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Over the past few years, I’ve been getting the same questions about Ramadan.

You can’t drink water?

Wait, how long do you have to fast?

Why is it during the summer?

I don’t talk about my faith often, but those around me know that this is my favorite time of the year. It’s been a long time since I’ve addressed questions about my personal observance of my religion. As you can imagine, these days, I’m mostly in defense mode when talking about anything related to Islam.

I’m not the perfect person, nor am I the perfect Muslim. Most days, I don’t feel enough. I hold my faith close to my heart because I truly believe it’s a personal connection that I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone.

But you guys, Ramadan is beautiful. Its observance is something that’s been a cornerstone of my life since I was ten years old.

Full disclosure: I’m not a religious scholar. I don’t have all of the answers. I can only talk about my personal experience and observance. 

First things first: What is Ramadan? [click to continue…]

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The Memory Keeper Learns to Let Go

It just began raining here. I know, in Washington, in the middle of May, that’s not breaking news. (How is it the middle of May?!)

I’m actually sitting in a little cottage on a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound. A writer’s dream, right? I’ve got my wine, my “Mellow Pop” station on Napster, and no deadlines looming over my head – except my own. Hence the getaway in the middle of the week. I’m trying to find my voice again by removing the familiar from the equation.

The familiar isn’t always such a good thing. Right now, my apartment doesn’t always feel like a refuge. Sometimes, it feels like a prison and my anxiety and depression control the locks. Despite being surrounded by love and family, I’ve been in solitary confinement for the past few months. It’s been so difficult to explain.

I’ve spent the past decade expressing my feeling with the written word but it’s been getting more difficult lately.

I’m blocked, stuck, stunned, aghast, overcome.

What? I’m a writer after all. I couldn’t pick just one word.

I’ve already talked about why I’m a bad friend. That’s been just part of the equation.

Don’t even get me started on the current state of affairs in the U.S. and the world. No, really, don’t. I will go on all night, and my AirBnB hosts will find me curled up in the fetal position Thursday morning.

Sigh.

I’m not sure where exactly this post will go. Let’s read and see. [click to continue…]

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What’s My Age Again?

I ask myself that question more often than I’d like to admit lately. Maybe it’s a thing that happens after you turn 30.  It may have to do with no longer having life milestones tied to age.

Honestly, it’s probably because days have started blurring into one another.

I’ve been doing a birthday blog post since my early 20s. It’s a way for me to think about my year and highlight the major milestones I accomplished.

I turned 32 this past Saturday.

Honestly, 31 was an exhausting age. It’s been a hell of a year, with lots of ups and downs.

When I turned 30, I wrote about how I chose me, and living with intention.

Choosing to live with intention comes with the consequence of being scary as fuck. The risks are higher but so are the rewards. Every decision I make is because I’m stubbornly creating a life of purpose.

I wouldn’t call it an unconventional life. We get so caught up with labels and telling everyone how they should or shouldn’t be living their life. I am so over that.

My life doesn’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards for it. Every single day, I wake up and fight through the weight of depression. Every decision I make, every misstep, every little bit of success is mine and mine alone. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who give me their unwavering support and love, but at the end of the day, they aren’t the ones making the decisions for me.

Most of the time, decisions I make may not make sense to other people. That’s because you’re not in my skin or my mind.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how it feels like my life goes through radical changes. In reality, the changes aren’t so radical if you look at my life as a whole.

When I look back at my life 5, 10, 20 years from now, I want to be proud of my journey. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ll probably make a lot more.

Speaking of mistakes, one of these birthdays, I’ll turn down the shots my friends buy me. As we learned this weekend, 32 was not the year for that.

I declared 2017 my year of Gumption.

I guess setting fire to my safety net, getting my first tattoo, and having my first professional speaking gig would contribute to that goal.

To be perfectly honest, I have no grand declaration about being 32. It’s another year, another number.

I’m grateful for the love in my life, the losses that remind me of my strength, and every day that brings new opportunities for a worthy life.

