PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

Letter to Myself: Try To Make Peace With It

When people look down on you, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. This doesn’t mean that you should be a doormat – that’s a sign of weakness but what people think of you matters little compared to what you think of yourself. Always remember, how you react when people insult you reveals a lot about you. Nobody can make you inferior without your consent so why give people this power over you? Fight your insecurities, build your self-esteem and develop yourself into an asset.

When you experience failure or rejection from friends, a potential partner or employer, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Don’t throw tantrums. Don’t let others control your emotions. Most times, failure/rejection comes with indelible lessons when critically analysed. These lessons often have the potential to propel you to greater heights in your personal relationships and/or chosen career.

When things aren’t going accordingly for you, many will desert you and it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. A friend once told me “We often think people have forgotten us. The moment you become successful, it will surprise you who has your digits.” so chase success. See this as a way to remove the chaff from the rice.

When friends and loved ones are always out to cheat you because you have a kind heart, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Just remember that every transaction is a true test of one’s integrity so see this as an eye-opener and never do business with them again. Our actions and attitude are a reflection of our innermost values, beliefs and expectations. Once beaten, twice shy.

When people hate you for no good reason, it will definitely hurt. Try and have an introspection to know if you really are the problem instead of getting mad. Anger sometimes means fear so always ask yourself what are you afraid of? If/when you are convinced you aren’t the problem, try to make peace with it. Smile and talk to them when you see them, it will make them uncomfortable thus giving you power over them.

When people gossip and bear false witness against you, it will definitely hurt but try to make peace with it. Everyone gossips but make a conscious effort not to pay much attention or gossip about others. Rather let them gossip about you. No one pays attention to those they feel are below him/her. We rather pay attention to those we think are on our level or above us.

When people mock your efforts at learning something new, don’t be discouraged rather make peace with it. Everyone starts off as a novice so your case isn’t different from others. Keep at it and practice everday till you achieve mastery in that area. There’s no skill you can not master, we just lack the zeal, focus and determination to see it through.

In all, try and have a realistic approach to life. Always look at every possible angle before you leap. Weigh both the positives and negatives but don’t be afraid to leap regardless.

P.S. 

Everyone wears their hunger and haunt. We demonstrate our true values in our actions especially when we are under pressure so pay more attention to what people don’t say. Nevertheless, find atleast one good thing to say about others despite your differences with them. Also, always own up to your shit. Abhor the victim mentality. Don’t blame others for your woes because “no one finds themselves in circumstances. We create our own circumstances.” So before you blame others, check thy self. When you make mistakes, be on top of correcting those mistakes then try again and again and again.

Is There Hope For This Generation?

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Everyday I see and hear people talk about embracing positive vibes and dropping people that exude negativity. I’d like to say that I belong to this school of optimism but that’s entirely not true.

I believe in reality and can’t fight it. From a realistic point of view, positivity is certainly not a bad thing. Realists pay heed to the words of Dalai Lama “See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.”

Positivity helps keep one motivated to continue doing the things s/he needs to do instead of wallowing in self-pity, despair or negativity. However, dwelling on just the positives is a problem. Focusing on just the positives ALL the time can/will deter one from experiencing life in the present and assimilating the lessons embedded in these experiences.

I try to look at things from both sides; there are positive and negative aspects to most situations. In other words, everything that has an advantage has disadvantages and vice versa. It is left for one to weigh and study these consequences before taking action.

This approach helped me understand and process my emotions. And in the process, I became in charge of my life. I still make mistakes regardless – lots of them. Nothing is a given but hey, it is called being human.

Consequently, realism paves way for us to be liberal; willing to accept whatever life throws at us by accepting ourselves and allowing others to be themselves. So I implore you to be liberal about some shit I’m about to say because you may not like it. Excuse my french.

In the past one month, I’ve argued atleast on three different occasions why I am negative about my generation’s ability to change the course of this nation. Despite the overflow of educated, talented, smart, innovative and intelligent youths in Nigeria, I still believe that my generation will be a lot worse than our parents, who are believed to be the reason why our nation is deep in corruption.

I know it sounds harsh considering we are more educated and exposed than our parents but the fact remains there is no platform for the genuises among us to thrive so they scamper to leave the country for good. Meritocracy is abhored and mediocrity is celebrated; it is all about who you know.

Go to social media and complain how mediocre Naija music artistes sound and wait for the ensuing reply. I bet you someone will tell you how the artistes have enough money to feed you and your family. Money and titles are everything. No matter how you get them, just have them.

This is why many parents steal anything that looks like money they come in contact with just to make their children comfortable. Parents also try to sort their kids’ way through school – from primary to tertiary – thereby contributing to the depressing number of educated illiterates in our society. As a result, the kids become relaxed and a tad lazy. After all daddy & mummy will come to their rescue with money/connections and get them that job/contract etc.

A leopard cannot change its spots and a lion cannot give birth to a goat. It is the same blood that flows from the father to the son hence these kids will grow to continue this trend and do the same for their own children.

Our generation love to have fun – hang out, party, smoke weed and get drunk. Possibly, take after the Kardashians; ball all day and still rake in money. That’s how it is supposed to be, isn’t it? Living young, wild and free.

The worst of all, we compare ourselves – what we have or have achieved. With social media, comparison is easier. There’s pressure on many to have vacation in an exotic location with bae, own exotic cars, wear designer clothes, jewelleries and shoes so we can show off.

There’s also enormous pressure on the men to give their spouses the kind of wedding worthy to feature on Instagram & BellaNaija. All these encourage stealing because money is a prerequisite for these things. In the end, we become wannabes who are ready to do anything to fit into certain groups.

Those living abroad are not better; a lot will surprise you with their reasoning and mentality. They complain about Nigeria on social media and wish for things to get better. However, I have seen many in diaspora come back to loot more than the leaders they used to complain about.

Nevertheless I like surprises and I would love it if my generation could spring a surprise on me and prove me wrong.