Keep calm and carrion!

It has been a long while since I’ve written, half a year to be exact! It is really scary how swiftly time passes by, and how so much can change in so little time. The girl I was then wouldn’t recognize Merlyn today.

“All this time I was finding myself but I didn’t know I was lost” ~AVICII~

I have wanted to write, however, I had too many stories to share and did not know how, I realised I had to take the journey to myself first. I didn’t really consciously realise this, so I will not take the credit for that, but my subconscious mind must have known I needed it. I have metamorphosed, but my constant has been and still is my love for and the peace I get from birds. I am glad I can start sharing with you again and walk the rest of the journey with you. Being a young lady (not sure how long I can call myself that haha!) in science isn’t the easiest thing yet, unfortunately, and so many challenges plague us women, most of whom we haven’t gotten yet the space to discuss freely and openly.

Life to me, in my eyes, has always been simple in interpretation. A lot of people who know me might argue with this because I am an anxious overthinker but essentially when it comes to what one is and can achieve in life, its always been that simple. I have always thought if you can think of it, you can achieve it regardless of who or what you are! Not the ‘think positive thoughts and affirmations’ kind of thinking, but the I can achieve whatever I put my mind to with hard work and dedication. To me having a dream is an obligation to making sure you live it. I did not think that even with the best laid plans, things could go horribly “wrong”/chaotic/out of plan and you’re left just in awe of how little of your life you have significant power over.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

The Holy Bible

Loss

It is hard to talk about this in science circles, it is almost like, ” Ok and so? What has it got to do with the greater problems we have on the planet?” or “Why are you telling us this?” But we experience loss too, in different forms and extents and it can impact our careers immensely. We suffer loss in the work we do, loss in faith especially faith in the human race and faith in that we are contributing significantly, we suffer loss of relationships (at times life is so blunt, it is either your career or a certain relationship friendship, love or family), we suffer loss of good collegues (conflict or other things) and one of the greatest losses you can feel, the loss of opportunity to impact or pursue your passions. It is sad none of these losses are even spoken about openly, we just talk openly about how we lost data to a broken hard-drive and thats it. We need to make it ok to openly and honestly be human and express loss and grief and hurt and then continue being ourselves.

Towards the end of last year I experienced great loss, loss of important people, one of them being my friend Alf Rewin. I met Alf exactly a year ago in South Africa, on a Southern Ground-Hornbill Species Management planning workshop for South Africa, run by Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project and SANBI. Alf was a volunteer at the time and we stayed in Pretoria Zoo (an absolutely amazing time!). He was just the kindest, most gentle and colourful soul I’d ever met. Sometime in November, I learnt that my friend Alf had taken his life, he wasn’t going to come back to Africa again (like he had planned to in a few weeks) and pursue his new found love and salvation that was Ground-hornbill conservation. Death is so final, but suicide is worse, you feel such an immense guilt along with the desperate feeling of how final it is. My last text to Alf had been,” I just wanted to check on how you’re doing” at times it makes me feel better that I was a good friend and I tried, at times horrible that I never checked again because he didn’t respond and I never texted when I thought of it a few days before he died.

Another loss I experienced was an opportunity, a great opportunity in fact. I was supposed to start my masters in January this year at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology in the Conservation Biology class of 2019. It all began with losses in funding opportunities, but when I was offered a place into this prestigious course I was reassured that with or without the money I could do it, I had set my mind on this course since my final year as an undergraduate and this was my chance to do it against all the odds. So I stayed positive, looked for funding in every nook and cranny, saved on every Rand (South African Rand) and started packing my life. Then in just the most unlikeliset fashion, my country had a week long shutdown on the week I was due to begin my course, a week also vital for the progress of my visa.

At this point I understood nothing, nothing of why things were that way and what tommorow would bring. The shutdown was very violent in my city Bulawayo and Harare and on the first day of class, I was driving across town in a panic with my mother to get my brothers of school at 9am as the violence had started. My dad and his workmates were lucky to make it out of their shop after being trapped by protesters and tear gas being thrown at everyone on the streets. And all the while I was imagining the orientation program line up that I was missing out on at the Fitz. For the rest of the week, we were stuck at home, afraid to step out, there was a srong military presence and reports of brutality. For most of the week we were disconnected from the world without internet but lucky enough, before it all began, I had downloaded course materials and could pretend to myself that I too was in class with the others, and I would be very soon.

When it all ended and life went back to normal for everyone (business and the public) almost two weeks later, my visa was still not issued. I had such a dilemma, I was late for classes and would need to leave the minute my visa was issued, but when would that be? So, I laid my suitcases out and started packing (I was going to be moving my whole life to Cape Town), I was doubtful at this point but I could not slack on getting ready to go. Soon enough I found out that it wasn’t just me, but 100s of other Zimbabwean students were also having problems getting their visas from the South African Embassy so much so they were staging protests in Harare. Long story short, my visa delay dragged on so long, my classmates were almost on to the 5th module and I had to call it quits, I was not going to be able to catch up. Suddenly…

I could not do anything and had no strength left in me at all

To many that knew I had to defer my studies, it was just that, an unfortunate situation of delayed opportunity. But to those that know me and the journey I’ve been on these past 6 months, it was one loss to many. To me, it was the last straw, a loss of my escape and reinvention, at this point I felt I only had my life left to lose. Does all this make sense to you? How easy is it to express these emotions in your professional space? It is a wonder of nature how everything living can at its worst point of destruction, reboot and blossom again. I guess, just how the planet may have rebooted after mass extinction events and how it just might continue without us when we’ve destroyed everything that makes it habitable for us.
Order out of chaos~ Ordo ab chao

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