There Will Be a Time…

“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.” – W.E.B. Du Bois

Dear Fellow Warrior,

I come to this page thinking of you, with so many ideas of what I want to share, but by the time I start a new post, I lose it. This happens more than you think. This has been happening a lot more recently.

I can post tweets, Instagram, or Facebook posts, these days, perhaps because it is just second nature to me now…and also generally (though not like before) there is a sense of immediate gratification knowing that it might be seen by more people, and might reach more people, even if you don’t see it in the analytics. However, I am unable to finish or polish my more substantive pending articles and blog posts.

I notice that even personal development, confessional writing, and free verse, relevant to self-empowerment and mental health, are hard for me to write these days. Those pieces used to come naturally to me. I think part of it is because I have too many things to do in my transitional and unsettled life right now, and I have not been able to write guest pieces and publications from my research and beyond as well.

I guess the whole situation in Gaza and Palestine has left me “out of commission” these days, for the past two months, especially. Not only because of the challenges with the “work-genocide” balance, losing sleep, appetite, connection, leading to loneliness, loss of friends/colleagues/potential opportunities, but all of this can also take a toll on anyone, let alone someone who was already suffering from previous challenges. It just seems since before the Pandemic, one challenge after another, and it just keeps getting worse. It really does feel like the Handmaid’s Tale, with the turn of events potentially leading to a dystopian world. This dystopian reality already exists for some across the ocean, and while we feel helpless here, we try to do everything we can in our capacity, knowing what we may have to sacrifice.

All I know is that nothing can ever be stable or “normal” or settled for me it seems. And maybe, that’s probably why it is easier to “Take it to the Streets” right now. I have been in a place of “transition” for far, far too long. It is just not fair. I was supposed to have my big comeback to Academia this year. And then life presents us with a choice or a huge challenge/setback and pushes us even further back, right when we think we were starting to climb the mountain again. I feel like that transition began when I first left for my first Fieldwork trip in Pakistan, December 5, 2017. Things have never been stable for me, and even longer than that as a PhD student. I can’t believe that was exactly 6 years ago. And I may just have to keep climbing that “mountain” in this transition, in this state of immense fragility.

The desire for community and human connection will remain endless it seems. I thought I would grow out of it eventually, and maybe I am a little bit, but I have never been able to come back to where I was in 2019, pre-pandemic. I see others going about life with a sense of “normalcy,” but I can’t seem to put the pieces of my life together, and “let go” of serious traumas, as I planned to earlier this summer. I thought I was brave, but anytime I start to take a risk or to build something, something that could have been taking off by now (had I advanced it in the summer as intended), I am blocked or another force just stops me. I am not sure if it is perfectionism, imposter syndrome, past traumas, or all of the above. Or maybe I am sure. I am still healing….still in recovery.

There will be a time when I will be able to write better, and the quality of what I put out to the world in terms of my contributions will be stronger… I know I am meant to be a writer. I am a writer. I can be a good writer. And sometimes I see potential for greatness. This was always my destiny. There will be a time when the fog in the brain will clear up a little bit. But I have come to the conclusion that there will never be a time that will be easy for me. Perhaps I have been waiting for a moment where everything is settled, at peace, I have no quandaries, I have let go of the past traumas, I have healed from past mistakes and bad choices, I have healed from abuse, and a time when I have a strong support network, when I actually have friends, a moment when everything is aligned for me to finally “change my stars,” rewrite my story, and “shoot for the moon.”

It doesn’t work that way. I am meant to excel through great fragility. That is what God is teaching me.

I feel it.

I don’t have m(any) friends, not because I am not a good person, but because I can be a very misunderstood person. In recent years, I began to realize what has naturally drawn me to study international conflicts, fragile states, and humanitarian crises through my social science research. I sensed a synergy and I identified with their struggles. I believe certain countries have been deeply misunderstood, especially by Western nations. I was on quest to understand my parents’ homeland beyond the little I knew from the family trips as a child.

And what do you do to countries you don’t understand? You mistreat them… in the same way you do to people at the micro-level, whom you choose not to understand. My PhD personal statement and what eventually got into my papers and my published dissertation noted that Afghanistan and Pakistan are two nation-states “too often misunderstood.” I know what it is like to be misunderstood and to be abandoned because of the choices people make to not understand.

I often quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To be great is to be misunderstood”, just to make myself feel better. 🙂 I do believe in this phrase, but most people don’t. For those of us who know what this entails, we come to grips with the reality that our real intended impact may not happen until after we die. We would be lucky if that wasn’t the case.

