Happy New Year: Reflections from a Memorable 2021, with Continued Hope & Resilience for a Powerful 2022

“The Willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time.”  – Dr. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly 

I recall how brutal the winters were last year in Wisconsin. Right about this time.

Something I had not experienced that intimately for 18 years.

I was at my childhood home. Dreaming of a life post-PhD, trying to follow through with an aspired “recovery plan” from the difficult 2020, fighting a “renewed fight,” as I wrote in my annual new year post, with that goal to “rewire the brain,” and at the same time, just trying to get that damn dissertation done.

It has been difficult to write this post, to even get myself to sit down and edit what I have already written from this the past few weeks, when I intended to get it out the day before new year, and I fear, yet again, it will have to be a long one, so please accept my apologies and I appreciate your patience in reading this. I wanted to continue my traditional new year reflection, and share some reflections from 2021. I promise you that I will get to the point where I can limit my words to shorter and more frequent posts as I continue to evolve in my writing. I really aim to make that happen this year, especially with my transition post-PhD. Because I have realized that long posts can be prevented if I do them more frequently! 😊

The difficulty in writing this post also comes from how hard it is to give justice to reflections from 2021, a year that was very trying, in both the collective and personal “recovery and rehabilitation,” from the previous year (2020), but at the same time, ended with one of my biggest dreams finally fulfilled.

In previous posts from 2021, I wrote about the victory lap, the milestone lap, and a “dangerous nostalgia” and significance of twenty years mark. I wrote about the ‘unbearable’ pain and the formidable and necessary resilience. There were only a few blog posts on this space in 2021, but I think those posts do a powerful job in cumulatively summarizing and characterizing the year for me.

I wish I posted much of what I would write on my Instagram and Facebook throughout 2021, here, in my Warrior Queen blog.

Because I would write posts that I believe were quite moving and powerful for certain audiences who care about a woman defying her socially constructed boundaries and expectations and against the odds, and striving to achieve a dream… About my brilliant and romantic time in Barcelona, an empowering trip for my last academic conference as a PhD candidate and my 37th birthday. I would write posts about my first time visiting my middle school grounds, with the painful nostalgia of the bullying I faced as a child in school, and the many many posts with hashtags #FighttotheFinish #StayResilient #StayEmpowered #PhDlife….

….And Because 2021 was the year to be remembered in my life as truly a memorable and incredible year, despite all the formidable internal and external challenges… the year I finally defended my dissertation, became a doctor, and ultimately became hooded as Dr. Elsa Talat Khwaja, PhD, the first female PhD in 1200 years of Khwaja Family history.

This last note is not meant to be boastful but rather proud. There is a difference, but ofcourse, the world is welcome to interpret how they wish, I will proudly wear that badge of honor. Sometimes the world can develop a sense of contempt or resentment towards ambitious women of color seeking unconventional paths. These moments in history matter for our family trees, for those who remember and honor their family roots. And it also matters, because my Father would often say that to me to help me think about the larger picture in the achievement, but also encourage me at the same time to cross the finish line. Sometimes it was just too much pressure, but nevertheless it was still motivating, and helpful.

So It happened.

As I shared in the Victory Post  last year, after completing my doctorate, it happened. And I was able to end the year 2021 with “The Power of Celebration.” It was on July 23rd, just a little over six months ago that I defended my dissertation and earned that title, and exactly six months from yesterday (Jan 30th) when I pressed submit for the final submission of the dissertation.

And Screamed  “Allahuakbar”!

For me, sharing all this is exactly what this blog is meant for…self-empowerment. My indulgence and expression of my achievement is meant to empower myself.

And I take it for myself, because I deserve it.

Hell, I fought my way through suicidal attempts and ideations and difficult livelihood challenges every step throughout the process of Bachelors, my Masters, and finally my Doctorate… I fought my way through all the certain injustices within “the system,” the American education system, which pushes minorities and people of color and women of color in the margins… I fought my way through other barriers that hit my identity intersections, so I will honor and celebrate the fuck out of it. And I am not done celebrating. It is fine if some people who do not know me and my story construe this as lacking humility. This is something I earned through very unlucky circumstances and I will celebrate every achievement and success that follows it.

