Stay Beautiful

Stay soft. It looks beautiful on you.

Nayyirah Waheed

Going back to Uni: 5 Tips for the mature student

If someone had told me that in 2020, I’d be halfway into completing a FULLY FUNDED MSc. programme, I would’ve slapped them in the face and said ‘get behind me Satan’. Granted a lot of that statement would have been rooted in the negative lense that I saw my life through at that time, and a crippling inability to see the ways that Jesus was working things out in my life. Thankfully, things are slightly different now. When I first started working in research, I had been unemployed for about two months, when I went for my interview I had no idea what my bosses were going to ask me to do. I’d been away from academia for about 3 years and the practical aspects of my Honours degree that I thoroughly loved, were more than a little fuzzy. On that day, my mum told me to go in and just give it all I had. It was a huge boost to my self esteem then, and now as I think of how cute I looked on that day. I thought I was going in for an interview but praise God, they had actually decided that they wanted me onboard but needed to see me face to face. My plans after my Honours degree was to specialise as a haematologist. Now I’m building my professional life in HIV research, with an emphasis on early infant diagnosis, and I couldn’t be happier. So what are the traits you need to get to where I am? I’m glad you asked!

1. Believe in your sauce. When I decided that academia was for me, to say that I was nervous was an understatement. For the first few months at work, concepts that used to be familiar now felt foreign to my very much matured brain (I was 28 at the time). I am grateful that I had my lovely husband rooting for me all the way. He would listen to me telling him about concepts that were new to me too, and engage in conversation with me. He would also remind me that had I not been capable, they would have FOR SURE not hired me. This is something that I have had to remind myself of especially when I’m hit with a heavy dose of imposters syndrome. Believing in your own sauce doesn’t mean that you’re oblivious to the things you don’t know, or that you blag your way through things (in my industry blagging ain’t gonna get you anywhere). Believing in your own sauce means being aware of where your strengths lie and not being afraid to utilize them when needed.

2. Speak up. My bosses are ridiculously good researchers in the field of HIV. THe more publications I read and found out just how good they are, the more I started to feel like I didn’t have anything to offer. When I commenced my MSc. programme, the awe & admiration I have for my bosses, became crippling. I found myself saying yes or keeping quiet, even when I didn’t agree with a certain course of action. As I grew in confidence (and also had my husband speak to me on this), I realised that my voice was important too. It may not have carried as much wisdom and knowledge (yet) as my supervisors but the last thing they wanted was a parrot who regurgitated their ideas and was a yes (wo)man.

3. Don’t stop learning. This is one that I had no other choice but to do. I had no idea of how testing was conducted for HIV diagnosis. My understanding of it was elementary, and definitely not on the level of someone who wished to work in that field. I can’t tell you how many journals I’ve downloaded in recent months. How many terms I’ve gotten acquainted with, and how many more terms I still haven’t gotten acquainted with. Being aware of how much you still have to learn is important BUT unless you take action, you’re going to stay in the same place.

4. Be flexible and laugh… A LOT! In this journey of being a student, ESPECIALLY a more mature one at that, things will go wrong. Balancing being a great partner, daughter, employee, student, sister and aunt is tough work. I’ve dropped the ball countless times, and guess what you’re not immune to ball dropping. This isn’t a negative prophesy I swear! The reality of life as a student, especially in research is that you’ll drop the ball somewhere. Your supervisors will drop the ball somewhere. The Gantt chart mapping the expected timeline of various tasks will become something that mocks you, reminding you of how far behind you actually are. Sometimes I feel as though mine laughs at me every time I look at it. 🤔 Experiments will fail, your controls will invalidate specimen results and leave you in tears, you’ll save over recent versions of your thesis but you know what in the end it’ll all work out.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. When my supervisors told me that they’d be paying for my studies, I felt very much like what the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah 41:14, I am but a worm, how do I even deserve this. It sounds extreme right? But isn’t that the trajectory our mind follows when we believe very little of ourselves? This point is very tightly tied to point 1, believe in your own sauce. Believe that you have something to offer, believe that you’re there for a reason. This can sometimes be a tough one to remember as your progression begins to grant you access to rooms more advanced and intelligent. HOWEVER, if at the core of you, you’ve built your self-esteem and value to be unattached to anyone or anything else, it may be difficult to remember but it won’t be impossible. You think Beyoncé cares about the people who don’t believe in her talent? You shouldn’t either. Show up, set the place on fire (with your talent, not literal fire), and then let your work speak for itself. Accept that you aren’t like anyone else, and that is your greatest gift. Stay in your lane and excel in your lane!

