Twenty Years…

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

It has been Twenty Years…. Twenty Years.

I suppose there comes a point in everyone’s life where we begin to reflect on “Twenty Years.”  Beyond the collective level, of certain critical historic moments, I’m there now, possibly for the first time… And maybe I sunk a little too deep into it.

There are those moments that impact our communities at large and then there is your story. You want to give some significance to your story by trying to connect the dots and see how it fits in with the larger narrative. You may fail because an aspect among the various intersections you embody doesn’t quite fit in the puzzle. Nevertheless, you stay persistent, because your voice, your story, and your message deserves to be heard.

At a personal and collective level, crucial historic junctures and today’s realities, which continue to be very difficult to grapple with, have brought me towards a seemingly never-ending vicious cycle of reflexivity, which to some extent can damage the mental health if not properly controlled, but also inspire some necessary growth. It has been a difficult personal and professional transition, which coincidentally came alongside pivotal collective moments that helped shape my ambitions and objectives to contribute to society at-large.

I offer some reflections here. As I noted in my previous post, it has been some time since I have written in this space, for many reasons. I wrote that post to help eliminate the writer’s block and the barriers of an overwhelming imposter syndrome that I thought I could have eradicated by now. I continue that effort with this piece…

Approximately “Twenty Years.” Last year, this year, and next year… and so on…

It has been a blessing to be able to commemorate some of the milestones I have achieved in my life a few months ago. At the same time, I have been reflecting on the sacrifice and the resulting traumas, attempting to accept and heal from past events that remain unresolved, swimming in nostalgia…and reflecting on how I got “here”, what I did “right” and what went “wrong”… and what I need to do to own my mistakes and move forward.

Zooming out, America and the rest of the world has been reflecting and will continue to reflect on “Twenty Years” as a collective with respect to historic moments in global affairs, that has coincidentally come while fully entangled at the end of the second year of an unprecedented global pandemic. One that has transformed the social, political, economic climate, revealing the unsustainability of “business as usual” and a greater urgency for real transformation.

It was Twenty Years since the 9/11 attacks….Twenty years since the Invasion of Afghanistan, and pretty soon, more or less, twenty years of the United States approval to invade Iraq. The United States recently withdrew from Afghanistan, which resulted in a Taliban takeover, confirming the apprehensions of many who have studied the region, trashing twenty years of “gains and accomplishments” within this country plagued with more than four decades of war.

As a student and professional of foreign policy, global studies, and international development, and having placed my attention to these parts of the world, these events, this 20th Anniversary, was especially impactful at both the academic and personal level, as the repercussions and policy implications continue to define our contributions and service. The post-9/11 events with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan have been denoted by many scholars, politicians and experts as some of the greatest foreign policy blunders in modern American history. This deserves another post, and as the self-proclaimed “imposter,” (also known as a “recent PhD graduate of public policy” LOL), I’ll let the reader lean on the more seasoned scholars for their valuable insights while I continue to try to emerge out of “survival mode” of Post-PhD + Pandemic life.

But it is worth reflecting on many levels about how the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks on US Soil will remain with the 9/11 generation for the rest of our lives. We all have stories to share with our grandchildren and great grandchildren …

I was 17 when it happened, and in my senior year of High School, sitting in my Leadership (elective) class (ironically). The instructor turned on the television. At that time, I was the President of our High school Amnesty International Chapter, and involved in various other leadership positions. I was proud of our work with Amnesty. We were able to raise hundreds of dollars for the September 11th Fund. It was kind of the Principal to announce that on my High School graduation day.

Thirty days before 9/11, I also made the decision to put on the hijab (head cover). It was August 11th, 2001. I wore it throughout my final year of high school, and the first two years of college, I removed it the same date three years later, not realizing at that time that it would eventually become a permanent decision.  I wrote a little about that experience here in this post back in 2017. I’d like to write more updated thoughts on this another time. That summer before my Senior Year of Highschool, I just returned with my classmates from an amazing time in Spain, studying at the University of Salamanca, and traveling around the country for one month, including the Alhambra, the Moorish palace. I’ll share why I mention this later.

I wrote some reflections in a note on Facebook 10 years ago on September 11th, 2011: https://www.facebook.com/notes/10157332241596572/

I was reminded of this from my “Facebook Memories” on September 11, this year. It is interesting because I planned to write an essay about my reflections, and have been trying to for several months, but unfortunately, some challenges during my post-PhD life has made it difficult, so developing the mental space for it has not been easy or possible for the moment.

