For tonight’s good mood, kindly sponsored by Douwe Egberts.
For tonight’s good mood, kindly sponsored by Douwe Egberts.
What an insane week. 🤪 Third post 🤯 Happy, sad, exciting, scary, empowering. A proper roller coaster of highs and low. Not gonna write about it all because firstly no one really cares but secondly who got da time for dat?!
ICEL conference. Presented my paper and poster. Met new people, made new connections and reinforced established ones.
Very significantly was reintroduced to a research methodology Prof Garraway mentioned to me three years ago!….. but only now I see its value to the PhD I’ve undertaken.
I probably make sense to no one but me now. Anyway. I’m feeling energized. Let’s do this. Let’s go on. NRF rating anyone?
I ❤️ CPUT
So this blog came about as a reflective tool for my PhD journey. Although I love ‘the extended life’ this blog has taken on, it is however only fitting that I periodically reflect specifically on PhD matters.
So last week I finished my final data collection for my PhD. ….. Moment
Last year I blogged about what a humbling and excruciatingly painful exercise it was to collect my quantitative data (questionnaire data). Some organizations (people in organizations I approached) were nice to me but mostly organizations didn’t have time for me, some came across as annoyed at me for bugging them, dismissed me, others ignored me and some were just plain rude to me. I accepted this was part of my journey, also part of the colossal growth curve and maturation I experienced last year. Life’s lesson to me – be compassionate Bronwyn.
Last year taught me to be compassionate, importantly, to myself first and then have the same compassion with others.
So anyway after getting through that, eventually getting some data then analyzing it, then designing a conceptual model from the results, it was time to do part two of my data collection. Part two was to present the model to selected knowledge expert i.e. the Heads of Quality Departments in three strategically located pharmaceutical organizations in South Africa and obtain their opinion on it. I finished transcribing the last interview data last night and earlier tonight I started doing thematic analysis on my interview data using ATLASti.
Now it occurred to me that I could potentially feel stressed about this – after all I have a deadline for the end of this month that I bloody know I’m not gonna make. I could also be worried because I’ve never done qualitative data analysis for a project this big and this important on my own before #NewExperience. My body instinctively starts to go tense at the thought of everything that is wrong and could go even more wrong.
And then a little voice from my heart spoke to me and reminded me “Bronwyn….. this is what you wanted, this experience is what your worked for and prepared for – this is it! Where is the logic in being stressed out about a situation which seemed like a dream come true a few years ago?“
I exhaled. Yes.
I must enjoy this moment. This is my journey. It is not easy but I am grateful. Tonight I feel very loved and supported. The universe is in my favour. I am in my favour. It’s time to finish what I started.
So yes, I am being incredibly brave, and the truth is I am not at all scared of my own opinion. Opinions are dynamic evolving things and for now this is mine.
Over lunch yesterday, my best friends and I had a great conversation and engaging debate, which got me thinking about the content of this blog post. Who knows how it started, talk about cheese and beer drifted into a conversation on societal inequalities, and an opinion was expressed that education is the key to change (this I agree with) however a continuation of this sentiment is that education should be free (and this… I most vehemently disagree with).
Nothing can ever be free. Not even love. Everything in life costs something. The love from even your mother comes at a cost to her. If it did not, it would not be so powerful. Anything and everything that is worthwhile in life comes at some sort of sacrifice. So hold on …..wait, before I become too philosophical, let’s backtrack because I think my friend/s meant in the more practical sense. The example of Sweden was offered as a model for free education. Very practical yes….. and IMNSHO, very ridiculous yes! It is outright insane to compare South Africa with Sweden. Sweden is a very socialist country, because they can afford to be socialist. As in literally (they have the money) to afford to be socialist. Their basic human rights are taken care of – in South Africa ours are not. Without that, any plight to educate will be futile.