BONUS TIP: Get comfortable with your work being critiqued. This is the hardest one for me, and the one that the Lord continues to humble me through. The first iteration of my research protocol was horrible. The more that precious document bounced between my supervisors and I, the better it got. When I submitted it, I couldn’t believe how far it had come from that very sad first version. To get to the masterpiece that my protocol is, was a labor of love. I remember the first email where my supervisor had removed information that I had become personally attached to. I had to swallow my ego, cry at home…sometimes at work, to come to terms that the prerequisite for life in research is being comfortable with sometimes having your work critiqued. Sometimes your ideas will shine bright like a diamond, and other times those more experienced than you will offer a different angle that you perhaps hadn’t thought of. There is a time to defend your ideas, and there is a time to realise that maybe your idea isn’t as great as you thought it was.

P.s. Try keeping yourself in as much of a positive circle as you can. If I had married anyone else, I may truly have ended up setting things on fire… literally! 😂

Why I probably won’t be going back to CrossFit…at least not in South Africa

Integrity. It’s one of the first things that people mentioned when I first heard about CrossFit almost six years ago. A sport where you’re given crazy workouts, where regardless of how long it takes you to finish the wod (workout of the day) your pride is in the honest effort you gave. I drank the CrossFit Kool-aid and I loveeeed it!!! It was refreshing to be part of a sport where women were encouraged to be strong. A sport that on a larger scale, pays female athletes just as much as male athletes. Equality in almost every sense of the word, I say almost because until recently there was very little representation from minority groups in CrossFit but slowly, I do believe it’s going to get better.

This post is inspired by a blood boiling moment I’ve just had at this lovely hour of the night, 23:54 to be precise, triggered by suddenly noticing that a few members from my old box who in truth were more the owners friends than mine, suddenly unfollowed me on insta. Meanwhile I was there merrily tagging them in posts 😂 These individuals for me have tarnished the love I once had for CrossFit as a community sport. In a South African context, I am about 99% sure that I will not be returning to a CrossFit box anytime soon…covid-19 lockdown or not!

About six or so months ago, the box that I was training at suddenly closed. The worst part about it was hearing from other members that the owners didn’t want to say anything because they didn’t want to lose people’s money. The timing of it was horrid for us as members who now had to scramble to find a box that felt like the home we thought we had. In addition to that, being billed for membership when you haven’t been to the box for 3 months while nursing your injury, is the d*ck move that I just didn’t see coming. As members, it left a bad taste in our mouths. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m over the drama but I’m also not, you feel me?

Here’s the thing that’s unique about CrossFit, you’re encouraged more than any other sport that I’ve ever watched, or partaken in, to make connections with the people who will see you shed blood, sweat, and tears, for the 5, sometimes 6 days that you’re there. How real those connections are varies, I know people who’ve met their partners through CrossFit. I also know people who have had their hearts broken through CrossFit. When you really buy into a box, and (sadly) believe the owners care as much as you do, it’s as though you’re seeing ‘la vie en rose,’ a little bit of naïvety, blind faith, and trust in your coach, that the box will always be there.