I guess I’ll keep having to think about how old I am whenever I fill out a form.

No but seriously, what’s my age again?

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today was the second day of Digital Summit in Seattle and I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. I fell asleep while working last night, and didn’t pay any mind to the odd position my laptop was in when I picked it up to put it in my laptop bag.

I decided to drive instead taking a Lyft this morning, and boy, am I glad I did. I got to McCaw Hall, ran upstairs to get a little work finished before heading into a session, opened the lid of my laptop and was greeted by this.

Oh yes, that odd position my laptop was in? The charger had slipped off, gotten between the lid and the keyboard, and at some point, my cat walked/sat on my laptop enough to put the pressure on the screen. So, I closed the laptop, ran back to my car, and went to Best Buy.

Pro tip: Best Buy doesn’t do hardware repairs on Macs.

I got back in my car and drove north to the nearest Apple Store. After an hour wait, they told me that the cost to replace the display is …

… $670.

The cost for a new 13″ Macbook Air? $799

So after getting price quotes from a few repair shops, I decided that I would turn my laptop with the busted screen into a “desktop” computer at my home office with my external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

After picking up my new laptop from Best Buy (and yes, I did use Ebates to buy it online and do store pickup so I could get cashback, thank you very much), I decided I needed to head home. By the time all was said and done, I had missed a majority of the conference and just did not have it in me to network.

Literally 2 minutes away from being safe & sound inside my apartment, I nearly got into a car accident because someone decided that they were going to go straight instead of turning right right at the last second. As in, he’d already started to turn, so I started to pull out and he changed directions mid-turn and almost t-boned me.

Sigh.

But I’m home, safe and sound. I know it could’ve been worse, and I am incredibly lucky to have the savings in place to afford the new computer. (Oh, you should go read my last blog about that.)

So, it’s only Tuesday but it’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Tuesday. Let’s just hope the week gets better.

Tell me something frustrating and something good in your life right now.

 

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How I Saved $600 Without Even Trying

I am notoriously bad at saving money. Budgeting has always been a struggle for me, mainly because I screwed up my credit pretty bad when I was younger.

I sign up for recurring subscriptions and forget about them until the money is taken out of my bank account.

I’m still struggling with having a proper budget (and believe me, I’ve read about a zillion blog posts and have tried different programs, apps, and templates).

Even when I have a separate savings account, it’s easy for me to just transfer the money to cover bills.

Investing seems too much like a challenge.

So, how do I have over $600 saved right now? [Edit: Since I’ve written this post, my savings are now up to $1000)

Enter Digit

Well, I mentioned the “signing up for things and forgetting about them”. That’s sort of what happened with the savings. A few months ago, in one of those money-saving articles, I read about Digit. Their tagline is “Save money, without thinking about it.”

Appealing, right?

I couldn’t even tell you when I signed up for it, but according to my history, the first withdrawal of $1.74 happened in November. The first few withdrawals were small – less than $5. That’s a direct correlation of what was available in my bank account.

Digit checks your spending habits and moves money from your checking account to your Digit account, if you can afford it.

I know it sounds pretty crazy but I see the transactions with “Hello Digit” on my bank statement and don’t really think about it. Sometimes, it’s as much as a cup of coffee. Other times, it’s what I would spend on a dinner at a restaurant (but didn’t).

I don’t have to think about it – and that’s been the most effective way of saving money right now.

If you’re interested in trying it out, use my referral link.  (I do get $5 if you sign up using my link). You can always pause the withdrawals, and your money is available for withdrawal 24/7/365 (but I personally try to forget about that).

Update: Since I’ve written this post, Digit has announced that they will now be charging a $2.99 monthly fee for their service after the first 100 days. They will also be upping their Savings Bonus from 0.20% to 1%. More details here.

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to budgeting? How are you overcoming the challenges when it comes to saving money?

 

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I am a bad friend.

