Anniversary vibes

Five years and one day ago….My first blog post

My very first blog post offered an explanation for the name of my blog “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants“. In that blog post, I openly declared my seemingly bold intention (at the time) to pursue a PhD.

Now, the tiniest smidgen more than half a decade later, I opened an email informing me that my successful PhD examination results were officially ratified by the Higher Degrees Committee (HDC) of the university. My Dear Giants, today I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to stand on your shoulders. NamastΓ©

#Moment #Connected #Grateful



Dreams can come true…

It smells like wine…

It looks like wine…

It tastes like wine…

Admittedly, it’s not a beautiful full bodied KWV Cab Sav or silky smooth Porcupine Ridge Merlot, but it’s definitely not as watery or difficult to swallow as Robertson Chapel Red either. It’s fairly decent.

A little bit dry, some tannin but not very. It’s not very full flavoured and it’s not the softest wine on the palette. Has a slight grape juice flavour (might be my imagination since I know it’s de-alcoholised) but it definitely a wine, not a juice! Has a mild sweet sour aftertaste but it doesn’t last long.

I’m quite chuffed at this discovery. It’s really nice to know that us, sober curious wine enthusiasts, still have an option or two. When I paid for it the cashier mentioned that there’s apparently another brand too but they didn’t have any more of that in stock. Me thinks that this is going to be a new trend – and it can only get better from here. Cheers everyone. 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷


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Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock βŒ›οΈ

So I’m still waiting…

I considered not writing about this, but in fairness this blog originated because I wanted to document my PhD journey and this is definitely a part of it.

When I couriered three copies of my final thesis to DUT for examination on the 28th January earlier this year, my supervisor indicated that I’d probably graduate in April this year with the university’s Autumn graduation. That seemed a bit soon for me but hey wouldn’t that have been cool. Obviously, it didn’t happen though.

From submission until mid-April I heard nothing from the university, so I emailed to ask about progress. At that point (19th April) my supervisor then called me to inform me that I forgot to sign the plagiarism declaration of my thesis. Like what? Ok I forgot – but that meant that until the day I asked, my work had probably been forgotten on someone’s desk. Anyhow we move on.

April came and went. So did May. Early June I started feeling anxious again. I plucked up my courage and sent another email. Within hours of me sending the email, I got another call from the university asking for an electronic copy of my work because the examiner wanted one. Incidentally, on the day that I couriered my hard copy work I actually sent an electronic copy to my supervisor, but I decided not to remind them of that. I just resent the electronic copy. Had my work been forgotten on someone’s desk again until I enquired? I guess so. But I decided not to make a fuss. Just go with the flow Bronwyn. Go with the flow.

So June went by and a week after university reopened in July I thought, let me send another email to ask again. There is only one more graduation date at DUT this year – so if I miss September (Spring graduation), then I’ll only graduate next year. This time the HoD of the Department responded to my email. He said that my work has come back from examination and the results are currently in the process of being tabled at the Faculty Research and University Higher Degree Committees.

If everything went well and was successful, then I should be getting feedback within the next two weeks. Successful means either that I passed without needing any corrections or it could mean that passed but I need to make some corrections before graduation. It is highly unlikely that I’ll pass without having to make corrections – statistically only the outliers don’t need to make corrections…

Interestingly though, for my Masters I was the only one in my group that did not need to make any corrections.

The alternative to success, is that I did not pass (yet) and will not graduate this year. If not successful yet, then there is an unlikely possibility that my work was just not good enough, but it’s more likely that something else went wrong.

And ‘something else going wrong‘ was exactly what happened with my Masters. So I surrender to that possibility.

See with my Masters, I completed it in less than a year. Ten months actually, if you consider that I started writing a proposal in February 2011 and submitted three ring bound copies of the final edited work on the 17th November 2011. Only God knows how I managed doing that. My opinion now is that that is a sure thing recipe for clinical depression guaranteed.

After the Masters work was externally examined, in the last stages of approval, my work and that of the five other ladies in my group, was questioned for plagiarism. In academia, plagiarism is the most serious heinous accusation ever. It’s as bad as murdering someone. A cardinal sin. The thing we were told was the trigger of the plagiarism allegation was the statistics chapter of our work (my work and five classmates who were all supervised by the same person).

See, the five other ladies (my classmates) sent their work to a statistician to do that part of the work. This is allowed – there was nothing wrong with outsourcing your stats in Masters. I was broke however, so I could not afford a statistician and therefore I did my own stats. When the other ladies’ work came back from the statistician, because the statistician had used a standard template to analyse the data and report findings, some of the other ladies’ work looked similar. They certainly had not copied and each one’s data was different, but the wording the statistician used to report the findings of two of my classmates in particular, was identical. Our supervisor should have picked that up. But he didn’t. However, someone at the final stage of approval at the University’s Higher Degree Committee (HDC) did….