I think those three traits are reasons why a lot of members are blindsided when they’re kept in the dark about major changes or say in my case, the closure of a box that had become such an integral part of their life. As I detox from this CrossFit breakup I realise now why I can never again join a box in South Africa, I will always see every box owner as more interested in having my money in their back pocket, as opposed to wanting to improve my health markers. I kinda understand the shakeup at CrossFit HQ that Greg Glassman did. It was to remind boxes of what the purpose of CrossFit is, not just forging elite fitness but forging elite health as well. The CrossFit formula only works if you have a coach who is more passionate about improving health markers of his members, than enriching the health markers of his back pocket. It’s always interesting to me how a lot of people will forget to keep the main thing, the main thing when money is involved. It’s not to say that you can live on passion alone because Lord knows if I was just passionate about my job but never pursued excellence in it, I’d never be able to afford my favourite NARS and Chanel makeup items 😂(silly moment there!)

For a long time I held my tongue on writing about this issue because y’all I am trying to be a great Christian, you know: love God, love people? But the people, Lord your people are making it so darn hard for this girl to stay on the narrow road that leads to heaven 🤦🏽‍♀️ I’ve always said that my blog would be reflective of all seasons of my life, and I didn’t think I wanted to post on this issue because of how messy and unresolved it still is, but as I continue to be confronted with duplicitous behaviour from people who are so far from having integrity, it is truly all I can do to write this post and not put any names in. Even though the petty Patty in me wants to put names in… I won’t and trust me it’s not because I don’t want to 🙈🙉🙊

The moral of the story is this: think twice, and then a third time before you join a box started by a friend 😂 it’s not that I’m saying don’t support your friends’ new ventures, I’m just saying if it’s a box, girl!!! You better stay away because you’d be surprised at how much mediocre coaching you’ll put up with when it’s your ‘friends’ box! 🙈

Shout out to Fit 5ive/CrossFit 4E for giving me some really good years of CrossFit before this doozy. Most importantly, shout out to my sister who is less petty than I am, I have zero respect for people who mess with someone else’s hustle. You know who you are. Anyhoo you live and you learn peeps! #throwingshade.

Le Féminin

On this International Women’s Day (8th March 2020) I think of what the Duchess of Sussex said on her visit to Robert Clack Upper School in Dagenham on the 6th March 2020, ‘you have your mother’s, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life, protect them.’ So often the directive for women empowerment is geared towards women. It’s time for this message of empowerment to shift towards men.

I live in South Africa, a country where being female has for many years felt like an extreme sport. Last year, University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana was brutally murdered and raped when she went to pick up a parcel at the post office. The fact that such a heinous crime was committed in broad daylight (around 14pm) in an area that many of us frequent, is what made her death even more shocking. Every rape in South Africa, to the women of this country, is more than just another statisitic. As women, we’re told not to walk alone late at night, we’re told not to wear revealing clothing, we’re told to have just the right level of sweetness combined with firmness when we’re catcalled. The message that we get is to be accommodating to men. What if men were taught to be feminists, advocating the rights of women without looking out for their own selfish gain.

I think of Jesus, so ahead of His time when He dared to speak to the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) during a period of time when speaking to women was taboo because of the second class citizens they were thought to be. A man who spoke to women the way He saw them; treasured, intelligent, valuable, and with as important of a role to play as man ever could. When Jesus rose from the dead, the first people to see Him were women. If it weren’t for the women in our lives who have made an impact, where would we be?

On this international women’s day, I hope that you are reminded of your strength and tenacity as a woman. I hope you are able to remember that regardless of how the world seeks to break you, it never will be able to extinguish the fiery flame in you. Happy international women’s day to all you lovely, strong, and breathtaking women.

C’est fort, une femme

Quand on nous blesse et nous accable, on n’se plaint pas

Quand on nous laisse, que tout l’monde part, on reste là

Avec les restes, on reconstruit, on est comme ça

C’est ça, une femme

Vitaa & Slimane- XY

Things to do under lockdown…

I was going to title this post ‘5 things to do under lockdown’ but this is just under five, and ‘4 things to do under lockdown’, doesn’t quite have the same ring. The alternative was ‘4 things to do while social distancing, but that’s quite the mouthful. So here we are with ‘things to do under lockdown.’

