I am just like you….

…I am just like you…

As a kid, I was guilty of watching a lot of TV. There were six of us, so I won’t blame the rents for needing their space. Do you remember Full House, Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, Growing Pains, Step by Step, the Torkelsons, Doug, Are you Afraid of the Dark? I am also guilty of watching a lot of Barney, the purple dinosaur, and singing the “I love you” song with my siblings and friends at school. Btdubs, do you know who played the guy beneath the Dinosaur? Not the voice but the actual person in the costume? It might interest you to know.

I never knew at the time that Aladdin was actually racist. Although I did feel it would be best if I was the one who played Jasmine’s part in the reenactments at recess (which you may think is racist too), but I didn’t feel it was my place to intrude among the popular white kids in my class, I envied.

I too thought I was Black, when you thought I was Black….for a little while actually. Even though the teacher corrected you in class when you said you feel sorry for me and my family during the lesson on Slavery in the US. So, no hard feelings there! We grew up in a “world” and at a time where everything was “black and white.”

I don’t think I was stupid, I just liked the idea of being Black and African in addition to having South Asian ancestry. 😊 But I have to thank you for that, because this additional mistaken “othering” was in part what eventually led to my fascination with the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes, and Malcolm X, and MLK, and Maya Angelou…etc…. In some ways, it is probably what led me to want to play the trumpet and join Jazz band in middle school. It was cool being the only brown female trumpeter (or Black?). Ok, I wasn’t that enlightened as a kid, but I I didn’t know I was “special” in these ways because everything around me was trying to tell me I wasn’t.

…I am just like you…

I had {have 😊} a massive crush on Leonardo Dicaprio, but would never admit it to myself or anyone at that time because I didn’t think it was my place to be madly in love with him, but I have loved him since he was a guest star on the Growing Pains. Sometimes he would show up in my dreams when I was a teenager and we would be best friends cause subconsciously in my mind I was always the “girl next door.” I know, it’s sad. But he’s such a brilliant actor, and very charming and intelligent.

Certainly a huge contender to the Badshah (King) of Bollywood, the one and only, Shah Rukh Khan. I will go there in another post, but not here, even though by now, you should know who he is….

Matt Damon won my heart in Good Will Hunting, but it was ironically mostly because of all the swearing. 😊 I think he really put the sexy in the F-word for me, even when it was an “abomination” to say such words in “my little world.” I secretly used to wish I had an acting career and I would be their love interests. I did once dream of being an actress, I used to write plays as a child and star in them in elementary school before my “shy days.” They were really bad though.

…I am just like you…

I grew up playing sports. My dad was an athlete and a champion of many sports. He was State champion of ping pong in Pakistan sometime during the 1960’s. We have ping pong in our blood.

I played soccer in the summer leagues. I was a striker during my varsity years in high school. Physical stamina and speed was poor, but I would never give up on the field and I had some pretty smooth moves. Mental Stamina was strong. I was voted “Most Improved” on my varsity soccer team, I think two years in a row.

I played tennis in the USTA tennis tournaments and over the summer. And I played singles in high school varsity. I got this huge trophy for being “Most Improved” my Senior year on Varsity tennis. But I am now  thinking this “most improved” must have been a nice way of saying “nice try, Elsa.” 😊 I don’t think I was really that bad, though. Just not very strong. My coach called me the “human backboard” because I would get every ball back and would be the last one on the court practically every game. Again, it was the “Mental Stamina” rather than skill perhaps. I did have a mean backhand though.

“Most Improved” for me felt like MVP. The concept of striving to “improve” sort of stayed with me to this day in every milestone and achievement.

I played soccer and tennis one year when I first put on the hijab (which I would take off three years later). It happened to be one month before 9/11 …I share some insights and my experience in this post here…. But that didn’t stop me, except that one time when it unraveled on the field and the coach had to bench me so I can put it back on. Ooops! I didn’t mind he laughed at me, cause it was kind of funny.

Sports got me through some tough times and taught me so much about people, teamwork, perseverance, and life in general. I miss it.

