There are some life-changing experiences that don’t come to us as grand and over-glamorised moments of realisation, but rather over time, through modest reflection. My experience of living in Jo’burg while working for AWAKE can be thought of as something along these lines. Touching down in Johannesburg, I had no idea what to expect from the 2 months that I was about to spend here. And although I’m the kind of person who likes to plan ahead and ‘be prepared’, I was actually quite excited that I had no idea what I had signed up for.
After a few initial days of road-tripping for shoots and settling in, we were introduced to our internship task for the next 8 weeks. I had learnt about the UN SDGs while studying Geography A Level but being able to create a video series about Goal 3, Good Health & Wellbeing, was never something I had really envisaged myself doing. Researching, scripting and exploring the city to film our transitional shots begun to form a sort of routine. But it was the type of routine where you don’t really have a routine; one day I’d be out filming in the townships of Soweto, and the next day I’d be writing a script on a regular office day in, with our meditation session at noon. I’ve always known I’m not meant for the monotonous 9-5s, so I loved that there was always an element of spontaneity and room to explore the city and its’ culture on field trips outside of the four walls of the office.
Even though I’ve always loved photography, I never really had the time to pursue it professionally. While working for AWAKE, I was lucky enough to be able to learn more about professional camera gear thanks to a great mentor Saket, who taught me so much about both photography and filming. What made this invaluable was that I was encouraged to go out and film for my colleagues, through which I gained both interest and confidence, especially in filming. It’s incredible working with people who actually want to see you grow, who go the extra mile, helping you to experiment and customise your experience according to your interests.
Living and working with so many young people who radiated nothing but positive energy and embodied a true passion for making a change was nothing short of inspiring. Walking into the office every morning was something I looked forward to. Working after hours became something I did because I loved what I was doing, and the vision of what I was working towards. I celebrated two of my favourite festivals, Navratri and Diwali, away from home for the first time, but they were both memorable experiences with a new family.
I believe that engaging with the vision of AWAKE came at the right time for me. It was a reminder that as young people, we have more power to change ourselves and our world than we think possible. We’re often so blinded by the stresses of adhering to a ‘normal’ life- succeeding academically, getting a well-paid job and ‘settling down’ in life, that we end up settling for a life in which we lose our passions, and choose money.
Sharing a few words on a blog post can’t express what I’m taking away from here. I guess I can say I’ve managed to rediscover the part of me that got increasingly lost as the stresses of studying took over. I was able to reconnect with and actually do something for issues that I feel passionately about, while travelling to and living in a new place.