I share a lot of things about my life, both positive and negative. I documented ALL of my PhD journey, shown in the blog post entitled, The Victory Lap, within the featured photo of that blog post, and one I share here below as well…. The many ups and downs and challenges, and successes, and progress, and resilience that involved pushing myself…

We can be proud and at the same time still remain humble of our accomplishments. Those two things can come together. That is possible and through “the power of celebration,” it can be necessary too. I would often emphasize this in my frequent social media posts. To celebrate your successes and achievements. I did do that at times, and at other times I would forget.

Celebration is important for many of us.

Especially for those who sometimes feel marginalized and forgotten within our own networks and in the larger picture of things.

I considered the graduation, the hooding ceremony, to be special and had hoped it would be the most important, but I let certain external and internal forces make me feel the opposite…

Even though I was able to have some modest celebrations for me, which I will always cherish and have much gratitude for, I cannot be remiss in saying it didn’t happen among challenges.

I was literally fighting for my life to complete my doctorate. If what I shared in social media or my blog posts doesn’t signal that, than there is nothing I can do. And I regret if I need to make the statement more than once, and if it brings ill feelings towards me from any place, but it is my truth and I cannot help if you don’t wish to believe me. There are some details I’ve shared before, but some I could not find the words.

The past 10 years or perhaps two decades or so I fought through powerful forces both internally and externally that I don’t think any student seeking higher education should have to endure.

Unfortunately, I know many do. And the fact that most people remain silent about it, is the crux of the problem in Academia. Some circumstances I faced were unique and some similar. Women, minorities, those with invisible and visible disabilities have additional challenges. It makes it an even bigger deal (at least for yourself but also for others who may follow your footsteps) when you overcome and achieve something after having to fight and endure so much.

And for the past several months, I have been attempting to process those traumas and let go, to be able to move forward. I recognize that circumstances could be much worse and I have stated in the past, there is always someone who has it worse than you.

Nevertheless, we cannot discredit or disservice our own struggles. I am a strong advocate for honoring them, especially if society ‘shames’ them.

Indeed, I had a lot of support along the way, to which I will always cherish and appreciate.

In the end, it really is on YOU. YOU are the one who has to push through all the noise and do the job.

One thing I have learned about myself is that if I believe in something enough, I will fight for it like my life depends on it. I hope that a similar fight within, will transfer into the next phase in my life and in a bigger way, for the larger goals. Most especially in leadership for policies that elevate the voices of those pushed into the margins, which was a huge part of my research in my doctorate studies, and which remains a big part of my personal and professional mission. I believe my personal struggles have helped me develop the type of compassion and empathy that is extremely necessary and vital for that kind of leadership in academia and in the public policy realm.
…..

I took the opportunity to celebrate myself, and I will cherish that three members of my family who took the time and made the effort to make it. The sacrifice my parents made, they didn’t have to make, as I really think the graduation should not have happened in the continuing dangerous circumstances…. Still, I did my best to try to have an open mind about everything, this moment that I imagined and dreamed about and wanted to be so special my whole life, graduating with what our University President stated to be the “highest degree”…I tried very hard to take in whatever well-wishers were still there for me in the final moments of the PhD journey officially coming to an end by the end of the year, and just appreciate that truth, that reality, that is bestowed upon me, that is written on the diploma….

Yes, I made it. I fricken did it. I finally finished my doctorate, after 9.67999 years as so I stated on social media on July 23, 2021, when I became Dr. Khwaja.

Despite my push to have deliberate gratitude, away from the negative cognitions, I still continue to face many of the traumas, and challenges I had while completing my doctorate. I still continue to feel the PTSD from the experiences and challenges, in addition to all the personal challenges that supplemented it. I just want to move pass that. Is this really entirely my fault? Is there is a greater problem here?  I just know that the trauma of the doctorate in the current state Academia is in right now, is not something that will leave you fully, as others have shared with me as well.