Education is more than studying from a few books, writing a few research papers, getting a degree or three or seven. It is not the cognitive abilities of our society that will fix our problems, it is our metacognitive abilities that will do this. Our thinking about our thinking. The foundation for our metacognitive abilities is only fertilized through socialisation. You can be smart, but a sociopath at the same time. And those fuckers are absolutely no good to society.
It is at grassroots that we must foster development. The past is in the past. Yes I was not popular with my friends for saying that, but I will stick to my guns.
We have what we have. Now – the present. No actions now will undo what was done. There is always the option for vengeance (….yes peoples that what it is – call it whatever else you want to now, but know that it is vengeful to 20 years ex post facto lash out now for something that was not addressed). AND vengeance stagnates growth #Fact. Again IMNSHO, there is no difference in looking at this from a personal point of view. Let’s say I had an abusive husband…. treated me like dirt, emotionally disempowered me, the shit beat me to pulp regularly and verbally lambasted me for years…you get the story. We got divorced – and we each got our settlement. A settlement we agreed upon. Some years later I am unhappy because my life still isn’t going according to the ideal I thought it would – so now I want to go back and take more of what I feel is rightfully mine. It’s driven by emotion…. and yes THAT is vengeful. While there would be some comfort to be gained from vengeance – it’s comfort that is short-lived and short-sighted.
Education is the key, but redressing the more basic problems in society is needed before an attempt at educating the nation will be successful. Academic degrees won’t make us a better or more caring society – and that’s actually what we really need. Not more educated people, more caring people! We need to address those needs first. Higher education (HE) is a luxury, when security, health care and basic education is so severely restricted as it is in our country. One has to actually respect the ingenious way certain politicians use the thought, the notion of HE as a carrot, which they dangle in front of the masses, getting them to believe that is the solution. It’s really clever.
A note of education…. UCT and MIT have a comprehensive selection of MOOCs which are freely available. Surprise, surprise….there are cost free options to educate oneself! However perhaps because current “paid for” university education seems more “prestigious” … the politicians would have us believe that it is key. Sadly MOOCs cannot be fully utilised without basic needs such as a safe learning environment. Besides that, the throughput in general is not good…. Why?, again IMNSHO because it is free – so the quality of what is offered is not on par with a paid for face to face course. It takes time, energy and resources to develop and offer educational content that is worthwhile – Anything that is free, is not worth as much as something that has come at some sort of sacrifice. Why should education be different to food? It would sound outrageous and ridiculous if people demanded free food from the government, wouldn’t it? Why doesn’t it sound ridiculous when people demand absolutely free education? Or does it……
Anyway, I could go on and on and on, but enough of this already. Time to get on with my jobs – coincidentally, one of them is being an open education practitioner (For example I use YouTube to make educational resources available for free for any/all students who need help with stats) …. so I have nothing else to prove. My views on educating people, and facilitating public access to educational resources is clear. But as a whole, South African society – we are not ready for Fees to Fall.
Sometimes I get scared.
This scared that I’m referring to is a unique kind of scared. Not unique to me but certainly not the same kinda scared as that kind when you eat seafood at an unknown restaurant, or the scared you feel just before you jump off Lion’s Head to start paragliding.
It’s the kinda scared when you feel excited but extremely fearful at the same time. Because it’s the “I’m growing” kinda scared. I can equate this scared to the feeling when I discovered I was going to be a mother the first time, or the time I left my permanent job and decided to be my own boss. With both those experiences I was frightened so badly that it felt as if my sphincter muscles went into spasm, causing the bowels to release with the result of me soiling my pants (that’s euphemism for a word we all know). I was scared shishless.
So that’s how I sometimes feel now when I think about where I am on my journey. Not regretful, not remorseful. Feeling a little brave, sometimes a bit worn, tired and lonely but still strong enough. Feeling a bit small, but not insignificant. I need to grow.
These thoughts came about because of the work I’m doing on my PhD – this blog is mainly about my PhD journey after all. But a PhD doesn’t happen in isolation from the rest of one’s life. Besides the PhD, Life is a christmas trifle of events, experiences and feelings. And this is where things get muddy and confusicating in my head.