I reshared it as a placeholder on social media for my reflections, with the caveat that it was written 10 years ago. I don’t think anyone read it. But I am glad to have come back to it myself, because the sentiments did not change a great deal. Because my reflections at the Twenty Year mark would also address the “leadership” component. I was sorry to have missed being able to share my thoughts on the 20th anniversary, but I intend to share my updated insights hopefully before February, 2022. Because at this time, it would be Twenty Years since I participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum. It was the first time I was in DC, and the moment that I decided that the ultimate dream would be to live, work, and study at our Nation’s capital.

As a High School Student in the National Youth Leadership Program, I had no idea that was a historic monument that was closed off to the public at the time. I was and am honored I was able to take part in that. Because it was at this Tomb 20 years ago, that I got to participate in the Wreath Laying Ceremony. I was one of the four winners of the essay contest at that Forum. My essay discussed civic engagement and leadership as a Muslim in Post-9/11 era. In that program, in a White House Simulation exercise, I was selected as the Vice President of the United States.

Upon my return to the DC area, I wanted to take the opportunity to visit the tomb again, and hope to do so before the end of this year.  Here is photo from that Wreath Laying ceremony. I hope to briefly expand more on this in the near future.

It is really not that surprising to have the same types of reflections since the day it happened, 10 years later, and now on the Twenty Years mark. 9/11 molded our perspectives and purpose in life, and particularly with respect to leadership. On this 20-year anniversary of September 11th, we all felt like it just happened yesterday. It is a common thing to say on every anniversary of September 11th. And this time, we had to reflect on the progress that the world has made on global security and against the ongoing threats from terrorism. I do not think too many had reflected on the impact that this event had made on the conscience of the Muslim, Muslim America, and the Muslim World, the past 20 years. It is really an understatement to say what Islamophobia in America has done to our psyches as Muslims, and how this challenge continues.

I believe that reflecting on the Twenty Years since 9/11, and during this difficult time, has made many people think about their own progress in life as well. As I mentioned earlier, the “Twenty Years” has come at a critical point in my life and in a lot of ways “full circle.” It was my final year of high school, and I was in my childhood hometown in Wisconsin, preparing for my next chapter. And this year, it was my final year in my PhD “All But Dissertation” stage, finishing up my final years in education all together in my doctorate studies, and coming full circle to Wisconsin.

For many, including myself, the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to a “call for leadership,” and as I am going through this transition, I am having that “transformational moment”, a moment of intense reflection and yearning for change. I tend to do this in most of my transitional situations, but this has been different, because I feel it is after achieving something that in my opinion was quite a grand achievement, especially under the circumstances, and with what I endured in the process, much of which I have not revealed despite being an open book. The final year of my education, I have returned to the question on who is that person I want to be and have I really been striving towards that person and my real passions in life? At age 37. Perhaps this is the “mid-life crisis” or I haven’t really begun my practical life, because I have been in school for so long. But I don’t think that is fair to say with all that was accomplished during my education.

For the Millennials, those of us in the 9/11 generation, we tend to “measure time” from those events, sometimes unintentionally. It was a turning point in our lives. Just as this COVID Pandemic is for the Gen Z or Gen X perhaps. The day when Covid deaths in New York City overrided the 2977, was a very difficult day to process. Now we are past 800,000 covid-related deaths in America. At that time, which was just a little over a year ago, we didn’t think it would get this bad.

I made it back to Washington, DC on that day, September 11th. This was after a year in Wisconsin, my hometown, working to finish writing my dissertation, during the Pandemic, a choice I had to make at an uncertain time. I stayed unexpectedly for more than a year to complete the doctorate degree. And it was the longest I have stayed in my Childhood hometown since I left it for the pursuit of higher education…  I returned to the nation’s capital, where I always dreamed of living, working, and studying (and was so blessed to have been able to fulfill that dream). Before driving into Northern Virginia late night, I stopped at the new Black Lives Matter Plaza first and foremost, because it was the last place I saw in DC the night before I left it in June 2020. When driving into Virginia, I saw lights coming out of the Pentagon to honor the Twentieth anniversary. It was amazing to see the tower of light shining up from the Pentagon to honor 9/11 victims and their families. I was listening to a lot of the commemorations on the radio as well during the drive. There was a lot to write that day, and I feel I missed the opportunity to write having to settle back in. I feel I am still settling back into the area, trying to hold on or grasp the life I had before the Pandemic, after three months of being back.

