No pressure

by Tasneem Toefy

As many of you very well know, the period from the year 2020 up until now had been a real nightmare. While I won’t dwell on the dreaded p-word (if you aren’t thinking “pandemic”, then you’re my type of person), I would like to reflect on my experience academically from thereon.

My postgraduate journey had a rocky start. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human anatomy and physiology (commonly known as “HUB” at the University of Cape Town), only HUB. Just one major, because I was too disinterested in anything else like Biochemistry or Genetics (no offense to those of you studying it now, I’m sure it’s great – for you). And as you can imagine, this created some pause to my then plans. You see, I had hopes of diving into the workforce after graduating, possibly interning at some medical laboratory or clinical company where I could wear a lab coat or scrubs and gain in some more practical experience. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting out of postgraduate studies; however, I’ve come to understand that here, in our lovely South Africa, there’s not much available to those in medical science who haven’t specialised. Having only an undergraduate degree, specifically in science, has become the equivalent of having a matric certificate (i.e., National Senior Certificate). Besides that, being in the midst of a pandemic and related lockdown reduced my chances of getting in anywhere to basically zero, as job opportunities decreased to remarkably low levels. And that’s how, in 2021, I found myself lying in bed every day roaming through shows on Netflix, wallowing in self-pity and wondering what I was going to do with my life. I eventually, after putting things into perspective once I remembered that there were people poverty-stricken or abused elsewhere, I accepted that I shouldn’t waste the opportunities I could have access to. And off to postgraduate studies I went, enrolling at UCT for an Honours in Biological anthropology in 2022 – the year of adaptation (you see what I did there? I just used some human variation jargon I learned this year). No, this programme was not a dream of mine, nor was it what I was expecting to go into when I toyed with the possibility of furthering my studies. It’s become more than that – I not only learnt more than I could have imagined, but also grew as a person.

I don’t have much else to elaborate on, nor do I have monumental words of assurance, but what I can leave you with is that what life has taught me lately is to be understanding of yourself. There isn’t a set way to live your life, so don’t pressure yourself to meet certain self-stipulated deadlines. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing sometimes; you’ll figure out what’s best for you and when the time’s right to do so. If life gives you lemons, there are many other things to make besides lemonade (just saying).

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