…I am just like you…

I had two white pet rabbits with sharp red eyes. I named them Misty and Sparky. We actually had a total of 9 rabbits one time in our family home in Wisconsin. We had a land in Berlin, WI, just a half hour from our home, where my father would host big Eid and Bakhreid Parties and grow blueberry and cranberry crops, and more. We would often go strawberry, corn, and watermelon picking in nearby farms together as a family and with friends. It would be an annual thing. I miss it and I miss our little farmland where we raised goats and rabbits instead of cows and horses. I guess that was the little “desi flavor” we added to the Wisconsin Farmlands in the 90’s. 🙂 

I love cheese. Even though I am lactose intolerant. And Wisconsin definitely has the best cheese curds. Gotta keep up with my Dairy-state roots. No pain, No game.

I may not “look” like it, and may have had trouble admitting it in the past due to my own confusion, but I do consider the great state of Wisconsin, my “roots.” Though East Coast culture has rubbed off on me, I haven’t stopped smiling so much and saying Hi to strangers on the Metro, even though they look at me funny sometimes for being out-of-my-way, perhaps annoyingly friendly.

…I am just like you…

We both have struggled and we both have had difficult challenges. I grew up in a humble “middle-class” family. My Dad was the sole breadwinner while my mom took care of her six children and home life. We often struggled with finances during our life. A lot of mouths to feed. But our father never made it known to us or to anyone and he helped so many people. I would only notice sometimes when I never got to buy the clothes that I wanted to wear, however.  That made me feel less than my other female classmates at times. But my Dad always found a way to get us the funds for our college education and travels to Pakistan. Not many immigrant families (who were not doctors nor earning a lot of money) would have the opportunity to travel so much to their country of origin. And he always encouraged us to dream big and focus on the most important things in life, rather than the petty things. But I will never forget the day he bought me the velvety black dress for the homecoming dance at the now closed “Fashion Bug.” It was super expensive, and I still have that dress.

Yes, I did go to Prom and Homecoming, even as a “practicing Muslim.” I danced with boys even though I felt guilty and knew “it was wrong.” I didn’t regret it though, even during my “super religious phase,” because my first slow dance ever was with a good friend my Junior year homecoming, who lost his life in a car accident my Senior year of high school. He was among the few nicest guys to me at the school. I will never forget that dance.

I did have depression from a young age, despite being raised in a loving household. I guess I don’t remember a time where I didn’t feel something was “wrong” with me. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t have an image of a gun in my head, pointed towards my head. I never knew the cause. But in some ways, you could say, it may have been the “crisis of identity” that triggered it during my teen years, and with the first attempt at ending my life. The hard part was the lack of understanding and the lack of information out there to understand a child and teenager’s depression. We didn’t have a show like “13 Reasons Why” at that time. 😊

I was sexually abused at 9 years old by someone I trusted which I believe is partly the reason to so much of my pain that remains today, partly the reason that sustaining a relationship is challenging. I was heavily bullied in middle school and high school, some of which was race and religion-based. There was no universal language or concept of “anti-bullying” from what I remember. This is all very new, or it wasn’t prominent where I grew up. Especially in the “Eastern world,” there was definitely no such thing as depression and therapy as a resolution to the depression. And even as the “East” met the “West,” there was a kind of “clash” that affected my ability to seek the help I needed. So I struggled my entire teen and adult life and even to this day.

We may share some of these types of struggles or we may not. But we both have struggled and had our difficult challenges that should not be dismissed. And I don’t regret being burdened with such a challenge, because it has allowed me to understand human suffering at a very deep level, and to build my threshold and tolerance for pain, and build my character to unleash the immense love and compassion I can have for people.

…I am just like you…

But I know there are many ways I am not.

I don’t believe in “boundaries” and “borders.” I think America should be a “multi-party” democracy, not just Red or Blue. I think we need a Purple Party, partly because if you don’t know already, it’s actually my favorite color, and ofcourse, PRINCE. 😊 Need we say more?

I don’t want people who migrate to this country for a better life, to “go back to their country,” especially if they are escaping turmoil. Because both you and I are descendants of immigrants too.  I want them all to stay and have the opportunity my Father had and your father and grandfather and great grandfather and great great grandfather had.  I think all higher education should be free in America. Healthcare should be free, universal, and practiced as a universal human right. I believe Palestinians are human beings with human rights, and should have the right to defend themselves. We need to stop these drones and bombs in Muslim-majority countries and elsewhere. We must have better gun control laws, but you can keep your guns as a responsible gun owner. We do need to have a serious national conversation about Mental Health, beyond the shootings and celebrity suicides and revelations. Celebrities don’t own the mental health conversation.