Fact – the PhD is merely a tool for me to serve a purpose. Like the work I have and do, also only a tool for me to serve a purpose. Or the friendships and relationships that I have – a tool. Even my role as a mother – simply just a tool. I get confused between these tools and my true purpose. My true purpose is to love.
When I give myself enough space, then I remember it’s all about balance. My purpose is my foundation and as I go along building my castle, I sometimes forget about my purpose. I build walls and structures that I either knock down some time later, or they were so structurally unsound that they collapse by themselves some time later anyway.
If I am too focused on the PhD, then I forget about my journey. My splendid beautiful journey, this adventure I am on, called Life. And then there are the times I forget about my purpose – because I am too taken in by Life and the wonderous distractions it has to offer. That’s when this “scared” has an important function. It serves as a reminder for me balance it out. Stop, breath, reconnect the dots and realign.
When I’m feeling that kind of scared, if I go quiet then I hear the little voice inside of me telling me that I can do it. Urging me on. I was created for my purpose – so I have everything that I need, no matter how high or daunting the mountain before me seems.
My mountain at this moment is this model I’m creating for the South African pharmaceutical industry – like for the country. Yah it’s all relative, so to some people that’s like meh whatever, it’s only big in Bronwyn’s mind. We all have our own perspective. To me it’s responsibility, and it is potential. It can be huge. It can be brilliant. And I’m the one in charge.
So I’m scared. I know what I must do. I feel it, but fear grips at my heart. But I’m embracing this scared. I am embracing the uncertainty of what I see and what logic based on facts and probabilities dictates to me. It’s time for me to ignore that. It’s time for me to trust my internal GPS again. True story, it never lets me down.
So I couldn’t sleep earlier. Had a couple of things on my mind. I’ve just managed to get two tickets for the HSBC Rugby Sevens finals in Cape Town on the 10th… and good tickets at that, but I can’t go because I already have tickets for Majozi at Kirstenbosch. Also I’ve been to Sevens twice before so I’m feeling kinda meh about it anyway. While tossing and turning I decided to rather go to Majozi and donate the rugby tickets to my kids’ school to raffle off at their Food Fair happening on the 1st December.
Then I grappled with thoughts regarding one of my M students who is rather battling at the moment. She is making progress but very slowly. Her writing isn’t always coherent. I think the thoughts and ideas are in her head, but she battles to articulate them academically. That’s something I think all postgrad students – including myself, can relate to. So typically after reviewing just a few paragraphs, I’ll often send her work back to her to rewrite, after having made some changes myself but then eventually deciding it’s actually is her job – since she’s going to get awarded with the Masters Degree afterall.
I feel for her though. It’s an uncomfortable struggle because it’s been almost three years now and she still hasn’t hit the sweet spot. I think there is still hope. I firmly believe just a few more steps and it will come together for her, however I also think she is losing faith. The truth is, there is nothing I can do about that. It’s a fact of life, a philosophical stance I just started adopting but should have a long time ago actually…. sometimes things are just out of one’s control. It’s better to let it go. She has to decide to motivate herself. This is not my monkey to carry, so I am not going to try to hold on or control it.
So then I just tossed and turned thinking about nothing in particular for another few minutes before deciding bugger this, I might as well just get up and work for a bit. My own work has also been progressing – also slowly – but steadily. The end goal has increasingly been coming into focus. The past few weeks I’ve had really solid ideas, and this week it felt to me as if I made ‘first contact’ with what the final product of my work should look like.
I’ve been collecting all the bits and pieces, so tonight just before I attempted to go to bed the first time I printed a process flow of the pharmaceutical manfacturing process so that I could map my thoughts directly onto that printed page later. I’m glad I did, because as I sat down earlier I literally scribbled all the bits and pieces of information I had onto this page, and then used coloured pens to connect my thoughts. It was then that I started seeing what my model is going to look like 😍.
