“I want nothing but the best for myself and those I care about. I constantly go above and beyond to assist those around me to become the greatest versions of themselves. I’m quite proud of what I have been able to accomplish in my life, thus far”.
What s this all about you may ask? This is the story of Tshepo Aphane, a 24-year-old Biochemistry Master’s student at SMU, who graduated with his Honours degree during the recent graduations. To say that his has not been an easy life would be an understatement.
Tshepo’s life as he puts it…
“is a collection of memories, some good and some not so great, but these moments have shaped me into the person I am today, and I don’t regret anything that has happened. I consider myself to be a strong and driven individual. I have big ambitions for the world and I am prepared to put in the effort to make those dreams a reality. My motives are inherited from my family, notably my late mother, whom I, still, adore”. I am an optimist who is also practical. My mother taught me that we live in a continuously changing world, and that in order to succeed, I must have the capacity to adapt and adjust to this changing world, but more significantly, I must prepare myself to succeed.
The story that is my life-Tshepo!
Happiness and delight flooded my mother’s heart on a Tuesday morning at 02h30 on the 23 September 1997. That was my birthday! I was born in Themba Hospital in Kabokweni Village, Mpumalanga. My mother had only one child, me. I have never met my father. However, my mother lived and treated me with so much love. She had been through a lot to get to where she was before she passed away. In my eyes she succeeded in life; and I dare say, against the odds. She was a fantastic cook, a head chef at a hospital in Fourways and many other restaurants before then; who enjoyed cooking for us at home. This is most likely where my interest in cooking comes from. Without mentioning my grandma, gogo Morongwe, my story would be incomplete. I consider myself fortunate that she is still a big part of my life and has taken on the role of a mother after my mother’s passing; like the rest of the family, she is kind.
Tshepo’s story is as touching is it is interesting
“It’s been a long path for me, from losing my mother when I was 14 years old to staying alone at my mother’s house a year later. I recall, at one point, my school shoes having a hole underneath them. I had to put a piece of paper in before wearing them to make sure that stones do not prick me as I walked. I ‘d sometimes go to sleep hungry. I pushed through everything that was going on, completing my Matric with relatively excellent results, but due to a lack of funds, I had to take a gap year in 2016, in which I found a job. That gave me a perspective of some sort to the life I wanted to live.
Finally, I made it to the university. I thought my troubles were over, but to my surprise, university came with its problems; adjusting to this new world, balancing between school and everything else, found myself even repeating a module, which was a serious wake up call, “reality checks is how I paid for my mistakes”.
I decided to take everything serious, to be intentional, and to be present. I’m not saying life is amazing now but it’s good that I’m able to juggle everything life throws my way, with a smile on my face.”
I am sure that there are many stories similar to that of Tshepo. It just shows that SMU is not just about getting degrees, but giving hope and a future to the many Tshepos whose futures would have been destroyed by circumstances beyond their control.
Tshepo’s story is one of the many reasons why the recent SMU graduations are of extreme significance.
I am sure there are many Tshepos who formed part of the recent graduations. If given the chance, they, probably, would write stories of how they conquered adversity to finally attain their qualifications. How do they do it? Once may ask.
As Tshepo concluded,
“We need discipline and, above all, have an unwavering desire to face challenges as they arise. One of the finest ways to characterize my existence is as “a continuing piece of art.” I learned that we are the architects of our lives, the artists of our own destiny, through work, devotion, and determination. Every path we choose or do not take has an influence on our existence and leaves a trail like a shooting star in the night sky; the beauty of the trail is totally dependent on the nature of our actions in life.