1. Get your nails did.

I’m not usually one to go the nail salon, mainly because of past experience with nail technicians who ask WAY too many questions with WAY too little knowledge of me. So I switched to press on nails. They’re cheap, easily replaced and as we practice social distancing, it’s the best way to keep your hands in tip top condition.

Nail colour is ‘Sand Tropez’ by Essie.

I bought the KISS long stiletto nails when I was in the U.K. from Boots, but it’s also available at Dischem and Clicks. I buy most of my toiletries from Dischem because for some odd reason, Clicks hike up the price of all their toiletries by like ZAR30, I’ve done the market research. At Dischem the nails retail for R149.95, while at Clicks they retail for R169… do the Math!

Kiss 100 Nails Long Stiletto

2. Learn a new skill, even if it’s as simple as making Dalgona coffee.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not the biggest fan of coffee mainly because of how caffeine sensitive I am. I found this recipe on the Los Angeles Times after @milktpapi posted it on his feed. I knew I had to try it and it was a huge success. I’ve never really understood iced coffee but this was deliciousa! I substituted coconut sugar instead of regular sugar and used almond milk to make this completely vegan friendly.

3. Eat ice-cream!

This part is important because one does not simply go into lockdown without the necessary supplies and the new rule is that calories don’t count when you’re social distancing. If calories don’t count you have to go for the best and nothing is better than Häagen Dazs salted caramel. I had a pint for breakfast, nuff’ said folks!

4. Exercise

While it might seem tempting to stay in bed all day. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is exercise. It boosts your immune system and also releases endorphins, which I’m sure you’ll agree, we all need right now! I did the above workout and not only did I work up a sweat but I had fun too!

So that’s my list of 4 things to do while social distancing. What’s on your list?

The problem with COVID-19

I didn’t want to write about COVID-19 because unless you’ve been hiding underneath a rock, or are on Big Brother Germany, you will have read at least half an article…or more on this disease that has for the time being, changed the way we connect with each other.

Just in case you have no idea what COVID-19 is and why it’s called COVID-19, here’s a short-as-it-can-be, summary. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, a.k.a. SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent for COVID-19. The virus is genetically similar but different, to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003. Coronaviruses are so named because microscopically, these viruses have a spiky edge that looks like a crown. Coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19 is a therefore the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The virus is responsible for causing respiratory illness with symptoms identical to the flu such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. As of today, the most affected country second to China where it was discovered, is Italy. In addition to this, as scientists learn more about this virus, a few things have been established:

1. While there is no vaccine, the global population will have to practice responsible methods of isolation and quarantine in order to minimize the spread of the disease.

2. The most at risk groups are the elderly and individuals with a compromised immune system. Therefore the measures that we take now are not just to protect ourselves but to protect a population of people with underlying immune illnesses who may only find this out in the midst of this pandemic.

When I first heard of COVID-19, I had to repeat to myself countless times, ‘do not panic.’ As the disease started to spread throughout Europe, I felt paranoia and anxiety creeping in as I thought about my husband who lives in the U.K. My anxiety levels were not helped by the the fact that in 2 weeks my husband was due to fly to South Africa. Prior to the president of South Africa announcing travel bans, I woke up on most days with a sick feeling in my stomach. The closer the disease got to South Africa, the more anxious I felt. Not necessarily because of the effect it would have on me, but the effect it could have on my parents, the effect it could have on a very large portion of the South Africa population who have a co-infection of HIV and the respiratory illness that IS the leading cause of death in South Africa, TB. At 29, (soon to be 30) I’m on the lower end of the spectrum but my social recklessness could lead to someone who isn’t in the low-risk category potentially contracting an illness that could be detrimental.