And though I wanted to use the Power of Celebration to keep me motivated, to push through, to fight to finish the year strong with the dream of having a Doctoral Hooding ceremony, unfortunately, I ended the year with multiple calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

I desperately wanted to feel different.

Even though it was a brutal year, I desperately wanted to focus only on the positive things that happened in 2021 and the fact that it turned out to be a much better year than 2020 at least. And I really tried.

I desperately wanted to have the graduation ceremony, the hooding, the dream fulfilled to empower me, motivate me, and in time I know it will… In time…

But you know, I gotta cut myself some slack.

I suffer with OCD, PTSD, severe anxiety and depression, and my suicidal ideations became ten times worse during the Pandemic. AND I have been managing without treatment for it, because in America, healthcare is attached to employment and financial stability. And I have been fighting to figure out my next steps while still struggling with my health. I went through my entire PhD program without proper treatment and still don’t have the treatment in place. I deserve some slack. My story and my experience matters.

The world won’t always cut people like me any slack, but I must take it myself…

This is my safe space here, to take my freedom from the Stigma for myself.…

I guess that’s partly why it all hurts, when loved ones, family, or friends, who know that you went through so much, cannot see how big of a deal this achievement was for you, despite all you went through for it. Or if people send you messages or write comments that belittles or demeans or berates your accomplishment and struggle. Even as you publicly shared the entire journey on social media and sometimes details of your challenges. It didn’t matter to some people who you thought it may matter to. It revealed to me a painful reality about the world, and about myself.

There will always be people who see you as a threat and even see your overcoming of obstacles to achieve something big, as a threat, because those emotions of jealously, intimidation, envy, (what is referred to as “buree nazar” in my culture) are so powerful that sometimes people don’t realize they are feeling this way. They just don’t want to say “Congratulations” to you. I also know there are people who come on my profile because of my honesty, feel good about my failures, and disregard my small successes and self-empowerment and encouragement posts. It is painful to think that my sadness, pain, and upsets, make other’s happy, and when something big finally happens in my life, it makes people jealous or upset, no matter how much you struggled to achieve it, and no matter how much you deserve to be celebrated.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be people like that in your life. You sometimes know who they are, and sometimes you don’t. It hurts if it’s people you admire, loved, supported, your family, your loved ones, your friend and colleagues. That’s life they say. We all know this to be true, but won’t put much significance to it. We may know and understand and recognize and accept this, but it doesn’t hurt any less.

On the personal side, this is hard for me to say, but I recognize that I struggle with a bad habit of seeking approval and validation. Not many would admit this. But I think many do, and the world of social media engagement today doesn’t make it easier.  I think it is also very natural, so powerful that we don’t recognize it. It is hard to admit, but it comes from your earlier years of youth, and naturally we are human, we all have the inherent desire to be validated and especially these days, have a sense of community, love, and belonging….

But I am working on eradicating this and saying fuck it. I will love and like and care and celebrate and honor for myself even if people choose to disengage me. 

I have always learned things the hard way and the slow way. But I think that’s okay. I have been lucky in some things but unlucky in many others.

And I am aware of how people distance themselves from those who don’t follow conventions, and I know how people distance themselves from those who struggle with mental illness. It’s so painful when loved ones use it against you, and then don’t show up for you because of the stigma attached to it. But I still have to stand firmly and boldly with my truth…

I know that my recovery, my progress, and my healing are not going to significantly matter to most people either. I am not referring to the validation as such. I am referring to an understanding and realization that not everyone you know and care about ultimately truly cares about ones progress, healing, and recovery, rehabilitation. And perhaps the sad reality is that people care more only under the conditions of my continued pain, and not my status of overcoming it. The sooner I accept it, the less painful it will be when I continue to see less and less people I have admired and loved over the years truly interested and invested in my success.

I am open to being wrong, but for the moment I see truth in this assessment.

