Walking “Alone” …

“If light is in your heart you will find your way home.” – Rumi 
 
I recall the drive back to Washington, D.C. last September, and the ‘excitement’ of returning after defending my dissertation and finishing my degree during the Pandemic quarantine in Wisconsin. I have shared that experience in some of my previous posts (like this one). I made it a point to have my first stop at the new Black Lives Matter plaza in DC, which was still in construction at that time. I remember seeing the lights beaming out of the Pentagon in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of September 11th. It was a feeling I always had whenever I landed in Washington, taking that “window seat” (http://www.warrioretkqueen.com/the-window-seat/) after leaving loved ones in pursuit of a dream and a calling, with what seemed like an “impossible” mission in mind and soul …
 
I was going to call this post, “Azaadi,” which means “Freedom” in Urdu. But that is far too meaningful for me to use for this post, so I will save it for another one, another time. But I was going to call it Azaadi, because it was what I was searching for last year, what I have been in search for a long time. And I was reading Arundati Roy’s recent book “Azaadi: Freedom, Fascism, Fiction,” upon completing my doctoral dissertation defense almost a year ago now, and on my way back to DC, with that ultimate goal for the “pursuit of happyness” and a sense of freedom in my life, without fulling knowing what that may entail and how difficult it may be to achieve it… 
 
I drove back to Wisconsin for the first time since returning to DC, to see my parents and to bring back the remaining things I left behind, while in that “pursuit of happyness.” And unfortunately, for the first time, I didn’t really feel that same emotion coming back to DC last week, in the drive, the way I described that feeling I have for being in Washington, here in this post (lost some photos in that post, sorry for the inconvenience, will fix that another time)…
It felt different… I feel I have been living in an extensive transition, a critical “turning point” in my life… and I am trying to understand it, while holding onto some things in the past that I need for my present and future, and perhaps swimming against the currents in a different way than ever before…
 
And upon arriving back to DC last week, it came to my realization that I truly am alone now… it really is just me. Or perhaps it has always been just me, and that is hitting me harder now. It’s a type of ‘alone-ness’ that is stronger than it ever was before. But when I parked my car at my apartment and looked up at the full moon that was with me in the evening drive back, I was reminded that He was there…even as I really am “alone.”
 
And I was reminded that unlike before, in that similar return to DC, my “second home,” I now have my own roof over my head and have achieved that “dignity of work”, working in a really great position in the city I always dreamed to work in. I didn’t have that before when I finished my doctorate and for many years while fighting to get through the finish line… I was reminded of that brutal struggle after completing my doctorate last year, for the “pursuit of happyness,” whatever that means, which is all still fresh… and when I opened the door to my apartment and saw those maps and whiteboard paper with pieces of my dissertation research plastered on the walls of this “temporary shelter”, to help me stay the course to continue this research, to continue this “purpose”…to make all of that count beyond the three letters… I was reminded that I need to keep moving… even if no one is with me, in front of me, behind me,… I was reminded why I came back to DC… why I need to be here… be “somewhere”…
 
Perhaps I have stated this before, but I have forced myself to be in certain spaces, especially those where I do not feel like I belong, because I felt I too had the right to be there, regardless of not being able to fit in a certain category or follow certain conventions. Regardless of my unappealing personality or “personality disorder” … regardless of what people choose to see on the surface versus what I am inside… I was miserable in school because those spaces weren’t designed to welcome “someone like me.” I still attended, despite feeling like a fraud, like an imposter, all the way till the very end of the highest level I could attain. It’s why I think it is important to keep showing up even though I am not wanted… It is partly why I attended my School’s graduation celebration when I didn’t feel welcome there…
I do not want to be a burden or an annoyance, but I have my right to exist and to persist… and to serve and to contribute…
 
I may always be walking alone and by now I should have been used to it. But as humans, we are not wired to be alone. As lovers of humanity, no matter how unwelcome you feel, you still love humanity, even if the love cannot be returned. I do have to find my own family and my own community because without human connection it is harder to keep going. Loneliness is also considered a danger to our health, as revealed during the pandemic. We must not feel shame in feeling it or expressing that we feel it, however. I just know that even though there have been people in my life I still have felt so alone. I still have had moments where I felt chained and wanted to scream… I’m supposed to be a vagabond perhaps…. not staying in one place… not having one label…
 
And I recognize that perhaps I push myself to the margins by revealing my authentic truths, the things that have happened to me that society shames, scrutinizing and marginalizing myself in the process of being honest, open and self-aware about who I am and what I’m thinking and how I stand and perceive myself in relation to the world. Somewhere along the way I may have lost people in my life and I often ask myself how? How could I have lost so many? What did I do that made me a repellant? To deserve rejection and abandonment? …. but I’m actually quite aware and I do know why… It is not completely out of my control, but it sort of is… but it’s not. I had normalized my reclusive-ness long before quarantine life, even as I longed for community… to matter to a community…
 
And I observe that when I reference or am in the presence of my own family online or offline, that certain people see more value in me when in “association.” Culturally speaking I have enough receipts to conclude that some people don’t take you for the individual that you are as a woman, and value you for yourself as an individual, unless you have some association to your kin or attached to a man in some way. I will expand on this another time. But as much as I celebrate and honor and show off my culture, it pains me …some things…. for example the way that marriage is celebrated versus the attainment of education, especially when comparing between men and women. I am not sure if attempting to set myself up to build a tribe, or an army, or find my “human family” will lead to any results in my lifetime. I may be fighting against very powerful forces (beyond the buree nazar – evil eye) that have already decided that my fate or destiny is “invisibility,” and “solitude.”
 