I am appalled at how people are increasingly revealing the inner racist/xenophobic moron (soz there’s no other word) that lives in them. In the early days of the virus, I saw a post on FaceBook illustrating Chinese people locked in a cage, while being laughed at by animals. Recently with Donald Trump referring to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’, I am realising that common sense, and intelligence is really not that common after all. There is a time and place to advocate for animal rights and the legislation that should be there to protect them. There is a time and place for lighthearted joking. When a disease has a death rate of ~3.6% with severe illness in 16% of all cases, you’ve got to activate the switch in your brain that rings loudly to tell you that NOW IS NOT THE TIME!!!

The problem with COVID-19 isn’t that we haven’t found a vaccine for it. The problem with COVID-19 is that people are using a global crisis to spew out the vitriol that is embedded in their hearts. If you’re wondering whether there is ever a time to be a racist moron…guess what? There never was a time. Furthermore, if I catch you on MY timeline spreading your moronic behaviour, I will not hesitate in reporting you, and then swiftly proceed to block you! If you have to ask yourself whether a post may be received as racist…it probably is!

As we are called on by leaders in our countries to exercise social responsibility, it is important that we heed to the measures being put into place. What does social responsibility look like? I’m glad you asked! Social responsibility means washing your hands due to the amazing ability (some people are only discovering now), that soap has to destroy the lipid layer of the virus, thereby preventing infection. Social responsibility looks a lot like coughing or sneezing into your bent elbow because COVID-19 can be present in the small liquid droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, which may contain infectious virus material. If you’re on the receiving end of someone coughing in an uncouth way, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease. Social responsibility looks A LOT like giving a damn not just because of how it can affect you, BUT most importantly the effect that your actions could have on others, and in the grand scheme of things, the economy. We are ALL responsible for what the world will look like post COVID-19.

As we tackle this pandemic, the spread of fake news cannot be ignored. My advice: IF you’re going to read anything, go to reputable sources: The World Health Organization, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). For the love of all things holy, stop reading articles from unreliable sources, stop using this pandemic as a reason for your racist illiterate traits. And please, listen to the people with the science degrees who ACTUALLY know what they’re talking about!

References:

Baud D, Qi X, Nielsen-Saines K et al. Real estimates of mortality following COVID-19 infection. The Lancet Infectious Diseases (2020)

Guan W, Ni Z, Hu Y et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. The New England Journal of Medicine (2020)

Ng O, Marimuthu K, Chia P et al. SARS-CoV-2 Infection among Travelers Returning from Wuhan, China. The New England Journal of Medicine (2020)

World Health Organization. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV): situation report – 12. February 2020 (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200201-sitrep-12-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=273c5d35_2. opens in new tab).

Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

Arvo at Selfridges

I was 17 when I first stepped into Selfridges. Fresh faced and not as wise as I am now, I was a couple of weeks into my degree in London when I walked into the most magical place on Earth.

My first purchase was a paid of £80 thigh highs boots that I definitely did not need but they fulfilled every ‘Pretty Woman’ fantasy that I’d had about thigh high boots completing an outfit.

Selfridges was where I discovered French luxury makeup brand NARS. My love for NARS has remained along with other brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Chanel. All of which I discovered at Selfridges. It’s my favourite place to do a spot of shopping when I really want to treat myself and I can’t wait for one day in the future, to have a girl that will love shopping at Selfridges as much as I do.

2020, Let’s Do This!

Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.

joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘

The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.

2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!

Pregnant or Fat?

I’m going through a crappy period with my weight and it’s hard not to get down on myself, especially when everyone keeps asking if I’m pregnant 🤰🏽 I’m not, I’ve just gained weight. I’m on a solid reset plan that involves zero sugar and mostly veg. So far so good, BUT it’s tough. I looked at my body today and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. There’s the quiet voice from my bulimic days that sometimes taunts me. My plan is to see a nutritionist and find out how I can potentially do plant based eating alongside long distance running and CrossFit. Right now I am being as gentle as I can be with myself while on this new journey of bettering myself and shedding a few kilos. Choosing to go on a health kick during the festive season is probably not the best idea 🤦🏾‍♀️.