In the end, I was able to take in the good and the positive about the much-anticipated graduation events for a little while. I was proud of that. My first reflection of the end of the year 2021 on social media was that it was the year that I finished my doctorate. I don’t need to think of how it happened. That was the dominating idea. And even though at times I miss those moments when I was a student and this is a really bad time to be in the job market right now, overall, it’s still so much better that I finished. It’s done. And even though the doctoral ceremony wasn’t everything I dreamed it to be, it still happened and there were many precious memories I have from it.

But it is okay to relapse on the gratitude at this time too, and not punish yourself from it. Unfortunately this has been a challenging time for many recent grads or other candidates in active pursuit for their next steps.

******

2021 was the year that I pushed myself out of the “mental chains” of the PHD that was keeping me grounded in one place and went out to Barcelona to present at a Conference, even though my paper was virtual, and celebrate my 37th birthday.

I eventually by Fall, had to be proactive and push myself out of those mental chains of lockdown and confinement to seek the life I aspired to seek in Washington, DC. So I arrived in DC, and finally in two months was able to find some more stable housing after living in extended stays and shares that really wasn’t easy at all, and moving 10 years of my DC life out of a storage. I simply just dove back into the world of “grave uncertainty,” a familiar place I was in 12 years ago when I finished my Masters, because I was determined to get the life I had before back, even though  a part of me felt it would be different, very different.

And I was right.

I was blessed not to sleep in my car, however, I anticipated there might be a moment I may have to. As my last post I wrote states, I always aspired to live, work, and study in our nation’s capital and I am grateful I had the opportunities I did. I was pushed out of the DC area because of a terribly unsafe living situation, the uncertainty of the Pandemic, and the limited support from my School and University at a critical moment of my studies, but I was determined to come back and try it again.

And I still keep trying. 

I anticipated in theory that it would feel like I would be “starting from the bottom” again, but I didn’t realize how much that would equate to reality. To say it has been difficult is really an understatement.

In theory, I also thought that I would have to “clean toilets” to survive.

It was actually something I was just feeling for a long time after Defense, and then I watched “The Maid” on Netflix and was hooked on the “romantic idea” of cleaning toilets while doing creative writing by hand in my journal. I even did research among the over a hundred jobs applied to so far, thought I should put an application for housekeeping. I thought to myself that perhaps it might keep me connected to the struggle of the American worker first hand, as an advocate for Working People’s rights, who have been truly left behind during the Pandemic… I’ll share more about this on another post. … Even though I do feel I have had my share of experiences in the past and now that helps me “Identify with the Poor…” as our great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states… sometimes I think this is part of the reason why Allah gives some of us these types of struggles…regardless of our qualifications…

Anyways, I feel sometimes I am coming closer to that being a reality as well.

It was really a combination of my imposter syndrome despite being able to complete an incredible doctoral project and achieve my degree and having a very strong competitive CV, my lack of healthcare, the need for “dignity of a paycheck,” the inability of graduate program to properly support and market PhD grads for the industry jobs and without proper training and direction in an extremely limited and competitive Academic job market, and a difficult highly competitive job market overall during a Pandemic.

Ultimately, there is no one element of the equation accountable for this challenge, there a surging Pandemic, difficult political climate, and it’s going to take time and persistence. It’s going to take a lot of energy and creativity, (it has been over four months now since I returned to DC) and more so, perhaps a day job that may not be so ideal, in such that the pay offs of the doctorate may come eventually, but not as soon as we hope for many of us.

It may continue to be hell for the time being, emotionally, physically, and mentally, but we have to persist through it. This topic deserves some more attention at another time, so I will come back to it later. But I will just add that I know that if I am not able to put myself and my work out there, it is wholeheartedly and entirely connected to the state of my mental health. And that should not be used against me. More on this another time. 

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I hope and pray everyone is having a beautiful and strong start to the new year!

The new year in the DC area began with a snowmaggedon that reminded me of my time in Wisconsin last year too.

{This blog post has been extended largely because my reflections have been all over the place. But I am keeping my reflections here regardless. Thanks to those who have come this far and can take my observations piece by piece.}

My time in Wisconsin for a little over a year from mid-2020 to Fall 2021 was very special.  I will cherish being able to spend that with my parents. Always and forever. I have been truly missing them these days.