It is painful to be reminded that I didn’t deserve the kind of celebration that others receive for one of the biggest moments of my life. That I should feel guilty for putting something together myself… as I tried to embrace it the way I felt I deserved it, and instead of empowerment I aimed for, I felt shame, abandonment and guilt. Others should apologize for not being there for you in your special moments, but instead you find yourself needing to be the one to apologize for feeling or expressing hurt that they weren’t there.
 
While I refuse to feel shame for doing something good for myself, for celebrating myself, when others choose not to…. for sharing what I have within me and the love (much of which has been suppressed) that I wish to give to the world and contribute to the world in my own ways…. the shame is just too powerful… But whether people stand with me or not, I must live a real and authentic life. I want to remain real and honest, even if it means walking alone in the end, than that must be it… I made a choice, which had it’s costs… and the mission is incomplete, nor is it impossible… Being authentic and real is part of what it means to be “free.”
 
I am beginning to sense that I may need to move away from placing value in my own story, because my story does not seem to generate any value or matter, at least at the moment. When the world tells you to share your story, because it inspires others, because people will feel less alone due to your honesty, because “it will help a lot of people,” but then shut it down, it’s not encouraging to keep sharing your life with others. Nevertheless, I will still continue to share because being able to write about it is what is helping me survive. If people choose to interpret self-empowerment as lacking humility or being self-centered or self-absorbed, that’s their choice. But I know what I am doing, and I am self-aware, and trying to understand the transition and changes taking place internally and externally at the same time. Change and growth takes time and involves a lot of pain… and it is a process that I am honoring…
 
Since I finished my PhD, I have been so confused about the next chapter. I miss being able to work on my research full time, but you have to work with the market and other limitations in your life too that make you have make certain choices that are not in your original plan. But the possibilities of where to go once you have cleared something as incredible as the highest level of education, are limitless, especially when you are not competing with others or trying to win a race….just living your life at your own pace. You will definitely lose or miss out on some things by taking the necessary break you need for your mental health, for figuring things out, and you won’t get the validation or approval for needing that, from anyone…but you must take it for yourself anyway. You have the freedom to do so. With the understanding that freedom does have its costs. 
 
I do know what I want… I want to do many things and I will do them all without being timebound… as long as I can wake up in the morning and breathe and move. It is sometimes a matter of restructuring your life independently and being disciplined and doing things you love to do. I want to continue to write – creatively and academically -, play jazz/Bollywood tunes on my trumpet, paint, & explore different worlds and things I have never explored before, while continuing my research & learning new skills on my new job at a great organization enhancing academic & career opportunities for disadvantaged populations around the world. I will keep putting my work out there, even if nobody sees it, or values it. Naturally, we desire to be heard, to be seen, to be valued, to belong. But we can only do our best… 
 
The summer has just begun, and I will continue to deliberate and recuperate, to put my life back in order, Inshallah.
 
As a friend reminded me the other day, I write and document for myself as well, that’s okay too. I note this here as a reminder to myself that I don’t and never had a particular audience on any forum. I don’t wish to discriminate. 🙂 We are told to target our audience. I have always taken issue with that. Because I don’t know what that means, or perhaps I fundamentally disagree with that philosophy, or it’s too constraining for the rebel within me, that always questions “restrictions.” I guess that would mean, continuing to “walk alone.” On social media, It is really a matter of reprogramming the brain to process the media as output, and remain consistent and prolific without placing emotional value on the outcome (or response) of what you produce or share.
 
Nevertheless, I am with gratitude for anyone who does see value in my words, more than anything else that might be somewhat interesting or “pleasing” in my online social networking platforms.
 
There will be more to write, to discuss about “Azaadi,” about Freedom, and what this means to us individually and collectively. Today is Juneteenth, and it is a very special day to honor Black humanity, the struggle of those that have made all of our freedoms possible. A day to celebrate freedom. It is a good reminder generally to not to take the freedoms we do have for granted even if we yearn and deserve something more… we must never give up on this fight, for our voices and stories to be heard, to have the value it deserves.
 
Freedom, as the many great revolutionaries have stated before, is something that will never be given to us, we have to go after it and take it for ourselves. 
 
 
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
 
“The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time.” – Dr. Brene Brown
 
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” – Toni Morrison
 
“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 failure, setbacks, and hurt—they own us.”  – Dr. Brené Brown, Dare to Lead
 
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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