I believe in the power that the mental health advocacy agenda has in uniting humanity. Because mental health cuts across all boundaries and does not discriminate.

And I strongly believe it’s time for the real progressive agenda to take advantage of the clear window of opportunity we have now to emerge at America’s full potential.

You may agree or disagree with some of these things. But our political choices and differences don’t erase the fact that in so many ways, I am just like you.

And I think we both agree that something in the air does need to change. And the status quo from before and the current challenges now, cannot remain. Your voice matters, as does mine.

I remain a proud midwestern born American.

Yet, for some reason, I have never been one of you. I remain invisible to you. I see you clearly. You don’t all look or seem alike to me, I promise, despite the implicit generalizations in this blog post. 😊

But you don’t see me. I am just like the “other ones,” or you forget that I exist. I am just an “exotic looking” creature to you. I can’t count the number of times you have called me “exotic.” I can’t count the number of times I have had to shake it off, to remain diplomatic and civil. Because I know if I became visibly upset, it would make you uncomfortable. And causing you discomfort is not of interest to me. And perhaps not an option for me. Because the repercussions of pointing out even the most subtle questionable comments, actions or behaviors, even in the most polite way, can be costly. I know because it has happened. But I really think it’s time that we be open to these types of conversations.

I don’t have the choice to forget that you exist. And, that’s great and okay. You will never be forgotten in my mind and through my eyes, because you have always mattered more in every facet of my life growing up in small town mid-Western America. No matter what, your voice matters to me, and if my “value” potentially increases, I will not let you be forgotten.

The quality of life and the recognition of rights for one person should not be at the cost of the other. No matter who it is. No matter what we believe. No matter what we like. No matter what we dislike or hate, and no matter our pain. No need to throw one “community” under the bus to disenfranchise another.

I want you to know that I understand where your hate and pain comes from.

I want you to know that even though I don’t feel the same way, I am just like you.

But the prism from which I view the world has always been “color.” It will never escape me. It will always be a part of my story. In some ways, you are accountable for that. But you want me to stay silent.

I am sorry, I can’t do that.

I admit, I sometimes yearn to have your acceptance. So we can talk about movies, tv shows, impossible love interests or imaginary lovers, sports, cheese, and reflect on our pain together. Reflect on how, in many ways, we both have been forgotten in this society.  

I admit, I care deeply for you, and I want you to see the rawness and realness in me. I want you to see the value I can bring in your life. I want to know you. I want you to know me. I want to serve you if you need me.

I know my flavor scares you. I know my anger frightens you. I know my openness discomforts you.

But I hope my compassion and love can ignite a camaraderie, and override the fear of the “unfamiliar,” and I hope you can forgive my human errors: the impatience, the resentment, the sadness and anger that comes from the surroundings that “box” me up.

The truth is, I can’t be “boxed” or labeled because there is no “box” that can accommodate all my many intersections, especially growing up within a society that promotes “freedom” and “individualism.” I will always want to grab a sledgehammer and smash it down. The suffocation would imprison me, and perhaps eliminate me.

I want you to please remember one thing.

You are ALWAYS welcome at my dining table. I believe that food can unite us all. We can enjoy my favorite Chicken Bhiryani together. I will learn to make it, just to see YOU enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be too spicy if you don’t like spice. Or if you want, we can enjoy a cheeseburger with fries. I don’t always eat Halal/Kosher (don’t tell the parents. Okay they probably already know some of these “transgressions” 😊). Sorry I can’t have pork if that’s what you like, but I can offer to prepare it for you.

I will make you chai, the best chai you’ve ever had in your life. People have said there is “jadoo” or “magic” in my Chai. If you are a coffee drinker, I may convert you. 😊. And we can talk for as long as you want. I will listen to you and your pain. I am okay if you do not want to hear me and know my pain, but I will offer to share if you are open to it.

Just know, that as long as you are in pain, or if you just want some company, I will always be here to listen. I will not let you be forgotten even if you have nothing but hate towards me.

My doors will always remain open to you. Always. Please come in. The chai is always ready in my home. 😊

Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,

Elsa

Warrior KQueen

“Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together.” – Linda Thompson

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”                 – Maya Angelou

 

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