Winnie’s Year 2021 in Review- What’s been keeping me?

The year 2021 was A LOT in many ways. A lot of highs, many lows and everything in between. Ah, it’s quite unbelievable that it’s December, 2021( by the time I upload this post it is January, 2022!!!). How did we get here? My year has been so fast and slow at the same time. It’s been extreme in so many ways I am only beginning to grasp it (ha!).

The cake I had for my graduation party
The cake we had for my graduation party

The Ups

So what have been some of my highlights?

The Graduation

Of course, graduating is no small feat. But graduating in the middle of a pandemic after years of trying to finish the degree is even harder. I graduated with an MSc in Occupational Health and Safety on 17th December, 2021. My thesis was on “Occupational injuries among artisanal and small-scale gold miners in Rosterman, Kakamega County” . I planned a whole party to celebrate this achievement with family and friends.

Me in my graduation gown
Me in my graduation gown

I had a jolly good time. It was one thing I looked forward to at the end of the year.

International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021

The theme for IWD 2021 was “ I choose to challenge”. I was part of an organising committee for this celebration at work. Even more, I got to speak on a panel discussing the different things that as women we chose to challenge. For me it was a delight to share how I challenged the stereotypes of women travelling the world alone or sometimes in the company of men.

My colleagues and I (far right) on the IWD panel
My colleagues and I (far right) on the IWD panel

New Phone, Snapping through Maasai Mara Trip

I went to the Maasai Mara National Reserve (park?) with my friends, Dorry and Maggie. We dubbed it “Girls trip”. It was my first time to be on a trip since COVID19 started, it was the first time for all of us to visit the Mara and it was my first time to ever see a giraffe and elephant. Dorry and Maggie couldn’t believe that I have never actually seen a giraffe. We had such a good tour guide, and that made the park visit so memorable as he managed to get us to witness the wildebeest migration, the 8th wonder of the world. That trip had good vibes all round, a much needed break and I took so many photos (Dorry was that inspired by you ?)

The Phone that I used to take so many photos was the Samsung S21 which I was gifted by my employer as we celebrated the 5th Year anniversary. I love this phone because of the pictures it takes! Nyasaye! This gift really coincided with me getting an Instagram account so I was pretty jazzed. While receiving that gift, I couldn’t help but reflect how much blood, sweat and tears it has taken for me to build a whole health and safety section from scratch. I know there’s so much to be done , but so much has been done already and I celebrate that!

Dorcas, Maggie and I outside one of the Maasai Mara National Park entrances.
Dorcas, Maggie and I outside one of the Maasai Mara National Park entrances.
Wildebeest migration ongoing
Wildebeest migration ongoing

Family and Friendships: Milestones and Life

If there’s something that solidified for me in 2021, is that life is a balance of all things work, family, friends, moments. In instances when you feel time has frozen, there are other things that need your presence, your attention. Good thing is I had a couple of things that were celebratory and they were quite the breather. I attended and danced in 2 weddings, video calls about the first car and eventually getting to ride in the car , a big work breakthrough (new job, new opportunities), grateful for health, my mum visiting us in the city, birthdays, bridal shower, baby showers, dates, new restaurant experiences. There were pockets of joy all round and I was always glad to experience those.

A mural painted at the Nairobi Railway Museum where I had gone for a date in September
A mural painted at the Nairobi Railway Museum where I had gone for a date in September

I also revisited some family relationships that had gone cold, because life happens? And deepened my existing friendships and am oh so glad that I had the opportunity to be a friend to a couple of people.

Gym, Wellness

I started going to the gym in March. It was my second time ever being in the gym since 2014. I was keen on starting weight lifting so I was pretty excited. Unfortunately I took a break in April after my schedule got jumbled up and wasn’t able to go back until September. From then on I tried to at least do a minimum of 3 days a week for the next 3 months. It was a very rewarding experience for my mental health and my physical health too. The weight lifting was and still is my highlight( despite the minor injury on my wrist that I am still recovering from). Why is it a highlight? I never thought I could, BUT I DID!!!!

During one of my gym sessions
During one of my gym sessions

Going for therapy was also a key highlight in my year, as I am very keen on holistic wellbeing. I have experienced therapy before but it was interesting to be in this space with someone else combing through our strengths and blind spots( Dr. Gotman fans are you here?).

Occupational Health and Safety Conferences

In 2019, I submitted a fellowship grant application to attend The World Congress on Safety and Health at Work. I was delighted when my application was accepted and looked forward to travelling to Canada for this. But guess what? The pandemic had other things in store for my plans. So the conference ended up being held virtually in September, 2021. I got to listen in on various topics like integration of people with disability in the world of work, research on sexual violence among low income earners, safety leadership and so much more.

In the spirit of continued love for research I also submitted another application to attend the 33rd 33rd International Congress on Occupational Health (ICOH 2022) and make an oral presentation on my research work in artisanal mining. I got the news that my presentation has been accepted and subsequently awarded a grant to attend the conference!!! Again, the rona aka the pandemic has ensured I will not get to travel to Melbourne, Australia for this( how unfortunate). But I am so glad to be part of continued knowledge sharing experiences.

I did experience some lows too in the year 2021 and honestly in my current understanding of the duality of life is that you can experience joy and sadness all at the same time.

The Lows

Grief. Grief.

Dr. Sindi. Prof. Nadia, Bella Robi, I have mourned these people who I wasn’t very close to but I knew so much about them and had connected so many lives in their individual time while alive. It was surreal seeing Dr. Sindi’s death being tweeted. She had just turned 45. I watched her memorial from start to finish. Afterwards, I went for a date with my friend Nana and I had a glass of bubbly in her honour. She loved a glass of bubbly. For Bella, it was surreal to have her sister Ivy, texting us that “Bella has passed away”. Ivy is my friend and we had shared so much about Bella’s life. The days that followed were spent wondering if I would die this young and discovering that we had very many common friends who were close to be Bella like Vero. Her memorial and funeral was very emotional and to date I have a “pin on picture” of her on my desk. She is my guiding light to navigate the workplace at a young age. She had just celebrated her 30th Birthday. Scrolling through twitter I came across a retweet from Prof Nadia about her end of life care. I got curious and begun to follow her. My goodness, watching someone live-tweet her last days on earth was unbelievable. And she did this with so much grace. Prof. Nadia bravely fought and defeated Ovarian cancer, as she put it , it’s the medicine that didn’t work. She was 43 years old.

Questions?

In this same year I found myself questioning my career path, my worthiness based on my work and it was quite a roller coaster figuring all that out.

Sickness

In this year too, one of my siblings had a very traumatic accident, another underwent surgery, I had friends admitted in hospital, my friends lost their loved ones, and one of my aunties lost her daughter. Going through all this required so much mental fortitude and I am glad to be seeing a new year! I also contracted Covid19, but experienced what I would classify as moderate symptoms. The fatigue, the headaches and joint pains were like nothing I have experienced before. The researcher in me has obviously gone on overdrive to read more about immune response, virology etc given that I had 2 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

So that’s all for the 2021 recap. Happy new year 2022. May you be met with a ray of sunshine for every dark cloud that comes your way!!!

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Winnie Rabera

Educator|| Social and internet Justice enthusiast||Multidisciplinary scholar||- Currently churning out knowledge in occupational health|| Mozilla contributor.