Embracing Uncertainty: A Transformative Journey with the OAD Office

By Joyful Mdhluli, OAD Fellow

June has been an overwhelming month for me. Joining the OAD office has been the highlight of my year so far, but as with any new adventure, it brought its fair share of uncertainties. I often chuckle at the irony of having the uncertainty principle tattooed on my wrist, as it reflects my perpetual uncertainty about where I stand in life. This perception was truly challenged on June 21st when the team embarked on a trip to Sutherland.

The trip was a mix of excitement and overwhelm, especially as the newest member of the team. I found myself questioning how I would fit in, with doubts echoing louder in my mind. While I would love to regale you with the details of the drive to Sutherland, I must confess that I am notorious for dozing off in moving vehicles, leaving me with little to share.

Initially, I was skeptical about how much I could gain from such a tightly scheduled trip. However, by the time I saw the itinerary, it was too late to reconsider. Fortunately, the schedule included watching the sunset and sunrise the following morning.

As a devoted fan of sunsets, one of my favorite quotes by Beau Taplin rings true: “Sunsets are proof that endings can often be beautiful too.” But what I discovered beneath the night sky, free from light pollution, surpassed any sunset experience. It unveiled a breathtaking beginning—an awe-inspiring journey that required being in the right place at the right time.

Inside a colossal planetarium, I witnessed something beyond comprehension. Seeing the galaxy with my own eyes, aided by the lenses of my glasses, left an indelible imprint in my memory. While I learned about our galaxy in school and caught glimpses of it during my university years, I never imagined I would witness its grandeur in such proximity.

In that moment, amidst the vastness of the galaxy, I experienced a paradox. I knew precisely where I was in the universe, yet gazing at the sky, I felt both insignificance and a profound sense of belonging. Uncertainty melted away, replaced by serenity. Though fleeting, this profound experience left an everlasting impact within me.

This journey allowed me to understand the profound intentions of the OAD office while also acknowledging the immense task ahead. I eagerly look forward to contributing my part to this amazing team.

Just last year, I had the privilege of having an article published in Physics Today and Physics World. In it, I wrote, “It’s a joy to explore the endless possibilities that physics brings, all while learning, mentoring, and being mentored myself. And when I finally complete my PhD in physics, I look forward to the beautifully uncertain future that it will bring.” I can confidently say that this journey has been, and will continue to be, nothing short of beautiful.