What a year! I do not even know how to properly start this article, but I felt I needed to write it. Writing is one of the ways I heal and make sense of things so here we are, making sense and taking stock of all that transpired throughout 2020, especially all the revelations and lessons that came along.
I strongly believe in the power of reflection and having self-audits. I could decide to sweep all that happened this year under the rug but realizing how things can come back and bite in you in the face when you do not take time to acknowledge the thought processes that went through all that, I did need to step back and look back at the whole of 2020. I also want to take stock of the growth and transitions I have been through because this is the year that I started my PhD. I want to make sure that I move from glory to glory as far as it is concerned.
I also really need to forgive myself because there are so many times that I feel I did not respond to what I was going through or certain situations in the best way. Sure, the pandemic happened but I feel like that cannot be an excuse for the way that I reacted to each and everything. I cannot change what I said or did but I sure as hell can learn from my reactions and responses so that I can do better moving forward.
Tell your friends things
If there is anything I have learnt is to not just tell my friends things but to seek wisdom. Talk to people who you trust, people you know can be impartial and objective, people who will not just take your side but give you honest advice. Also, tell your friends things so that they know how to be there for you, support you and pray for you.
Do not allow yourself to go through this alone. Isolation gives the devil and mad people in this world so much room to swing you both ways.
Never take criticism from someone you would never take advice from and never take advice from someone that you do not trust and share values with. PERIOD! When you do not lean on your friends, you can end drifting towards opportunists and people that are just not good for you and that can happen if there is a void of some sort. When you are an international student adjusting to a new environment and quite locked up from the outside world to a certain level, sometimes you do not have a lot of choice over who you are around and end up doing life with but you 100% have power over the information you share with them and how you build relationships with them. Remember that. Above all else, practice wisdom as you disclose and open up to people. Do not be naïve.
It is okay to tell people that you are uncomfortable
I do not know if it is cultural thing or it is just me but I am not the best at speaking up for myself or letting people know straight out that something just not sit well with me and so when other people do it, I feel like they are being rude when it actual sense they are simply stating what is on their heart and I need to do that as well. God has not called any of us to be nice but to be holy. From the world’s standards, being nice can come with soo many harmful things like allowing people walk over you, taking abuse, compromising your values, etc and the God we serve is no way close to that. Jesus was so blunt with folk.
Being the yes person is not good for anyone and I must absolve myself of the need to come across as sweet, nice, not cause offense, etc. Being good and holy are entirely different things and I think being holy can lead you to piss a number of people off. This is no way means that we should go on and want to deliberately cause offense, not at all. Just make sure that how you react to things is not a result of you being more concerned about how people view you as opposed to how God will view you. At the end of the day, it is God that you are accountable to.
Speak your truth
I was about to make this a separate blog post but I think it fits on just well here, with the point above and the point below. Be true to who you are and the values you stand for. No-one is worth you compromising your values and no-one should ever shame you or make you feel different about who you are. They do not need to agree but they sure as hell need to respect it. One thing I fear I have done in this period is put my guard down now and again to sort of fit in with people around me and not come across as this very judgmental and uptight Christian (NB: some people will feel judged even when you have done absolutely nothing and it has everything to do with the fact that they have already cast judgement on themselves) but I realized that not making that abundantly clear was putting me under harm. People began to believe that certain things were okay with me and yet there were not AT ALL. A certain level of damage occurred as a result of this, things I am not proud of at all but this is where it becomes important for me to speak my truth and release myself from the shame. I cannot and do not want the devil to keep me in any form of bondage as a result of what I did or did not do and that takes me to point 1 of telling your friends things. We overcome by the power of our testimony and sometimes those testimonies must be said in faith even before they happen.
Also, another aspect of this is making peace and coming to terms with the decisions, mistakes, mishaps, shortcomings and unpretty aspects of your life. A song that helps me out with this is ‘Seasons Change’ by Antoine Bradford ft. Shua – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVwaQBfOYxI
In line with what I have just put above, do not just talk but engage. Have two-way conversations. SPEAK AND LISTEN. I remember that the supervisor for my MSc project said that I needed to do more of that going forward when I asked him for feedback. I also realized that I had to do so in order to have as much clarity as possible when it came to my PhD project. At the end of the day, I need to give presentations on this work and present it at conferences so I really do need to fully understand and grasp all aspects of it, especially those that came into play before I stepped in to do it.
Seek clarity as much as possible and clear the air, not just at work but in every other relationship you have with people and that goes along with being honest. I have seen that make several situations better.
There are days when I am scared and embarrassed, but more time ends up getting lost when you decide to struggle on your own as opposed to asking for help so suck up that pride and ask for help, ask for more clarity and information.
DO NOT IGNORE WARNING SIGNS
This should literally be number one (a million crying emojis). Trust and follow your instincts, not just that but each and every inkling of the holy spirit because they are there for a reason. There are moments when I headed to what came into my heart and other times when I shoved things to the side or to the back of mind and that has not really ended in the best way but as I said in the beginning, we live and we learn! I have the opportunity to do better in 2021, for the rest of this PhD and for my life in general.
I am allowed to make decisions that are best for me
I was conflicted for over two weeks about whether to get on a plane home or not. I was in tears scared about whether Uganda would open up for international travel, if things would change in South Africa making it hard for me to go or come back in and then wondering what the effects would be on my PhD progress. I felt like I could not take being in Cape Town anymore because I really only had one place to be in and felt that I just needed to be home to recalibrate and get my head straight. I was so fed up of my room and wanted to have another space to be in where I could safely reflect (and have people cook for me, lol).
I had some bombshells drop just before I left which made me realize that being in Cape Town would have easily been the end of me and that I made the right decision to go home. Being here has made it easier to address certain matters and receive some much-needed closure on 2020. I have very many other reasons as to why I did not stay there for the holidays but I really should not have to even justify it to myself or anyone else why I am going on leave and for how long. Time off is okay and I need to have a healthy state of mind in order to get through the 12 months of 2021. My PhD project needs me together and I need me together as well.
You cannot do everything so choose your priorities and focus!
People talk a lot about multi-tasking, having side-hustles, getting so much done in your 20s and then some. That seems all good and dandy but take it from someone who had FOMO take over her leading to me trying to juggle a full-time PhD with 10 other little things. That led to more than one phase of fatigue during the lockdown and I had to make a tough but necessary decision to systematically drop a number of things. I did not have much time for myself anymore or for others so I had to get back to what my priorities were for the year and for my life in general. I wanted to build on my social circle and get back to having some sort of relationship with God so I had to put a very big part of my ambitiousness aside and let my PhD continue as well because that is, after all, what brought me to Cape Town.
Focus is so important because it allows to do good quality work. When you have your hand in every cookie jar, it is hard for you to devote enough time to doing excellent work and brilliant work is what I want as part of my brand.
If you have a busy body syndrome like me (listen to the podcast episode on this by Jesus& Jollof : https://jesusandjollof.simplecast.com/episodes/busy-bodi-the-unlearning ), I urge you to get back to the drawing board and have an audit on what your priorities are really supposed to be.