VP Zahra interviews Cherith Brooks, a scientist, sustainable business owner and an amazing human being.
Interview by Zahra Khan - VP Diversity & Wellbeing
Zahra - Today I spoke with Cherith, a strong dedicated woman with the most calming vibes. I felt truly inspired after speaking to her and managed to channel that energy into tidying my room!
Cherith is 26, with 2 degrees - Her first degree is in Microbiology, and her second degree is a Master’s in Public Health, her true passion. Cherith is a mother of two beautiful children, a wife, a scientist, a sustainable business owner and an amazing human being.
Cherith - Hi, my name is Cherith. I am a mum and I currently work as a lab scientist. I also recently started a sustainable childrenswear brand. I’m juggling a lot of things at the moment.
Zahra - What’s it like to be black in Glasgow?
Cherith - That’s a loaded question. I don’t know, I have found it quite interesting.
I feel very fortunate to be in this sort of environment with so many opportunities, a good environment, the best healthcare, the best education so I’m really proud of that. Obviously if I was in a different society I probably wouldn’t be afforded those same opportunities so there’s the racial undertone in everything that we do. We try not to live within that because it is such a burden to always go through life always feeling like you’re different. I think in the last 5 years or so, not try separate myself from my own race, but try not to make it everything and that has really worked for me.
It has worked for me as it has allowed me to enter a mode I don’t think I would have entered before. The problem with focusing so much on race is that it takes up so much of your life. You spend so much time in the negative, so I didn’t want to do that anymore because I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I just wanted to focus on positives and see how I could better myself and in turn help my society and my people. I think it has really worked for me.
Zahra - This was really humbling to hear, our BAME community face many barriers in life, varying from mental health, stigmas, discrimination and a constant state of hypervigilance. To know that she found peace was admirable to hear. From my own experience, I understand that it takes a lot of strength and self-control, which is difficult skill to learn.
Cherith then went on to discuss her educational experience.
Cherith - I studied both my degrees at Caledonian University. I have two degrees, my first degree is in Microbiology and my real passion, is my second degree - my Masters in Public Health. Right now, I am working at Covid Labs which is more science than public health but you have to start somewhere.
Zahra - How are you finding that?
Cherith - It’s been good. When the Pandemic started, I just had a baby. Last year in August I was finishing up my masters, finalising my dissertation and I was 9 months pregnant. I went to hospital, had my baby, came back and had a week to submit my dissertation so I was typing it with a new-born and a toddler. I have no idea how I did it but I passed that. It was really tough, but then I started looking for jobs which is also tough.
I always knew I didn’t want to be a stay at home mum. I want to have a career which is something no one should feel guilty for. I applied for so many jobs and was unsuccessful because I didn’t have work experience. Then I started working at the Covid labs when my baby was about 2 months old. I started these wild shift patterns, waking up at 1am to start work at 3am then coming home straight into mum from the moment I walk in the door. This month is actually a year since I started working there.
Zahra - You’re running your own sustainable clothing brand, you’re a mother of two, a wife, working in the covid lab and saving lives, how do you do it?
Cherith - When you put it like that it sounds more amazing than what it is.
I think it’s about knowing who you are. I have always been clear on one thing, that I wanted a family at 25. I’m 26 now so I hit a lot of goals I had set up for myself unintentionally. I knew I was going to be one of those cool mums, that was my dream. I decided to have kids and because I made that decision, I can’t really complain so I try and work my life around being a mum. It’s extremely difficult. It’s not about the cute pictures - there’s a lot going on behind the scenes with mental health but having your own identity and knowing who you truly are matters. People say being financially stable before having children is essential, but I think being mentally stable is just as important. I just try and stay calm always, Children are wild. I know mentally I have to be in a good place for them; a happy mum is a good mum. Everything else is extra, my own priorities are that my kids are safe, they are loved, they are cared for and that’s done because I look after myself mentally. I do that by watching shows on Netflix.
Zahra - Top recommendations for Netflix?
Cherith - I go through phases. At the moment it’s thrillers.
First, I would say Clickbait and the show set in Edinburgh called Clique and Greys Anatomy. That’s my top three, they keep me going.
Zahra - Do you have any tips on how to stay calm and collected, keeping that mental stability especially after the pandemic, social issues, climate change and everything else happening in the world? You seem so on it and I feel so calm talking to you. It’s all vibes.
Cherith - I think for me it staying off social media and staying in the moment.
During the pandemic I discovered minimalism and sustainability.
I’ve always been fascinated by minimalism and the idea you don’t need that much stuff. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Marie Kondo, she’s the queen of Minimalism. During the pandemic not being able to go to the shops and buy things we needed really made me reflect and get into sustainability, so I got into the hype.
It’s not just a lifestyle though, it’s a way of life. Realising that I don’t need stuff has helped me work on my mental health. A lot of materialism comes from Social Media so taking a step back from social media, I did more stuff. I went on walks with my family, I started reading again as I hadn’t read anything leisurely, it was all academic and was living in the moment. I read the entire Bridgeton book after I finished the series on Netflix.
We just moved home and I styled the home with space in mind. I want my children to grow up in somewhere spacious. If you come to my house right now there are a lot of plants, they’re fake because my kids will eat them but there is a lot of space. These rooms are made for them to grow - there’s no clutter, everything is minimal and simple. This motivated me to start my clothing brand because I just wanted kids to be free and have a childhood that’s just simple. You have your whole life to stress and worry. Childhood should be fun, free and simple. That’s my whole vibe.
I also in the middle of changing my wardrobe to simple minimal neutral tones so I can mix and match and it takes a little stress out my day. Any way I can cut down stresses in my life, no matter how small; I am willing to do that.
Zahra - I felt calm and inspired after speaking to Cherith. I really respect the minimalist culture it ties into sustainability and the environment and mental health.
Zahra - Any advice for Students at City of Glasgow College?
Cherith - The thing I wish someone had told me was how important it is to take in the moment. In education it’s really stressful, there’s a lot going on but it’s just a short time in your life. You get a degree and a qualification but that ultimately all those stresses and anxieties, which I still have but I think the anxieties I developed in higher education. It didn’t need to happen. It’s not the end of the world. Yes, you need to work hard, because it does pay off. I think I am proof of that, but the thinks I had to give up didn’t need to happen. There’s still tomorrow.
"Live in the moment, it’s not the end of the world. Your mental health is the most important thing.”
Zahra - I signed off remembering how small Glasgow is, you never know who you may bump into and I truly hope our students do have the opportunity to meet Cherith one day. Giving students a voice and giving them a home is very important. She loved my vibes and that’s an accolade I am proud of.