I fell asleep during our text conversation and I meant to message you back the next morning. I was excited to catch up with you and hear all about the awesome traveling you’ve been doing. When I woke up the next morning, it was a bad morning. my anxiety was through the roof and I hadn’t slept well. So I tried to throw myself into work and promised I would get back to you when I was in a better headspace. I didn’t want to bring my negativity to the conversation.

***

Oh, my dear friend. I’ve been meaning to email you. It’s been so long since we talked. We keep doing drive-by “hellos” in Hangouts, promising that we’ll catch up. I want to. I want to call you and hear your voice. But by the time I’m in a good place, you’re asleep. And the cycle begins again. Every time I want to break it, anxiety fills me, reminding me I’m a bad friend and I shouldn’t bother you.

***

I see your posts on Facebook. I reach out with a private message. In that moment, I’m in a good space and can give you the attention you deserve. Sometimes, that can change in a few minutes, shifting my focus on the conversation.

***

We finally make plans to hang out. It’s on the calendar. I am stoked! The day comes and I wake up excited but then, work overwhelms me. My focus shifts, making me struggle to get things done in time. I have to cancel because I am drained. I stay up until 2 am finishing up the work I couldn’t do at 2 pm because my anxiety derailed my productivity.

***

I care. I do care. But you see, I’m not myself. I make promises, and my intentions are pure. I truly want to catch up, to see you, to write you long emails. I’ve got stationary and I want to write letters like we used to.

***

You’re a new friend, and I want to spend time with you but then the guilt fills in. I should be spending this time with friends I’ve neglected who’ve been patient.

***

I try.

I try.

I walk around in a fog most of the time, and it’s been even more difficult since the election. I can’t focus on anything but the news and work. So I throw myself into work. I take on too much and fill my hours until I am too tired to think and can have some peace.

I’m nervous. I’m overwhelmed. I’m anxious. I’m worried that any conversation we have where I’m not giving you my all isn’t enough. I’m not enough. I’m paralyzed. Emails are abandoned after I type in your address and the hello.

Text messages stare at me, unanswered. Too much time passes. It feels disingenuous, even though I genuinely miss you and want to talk to you.

You’re on the other side of the country. You’re on the other side of the world. You’re down the street.

You’re in my heart but my heart is under attack. My brain is trying to find the balance. Thoughts try to escape but scatter into dust as the fog gets heavier.

I’m sorry I can’t do better right now.

I will try.

I hope you’ll still be there when I do.

 

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On January 21, 2017, I had the honor of joining 130,000 human beings and fellow Seattle citizens to march down the streets of our city for the Women’s March on Washington. We were 130,000 out of millions around the globe. It was my first time participating in a movement like this. It took me out of my comfort zone. Crowds give me anxiety, but I had close friends I trusted, and I didn’t even hesitate.

It was empowering, but it was also a reminder of how much of a bubble I’ve put myself in over the past few years. It’s not that I’ve been silent about injustices, but I thought the only difference I could make were with my words. I’m a writer. I’m an amplifier. I thought my power was limited to speaking out with the written word, but to be honest, I haven’t even done that as much.

The Women’s March on Washington, the conversations leading up to it, and the discussions that will continue to happen reminded me that as a Muslim immigrant woman who’s survived sexual assault and harassment, I’m still more privileged than most.

To make a difference, I need to come to terms with my uncomfortable truths.

Yes, I’m a Muslim immigrant woman from Turkey, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at me. I’m not olive skinned. I have an accent, but I’ve been here long enough that it sounds more like an east coast accent than a foreign accent – unless I’ve been drinking or I’m fatigued. I’m Muslim, but I don’t “look” Muslim (which is a whole different conversation).

Yes, I’ve been sexually assaulted and stalked, even worried about my life being in danger at one point, but I’m a survivor. It’s not something I carry with me – or at least I try not to. I was able to leave the situations that made me feel unsafe. I’ve created a safe environment for myself. I had the opportunity, as painful as it was, to remove myself from a dangerous environment. I’m lucky. There are millions of women (and men) right here in the U.S. who are physically abused daily.