But I also struggled so much with being there. Only and Entirely because I wasn’t supposed to be there. I know I will look back and think more about the positive than the negative, as I am starting to do right now too, missing them so much and appreciating them so much for coming to my graduation and all the support they gave me through my difficult times when so many others didn’t care to help me….

18 years I spent on my own and I returned to Wisconsin to finish my PhD.   I was finally able to finish.

I was told that my dissertaton was a remarkable achievement, a tremendous accomplishment.

And I documented the entire journey of my doctorate on Facebook and social media and some of it on blogs. So again, it is why I shared so much of the celebration.

A little over six months ago, I submitted the dissertation and a week before had defended my dissertation (in the morning). I had only thrown up in the bathroom two nights before in a hotel room which I stayed at to prepare and complete my dissertation defense, 30 minutes away from my parent’s home. It has now been six months since I became a doctor and about 4.5 months since I moved back to the DC area.

We have to measure our progress against our former self, not the future self, says Dr. Benjamin Hardy, organizational psychologist, author of many best-selling books, and creater of the free 30-day future self course that I completed at the end of 2021…which helped me focus on my next steps… 

Indeed, I have made progress however slow it may be, but I have completed more than 120 job applications in a wide variety of positions, moved back to DC and found a roof over my head within 2 months of arrival, had my graduation ceremony, made progress on some writings (though still not quite there and unpublished), but most importantly keep momentum in  figuring out what’s next, while trying to stay alive amid ongoing health challenges and traumas from the collective and personal struggles from over the past few years….

Sometimes I feel I don’t know what I am doing, but that’s only to rationalize my situation, as I am expected. I really do know exactly what I am doing, and even amid the uncertainty, and it’s okay to have the cognitive dissonance and confusion that comes from “losing you identity,” losing what you have identified with for a very extended period of time.

But ultimately, where I was six months ago and where I am now, it surely is an improvement. It still isn’t where I aspire to be, but we have to measure progress with who we were before and not compare ourselves to others.

Our good friend, Earnest Hemingway once stated that “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

We still have to be accountable, but also remind ourselves that we are moving at the same time.

If you can say this about yourself at the moment from who you were in 2021, than you are moving forward. You are on the right track. You are there.

And be proud of your progress, that you are moving, especially in these times.

******

So here we are …. A new year is among us, another time to hit the refresh and reset button.

{If you are still with me here, give yourself a pat on the back, and many thanks for your endurance and patience :)!} 

And in summary, I can conclude that 2021 was a strong year for me, and I am hoping for an even stronger 2022.

2021 was special because it was the year I graduated with my PhD and achieved a life-long dream.  It took longer than I had planned but it happened.

And I shouldn’t feel any guilt for saying that it was a great year. It was an extremely trying year. There were very challenging moments. But something happened to me that I never thought could happen. And I fulfilled a dreamed that seems unbelievably “impossible” even at the beginning of the year.

So from sculpting potentially the first Sindhi Snowman in the great dairy state of Wisconsin, to finally getting vaccinated against Covid-19, to fighting in the final stretch of finishing the dissertation, to riding the rickshaws and taking in the healing power the beach and the wind in my hair in Barcelona, to defending my Dissertation in my Childhood hometown, to having the Pakistani community in Fox Valley area North East Wisconsin celebrate with me, to driving back to Washington DC, to getting my dissertation published, to walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, to being presented the Ajrak from my Pakistani parents at the Patriot Procession, to being hooded during my graduation ceremony, to celebrating the achievement with my big sister and Ammi and Abu….it was indeed a memorable and precious year for which I will have gratitude and hope to remember the positive times and experiences throughout.

I collected several photos throughout 2021 and added it to this Facebook story: https://www.facebook.com/elsa.khwaja/posts/10158151438521572

I hope to update this post with a few more photos, add another blog post of the PhD Graduation events,  or share more photos from there put together albums of the year’s events (Barcelona, Photos in WI, Graduation, AFSP Walk, but especially the Graduation) when I get a little more time.

