reason why?) my research focus has been on how experiences become part of our everyday fabric. While writing this, I am also realising the extent to which putting my thoughts in writing has a calming effect on me. Feel free to share your ways of nurturing your sanity or other thoughts in the comment section!