My supervisor will more than likely want to string me from my toes for openly blogging about my research findings, let alone posting this picture – but I’ll take my chances because I’m feeling rather stoked. And I’m pretty darn sure this makes very little sense to anyone but me in this very rudimentary format. I’m just so proud and happy it actually finally seems like ‘something’ that can work! Loads of work still ahead but let’s take this moment and say ‘Three cheers to perseverance’ Hip Hip hurray. Hip hip hurray ….and the last one Hurray! ☯️👏🏾🥂🍾
Yeah me gots to laugh. If I don’t laugh then I’ll probably become depressed, and hay nah, that ain’t gonna happen.
So I’m in Durban for a few days consulting with my supervisor. Landed at the airport armed with two bags of books, laptop, tablet, bare minimum clothes, wearing jeans and red chucks – no stilettos even though I’m here for work! 😱🤔😔 Hmmmmn …something about my mood and this trip.
Gosh, this PhD journey is a tough one but thankfully now and then, I’m blessed to be able to see the funny side. Like today, supervisor asked me why haven’t I finalised Chapter 1. This confused me. See I wrote Chapter 1, sent it to her over a year ago. She looked at it, made a few comments and basically told me it was crap. I made a few changes and I agreed, it actually was crap. Very crap. So I parked it temporarily.
The work wasn’t focused. In my defence, who on earth actually really knows that they doing when they start anything? (This is why I feel for my own masters students. Being a student myself makes me a little bit more compassionate when I work with them).
Anyway, I went on with rest of the work, have drafts of the next few chapters. I figured I would go back to Chapter 1 once I knew what I was doing
Today she says there was nothing significantly wrong with Chapter 1… I is “like what?” (There is though – biggish crater sized issues with my Chapter 1 – which I can fix but only now that I am more focussed and have a better understanding of the problem). But I was certainly not going to correct her. ….Smile and wave Private… Just smile and wave. 🐧 🐧 🐧 🐧 👋🏾 👋🏾
Fellow students out there, keep your faith. Don’t lose heart. Academia is an upside down place. There is a reason we started this in the first place. Sometimes, most of the time on the journey we forget why we even started – well I do. It’s a comfort though knowing that besides being challenging, ‘learning’ is an interesting space to be in. Some days enjoyable and stimulating, some days sad and downright bitterly lonely – especially if you doing research. But every now and then a day pops up which is just so incredibly funny. Cheers to those days!!!
So that’s what I’ve gotta do…
You must forgive me, because this blog post is very similar to one I posted less than three months ago, when I told the story of the time I got 21% for my first test in Quality Management Systems. But I guess it’s just because I’m still going through a rocky patch in my life when I need to keep reminding myself to get up and go on.
See data gathering for my PhD is turning out to be a nightmare of note. Masters was tough… my friends all know 2011 was the worst year of my life. The year I got divorced doesn’t even compare to the year when I wrote Masters. And this time it feels tougher – in a different way. For my Masters degree, I had the data, I just did not have a methodology. My current situation is that I contacted each one of my target population personally (numerous times) and of the 30 pharmaceutical organisations, I’ve only gotten data back from 4 thus far! A sinking feeling if there ever was any. I just don’t have the data to even consider any methodology. But I have no choice but to just persist, and do whatever it takes to stay positive.
Thing is, I know why I want this PhD. It’s for very personal reasons. Over the weekend I thought about it again. I know that I will add more value to the people, …my students, my colleagues, my business partners and even my family and friends once I have this degree. I’m going to make a difference, and this degree is going to put me in a better position to do that. So quitting is just not an option.