I was indeed honored to finally get the opportunity to participate in my graduation ceremony after recently graduating with the Doctor of Philosophy in public policy, at George Mason University.

Here is my Facebook Post on observations from my graduation, that I would like to keep on record here and share: https://www.facebook.com/elsa.khwaja/posts/10158133250541572.

I remain grateful to those who truly felt that joy with me, from the pureness of the heart.

I noted in my social media posts that the value of higher education for women as a whole, around the world, does need to increase… and I think (and hope) that many do agree with me on this.  I hope I can contribute in a very small modest way, alongside other sisters, in at least highlighting the challenges, and making it a little easier, better and more socially inclusive for future generations of women who have such aspirations in academics and within specific fields where we remain in the minority.

I can say that I ended 2021 believing that I deserved it all. I deserved it and I deserve more and I would be a great hire in any situation. It is not about if, it is about when.

Pride is not the same as boastfulness or hubris, you can be proud and humble, you can celebrate and honor your successes and achievements. To me, I cannot and do not have the time to care if anyone interprets this as anything other than me empowering myself to keep going and keep moving forward.

The challenges you faced in achieving something big is something that no one will fully know or understand, other than you. And this is something that you have to honor and appreciate for yourself more than anyone else. No one will validate this feeling for you. Other than maybe some of the few closest people to you.  You have to move forward to the next chapter but it doesn’t mean that you have to leave behind the traumas and the lessons of the past.

The past few months, I have been lamenting the idea that indeed so much time has passed. And I have been wondering whether all of it was worth it too, as I am sure many PhDs who end up in my position do. I believe it is okay to take the time to heal. This may mean others keep moving forward, while you recover…

For me the 10 years completing the doctorate felt like the “interstellar effect.” That movie with the Mathew guy.  Time was moving and everything around you was growing and changing, while I worked on my PhD, and with a snap of the fingers, life moved 10 years forward. That’s how I felt when I returned to Pakistan for the first time in nearly 10 years for my pilot field assessment at the end of 2017. So much was sacrificed by not being there to see my cousins, my family, and there were so many changes in that world I identified with throughout my childhood and during my Masters fieldwork in 2008. Similarly, it felt this way upon finishing the one thing I was working on for 10 years. It was a huge sacrifice. I gave up so much.

What scares me is that I may have sacrificed certain things we have in life that I may want now…

Because I graduated in my late 30s into a Pandemic, after starting my PhD in my late 20s, and declaring a moratorium on a social life, with my devotion to scholarship. And I am still struggling to put my life back together after “surviving” a PhD through challenging circumstances.

I watched everyone get married, have babies, have lives, and years and years went by, with me thinking when would it be my turn for something big to happen in my life. I even attended those events at times, when I needed to focus on my research. I also know that if I did not pursue this PhD, as the one and only pursuit, I most probably would have gotten married at some point within the past 10 years, or met someone, because I would have established a healthier work, life balance. I may have even had a child. Sometimes I think it might be too late for me on that now…

Indeed, I ended the year 2021 with a modest, yet powerful celebration. It is clear to me that many people do not attend their PhD graduations, many who I know to be in the area, chose not to attend their graduation. It doesn’t mean that your celebration and pride in your accomplishment should not be celebrated. It is more than well-deserved. And when I shared it on social media, not many from my University or School engaged the posts, which was disheartening. But many from my family, friends, and extended family and networks in Pakistan engaged them and really appreciated it, so I think that was valuable…

It makes me a little sad and sometimes admittedly a little bitter that the reach and impact you want to have with your experiences, insights, and stories, only happens in these such occasions. And it doesn’t reach people who may find value in it.

I am not giving up on finding my community and my writer’s tribe.

There are some of us that don’t necessary fit in the mold of any community, but naturally we still desire to connect with the world.

And I will continue to work on better targeting my audience as well.

