In 2023 I Paid Attention… In 2024, I’ll Pay Attention to …

“You become what you give your attention to….” – Epictetus

Dear Fellow Warrior,

Sometimes what you pay attention to defines your life at that moment, takes time away, and at the expense of things you should be paying attention to, that could be adding peace, happiness, and positive impact and value in your life.

This was a hard, painful, but also necessary exercise that I completed the past week, reflecting on this year, which could be useful for you as well. It is important to take responsibility and be proactive in changing the way you approach things or look at things. I have always been someone who strives to change and to make things better for myself and for the collective societal well-being.

We relapse sometimes, and sometimes the forces around us are entirely responsible in some cases, but it is up to us to continue being resilient, continue pushing through the challenges, and continue fighting.

This change requires focus on the objectives, visions, missions, and goals and not so much on the things that are preventing us from getting there. There will always be people and systems trying to stop us from achieving certain goals, but we cannot be held captive by ourselves.

Here I share what I paid attention to this year, in 2023, and the past few years, and what I will be paying attention to in 2024.

In 2023, and prior to this year:

I paid attention to the buree nazar (evil eyes).

I paid attention to all those who “failed me.”

I paid attention when people didn’t respond to my call for help.

I paid attention to the haters.

I paid attention when people showed visible signs of jealousy, resentment and indignation.

I paid attention to the silence, and to those who misunderstood me, “othered” me, demonized me, and dehumanized me for living, breathing, and speaking my authentic truth.

I paid attention to those who disregarded my posts to support suicide prevention even with just engaging the issue, sharing my posts, to help increase awareness and outreach.

I paid attention when people didn’t share or even engage my art, including that of Painting Heals Pakistan to help reach more people.

I paid attention when people told me they would buy a painting for charity and did not follow through.

I paid attention when colleagues and professionals knew that I needed a little career support, even just a conversation, and did not say anything.

I paid attention to those who ignored my emails asking for a little support or guidance.

I paid attention when people offered help and then refused to follow through with the specific offering.

I paid attention when half my family didn’t congratulate me for my PhD and when the majority of my family didn’t offer to help me have a celebration, when I clearly didn’t have the means to put something together myself.

I paid attention when family members celebrated others gleefully, made time and sacrifice to show up to their celebrations, while dismissing the one big moment of my life which I fought so hard to achieve.

I paid attention when family members completely dismissed the “legacy” moment I achieved through my doctorate studies, studying Pakistan and honoring my parents that introduced us to their country.

I paid attention when my School barely offered any transitional support for the Academic market or Industry upon graduation.

I paid attention to the racism and social and professional exclusion I faced at my University and School.

I paid attention to the bullying, workplace bias, and racism I faced in a white-dominated workspace, and the backlash I faced simply for expressing my authentic truth and experience, minimally and peacefully.

I paid attention to all those in my family and friend networks who ignored my starting a YouTube Channel, and did not take my creator (blogging and vlogging) journey seriously.

I paid attention to the deafening silence against my personal and collective suicide prevention efforts.

I paid attention to the people in my life who didn’t care about my “13 Reasons Why.”

I paid attention to the people who ignored my social posts and art (many original) on Palestine, in the past three months.

I paid attention to the deafening silence against the genocide of Palestinians across domains, including Academia and International Development (spaces and domain which I inhabit).

I paid attention to all of this, and I must give myself credit that I still tried my very best to pay attention to everything else.

And I am not saying it was good that I paid attention to this. It is easy to allow the negative things that happen to us in our lives, to control our emotions, and disrupt progress and our peace.

In 2024, I plan to pay attention to:

The “achi nazar” (the positive onlookers).

I plan to pay attention to all those who do visit my online spaces and profiles, and appreciate my social media efforts, creativity, and art that I bring to the world.

I plan to pay attention to all those standing together in resistance to the Zionism, Racism, Colonialism and White Supremacy in America and around the World.

I plan to pay attention to the people in my life who are giving me a chance that I deserve.

I plan to pay attention to those who take the moment to try to understand me.

I plan to pay attention to the people in my family who have good hearts full of mercy, love, and compassion, and who do care about me and respect me for who I am and who I have become, and what I am fighting for.

I plan to pay attention to those who do want to collaborate with me on professional endeavors, and shake off the rest, who are not interested or chose “competition” over camaraderie and “collaboration”.

I plan to pay attention to those who cherish and appreciate my authenticity, honesty, compassion and boldness and welcome me in their life, across all personal and professional domains.

I plan to pay attention to all those fighting to liberate Palestine from oppression, apartheid, and occupation, once and for all.

I plan to pay attention to the people who have the spine and the courage to speak truth to power, and fight for the necessary American Political Revolution.

I plan to pay attention to advancing my academic research agenda on foreign aid effectiveness in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and other fragile states, extending to the Middle East, regardless of whether or not I land an academic position in the next chapter of my life.

I plan to pay attention to those who care about humanity, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political orientation, class, socioeconomic status, and more.


Psychologists have talked about how we become what we focus on. As noted in the quote above.

The harsh truth that I must accept is that I didn’t have the right mindset the past few years. I allowed the traumas to impact me negatively, and I couldn’t let go, even when I tried so hard. I was still in the victim-survivor mindset, and maybe this is my absolute truth, and I won’t dishonor that.

But while it may be a part of your human history and experience, it just isn’t the mindset that will help you with the exponential growth you need in your life.

I have kept this quote from the Stoic Philosophers beside me in my writing space, among other quotes, to stay grounded in my reality: “Momento Mori.”

It is a Latin phrase that translates to “Remember you will die.”

We shouldn’t need this reminder, with all the death and destruction in the world.

If we just pay attention to the right things.

“Persist and Resist.” – Epictetus

Solidarity, Peace, Warmth, and Blessings,

Dr. Elsa, Warrior KQueen

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

A few books to consider reading for a fresh start in the new year:

The Artist’s Way, Atlas of the Heart, Untethered Soul, Deep Work, Building a Second Brain, Becoming a Changemaker, 1984, The Hundred Years War, among many others. I’d like to share some thoughts about book recommendations in a future YouTube video in January. Some of these are books that I read or partially read in 2023 that I will reread or finish in early 2024.

I will talk about some of these in the near future. Happy Reading, and I hope to share my annual New year’s reflection post in the first week of January, alongside a YouTube video. Please check out my channel here.

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