A year that is happening/happened to me and for me, a series of lessons

by Elizabeth Hlagala

To say it has been a tough year would be an understatement. I moved almost a thousand kilometres from everything and everyone I have ever known with just a bag on my shoulders and a registration letter. Little did I know the challenges that await on the other side of that acceptance letter. From huge academic responsibilities to fiscal difficulties, mental health issues, adversity, lack of funding, loneliness, constant exhaustion, being responsible for myself, constantly showing up without excuses. For the most part it was “operation get through the day in one piece”. I am however discovering, defining, and redefining many parts of myself constantly, the challenges have made me stronger, braver, kinder, humbler, and have instilled in me a deep humility. I have learned so much about myself and my capabilities. Moreover, I have gained such a huge appreciation for mundane normality. I have learned that to ask for help and to allow myself to be helped, to take breaks in between the chaos, to be kinder to myself , I have learned that I am never really alone , I have learned that sometimes the solutions are on the other side of terror, I have learned sometimes life happens for you and not to you , I have developed the courage to say I do not know sometimes , I have learned to focus on the present , to enjoy the moments in between , to live my life as I fight for this qualification , to show up for myself. Even with the many things I’ve learned, there are many things I am still in the process of learning. I am still learning how to let others in, to reach out for help, to not be defined my grades and productivity, I am still learning how to let go of academic validation and resting when I need to without feel some type of way. Academically, I have learned to appreciate the complexity of the human body, how all the structures fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to make a full functional human being. But also, how unique we all are even at a tissue level. I have come to appreciate the selflessness of the donor bodies and their families, for giving us the opportunity to know more about the human not just for own individual research but for future generations as well, and the overall evolution of science and medicine. I have learned that not all teachers stand in front and give a presentation, some are silent teachers but with a lot more to show and teach and these come in the form of donor bodies. And I have learned so much more from the donor bodies than in all the anatomy books I have read. Amongst many things, I have learned to believe in things working out for the better, that a bad season is not a bad life, I have learned to believe in the goodness of other people, and that we do not have to do it alone.  Even in all the adversities and the responsibilities that life has thrown at me this year, I have immense gratitude for being where I am, and doing what I do, and enjoying what I do difficult as it is for the most part.

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