[TW: mention of death, loss, mental illness]
It’s January 2020 and my stress and anxiety levels are in a constant competition to outdo each other. I had just completed my final year of university at the end of 2019 and was now at home job hunting and praying, panicking and praying, very depressed but was still praying.
For me, the panic kicked in on the Monday after graduating with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies, and isiXhosa. I woke up in a panic that morning because it had just dawned upon me that come the 30th of November 2019, I would be an unemployed graduate so the job hunting began.
I would make sure that I applied for at least five jobs a week. With my busy schedule as an Honour’s student, a Sub-Warden, a Tutor, Teaching Assistant and Hairdresser, five applications a week was a miracle. I had so much on my plate because I wanted to make sure that I capitalised on each and every opportunity that came my way, and I did. I was great at all my jobs, I even managed to bag a few awards at the end of the year because of my outstanding performance, but nothing ever entirely felt like it was enough.
I recall feeling like I had hit a brick wall when I realised that my student debt was yet another obstacle that I had to overcome. My alma mater was in no way helpful and the money I was making was no longer enough to cover the expenses that came with insisting on studying further even though I had no prospects of funding for that year, a decision that I will never regret.
Eight months later the hard work, sweat, literal blood and tears paid off. I got a call for an interview from one of the biggest newsrooms in country. I was shaking throughout the call and couldn’t believe my ears. Straight after that call, I cried my eyes out and thanked God for answering the prayers that I had been praying for months, and particularly that morning. Besides being unemployed and in desperate need of a job and a promise of survival, I was going through the most mentally. The anniversary of my late mothers death was coming up and my mental health was hanging on by a strand of hair. Fickle in reality, while having to be strong on the outside.
Might I add that this was now my second job offer, but the first one that actually counted. The first offer required me to settle my student debt of more than R60 000 and still cough up close to half of that amount for student registration and tuition for the year. So even though I was pleased to have this as an option, it was also a rude reminder of my bleak reality in relation to my dreams to carry on in the world of academia.
According to the call with the man who was soon to become my boss, I was to be flied up to Johannesburg for a full day of an interviewing process that was made up of 12 potential intern graduates for a programme that could only accommodate 10.
And so the day came. A lot happened between me receiving that call and me sitting in a conference room in front of the other candidates listening to their story pitches, nervously awaiting my turn. This was everything that I had been praying for, I was well prepared and even had some familiar faces around me that were rooting for me. It was a gruelling day, not because of the interviewing process but because of the fact that I was so tired. I was tired on the inside and was so desperate for it to all work out. My mental health was still fickle and I was so stressed that my period even started at the end of that interview day.
Left: Photo’s were taken at the end of the interview process.
Credit: Modiegi Mashamaite
I recall sipping on some red wine on my flight back to East London, thinking to myself that even if the job did not work out, I had tried my best and that was enough for me. Do not get me wrong, I really needed this job, but I was also extremely proud of myself for making the cut. According to the interviewing panel, there were more than 500 applicants, and knowing that my application stood out for them gave me hope. So much hope.
Fast forward to a week later and I got the call I had been so nervously waiting for, me Amina Deka Asma got the job and was due to fly back to Johannesburg to commence my internship in less than three weeks! It all finally paid off and I had myself to thank for sticking it all out. I never gave up on myself and getting this job was so affirming. I did not take it for granted that I managed to get a job the very next year after graduating, at one of the biggest newsrooms in the country within my field of study. A dream come true, if you ask me.
Like my fellow interns across the country, I started my job on the brink of a pandemic that no one really sufficiently predicted. Not many people knew how much it would change our lives as we know them and the world around us. I for one, only got to spend a period of two months in the office, and worked from home for the rest of year. Not only did this sudden transition affect my work ethic, my psyche, and my holistic experience of my first year of work, but it also had a huge impact on my general outlook on life.
Within less than two months of lockdown I was tired of being an essential worker. I no longer wanted to be the intern reporter/journalist who had to come up with something to write on a daily basis, I slowly but surely grew to hate my job. As time went on I even grew tired of my colleagues, my housemates and my living space. Like many other people, I was tired of the pandemic and I did not have the choice to take a break and detach from everything.
By June, I realised that I hated working in the fast news industry. I often questioned myself as to whether me having studied Journalism was the right choice. I doubted myself in everyway possible and the nature of my work as well as the work environment did not help at all. An array of things happened that I will not mention for the respect of my previous workplace and for my own protection. Being surrounded by the news of so much death, gloom and sadness affected me so badly and I didn’t feel like I had a choice out of it. I constantly felt like I was not allowed to complain because I was an essential worker according to the National State of Disaster. My job was essential and I had absolutely so say in this.
On the days when getting out of bed became a mission, I would like there and fantasise about what my next work experience would be like, but would quickly be reminded of my reality. At one stage I recall being so tired of working in the news world that I researched other career fields that I could potentially enter, from being an Au Pair to a Personal Assistant, anything and everything was a lot more appealing than what I was doing.
But at least one good thing came out of it all. I got a chance to work within the news industry and because of that, I now know that I never want to work in it again. At least not anytime soon. Thank you to God and my faithful ancestors, I no longer work in the fast news world. My journalistic love, passion and interest has been restored and I am slowly but surely working towards a point where I fully believe in myself and my capabilities again.