And so I sat outside in the courtyard at campus yesterday and had a smoke (SHOCK horror Holly har Bronwyn!!!! – I hear Shaun swearing at me) Yes I know I quit for three years and I will quit again Shaunie, I promise. It’s a crap habit. You know that I know. It’s just tough right now. Besides work being a monster, my personal life has been on a rollercoaster this year too. A failed relationship earlier in the year and recently another romantic encounter spun me like a top… but thankfully the uncertainty around that is over now. My friends who know me well are saying “Yeah that sounds right“. No such thing as mundane when it comes to this chic.
Anyway getting back to the point. I was observing the students around me, all a bit nervous because they are all writing midterms exams now. And it reminded me again of a pivotal time in my own life, which started the 16th September 2010 when we wrote Stats 4 midterm exam. See, when we started studying Stats for the first time, it was scary but most of us got through Stats 3. Then enter Stats 4 and you’re filled with false confidence. Not entirely false confidence, I actually studied. In particular CUSUM and EWMA (Side note: Now that I lecture Stats 4 I sometimes make a joke with my students and tell them if I ever get two female puppies again I’ll have to call them CUSUM and EWMA…because that’s what it’s like).
Long story short(er)….We hashed that Stats 4 exam. It was a bloodbath. Blood, guts and snot actually. In the history of all the exams I have ever written, I never ever felt like that in my life. What a royal mess. I took two days sick leave because I was literally nauseous after that paper.
But life goes on. When we got our results only 12 of the 183 in our class passed. I barely scrapped through with 50%. It felt awful. But after licking my wounds during the midterm break my survivor mode kicked in. I needed a Master’s degree to get a lecturing job, so failure was just not an option.
I decided to find out who got the highest marks in class, and I decided that I would befriend that person. My quality friends thought it was hilarious strategy but I just calmly invited them to “Watch this space”. So when “top marks student” arrived in class the next Wednesday night I sat down next to him and I told him he was going to be my friend. He was probably in shock because I can’t remember him even questioning when I gave him my number and he gave me his. His friends were also gobsmacked but hey the strategy worked out well! Between his group of friends and my group of friends we killed the next few Stats 4 assignments by swopping notes and helping each other. And on the 23rd November when we wrote final exams, I blazed through that paper. I don’t think I stopped to even breath. And I passed Stats 4. Not with a distinction – I got 70%. But at the end of the it all when I graduated I was awarded a B Tech Quality with Cum Laude honours, and the Dean’s Merit Award for being the person in that year to obtain the highest marks for that degree.
So I don’t know how yet…. but I know I have to bring this PhD degree home. And I will.
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
I am simply loving this Counting Crows song. Playing it on repeat. We have just finished our first week of exams at CPUT – successfully! Thank you Jesus. True story,a few weeks ago I really did not think we would be able to salvage any of the 2016 academic year. Small mercy. As last week transpired, we all waited with baited breath. Everyone in flight mode on stand-by. I traded my high heels for flat shoes this week. Some colleagues used public transport to come to work – not wanting to risk their cars being burnt by student protesters, if unrest flared up again. As Monday became Friday the uneasy peace settled. With every exam that was written we started breathing easier. I think we actually, yes might actually just get through this.
We would be fools to believe that we are not going to still feel seriously severe repercussions due to the extensive and violent #FeesMustFall protests. For now the violence has dissipated and we left with trying to put the pieces together again. But it will be years to recover completely. I do not think we can even start counting all the hidden costs.
As we were preparing for exam, security was a giant concern – not only for staff but for students too. Someone hit the nail on the head amidst the uncertainty during our preparations when the comment was made, “Now after the protests, CPUT does not even have the money to hire special security to ensure safety during exams“. Because of the protests, the ultimate reason for the very existence of the university was compromised. Short sighted gains for long term impact. Yes they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
A week and a half ago I was really angry. CPUT is historically the poor cousin of all the universities in the Western Cape. Yet a quick google search will reveal some sterling minds and work have come from CPUT – Fsati is one example. See: http://www.cput.ac.za/blogs/fsati/
But sadly in the past two months, the overriding impression that has been made in my mind is that there are a number of CPUT students who want to cripple their own university. In one podcast of a student mass meeting I heard, a CPUT student leader was telling his followers that they should go as far as even disrupting essential services, namely Tygerberg Hospital when it was discovered that the hospital granted permission for exams to take place on their premises. Admittedly I have remind myself, to convince myself that this radical sentiment characterizes the minority of CPUT students. I’m not incredibly proud, but will also admit that in my seething anger last week, a part of me wished, and felt that justice would be served if the university could no longer operate at all. What if there was no CPUT… and then what? Little by little they were breaking CPUT down. I don’t think they stopped for a moment to think they were going too far.
