We are a little over a month into the new year and it is almost a week since I returned from my field work in Pakistan. I didn’t have the chance to write in my blog for nearly two months because of my travels, and being immersed in what came out to be a trip of a lifetime.
During my trip, I was thinking of all the things I wanted to write about. But time was limited unfortunately and I also didn’t get a chance to provide some reflections coming into the new year. Throughout the past two months, I was only able to update Facebook, and even with that, it was difficult to keep up with sharing a scratch of some of my amazing experiences among my close family and friends and the few who follow me there.
But over the next few weeks and months as I catch up on life back in the US, I will share snapshots of my experiences via my blog, and some thoughts and reflections. I have quite a few pending blog pieces that were in the making prior to my trip to Pakistan as well that I will complete, alongside some more academic pieces for my professional blog I haven’t yet begun. And more ideas have emerged for new posts from my experiences in Pakistan.
In the meantime, I will take this opportunity to, yet again, wish everyone a very happy, productive, and successful new year. 2018 already looks promising to me, and I am optimistic for a productive year of achievements and improvements in health and well-being, personally and collectively.
A new year is a good time to be reflective about how we can be better people overall. From December into the new year and the entire month of January, I was in Pakistan, having one of the most incredible experiences I had in my life. I was also spending time with my parents I only see once or twice a year and with my extended family I had not seen for nearly 10 years. There was so much I captured and so much I learned both on a personal level of character development as well as at a professional level as an independent researcher and budding academic…
When you return from a “developing country” like Pakistan, you tend to appreciate many things you once took for granted in your daily life. You tend to recognize the importance of the most basic things that seem routine, and you tend to see what is necessary and what is unnecessary to give importance to in your daily life.
Additionally, I don’t feel as empty as I thought I would feel upon returning from Pakistan. Rather, I felt there was already an emptiness that was filled with something, I can’t seem to describe exactly what it is. I am hoping I will discover it through my writing. But I came into my DC apartment with my paintings on the walls, reminding me of what more I’d like to paint, and reflecting on all that I had seen, and all that I must write about and all that I must share with the world through whatever medium, being photos, art, writing, whatever. I was reminded that I don’t have to feel empty and I don’t need to force myself to feel a certain way, because I expect to feel that way, after leaving the presence of people and things that gave me comfort and peace and hope. We tend to find consolation in the normal, or in the expected emotion, but I didn’t have to. The void, the vacuum seemed to be filling with something…some emotion that was more than just “hope.”
And it wasn’t just about Pakistan. My travels throughout the country, my time spent in Pakistan, reminded me that there is so much more to explore in the world. And I need to be out there. As someone who feels the most fulfilled while on the move (traveling), I am grateful to have had the amazing experiences that not only uplifted my soul, and made me more determined, motivated, and inspired, to complete a stellar PhD dissertation project, and make important contributions, but it also helped me see my worth and understand my value in a way that nothing has before.
Being my second professional experience in Pakistan, I had an opportunity to see “sides” of Pakistan I haven’t seen before, even in my last fieldwork experience 10 years ago. I will share more of this in the coming weeks.
To some extent, the experience seems like it was all a dream, most likely because although I did my best to remain present, to be grateful, to appreciate, to not take each moment for granted, I am still human. And I learned how “human” I really was, and how less “human” I have treated myself over the years. We can always improve, but given the nature of this trip, I realized how critical it was to be as present as possible to take in moments, moments that are very rare and that not many people have the chance to experience. Moments that also involved precious time with my mother and father, which was truthfully a rare gem.
It is rare to travel to all the major cities of a developing nation, deemed as your “parent’s homeland,” and with your father. It is rare to touch the historic Khyber Pass gate on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in risky environmental conditions, with your father. It is rare to visit a Ajrak block printing center within interior Sindh with your Mother. It is rare to have a tour of the University where your father spent prime years of his youth, became the man he is today, and with his company, and speaking to the University students side by side with your father. There is nothing but pure blessings in this experience. Blessings that I can’t say I truly deserved. And I will always remember how much they supported me through this challenging experience, and how grateful I am that they had become a close part of my PhD experience.
There is something about being in Pakistan that has rejuvenated my soul and elevated my spirit. My new year may have started with a new lens from Pakistan, and in many ways, I also felt revived and reborn.
One sign of this is that ever since I returned from abroad, I have actually been awake, in the morning, fresh and ready to work in pursuit of my dreams, and ready to fight my battles. This is very strange and unusual for me, because for the last 5 years since I left my job to focus on my PhD and health, mornings have been particularly difficult due to health issues and insomnia. Ultimately, the drive to conquer my goals and objectives, not only with my doctorate, but with so much more, has amplified immensely.
Sometimes you wish you don’t go back to the same routines because you desperately want your mind and heart to stay in a certain world, in a certain line of thinking…especially if there is some joyfulness, peace, and serenity in that mindset. It is the desperate yearning for change and betterment within, and the worry that something you have been given so precious will slip away, if you don’t remain mindful of what you have just gained, …which becomes your new source of anxiety.
There is so much more to say… and you sometimes don’t know where to begin…so given the new year, I thought to start from here… But thank God for the art of writing, as when I returned from so much family and friends and activity in Pakistan, to the quiet solitude cave-like home and independent lifestyle in DC, I felt like I wanted to explode with all the things I have gained and wanted to share … For many of us, we are empowered through our writing, especially if there is no one present to listen to our spoken words… rather than remaining unspoken, we write.
And I am still grappling with where to start…But one day at a time. It is already imprinted in my memory and my soul. And I won’t let it slip away. Hopefully, Godwilling, I will do the justice it deserves going forward.
Happy New Year everyone… May 2018 bring you more comfort, peace, success and happiness, and may it foster greater personal and professional growth to help us become better people to serve humanity in our best capacity. May our hope for the greater good within and the greater good among the world continue through 2018 and never dissipate.
Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,