At HDC, they called for an investigation and all six works with the same supervisor were held back. No graduation until it had been investigated. Innocent until proven guilty they say….. from my practical experience, I can say that’s not how it feels. We (the students) appealed. One of the grounds for our appeal was that if only the stats was in question, since the stats chapter in my work looked so different, it was grossly unfair to us to hold all six works back! We argued that it felt as if we were being treated like villains.

I’m a lecturer and supervisor myself now, and I am able to see it from a different perspective. Our supervisors let us down. The focus of the scrutiny should have been on them, not us. We (the students) jumped through hoops to meet our deadlines. Yet, knowing that everyone is human, I’m overcome with compassion because I now understand that our supervisor just did not have the capacity, nor the confidence at that stage to adequately manage the situation. The whole thing was messed up. It’s one of those things where it’s pointless to blame anyone. And I am who I am today, because of that.

Be that as it may, all the six works were sent to Stellenbosch University to be examined. The report said that my work was completely original. I passed with Suma Cum Laude standards. The lowest mark an examiner gave me was 76% – and that was the internal examiner! And since I did my own stats, it’s the reason why I got the job teaching stats in my Department.

Ultimately, what happened resulted in us missing the Autumn graduation, through no fault of our own. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Initially, when invited to attend the next (Spring) graduation, I didn’t want to go because I was still angry at the way that I felt we’d been treated. But one of my classmates persuaded me otherwise, and eventually I did go. It was rather emotional though, and I wore casual denim jeans to my Masters graduation as an act of defiance.

Coming back to the PhD….. in two more weeks I’ll know. If I hear nothing about making corrections then, it means that I’m not graduating this year.

I wish I wasn’t so nervous about this. I wish I wasn’t so damn anxious. I know, logically it’s all out of my control. I know there is nothing I can do. I am trying really hard to let go of any monkey mind thoughts and stay present and focused on what’s happening around me right now. However that is getting increasingly harder.

Surrender I tell myself, just surrender Bronwyn. … but still I’m nervous.

In this regard I’m consoled by the words of one of my favourite musicians Shawn Mendes though (and isn’t he a cutie too!). He says ‘Nerves means that you care‘. So Yes, actually – I surrender and I do care.

Let this be enough

I find myself sitting on the glossy cinema steps of our best movie place. I’m waiting to taxi my boy and four of his friends home from a night at the movies.

The cinema is a distance away from our home, so four hours ago when I dropped them, I had to make a decision…. was I gonna drive back home and then back to the cinema to collect them (at least an hour long return journey), or was I just gonna try to find a restaurant with a plug for laptop and a steady supply of ice drinks? I opted for the latter.

I just left the restaurant a few minutes ago literally sick and tired of working. It’s been a long Friday. Their movie is about to end, so I find myself waiting in the foyer for them.

And I am thinking…. Let this be enough. I am so grateful that I have a healthy 16 year old son. And that he is well adjusted and happy. He has friends and he is having a good time. Being privy to the boys’ conversation as I drove them here was such a delight. I have no doubt that driving home will be too.

His friends are staying over to do a post-mortem of the movie, and just being able to be part of this experience leaves me feeling blessed. Life is tough. Life is really downright hard at times. But sometimes, like now I just feel content. I’m happy to be totally and fully immersed in the present moment.

Let this be enough

Sober Curious… it’s a thing

The most beautiful thing about being in my 40s is the realization that I don’t need to control everything. True story, I don’t always succeed at relinquishing control, as I still catch myself trying to chase down elusive targets with much effort instead of just doing, letting go and letting be. However, it’s work in progress me thinks. And at least for now I am aware, even though I am not yet a master at it.

Against this backdrop, my ‘lifestyle’ evolved as a side effect of my desire to control outcomes in my future. A yearning for security. I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing. It just is. I was imitating the traits ‘that I perceived’ characterized the people that I regarded as successful. Similarly media (social media and other media) portrayed that lifestyle as one belonging to successful people…. ‘Go great or go home‘ has been my personal motto for a decade now. Alcohol is a part of that lifestyle.

That lifestyle can be summarized as “Work hard, Train hard, Drink hard, Play then Work harder, Win hard and win again. Repeat. Rest occasionally when you just can’t anymore”.

I am seeing things differently now.

I won’t say that anything that happened was wrong for me. And I won’t judge or criticize that lifestyle which I identified as my own at one point. I am sincerely grateful and even humbled that I achieved many of my personal targets which seemed impossible at one point.