I guess we could say they are just students – they don’t know better. I do however feel that each one of us has a voice inside of us that tells us, if you have something valuable then treat it with appreciation darn it. Value it! There might be justifiable reasons why you feel things are not going your way, however you need to value what you have. Don’t take it for granted. Perhaps the students will still learn. Hopefully they have already learnt. Hopefully CPUT has learnt. They should have taken a harder line with the students from the beginning. But what is done is done.
And so the unrelenting human spirit continues. We pick ourselves up, we dust ourselves off. For some more difficult than others, but we have no choice but to take all those broken pieces and start again. Marking underway, exams underway, and we start planning again. Next year will be tough, but it will be a new year – a chance for a fresh start. I’m proud to be part of CPUT.
Then lastly I have some happy news to share. I will explain details in my next blog. Because the details have not yet been finalised, I cannot say too much as yet. But I can say that it is related to the PhD, and it is really big news. It will entail a great deal of input and sacrifice from me, but if all goes well it is another blessing that humbles me and makes me say out loud, Our Father is faithful. Having a meeting tomorrow at 14:00, so I might post about it next week or the week after.
Ello my peeps, it’s been another long stint since I’ve posted but again been preoccupied with life, been building my castle.
Started the year running. I spent New Year’s day and the days following working flat out. All good, all good. There was a reason. The reason was I presented my proposal at DUT on the 6th February (earlier this month). Before that I attended African Doctoral Academy from 11 to 22 January as well. I have a much better handle on qualitative data analysis and ATLAS.ti now. What an amazing tool uh. I’ll have to do a special blog post on just ATLAS.ti one day.
As the time got closer to the presentation, I started progressively tensing up. My neck eventually went into spasm…I am such an idiot. I do it to myself. But I kept chipping away at it. I even got as far as having a pre-pilot interview (aka a lunchtime chat) with Dr Abofele Khoele. Heaven knows I am so indebted to him. I don’t have words to entirely express how grateful I am for his valuable insight and input. He helped me chart the direction and built my confidence before the presentation. I hope that one day I will be able to pay it forward.
So then came the actual presentation and I nailed it. Kachow…kachow kachow..ching ching CHAhing! That morning the earth moved. Literally. There was a tremor in Durban measuring 3.2 on richter scale that morning – true story. And I didn’t even need to defend because no one challenged my work.
So then when I got back home, I designed the pilot questionnaire (here I’m grateful to Robin for always being so supportive and listening and being the logical voice even though it has nothing to do with his work), completed my ethical clearance forms, informed consent form and final tweaks to the proposal and off I sent it for HDC (Higher Degrees Committee) review. In other words, sent it off to be “marked”. If all goes well, my supervisor expects I will get approval in March but she told me to start writing my chapters in the meantime. Starting with Chap 1….tomorrow.
As I typed this, it strikes me more and more that doing a PhD is something one cannot accomplish on your own. The final thesis may have my name on it, but there will be many “nameless” contributors. I wonder……I wonder if I shouldn’t write a list of contributors, just for interest sake. Have it on record somewhere, maybe publish the list on my blog after I submit the final thesis. Just the name and what the person helped me with. I might just do this. It would be interesting to see how many people actually are part of the PhD development process.
And then I took my minions to Sun City for some QT time…fun in the sun