I have to keep reminding myself that it has really only been three months since I left Wisconsin upon completing my defense and PhD and it was hard even just finding a more permanent roof over my head, staying at hotels and extended stay accommodations and a difficult short one month sublet before finding a more stable place. I was certainly blessed that I didn’t have to sleep out of my car. I left from Wisconsin on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10th) and arrived on the Twentienth Anniversary of the September 11th attacks. And a month later, I was so happy to have made it back to the Annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Community Walk in DC, it was my 7th consecutive year but I believe 5th year completing the walk in person. I also had the opportunity to volunteer this year.

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Additionally, a few months ago, during this past summer, I made it back to Spain again. It had been precisely 20 years since I first went to Spain and experienced it for the first time and spent my birthday there. It was incredible to be back in Barcelona again and on my 37th birthday at this moment in my life.

In the past year or so of my final years of my doctorate, I took several big risks and I took another one by returning to the DC area yet again without much on hand, and with great uncertainty about my future, and I continue to take more risks. I felt I was “starting from the bottom” or “starting over” in a similar way I did when I completed my Masters back in 2009… but instead with a doctorate degree. I have been shocked by how more difficult it is now, with several more years of experience, publications, and a PhD at hand. I decided to follow the same strategy I did at that time in terms of being present in the city, which helps in some ways, but different with the current climate unfortunately. I just couldn’t hold off on “starting my life” anymore… I needed to be back here, see if anything can come into fruition and then go from there. It might have been a mistake and if so I’ll own it. In the back of my mind, as I was pursuing my doctorate, I didn’t want that same situation to happen. But none of us would have anticipated a Pandemic. Which is why I feel I have to cut myself some slack. It has been over four months since Defense. Now…I have been trying to turn the chapter, and making slow progress. I fear it may be a long time before I am at the start of a new adventure again. But in a sense, I should believe that I am already in “the new adventure” at the moment.

My Twenty Year high school graduation reunion will be coming up next May. So I have been super nostalgic having been back to Wisconsin the past year. My goal is to ensure that I have a few things set for my life before May. A job. A more long-term home situation perhaps, some financial stability, more publications in the working, and more. I will give myself until May before I decide my next “Power Move.”

We can be of service in many different ways. For example, you do not have to work in public service within Federal Government positions to be a “public servant” or leader. And being here in Washington, DC, there are many ways to remain engaged and connected and may ways to contribute without working in government. You can even be “Presidential” without working in Government or within the two major parties. I think if there needs to be a point where I may have to say goodbye permanently or temporarily to Washington, DC, I understand that. I don’t think there needs to be. I moved here before my doctorate program, and I have more than enough experience in the area. And there are a wide range of opportunities to serve in the Washington, DC area, or even remotely while being based here.

It is generally understood that what you surround yourself, the people and things and places will shape you and influence you. There was no question. Deep inside, I felt I needed to be back in DC, where the dreams were happening prior to the Pandemic, so eager to either continue what I started and/or start something new.  I had 10 years of my life in a storage Unit. I felt very disconnected from my University, the networks that I nurtured and created in Washington, at least in my mind, seemed to have been fading away in part due to external circumstances and in part due to the deterioration of my own health that hasn’t been able to connect to the world in the way I used to, or at least that’s what the traumas of the past year have led me to believe.

I graduated from my PhD program, I received my diploma. It has now been a little more than four months since I defended my dissertation, exactly on this day July 23, 2021, the day I became Doctor Elsa Talat Khwaja, PhD and fulfilled one of my greatest dreams. And its been about four months since I graduated officially in Summer Term. This coming Thursday, I will be attending my graduation ceremony. I am hoping that the “power of celebration” will bring back some of that ‘identity capital’ I feel I may have lost in the interim since I graduated.

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Society shames and “others” these types of struggles. It is not conventional to share them, and it is definitely not conventional to share them while immersed in them or enduring them at the moment. 

I don’t want to dishonor or discredit mine. There will always be someone out there who has struggled more than you too. So there is an interplay of honor, respecting your story, and gratitude for survival as well.  I am proud to wear this on my shoulders. To share it with others if they are willing to read or listen. And I look forward to the moment where I can support someone in the same position as I am now, and pay it forward.

I have always been hesitant to ask for help if it is connected to my livelihood. Too much pride. Too “Miss Independent.” Even though I have realized I have never been that person, always interdependent.

Dr. Brene Brown talks about the importance of personal stories in leadership in her book “Dare to Lead.” One profound quote from that book, I find important to apply in our efforts as leaders is this:

“The difference between leading from hurt and leading from heart, is not what you have experienced, or are currently experiencing. It’s what you do with your pain and hurt…Daring Leadership is leading from heart, not hurt.”

