Walking each other home

Jun 01, 2022

This past December I had a rough experience. My mental health was rocky, I felt lonely and so unsure of what I was doing with my life, IRB was taking forever (some things never change 🔬 🤷🏽‍♀️), I spent NYE alone in bed (caught the vid), and to top it off,  family matters were chaotic & torn. I felt defeated.

I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have made it this far.

You see, the thing is, it’s damn wild I did. Now, before you assume I’m saying this from a place of something like imposter syndrome or not feeling worthy of making it this far, let me stop you before you get started bc that’s a long way from the truth.

Rather, I’m referencing my semicolon tattoo. I humbly wear a suicide awareness tattoo on my finger, the semicolon, for a reason. #thesemicolonproject

As it does in literary terms, the semicolon represents where a writer could have chosen to stop yet, instead, they decided to keep going.

As with life, the semicolon represents where one could have chosen to end their life yet, they kept going.

My life has been a series of having to choose to carry on, even when I’m sure there’s no way in hell I can continue.

I mean that literally, as in, whether or not I should have continued on with my life

I mean that academically, as in, whether or not I should have continued on with higher education

I mean it in every way.

Because somehow or another, in someway, it never let up. Life never let up.

The thing is, I’m not smart.

In fact, I just admitted to my dad a few weeks ago that I actually cheated my entire way from elementary school to high school (forgettaaabouttttittt)🤷🏽‍♀️🤭🫣🤫

I think I only got away with it because I was class president. It’s still unclear LOL 

So like I said, I’m not smart naturally. I always thought I was going to have to marry somebody rich, hope for the best, because there was no way I would be able to achieve anything & make enough money to support myself.

Or, was that the Arab culture painting a picture for me of what my future would be like? Probably a combination of both but heavier emphasis on the former rather than the latter.

I remember sitting in class in middle school just looking around wondering how all the other kids were able to answer the questions. I felt so isolated, so broken, and so stupid.

I was always getting into trouble at parent teacher conferences because I could never stay in my seat, and although the cliché goes that The only thing certain in life is uncertainty, that cliché is actually false; There is one thing that has always been true, always certain, which is that…

 

….Alicia Naser loves to talk 🤗and it’s significantly difficult to get her to stop🤭🗣 

but she will eventually stop at some point, because she doesn’t want to just talk, she wants to engage.

 

She wants you to respond and she wants to respond back to you.

 

She wants dialogue because dialogue fosters human connection

 

and human connection fosters a sense of connectedness.

 

and a sense of connectedness fosters the notion that I’m not alone in this thing, this life, in this place, on Earth.

 

So, I suppose the Lion King was on to something in the circle of life. Everything, if you are attentive to the unfolding of purpose & meaning, comes full circle.

 

Today?

 

My energetic mind (& mouth) and my undeniable gravitational pull towards seeking understanding, they are the very attributes that allow me to change lives.

 

It’s the very reason I will soon, in a few months, will have earned the title, Dr. Alicia Naser.

 

When it comes to my intellect, nothing has changed. I’m still not smart.

 

I mean it, I’m not. What I am is:

 

curious

eager

intuitive

passionate

oriented upward

contemplative

reflective

collaborative

philosophical

scientific

people-centered

kind

humble

empathic

…and of course, talkative 😉

 

and I’ll take all of these over smart any day.

 

Because I’m more than smart, I am myself. …and THAT has been one of the hardest things to be in the shoes I have walked.

 

The descriptors listed above have always been inside of me, they have always existed as part of my intrinsic being, yet, they were limited in their fullest expression as I never had the people or the environment to bring them out in me. To support all they had to offer the world.

 

Becoming a doctor sounds foolish if you were to tell little 10 year old Alicia that’s what she would be someday. There’s no way in hell she would be capable of such a lofty goal.

 

Yet, 31 year old Alicia today couldn’t imagine her life otherwise.

 

Nothing has made more sense than to be in the position that I am;

 

conducting the research I’m carrying out,

having the conversations I’m having, presenting the science I’ve discovered,

and changing the world one behavior at a time.

 

That day back in December, referencing one of the pictures from the carousel slide of this post with Dr. Albright, I almost withdrew from the program.

 

I felt defeated, I had enough. I wanted to throw in the towel and catch up with everyone else my age- they were all married or getting married, having babies, etc. (only to find out recently that this wasn’t the route to go given most (not all) were divorced or miserable).

 

Did I though? Is that what I really wanted? It wasn’t. I knew that. Let me clarify, I hope you have all of those things one day and I always thought I would have them sooner than now, but life plays the piano keys as it will and you can only step on the foot-pedal and read the notes.

 

In fact, I was damn sure I wanted to finish my doctorate. But defeat and grief are tricky characters.

 

Few people know this although it’s nothing I’m ashamed to tell because I think we need to normalize such occurrences; I was academically dismissed from the first masters program I had ever started in south Florida when my Teta passed away in 2013. My grades plummeted, as too did my life. She was my best friend.

 

I started my PhD program in 2018 and a year in, went through a very traumatic event. Yet again, I was academically dismissed.

 

From a PhD program, Alicia?? Who gets academically dismissed from a PhD program?

 

Yet, as my professors pointed out to me, I had gone back to back from one degree to the next without a break in between, I was the youngest in the program, and mainly, I was recovering from a very traumatic event.

 

It only made sense that my performance in the program suffered. Take the year off, you can apply again, come back. So, I did, I took that year off and I stayed in contact with all of my professors. I conducted research to prove I still was in the game. Graciously, they welcomed me back with open arms.

 

Things have only been uphill from there. I have never been more proud of myself or sure of what I’m doing in life. To leave any mark, no matter how small, on the world. On a life.

 

Every card stacked against me, including two academic dismissals & more trauma than one could fathom, and I don’t know how, truly I don’t, but somehow I’ve maintained an unwavering belief in humanity and our capability of feeling worthy, if only we dig deep; For this can only be why Im still standing.

 

It is all for something much greater than myself. It always has been. It always will be.

 

I am so glad that day back in December I waited until Monday.

 

I’m so glad I had, and continue to have during this final stretch, the support of these specific heroes (and others not mentioned). They believed in me, they still do as they support me to the end of this degree, when all I believed at times is that my life was not worth living.

 

I had my semicolon tattoo inked many years back, but it never fails to remind me to carry on. For every trial and tribulation in which I was sure I wasn’t going to make it, somehow I did. Not only that, I was better for it.

 

My adequate self-esteem (of which I’ve worked my ass off to build) has it such that I really love so many things about myself. we don’t talk about this enough, that is possible to admire yourself and love yourself in a humble, not arrogant, way.

 

I love & admire that I have a deep passion & curiosity for other people. I love my energy and I love that my energy can make people feel good. I love that I’m kind and I love that despite the insurmountable adversity I’ve gone through in my life, I’m still standing.

 

Most notably, I’m truly honored and grateful that I could write this whole thing and feel so happy to share it with you because knowing what I know now, I know that even if just one out of 10,000 people reads this, it will hit close to home.

 

…and as we know, we are all just walking each other home. Xo Alicia

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