SLICE OF LIFE: Overcoming my ‘quarter-life’ crisis

As 2016 came close to an end and people started popping champagne bottles to usher in 2017 with happy smiles, I came to a very stark realisation. I was terrified of what lay ahead. I had reached a point where I could no longer hide behind the title of student to explain why I wasn’t employed in a job that was taking me places.

I couldn’t excuse the fact that I was still not financially independent after four-and-a-half years of university study (preceded by three gap years). Worst of all, I could no longer continue in the miserable pattern of waking up, going to work, going home, trying to do something valuable before going to bed in the hopes of achieving some change, falling asleep and struggling to wake up the next morning to repeat the pattern again.

Truth be told, I didn’t regret any of the choices I had made until that point. I valued all my experiences and I was grateful for every opportunity life had presented. I had been an ambitious, daring go-getter but my then situation was not sitting well with me. I had fallen into what I came to regard as a “quarter-life” crisis. I didn’t know where my life was going career wise.

The more I spoke to friends and acquaintances in more or less the same post-university stage in life, the more I realised this crisis was a real and common thing. Talking about these struggles and comparing mine to other people’s stories helped me to feel normal. Once you realise you’re not alone, that there are other people feeling exactly the same way, you gather some courage to carry on fighting.

So, on New Year’s Eve, 2016, having mulled this over and gathering the courage to climb out from behind the bottle of champagne, I made a decision to make two changes. I wanted to apply for bursaries to further my studies overseas and I wanted to find a new job.

It took the whole of 2017 to make any sort of progress on these resolutions. It was a difficult, pick-yourself-up-again, time-after-time, kind of year – applying, being rejected and feeling nothing I had to give was good enough. By the end of the year I could hardly find the strength to get up and go to work in the mornings. I loved life but I just didn’t feel as if it loved me back.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to make a drastic change. I stopped looking overseas and set my sights on studying closer to home.

In the process, I had discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism.

As 2017 drew to a close, I had applied, been for an interview, and had been accepted for study towards an honours degree in journalism at Wits. It was a step I nearly didn’t take – not because I didn’t want to, but because it was logistically very hard for me to go back to full-time studying. Despite the hurdles, I decided to be that ambitious, daring go-getter again and, in my experience, life has a way of rewarding that. Things fall into place like they should precisely when they should when you refuse to give up.

I’m not there yet and I can’t say I’ve made it but, if I survive this year, I can face the end of 2018 full of hope in my heart, happy to be popping a champagne bottle or two in the face of 2019 and the start of a new chapter in my life.


Palaeosciences accelerator programme launched to promote women in science

A new programme has been launched by the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) with the goal of transforming the demographic space in palaeosciences and promoting women in science.

Students in the School of Geosciences who performed well in their second year or showed a keen interest in palaeontology were invited to join the inaugural Palaeosciences Accelerator Programme.

Master’s student at the ESI who conceptualised the program, Viktor Radermacher, said the aim of the program was geared around, “Not letting keen and diligent students slip through the cracks and losing future scientists.”

Radermacher added that, “Science has many colonial and patriarchal fossils in the closet and changing its status quo means actively facilitating the introduction of previously underrepresented groups.”  The programme is aimed specifically at women and people of colour.

The programme teaches students a wide range of transferrable skills and critical thinking during independent tutoring time. This will be reinforced through field trips which the students will be undertaking throughout the course of the year through funding made available by the National Research Foundation and the Department of Science and Technology’s Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (CoE Palaeo) in South Africa.

Students are exposed to networking and are encouraged to work with the ESI during their third year independent study which would be a good set-up for an honours project. Furthermore, the students will be encouraged to apply for honours, master’s and PhD bursaries offered by the CoE Palaeo.

Third-year BSc Animal Plant and Environment Science and Physiology student, Nothemba Belle, is one of three full-time students on the accelerator programme. “It’s developing me into a young lady that is really confident and successful and determined.” According to Belle this program will “definitely open up a lot of doors” for the students involved.

Professor Jonah Choiniere of the ESI describes this programme as an “active step in the right direction.” He added that the idea was not to limit the programme to one branch of the discipline but to expand it to larger groups of paleaoscientists as the programme grows successfully.