So I do this thing called the Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way), and it helps a lot, coming to the point that my day does not start or feels incomplete without it. It is about three pages of writing, but perhaps I could spare a little of that with you. I will try again, to devote my time to writing stream of consciousness and minor editing a few days a week or at least once a week, again here on this page. I can take an hour instead to just write to you. I tried doing that before. And then all the pending articles that are meant to be more substantive, and informative, can come sometimes too. I just need to keep writing and I need to learn to market my value. It was always my oxygen, and this is why I started this blog nearly 8 years ago.

I have been trying to get the courage to go to an open-mic poetry session at “Busboys” but I know there are so many better poets and spoken word artists out there. I wish I mastered this art better, but I am glad I took refuge in it. What is stopping me or paralyzing me from doing something that will produce value and capital, whether it be social or financial capital? I have all the gifts to become an entrepreneur, but I still am questioning if it is the right path, as I may need time to be able to get back on the path toward my passion for continuing my Academic career.

I know what I have always sought is Azaadi (Freedom,) and when there are significant injustices and problems with women of color and people with my identifying factors in the workplace, issues relevant to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), then it comes with pushing through trauma and pain. What do I do?

It has been two months since the bombardment of Gaza began, and I have been unemployed for exactly five months now, since I decided to leave a job where I was deeply undervalued, underpaid, disrespected, bullied, and faced some arguably serious cases of racism, discrimination, and tall poppy syndrome, in a white-dominated space. I stayed too long in a toxic environment for a position that I was way overqualified for, trying to be loyal, to make it work, but it was no longer sustainable for me, and I should have been able to find a job afterward. I was shattered and traumatized.

What happened to me was very serious. And it is sad, because anytime something happens where I am not believed about the serious events, it triggers my PTSD from previous abuses and traumas.

I will probably write more about the challenges for women of color in the workplace in my future posts on DEIB. But this recent experience, earlier this year, among a few others, will always be forever in my “portfolio of resilience,” and etched in my fight for more socially inclusive and safe workspaces for minorities. Since it has been exactly 5 months now since my last day, I guess I needed to get this off my chest. I talked about having the “Dignity of Work,” after my doctorate in this post, and it took me 7 months to land anything. But work is not dignified if you are suffering immensing in that space, and your health is deteriorating. Too often women of color are either forced to stay and ruin their health and well-being, or pushed out because of the suffering, and forced to recover their health. Even though I have been without work for 5 months now, I know I made the right decision, and I am so happy I found my exit from an extremely toxic situation.

What I am concluding with this year, and I will write more about this in a different end-of-year reflections post (which I do annually), but based on what I experienced at a micro-level earlier this year and now closing this year on a macro level, is that we need to do a better job in embracing the transformative power of difficult conversations. And we need to have a very blunt and honest, “back to the basics,” conversation on Race in this country.

I’m reminded at this difficult time of this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which I channeled two years ago after my PhD graduation:

“I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out… This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way… If it means dying for them, I’m going that way.”

Thank you, Allah, for helping me stay grounded, redirecting me, and giving me patience at this difficult time.

It’s getting old for me to say “this has been a trying year.” It seems like I’ve been saying it for ages. I’m sure many can relate. I never thought I’d be “here” though, at this time of life. I guess I’ve been saying that often as well. I didn’t think I’d be back on the bottom again two years after achieving the highest degree in my field. The important thing is that you are still holding on and you are still in the game because you are alive and breathing and trying.

I try to remind myself that Allah loves those who struggle the most and there are reasons why He gives us certain trials. The resilience of the Palestinians, helps us all stay resilient. It has always helped me stay strong and resilient, since as long as I can remember. Their struggles have always brought me back closer to God. I seem to hold multiple identifying factors that make everything so much harder, in terms of breaking through those social barriers suppressing my voice.

Indeed, it’s never going to be easy for me.

I have to finally embrace this reality to the fullest, and realize that there will never be a time when it won’t be super hard, so I can’t keep holding myself back just because certain people and institutions, who were supposed to be there, are not there, or do not believe in me. And I cannot allow certain forces to make me afraid of speaking up against injustices.

Anytime I’ve been told I can’t do something, I want to do it.

But sometimes I have to take a step back and ask myself, do you really want to do this? And I am just wondering, do I even know what I want to do?

Maybe I did at one point. But maybe I am just not so sure right now, anymore. Or maybe I am confused because I can’t seem to be able to match what I must do to survive, with what I love doing.

This may be cliche to say, but we don’t understand it completely until we begin to see how much time we have lost in our life from everything we want to do, to all the negative forces that have brought us down… Life really is short and we have to keep moving and keep making the most of our time here.

These reflections are so important when making choices in difficult transitions.

The story isn’t over yet. How can it be? It hasn’t even begun…

I will write to you more, dear Warrior. I hope that some of this resonated with you. I have much to say about the year-end, with another post, and I will continue to try to write to you more often.

Thank you for reading my words. I appreciate you giving my voice a chance.

I’m still here. I hope you are too.

In Solidarity, 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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