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.

2016: A Roller Coaster

Let me start off by apologising for my long hiatus. A lot has been happening that I couldn’t get myself to reflect and collate my thoughts together.

This year started off nicely; things weren’t rosy but I was supposedly on course towards reaching the dreams I envisioned for myself. Suddenly, just like Game of Thrones, there was a plot twist and 2016 ended up being a tough gloomy one and a real downer for me physically, mentally, financially, emotionally and otherwise. This made me question my capabilities and skills.

My itinerary this year also meant that I had to take a lot of trips round the country hence I was stressed out most of the time. I choked in desolation and succumbed to depression as a result, stoppped writing and eventually lost resigned from my job. I sought solace in solitude but this excerbated the situation. I knew I needed help but couldn’t talk about it because it took time for me to really accept that I was depressed. I am usually the strong one; the one people run to for help but here I was, wallowing in misery. 

Humans have different defense mechanisms against all the negatives life throws at us, however, once in a while these negatives infiltrate our system, engulf our thoughts and cause a huge shift in our emotions. According to psychologists, one in every four people will experience depression or anxiety sometime in their life. So I guess mine came pretty early.

Depression creeps into every aspect of your life.It affects how you feel, think and handle daily activities. I lost people who genuinely cared about me; appearing needy and pathetic to the opposite sex. I was constantly looking for a gateaway drug or someone to lean on to take my mind off the numerous problems I had. Depression makes you turn to self-medication via sleep, sad songs, sex, drugs, alcohol etc to try and numb the pain of depression. As a friend aptly said one time, “the price of beer is cheaper than the price of drugs for hypertension.” 

However, as I found out, these can only have a brief positive impact on your mood but compound the problem in the long term. My brother always says that every problem has an expiry date. Alcohol etc only end up prolonging the expiry dates of your problems. Eventually, I realised that the only way to bring this date closer was to face my fears and tackle my problems head on. 

Talking to a loved one or professional also helps. Owning up to your shit says a lot about your self-confidence so be bold enough to confide in someone you trust. Family and friends are always willing to offer support and love if/when you do. Opening up led me to a book that had the greatest effect on me – The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal With Negativity by Jon Gordon.

It is hard to implement this rule but experience has shown me time after time that great things such as wisdom, opportunities and most importantly lessons about oneself are hidden in challenges. These lessons may end up being a springboard to something far greater than we ever imagined. Oscar Wilde once said, “behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic”  And he was right, my year is ending is on a very good note so I am excitedly looking forward to 2017 and what the future holds.

How did your year go? Did you experience tough moments? If yes, what lessons did you learn about yourself?

Why We Turn Out The Way We Are

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It is common practice in Africa for people to  blame parents and fault their parenting skills as reasons for the misdemeanors of their children. Children are believed to mirror the skills/values/principles/convictions instilled in them by their parents.

As a consequence, well behaved and successful kids owe their “success” to their parents. For example, someone allegedly claimed (on twitter) that a man was “overjoyed” by his nouveau wife’s virginity that he bought his mother-in-law a Range Rover Jeep for raising an explemary lady.

This made me to ask, why does the mother of the lady have to be the one to take the credit for her daughter’s virginity? Yes! She must have played a part but there are other factors worth considering – like the daughter herself and her immediate environment.

I sincerely believe the environment plays a major role in a child’s upbringing more than the parents and the individual in a ratio of 4:3:3. Using percentage, the environment takes up 40% of the effort that goes into a child’s upbringing whilst the parents’ and individual equally share the remaining 60%.

Think about it, throughout a child’s developmental period, s/he spends more time out there in school/church etc (environment) mixing up with friends, neighbours, teachers, peers, house helps and strangers. According to Elliott Bisnow, “You are a reflection of the twenty or thirty people who give you advice.”

Most kids are farmed out to boarding school between 8-12 years old which means the only time they really spend with their parents and families is the long holidays. And in most cases, parents are carried away with happiness/joy when they return for the holidays that they forget to keep a close eye on them during these periods. Instead, they pay attention to their physicality and most importantly, their grades/results. It would surprise you how a good result can cloud parents’ judgment of their child’s character.

One may argue that parents can afford to influence the child’s immediate environment hence their contribution soars to an unassailable 50%. However, no matter how good an environment may seem, it is complemented by the bad and the ugly, and in the end, the child is left with the unenviable task of choosing his or her own path. This is because children learn a great deal by direct teaching; they learn much more by watching others. The peer pressure on kids is enormous; they are confronted by drugs, alcohol, sex and foul language wherever they turn.

Another may argue that even the “little 30%” parents contribute is the fulcrum of the child’s developmental process because it is the foundation. After all, a solid foundation is the key to a well-built home. It is adjudged that a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development depend on family dynamics.  However, how often have we seen children with solid foundation from good homes turn out differently after much water has flowed under the bridge since those foundation days?

No matter one’s side in this argument, one thing is certain – parents, environment and the child play distinct roles in the development of an individual. Luck plays an integral part too. After all, luck and chance determine the family we are born into and thence our immediate environment.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.

9 TYPES OF INTELLIGENCE (By Howard Gardner)

 

1. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
 
Designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).  This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.  It is also speculated that much of our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds of makeup, and the like. 
 
2. Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)
 

Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone.  This intelligence enables us to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners.  Interestingly, there is often an affective connection between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical intelligences may share common thinking processes.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming to themselves.  They are usually quite aware of sounds others may miss.
 
 
3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart)

 
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations.  It enables us to perceive relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and deductive thinking patterns.  Logical intelligence is usually well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives.  Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in patterns, categories, and relationships.  They are drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
 
4. Existential Intelligence
 

Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.
 
5. Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart”)
 

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others.  It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives.  Teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians all exhibit interpersonal intelligence.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence are leaders among their peers, are good at communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and motives.
 
6. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
 

Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills.  This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union.  Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.
 
7. Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)
 

Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings.  Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language.  Linguistic intelligence is the most widely shared human competence and is evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading, telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.
 
8. Intra-personal Intelligence (Self Smart”)
 

Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directioning one’s life.  Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition.  It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers.  These young adults may be shy.  They are very aware of their own feelings and are self-motivated.
 
9. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)
 

Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions.  Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination.  Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence.  Young adults with this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.