My relationship with racism and marginalization is complicated.

21 years ago, when my family and I moved to the U.S., I remember being confused about racism. I studied about slavery in school. I knew about the civil rights movement, which is why I couldn’t understand how racism could still exist. It’s not that I didn’t believe it did – I had trouble wrapping my head around anyone thinking another human being is beneath them on a fundamental level. When I studied about the Holocaust in 8th grade, that same confusion led me to become intensely interested in learning more about the Holocaust. I read book after book about how Hitler came to power, trying to understand how a person could be filled with so much hate. In high school, I became obsessed with forensic profiling and trying to understand serial killers (think Criminal Minds, the high school edition).

But I didn’t continue in my due diligence. I was going to study psychology, and go to law school. Instead, I continued my journey by embracing the power of words as a writer.

I still don’t understand how there is so much hatred in the world tied to religion and skin color. I don’t understand how someone could claim to be a superior race when we’re all part of the human race. When I say that, I don’t mean it as a naive statement or ignorance. It’s just disbelief, in the same vain as the signs I saw this weekend reading ‘I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap.’

There are LGBT issues. There are transgender rights and equality issues.

I know that’s the tip of the iceberg.

My personal acceptance of everyone’s equality as human beings despite their religion, race, sexuality, and gender doesn’t make me immune to ignorance.

My truth is that I’m thirsty for knowledge, but at the same time, I feel like I’m drowning.

I’ve been overwhelmed with news about what’s happening back home in Turkey. I’ve been overwhelmed with seeing shooting after shooting in our home. I’ve been overwhelmed with seeing story after story of black men and women being brutally attacked. I’ve been overwhelmed with police aggression. I’ve been overwhelmed with homophobia, Islamaphobia, and the helplessness of not being able to help the LGBT and transgender individuals feeling helpless because the “It Gets Better” mantra seems far from the truth. I’ve been overwhelmed…

…from the safety my apartment, surrounded by loved ones and the comfort zone I’ve been able to build for myself.

Yes, my power still lies in words, but I also need to arm myself with the knowledge to make those words even more powerful.

In the last 24 hours, I learned that:

So, what’s next?

How do I control the firehose of knowledge to educate myself on issues that are out of my comfort zone?

One sip at a time.

I pledge to dive deeper into the history of the civil rights movement, the men and women who were not in our history books, and those who are fighting to make a difference today.

I pledge to put one foot in front of the other at more events – yes, the #BlackLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter marches too.

I pledge to speak out louder at injustices online and offline.

I pledge to continue to do my due diligence when it comes to facts and never spread false information. If I see false information being spread, I pledge to continue to speak out with the facts and resources.

I pledge to be cognizant of my privilege and check it at the door when entering discussions.

I pledge to recognize my shortcomings and arm myself with knowledge.

I pledge to ask questions.

This is where you come in. If I come to you to understand your history and your battles better, I hope that you won’t be flustered with my questions. I don’t mean to be ignorant – but no matter what I read in books, I will never fully understand what it means to be in your shoes. But I will try, and your answers will help me understand.

The truth is that what I do will never feel like it’s enough, but I also know I need to do more.

Yesterday’s march was a first for me, and it won’t be the last.

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Confessions of a Journal Hoarder

Hi, I’m Berrak, and I’m a journal addict. It’s been 89 days since my last journal purchase and seven days since my last pen purchase.

Like most people, I’ve always had every intention of using my journals on a daily basis. I mean, I’m a writer. I need to put pen to paper, to feel the words flow through my body onto the page. I’m a prolific documenter.

Of course, I can’t go one day without journaling.

Of course, I need to use my planners to keep track of the million projects I’m juggling.

There are some things technology can’t take away from me.

Except…well, we know better, don’t we?

By the time I make it off the computer at the end of the day, I’m so worn out, my hands barely work. My handwriting has gotten awful. I mean, most doctors have better handwriting than I do these days. But as I mentioned in the first post of the year, this is the year I’m going to change that.