I also understand that if I let this particular disappointment get the best of me, each time I put out a “product,” or some contribution to the world, it will make my goal for outreach and community and connection to the world more difficult. Because I know very few have read my posts on here over the years.

There is progress in you that no one else sees but you. You can feel pride in that. You can allow yourself to feel triumphant and victorious for your accomplishments. It is painful and hard when no one else sees how much you have grown. Very painful when certain loved ones can’t acknowledge it. But ultimately you can see it and celebrate and honor it for yourself, because this is what will help you keep going.

And my diploma was the giant middle finger to all those who didn’t believe it was possible. To those who told me I will never make it. To those who told me that I didn’t have the temperament for a PhD, or that I was not capable of it. To those who told me that I could not be successful in conducting fieldwork in Pakistan.  At the same time, I thank you for the opportunity for proving you wrong. And I will do the same for Afghanistan one day.

I did have some very good beautiful memories in the doctorate. I stayed in it that long because I enjoyed the process, and aspects of the journey, especially the fieldwork and the international travels for conferences, and as I have said, I was in it for the journey.

Unfortunately, most of us allow our past to take us hostage. To hold us back. There has to be a point where we are willing to let go of the elements of the past that hold us hostage and cherish the positive memories.  That prevent us from becoming our future self. Moving forward doesn’t mean not taking the lessons of the past or acknowledging and honoring our challenges. And it is very hard for people with mental illnesses like OCD.

But at the core, we need to be at peace with it. Unfortunately, it think it will take me some more time, but I hope those who have believed in me will continue to do so, as I move forward, and see the progress, changes and evolution that I am making. And if not, that is okay too. I will see it and value it, and that’s what matters.

My prayers and thoughts for the new year can be found at this Facebook Story:  https://www.facebook.com/elsa.khwaja/posts/10158151111301572

In that post I share that it was the final day of 2021, My final jog of the year in my new neighborhood.

The final “Victory Lap” of a trying but memorable year…  

I was listening on audible the final chapter of the book by Dr. Brene Brown, “Dare to Lead.”

I also wore my American Foundation for Suicide Prevention DC Walk T-shirt from 2019 today, remembering the hope and aspirations before the Pandemic began… and renewing the sense of hope for change now in challenging times…

I still believe in the power of survival, healing, and growth, rehabilitation and recovery, and celebration and hope it continues throughout the year as we move start the month of February.

Sometimes it takes getting into the second month of the year to fully hit “reset”! 🙂 

I hope we continue pushing towards the “inward” and “outward” Revolution.

Happy Black History Month. 

May we stay resilient, stay empowered, stay connected.

Keep moving. Fear will always stop us. But we have to keep moving.

So let’s try this again… Happy New Year!

And thanks so much for taking the time to read my reflections.

It was mostly for my cathartis and I hope to use it to continue writing with courage.

With warmth, love, heart, peace, blessings and sincerity, your sister,

Dr. Elsa Talat Khwaja, PhD

The Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a knight. She was looking for a sword.” –Atticus

“We are humbled and honored that you will carry on the noble pursuit of knowledge and discovery for decades to come.”

George Mason University, President Gregory Washington

“All your scholarship would be in vain if at the same time you do not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending. And when we don’t own our stories of failures, setbacks, and hurt, they own us.” – Dr. Brene Brown

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

“Education is one thing no one can take away from you.” – Elin Nordegren

“Reality check around our Creativity: Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. And just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create and achieve, doesn’t change it’s worth or ours.”

– Dr. Brene Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole hearts.

#WarriorQueens #HappyNewYear #MentalHealthMatters #CureStigma #SuicidePrevention #AcademicMentalHealth #NeverGiveUp #StayResilient #StayEmpowered #Stayconnected #KeepFighting #HappyNewYear2022 #PowerofCelebration
#PHDGraduation #PhDJourney  #CelebrateYourSuccesses #CelebrateYourAchievements #NeverGiveUp #StaytheCourse #StayEmpowered #StayResilient #AcademicMentalHealth #AcademicLife #PhDlife

#Goodbye2021 #Reset2022

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