Celebrating 14 years (plus or minus) “Living the Dream” at our Nation’s Capital

“I’m the small town, one in seven billion, why can’t it be me?”…..

There is a beautiful area behind my apartment building, where I often go to walk and jog. And it is only a 10 minute walk through this area to the DC metro station that leads me straight into the Nation’s Capital towards my “dignity of work.” I only recently started taking the metro again, given the uncertainty of when I first started my job in DC. I wish I had sooner. I rode the metro every day for four days this past week.

And it was hard in the morning, to walk up that hill. But I was reminded of Georgia, the literal and figurative mountain climbing as I shared in a previous post here.

On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, this past week, I celebrated my 14 year anniversary of moving to Washington, plus and/or minus, of “living the dream” of working, studying, and living in the nation’s capital. I first moved to DC with practically nothing after my Masters (Oct 11, 2009, maybe 14 years I can’t count properly these days). Just big dreams. I described part of that story here in my 10 year anniverary a few years ago (apologies, the pics have disappeared):


Indeed, it was something I had to repeat again after my doctorate in a similar way last year around this time…

But I made it back. And I am still here.

[They said I’m going nowhere, tried to count me out, Took those sticks and stones, showed ’em I could build a house, They tell me that I’m crazy, but I’ll never let ’em change me’…Til they cover me in daisies, daisies, daisies”..]

It was also a special day because it was precisely four years ago from that day, that I got on the plane and flew to Islamabad to begin my second dissertation fieldwork experience in Pakistan, which brought me to discover places, spaces, people, and things that I have never explored before in my parent’s home country….

I was able to finally publish an article about the Qualitative Research and Fieldwork last month, on Medium, before presenting at the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the first time ever, and for the first time after my dissertation defense last year.

Here is the piece: https://medium.com/@elsatalatkhwaja/conducting-qualitative-research-in-pakistan-as-an-american-born-pakistani-25-lessons-and-b6a8a940d799

Me at APSA:

I also shared my fieldwork and cultural immersion more informally through this amazing experience this past year, which I have described here: http://www.elsatkhwaja.com/2022/08/18/suitcase-stories-in-georgia-a-storytelling-moment-on-cultural-immersion-in-pakistan/

While it isn’t exactly where I expected or aspired to be in my life (more in terms of publications as a writer and a scholar), I am in fact still here in Washington, DC, which I have always described as my “second home,” and living just 25 minutes away in the metropolitan area, taking the metro into the city, and working at an amazing non-profit international organization, advancing educational opportunities for people around the world.

I think I am in one shape or form, “Living the Dream.”

But it doesn’t stop here, for someone who constantly needs to be achieving, contributing, producing, creating, changing, etc….

There is great reason to believe in my life right now that my Academic dreams, and scholarship isn’t over.

A year ago, I feared having to sleep in my car. I didn’t have to. But it was quite a struggle. That I will always look back and honor and appreciate, and have gratitude now. No one else will do that for us. We must do it for ourselves.

I believed as I noted in that post for Georgia, that we must keep trekking from mountain to mountain to mountain.

And I am.

Still treading. Still struggling. Still fighting.


Struggle in the context of success is not looked at positively until you have overcome it. People sometimes want nothing to do with you until you succeed at what you are striving for, until “you make it.” What does it mean to “make it.?” And what does that look like in our nation’s capital?

I am still figuring that out….

I talked about my struggle of moving to DC. I shared it in my 10 years post here: http://www.warrioretkqueen.com/10-years-reflections-on-a-decade-of-living-the-dream-in-americas-nations-capital/

I believe I have a story of someone from humble beginnings, starting from the bottom. And no matter where I go, I will take this struggle to help me remember those less priviledged, and identify with them, be bridge to them, and offer a helping hand wherever I can.

I took the lunch from work to walk around the National Mall area, monument, White House and downtown DC. I wore my Sindhi Ajrak stoll and took the usual traditional photos around my “second home”…

I went to Busboys and Poets in DC, it just happened to be Open Mic night there, Tuesday evening.

I mustered up some courage to perform one of my poems at the Open Mic, something I remember doing for the first time when I arrived in 2009.

I performed one of my slightly older poems here: http://www.warrioretkqueen.com/i-will-not-cry/

I also found out that October 11th was “National Coming Out” Day. I found “synchronicity” in this with respect to the content of the poem I shared that very evening, and the expression of my truth, which I can tell so many are still uncomfortable hearing or knowing or supporting.

My colleague took a video which I shared on my YouTube Channel here:

I will be attending for the 8th year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention “Out of the Darkness” Community Walks for Suicide Prevention in Washington, DC on October 22, 2022. I am really happy that these DC Suicide Prevention walks are actually taking place at the same time around when I moved to DC in 2009, and when I returned to DC during the Pandemic after completing my PhD in Wisconsin, in 2021 last year. I see great “synchronicity” there as well…

It is a cause I have been supporting for a long time.

My #AFSP page is here: https://supporting.afsp.org/index.cfm…Thank you to those who have donated generously in the past and those who have for this round too. And just generally those who support this important cause in various ways. I hope you know you are truly helping save lives.

Here is a video of me attempting to talk about suicide prevention last year after the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk:

Stay tuned for my video this year, something more in depth before the DC Community Walk and at the Walk on October 22, 2022.

I was listening to this powerful acoustic version of Katy Perry’s “Daisies” all week….


It is just a small dose of inspiration to share to the young ambitious women fighting through the social, political, economic, and cultural barriers to become “somebody…” to harness their fullest potential… to keep fighting…. and to never give up hope…

I’ve shared in the past the Rollercoaster journey, in DC, but I’m with gratitude to still be here….still “Living the Dream” of that little brown small town girl from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with great ambition and big dreams…

I will continue to “Persist and Resist,” (Epictetis) but continue to evolve and do better with the necessary temperament from Stoic wisdom. And keep planting the seeds for something bigger.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

While my story may be insignificant to most, I do know its value, and I know it isn’t over yet…

Thank you very much for reading this and following my journey and story over the years.

“cover me in daisies, daisies, daisies.”

Thank you for giving my voice a chance.

Peace, warmth, and blessings

Your Sister,
Dr. Elsa
Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.” – Atticus

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