– Dr. Brene Brown, Dare to Lead

It is hard to do this, when our pain a big part of what pushes us to keep going, the motivation to contribute in public service. I think it doesn’t mean that we sweep our pain under the rug and hide our personal stories from the world. It takes courage to put our stories out there. It takes risk and personal sacrifice, especially when you have seen the social consequences of being honest and authentic. And I think it means that our pain can be transformed for something greater for others. It means that a part of us will need to continue to suffer but for the purpose of helping others. We don’t need to set it aside. Our suffering allows us to speak to others from our hearts. To speak from the heart and be authentic is a necessary part of good leadership. I also think, for me, it is the motivation of making things better for future generations and recognizing the good leaders in others.

Good leaders are leaders who are willing to share there struggles and stories with the world.

Good leaders are leaders who see the leaders in other leaders and help them be better leaders.

This is what I am striving for… All you need sometimes is one person in your field of study who sees something in you, and who is willing to help you grow into the potential you have… But it is not that easy. You have to be able to see it in yourself too. If you are pushing yourself, as I am, you see it. I see it in me, even though I may not see that I am seeing it. I am still pushing, which means that I see it. And as they say…

 The higher we climb, the harder the wind blows…

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Recently, I located a project from my creative writing class my senior year of high school after moving out of my storage unit in the DC area, which I had for the past 3.5 years before my qualitative fieldwork. This writing project was something I completed precisely Twenty Years ago. 20 chapters, 50 pages. I realized after reading that, even though the writing was a little poor, of course, given that it was completed in High School, that I was indeed born to be a Writer. In that project, I wrote about elementary, middle, & high school experiences and challenges. I wrote about how I was teased and bullied, and why I chose to put on the (hijab) head cover before my senior year of high school, which happened to be precisely a month before 9/11. I wrote about my love for Pakistan & Islam. The final two words on page 50 were “Allahuakbar” and “Allahafiz.” …

… I wrote about love. I named my crushes, so I won’t share those writings, but it was clear I was always an open book! That was the longest chapter, lol! I also wrote about the work with Amnesty International, my trips to Pakistan with family, and my time in Spain, & my first time in Washington, DC for the National Youth Leadership Forum in Feb 2002, and I wrote about my future goals, which were shaped by those experiences. It was really great to return to those moments 20 years later, as I think about the next 20 years and what I was able to accomplish and what I want to accomplish going forward.

It was truly surreal to come across this now also because how and what I wrote back then explains a lot about myself, that I was not fully aware of as a teenager. I even wrote some sentences which definitely signaled that I knew I had a personality disorder and how much I aspired to change & become better. That was heartbreaking to read. But It helped me see and understand some of the cognitive habitualized patterns that have stayed with me today. I think some of it is great material to review for the unfinished semi-autobiographical novel I started over 12 years ago, and/or the future memoir.

On page 47, 17 year old ETK writes:

“I always wanted to write a book, or many books on the many farfetched views I have about everything. I have so many outrageous views about society and other things pertaining to life. I want to, sometime in my life, write books and have them published… Although my writing may not seem up to that level yet, I will improve because I have the ambition of doing those things.”

I hope I can make that happen some day. I got an A+ on this project. My creative writing teacher stated in his comments that I was a “great writer.” I wish I was able to let that sink in Twenty Years ago. Maybe I could have been somewhere else now… The final Chapter 20 of that book was entitled: “If I could Live My Life All Over Again, I would…”

And the first line ended with this phrase: “…change a lot of things.”

I didn’t realize that 20 years later, I would feel the same way…with a lot of what I wrote in that Chapter, particularly about not having enough gratitude about where I am in life. I was spot on about who I was at that time.

A lot of that personality I wanted to change so badly, stayed with me: the extreme modesty, the shame of having any sort of pleasure in life, not feeling beautiful enough, not feeling smart enough, the desire to be able to deliver jokes and make people laugh as a way to connect to others, and not having such a low self-esteem. I dread the idea that I could not fix this in 20 years. I dread the idea that I will not be able to fix much of this within the next 20 years or accept the imperfections and not dwell on them so much that it stops me from excelling and making the impact and contributions I’d like.

In the final page I wrote many things that I wish I was:

“I guess there are just so many things that I wish I was and I wish I did in the past. Maybe things could have been better for me to this day. Maybe I could have been smiling more often.” – 17 year old ETK.

