I first arrived to Patagonia in 2015. I was eight months pregnant with my first child, married to a man that had grown up in Denver, whose parents lived in the Mesa. Even though Brad and I both grew up in cities, my home city, mega-metropolis Karachi, in a turbulent country, Pakistan, is far from anything most people in America can imagine without physically visiting.
For five years I grew my family in the idyllic setting of Patagonia with yearly visits to see my parents, friends and family. It was always hard for me to return to Patagonia, though, on the surface, there was nothing for me to complain about.
I had planned that 2020, like so many of us, would be different. I had hoped to have my third baby in Patagonia and then enjoy the infancy stage with my family and friends in Karachi. The summer of our long first pandemic lockdown I felt cornered and trapped, unable to buy a ticket and visit Pakistan. I am sure now that I was also suffering from postpartum depression.
All I could fixate on was that things would be better if we moved. All I could do was get riled up every night by the polarizing news of the 2020 elections. All I could imagine was my children being excluded because they had Muslim names and an immigrant mother. I felt sure that moving to Pakistan was the absolute right decision for me and my family.
We sold or gave away all our belongings, save seven suitcases. After six years of marriage I finally was getting what I wanted: to live in Karachi again.
My story is too long for all the things that made 2021 one of the most intensely beautiful years of my life to fit in this one essay. What I can tell you is that in 2021 I committed myself to writing and the craft of it. What I can tell you is that leaving America gave me the perspective that I needed to be able to return. What I can tell you is that I was right. I needed this last year to recover myself from the ravages of motherhood and alienation. What I can tell you is that I saw clearly that my children are not Pakistani and they are definitely not urban. What I can tell you is that no one understood my children in the school system, they were unable to settle and I was unwilling to give them up to the forces of capitalism entrenched in elite private schools for wealthy people like me in Pakistan.
This time, though, I didn’t say goodbye to Pakistan. I brought it with me. I decided I was not going to carry the shame of its many faults or the anger of being occupied, racialized, colonized, or rampant Islamophobia. In this new migration I’m going to resist with the ways my land, my heritage and my faith has shaped me. I’m going to carry the music of the devotion that being Pakistani and Muslim has mystically wrapped in every cell of my being and share those gifts with the world. I’m going to be honest about my limits and my discomforts.
I arrive fresh hearted to a new year, a new home, a new job and a new city to settle in. I’m going to say hello to my new life with courage and perspective. This time the place is called Grand Junction, and its name is no small metaphor for what this arrival signifies for my children, for my marriage, and for my personal journey.
Brad and I took off in his paraglider from the Hindukush mountains in Northern Pakistan on our second meeting. We could not have known how long, dizzying, and challenging the flight of our togetherness would be. The longing to grow old with a man from a different world has resulted in planting roots in the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains.
On the way to our new forever home, we knew we had to make one important pitstop: Patagonia. For four days my children played for hours with their friends in Richardson Park while we caught up with our friends who had become embedded even further in this unique community. Just like Karachi, Patagonia is a hard place to describe unless you experience it. I left for Grand Junction with a full heart, knowing that my years in Patagonia were real and meaningful.
In these short and long years, I’ve done more than I could have ever imagined. My plans are little, while His plans are much greater and grander than I could ever know. For that, I am buoyant and grateful, and the hardship of being displaced once again from my land is comforted by trust and experience.