However, since about two years ago I’ve become increasingly aware of imbalances in my life. In an effort to self-correct, I’ve started meditating. I’m trying to eat healthier and I’ve started yoga. Since the beginning of this year I started thinking that I’m drinking too much. And over these past few months a culmination of incidents has lead me to the doorstep of now being ‘sober curious’.

I have at least four district memories from since February this year – incidents when I know that getting as drunk as I did was completely unnecessary. I wasn’t completely reckless because each time I was in a safe space – either with very trusted friends or I was alone. But that I realize now, was the problem! Alone or with trusted friends, I was using alcohol as a crutch to relax and escape my hectic lifestyle. Fortunately, there were no significant negative consequences of my drinking aside from a massive hangover the following day. I never ever missed work or a deadline. Thankfully nothing ever happened that would jeopardize my reputation (professional or otherwise). In fact after one drinking binge, I even ran a 10k race (still very much hungover) and I finished the race in 1hr1min – which is an enviable time for many people. However, I could not escape my own thoughts – that that behaviour of mine was just completely unnecessary. …. A functional alcoholic? Hmmmmmm

The culmination of incidents that opened my mind to seeing that there must be a better alternative were simple things which transpired – such as a news report of some influential person who also quit drinking for reasons similar to my own. Also an Instagram post or two that I spotted, new friendships with people who don’t drink alcohol for religious or other reasons. The time is just right for me to give sobriety a chance. A case for being sober curious.

And funny, as I was telling my sister-in-law this story, my brother who was sitting besides us, catching up on the news on his phone, remarked as he stumbled across this article below at very moment!

Coincidence maybe. I prefer to believe that the universe talks to me (to all of us) all the time. I think that my life will be happy and fulfilling only when I am willing to open and listen.

Case in point, ….Present and Aware. Non-alcoholic drinks with my Boeties last night. Not such a bad thing. Not bad at all actually – in fact quite the very opposite!

A missed flight

A missed flight. I don’t know how we missed our flight. We really don’t know how on earth that happened. We were at the airport more than two hours before the time. My colleague and I were checked in and went through the check in gates.

As we walked towards our boarding gate she mentioned that she could not see the gate number. I saw it and I pointed it out. But it was closed. So we went to the ladies room.

When we got back from the ladies room, we sat at the gate, waiting for it to open. Neither of us checked the time. Neither of us realized it was five minutes before take off. We should have been in the plane already. And there was no boarding call for us.

When everyone around us got up, we did too. And then the shocking realization occurred, that we missed our flight.

We argued a bit with the ground staff. But there was really nothing left to do than buy new plane ticket. We were seriously ticked off. … Beyond ticked off – how on God’s green earth did we miss that flight!!!! R506 extra to pay each. It was not funny.

We tried to make the best of it. Took out some work as we waited for the two hours to pass before our next flight. Cold comfort. We agreed… let’s not think about it. It’s just upsetting. Phahhh.

We made small talk. Agreed that there is some greater cosmic reason why we missed that flight. For someone else’s benefit. Or ours… who knows… who cares. Let’s just go on. And we made damn sure we were at the gate when we needed to board our rebooked flight.

Seated on the flight we settled down. Started talking about some guys we knew. I didn’t pay much attention to him as he went through the preflight safety drill. Seen that crap a billion times before.

And then he came around with the courtesy trolley. I wanted a beer. Was still trying to sooth my ‘being upset’ after missing our flight. And that is when he went out of his way to catch my attention. He was listening to me speak to my friend and responded with gestures to my quirky chirps.

My turn came and I asked for a beer. As he got it, he then asked me something. My response was ‘only if you gonna keep me‘ – and his response was that he would. As he gave me the beer, he asked ‘Ms or Mrs‘ and I said ‘Dr‘ (holly har Bronwyn 😱). Then he asked if I had a business card. I said no.

And then he helped the guy in the aisle opposite me who wanted heaven knows what – an assortment of odd treats. In between doing that he put a pen and serviette on my tray table. ‘Just in case, putting it there, Use it. Don’t use it‘ he says….

I did the necessary.

A random vague blur. The stuff that real life is made of? Fact seems stranger than fiction.

The universe has got this. It doesn’t need my interference. Nothing is random. Everything works better when I don’t try to control it.

Facts –

1) If we caught our flight, I’d have never met him.

2) If my friend and I chose our own seats on the next flight, I’d have never met him.

3) If the guy on the opposite side of the aisle didn’t want a bunch of random stuff, and make small talk, I would have never given him my number.