I think it does help me at the moment, to go back to that person I was Twenty years ago. Because we are the same in so many ways for the “what’s next in life,” deeply reflective and self-aware about the jihad (internal struggle) and the desperate yearning for real transformation within. It is safe to say that I am a much better writer though. And I have always been self-aware, open, honest, and deeply reflexive. I can appreciate this.

In the end you don’t know if your story matters to anyone. People tell you that you are an inspiration, and that what you share about your experiences and lessons will help others, so you continue to take all the time and energy to be vulnerable, to help yourself yes, but you are enlightened enough to know there are other struggling “Warrior Queens”. Your pain has increased your empathy and compassion for others, despite your personal struggle. You hope that your openness and vulnerability comes off as a service and not a self-indulgence, because otherwise you will have been “misunderstood.” But sometimes people will not go the extra mile to share, so it does in fact reach others. Something about you does not trigger that diffusion. This is harder when you have multiple and sometimes confusing intersections of your identity, perhaps. Maybe I am wrong. But the community and tribe you wish to create or connect to remains undiscovered.

Approval, validation, support, belief in you, rooting for you, we all naturally hope and want that, because we are human. Some we do a better job of avoiding that, or not caring if people who you thought believed in you, no longer do, or have a shitty way of showing it. We should work towards fighting this inclination, taming our temperament and frustrations, and demonstrating patience, indeed. But we should also not feel ashamed or consider it an incurable weakness if we aren’t able to move past it, or if we relapse or get frustrated with it.

To be Great is to be Misunderstood. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Twenty Years.

Gone… in a flash, it seems.

And it seems like every little thing the past few months and year has been reminding me of THE “Twenty year mark.” Something as simple as losing 20 lbs of my PhD gained “baby-weight,” or Dr. Benjamin Hardy’s Future Self course instructing me to think about the future Elsa 20 years a later. Or 20 chapters in my “Memory book” from high school which I graduated from 20 years ago, with school colors the same as that of where I got my PhD 20 years later. Perhaps it is just the OCD embellishing these “signs,” because of the Twenty Year mark in my life.

I understand that in Twenty years, it may feel the exact same way… If I am still alive, If I still have this blog or have it archived, I may come back to this post and read this, similar to what I did with The Memory Book of The Elsa Khwaja, which I guess would be the alternative to my social media posts now. 🙂

Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Hardy, in his book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, recommends to have a conversation with your future self from 20 years from now. As my daily journal writing exercise, I wrote out that conversation with Future Dr. ETK at age 57. I will share that with you in a forthcoming post… it was quite a thrilling creative writing exercise. But as I’ve been reflecting so much about where I want to be 20 years from now, what Dr. Hardy suggests is that, by having this conversation, we can aim to “be” that person now.

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It has been 20 years, and with some gains, and I have had so many dreams. A lot changed within us, around us, and in the world as a whole, but at the same time, we do end up finding things visible and invisible within us that did not change.

Many of the choices and risks we make are not always the right choices. But we have to allow ourselves to make those mistakes. We have to take full responsibility and ownership of our choices and mistakes despite if things are outside our control. We must take the perspective that this is not the end of the world when we make the mistake. I have to own my mistakes.

Because I have made plenty of them. I must acknowledge to myself especially that I alone am accountable for where I am right now. And I take full ownership of it. The past year, I have placed blame on other forces and moments that have led me to my current situation. It is hard to tame ourselves from that. I have blamed myself more, but I have also blamed the external circumstances and other people who couldn’t support me or stood in the way or promised things to me that they did not fulfill or betrayed my trust. Regardless of whether there is truth to it, the reason why we have to accept full responsibility is so that we learn the hard lessons so we don’t repeat them. It is said that lessons are repeated, until they are learned.

I have made plenty of mistakes even in the past 90 days or so. And I accept that. I have to also accept that I will make more mistakes as I continue to become the person I aspire to be, and transform in the next Twenty Years. I must accept that even placing trust in the wrong people or investing in relationships that ultimately lead nowhere for your future, even if all of that was out of my control, I made those decisions and I made those mistakes.

I have to own them, learn from them, all the very hard lessons, and then move forward

I think this applies at the larger level for leaders in governments. Governments have not owned their mistakes in the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and instead we allow them to punish journalists that leak classified information revealing grave government practices and injustices, which otherwise would not have been known. The mistakes in US foreign and domestic policy were repeated and many more will continue to be repeated if they do not take full admission and ownership of what has happened as a result of their actions and engagement. We can move in a better direction if we own these mistakes. Unfortunately, this has been proven difficult in the current and past leadership in America. I have not lost hope that we can do better. We have no other choice with respect to the survival and safety of mankind, especially on urgent matters like climate change, that pose serious threats to future generations.

