Get lost in the wilderness…

Depiction of a Ferris wheelPostgraduate studies at times feel like a Ferris wheel. One moment you you’re on top of the world, and at the bottom again the next. It really is a pure torture at times but a blast of fresh air in some very rare moments. But we survive…and get to tell our stories. It’s the most fascinating thing ever. How do we make it through? Well, I think you can ask any postgraduate student and find a different survival strategy. So this month I just want to let you in on my secret…I hope it won’t be too much!

From a very young age I have been a big fan of English literature. I felt like books were a friend and do what no other friend could: allow me to delve deep into my imagination and get lost in there. They could provide a certain level of comfort in that silence. So, when everything got too much at my level now, I decided to go back to that level of comfort and tranquility. I decided to read.

In the past seven months (the months that really got hectic for me), I have read five books and I’m busy with the sixth one now. I spoke to a friend about it and he told me how ridiculous the idea was. I mean, it really does sound absurd. Come to think of it, I have to go through mountains of scientific literature every day to try and make sense of my research and hopefully contribute to science innovation. At the end of the day, with failed experiments and scientific data that isn’t making sense, no sane person wants to open a book and try to decipher new messages for fun! Or maybe some of us do. Here is a list of what I have been reading:

Magna Carta of Exponentiality by Vusi Thembekwayo Some of the book titles that I have been busy reading

America the Beautiful by Ben Carson

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

If you look at those books and what message they contain (for those who may have read the books of course), it’s like learning a third language, or getting lost in a wilderness. They teach an extra skill that is not contained in science research. From Ben’s discovering and living up to your full potential to Robert and Vusi’s financial literacy, the reads have definitely been worth it. Reading for no better reason than to read makes my mind whirl and lets me see the world in a wholly different way. And it doesn’t hurt to see what good writing looks like, outside a scientific article.

Postgraduate studies are a journey. In every journey there are lessons to be learned before reaching one’s destination. For me it’s not just been valuable lessons from colleagues and friends, but the wilderness that I love in the pieces of writing that I think were meant for my peace of mind!

The year is 1 BD, it has to be

As this year comes rushing to a close, there are a lot of stressed-out postgraduate students trying to squeeze every last little bit out of 2018 so that they might get their work done to try and hand in their thesis now or early next year. I am one such postgraduate. I am counting down the days!

Counting is something humans do to keep order and monitor progress. The B.C./A.D. system is a good example and is based on the traditional reckoning of the year Jesus was born. Since 1988, it has been adopted as an ISO 8601 standard, allowing all of us to keep record the past, present and future.

Marking calendars for special occasions is one thing, but creating your own designation for something really special is next level. Therefore, in my life, I have decided that 2019 will be 1 A.D., or After Doctorate, which would make 2018, 1 B.D.  Note: There is no 0 B.C. or 0 A.D because Roman numerals, which was commonly used at the time, did not have a zero number.

There is some method in my madness. This designation, like the B.C./A.D. system, marks a significant moment in my life. Life after getting my doctorate, I feel, is going to change completely. I’m told that having a PhD opens more exciting doors, even though those recent graduates are doing postdoctoral fellowships that don’t seem too different to what they were doing before. Granted, there are more freedoms in a postdoc… and the title is a hard-earned badge of honour.

From 27 B.D. till now, I have felt a little lost navigating a path that has been remarkably different to the ones my childhood friends ventured down. Many of them went to school, then University or College for three to four years, got a job afterwards and started their families. Since I was six years old, I have been on a journey that is based, almost entirely, at institutions of learning.

They say Life is the greatest teacher of all but if you have been at school for most of your life, the greatest teachers are… teachers and lecturers. They taught me where to find my compass, how to use it, and when to follow it. There is no doubt that after my PhD I’m going to learn a lot about life in the ‘real’ world but I think studying has allowed me to wade in already.

As I prepare to cross the B.D./A.D. line, to submerse myself in the world post PhD, I can’t help but feel a little nervous. I have made a commitment to finish in the next few months. I can’t make this statement and not hit my deadline. My friends and family are as excited as I am, I can’t let us all down.

A big part of my life is coming to an end. It feels like the end of a long pilgrimage but I know that it is just the beginning. With the PhD at my side, who knows what the future holds. I hope it is great. After all this, it is the start of a new era.