Right?

Right.

I mean, I didn’t buy all of those lovely pens and markers just to have them lying around. (Let’s not bring my stationary and pen addiction to this session.)

So, how am I going to make this new habit stick? [click to continue…]

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The Year of Gumption

Starting the year a little brighter and a lot bolder.

Every year, I start a new photo album on Facebook. Every year, I try to come up with a title for that album beyond just the year. In 2015, it was the “Year of Dirty Thirty” because, well, I turned 30 that year. In 2016, I didn’t have anything specific in mind, so it was the “Year of [TBD]” and I honestly still couldn’t describe the year in a word.

When I was uploading the pictures from Saturday night, on a whim, the name for the 2017 album became the “Year of Gumption.” I thought it would be something like “bold” or “adventure,” but I like gumption better. [click to continue…]

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Let’s talk about 2016

What do we do with things we don’t like? We put them in the cupboard. – Doctor Who

There have been way too many moments throughout 2016 where I thought it needed to go in the cupboard. Both in my personal and professional life, I suffered heartache. I felt helpless and useless and simply put, destroyed. There were days that the outside world didn’t help this turmoil.

Yes, this year was awful in a lot of aspects.

On more than one occasion, I said that 2016 was trying to take the title of “Worst Year of My Life” away from 2006.

But here’s the thing.

It…really wasn’t.

I know. Look. I’m watching my home country essentially burn to the ground from the other side of the world. The country I’ve chosen to call home is doing some pretty…scary things on a large scale too. It’s a downright scary world right now.

I’ve had friends lose loved ones and have felt helpless with tending to their heartbreak. I’ve had loved ones leave my life when I was no longer useful to them. I’ve felt helpless on more occasions than I’d care to count.

But as a survivor, I can’t help but focus on the positives. The lessons. The silver linings. The days I made it through without a bad thought. The ability to laugh through the tears. The strength to ask for help.

2016 brought me a lot of good things too, which is why I’ve had the strength to make it this far.

I’ve got this incredible support system. My brother and his girlfriend moved out to Seattle, just a few minutes from me. After years of being single, I met a man who worked his “I hate taking pictures” self into my heart. One of my best friends brought a tiny human into this world and I got to hold him when he was just a few hours old. I took risks. I tried new things. I had my best friend of 14 years come out to Seattle for my birthday. I pushed myself to new challenges in my career. I left the country to cross the border into Canada and then flew to Bangkok.

I took risks. I tried new things. I pushed myself to new challenges in my career. I went to my first Seahawks game and cheered until I nearly lost my voice.

I drank way too much. I risked my health. I made stupid mistakes and even stupider decisions. I drank way too much coffee. I didn’t drink enough coffee. I took way too many selfies. I didn’t sleep enough. I gave into depression and slept too much.

But, the thing is, I lived. I keep living. I keep getting up every morning and even when I’m frustrated, I’m trying to create something – anything with my life.

Because my life is all I have. This is it. The good days, the bad days, the “I can’t keep going but have to” days.

I can’t control the world. I can’t control the people who choose to break my heart. I can’t prevent my heart breaking  because I can’t stop being who I am.

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason.” ― Anaïs Nin

I’m a giver. I love too hard. I’m overly anxious. I give second chances. If I have to, I’m ready to give the shirt off my back to someone who needs it, even if I need to be cold for a while.

In 2016, I learned to finally really let go. I reconnected with my past selves and remembered my strengths before I let the world get to me. I remembered that my life makes sense when I’m unapologetically being me – because no one else can live my life. No one else should tell me how I can live my life.

It’s hard. At times, it’s lonely. But this is the only life I have.

So, yeah, 2016, you were kind of an asshole. There’s no guarantee that 2017 will be any better. Hell, it might be worse.

So, it’s time to buckle up and decide: How do you want to remember your 2017? How do you want to react to the world? How will you continue to be you in a world of chaos?

 

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