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I want to return to Mark Twain’s quote at the beginning of this post (one of my favorite quotes).

I recall sharing that quote on my Facebook profile pic which is from the Barcelona Beach, because it had been Twenty Years since I was in Barcelona, Spain. My WQ website cover page picture for the past 5 years was the picture I took at a Beach in Singapore, when I attended the International Public Policy Association conference. I went there after my proposal Defense in June 2017. Four years later, I attended the same conference, which took place in Barcelona this year, which ended up happening two weeks before my Final dissertation defense. So I updated the profile picture from my 37th birthday on the Beach.

It was very nostalgic to be on that beach visiting the city 20 years later, and then to do things out of my comfort zone… I flew out on America’s Independence Day, after a year in lockdown within my childhood hometown of Wisconsin. Presenting my research in front of intellectuals, riding the cable car, and being near the ocean letting the water brush against my feet, are normally things that bring great anxiety. I also took rides on bicycle rickshaws which was quite enjoyable and thrilling…. I always wanted to ride a rickshaw in Pakistan, but it was considered risky and potentially unsafe for a woman. Some of the bicycle rickshaw drivers in Barcelona were Pakistani however. Indeed Barcelona was a special time, as I recall sitting in a library at the University of Barcelona when I finally got the green light that I would be defending my dissertation later that month. Will cherish being back in Spain after Twenty Years… will post more about this too in the future.

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If I have any regrets within the past 20 years, among all the risks I have taken, it is that I didn’t take even bigger risks or didn’t push myself more and write more, share more stories with the world, both from others and my own, whether they were listening or not…

We cannot keep waiting for the right moment. As I have and continue to do. This lengthy post may be a “Mistake” but it is “The Mistake” I have to make in order to move forward, because it is the “potential mistake” that I have been holding onto for so long, and it is the necessary cathartic release.

Some things do need to be in place for you to be moving forward… but you have to keep taking the steps within what you can control. Today and NOW is the right moment to shine and change our stars. We can say this and write this and believe this, but we must act on it.

There is more to write, more stories to share, and more to reflect from memorable experiences, like that during my doctorate fieldwork. I had barely scratched the surface on that and it would be tragic if I drop it. I cannot allow the prolonged delays, my personal healing time, the internal forces of perfectionism, alongside the social, economic, and perhaps political forces to stop me. I have to push through the pain of the time lost in sharing those experiences.

At the same time, it is important to continue exploring…in pursuit of new adventures…

Sometimes the stigmas and the speed in which society moves prevents you from healing and moving forward stronger from the lessons of your past. You may feel that your efforts to evolve and grow are underappreciated, disregarded, or discredited…. and when your “identity capital” as well as your “social capital” in your mind, seems to be deteriorating… Trying times make it extra difficult.

The “power of celebration” can be a good reminder of what you were able to accomplish.

Let it help you stay resilient to achieve your goals. Celebrate what you were able to achieve so far in life, and celebrate the small and big successes together.

 “A painting is never finished. It just ends in interesting places.” – Paul Gardner

With time passing we fear that what we have learned may become less relevant, failing to understand that it can all be a work in progress and it’s just important to stay as flexible and adaptive as possible. A Dissertation is not the Book Project.  And the writing and research can be updated and upgraded. We each want to be seen and have a message to share to the world. We cannot keep delaying it. Because the more we delay what we want to do, we can feel the loss of the sense of self-worth. It is easy to feel this way. And easy with the challenges among us right now, and other types of personal challenges to feel like we are losing that “identity capital” and/or “social capital.” Our voices are special, significant, and need to be heard.

We are nearing the end of the year.

And I may not have come to the point I wanted to in my life in “Twenty Years,” but we have more to explore, more to expand, and I hope to do it.

There was and will be many more “victory laps” to take….

There is more to be written and shared.

And we can, no matter where we are in life, “change our stars,” “rewire our brain,” and “rewrite our stories”

Happy Belated International Human Rights Day. (December 10, 2021)

Wishing that we all finish this year with continued hope, resilience, courage, and strength.

And remembering all those in the margins of society in my heart always.

“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

Only from the Heart can we touch the Sky. – Rumi 

With peace, warmth, and many gratitude and blessings,

Your Elsa

The Warrior KQueen

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

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