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My Very Grown-Up Birthday Wish List

On the eve of my 33rd birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about presents, experiences, and the people in my life. One of my biggest goals over the past few years has been to focus on spending quality time with people in my life and creating memories. Flowers and chocolates will come and go but the laughter and tears you shared over a bottle (or three) of wine live on forever.

So, when it comes to birthdays and birthday presents, my only wish has been about experiences with friends. I have the annual Vegas trip with my girlfriends. In Seattle, I do my best to have dinner & a fun night where my friends can embarrass me (last year, it was a dueling piano bar). When it comes to things, the beauty of being an adult is being able to actually purchase what I want on my own terms. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate thoughtful personalized presents from friends that touch on inside jokes or my quirky obsessions that make me who I am.

This year, though, as I began thinking about my birthday, I realized that my wish list is very…grown-up. As I come to terms with that, and in my attempt to actually start writing more often, I figured it would make a good blog.

My very grown-up birthday wishlist

A gift card to my barre studio

If you’ve been following me on social media, you know that I recently started going to barre class. The self-care journey has been a rocky one the past couple of years, and one of my best friends basically bossed me into going to class with her. I was really hesitant and scared at first but now I welcome the challenge. Of course, the challenge comes with a price tag, but the investment in my self is always worth it.

Cleaning service for my apartment

This is one of those things that’s felt like a luxury, especially since I work from home. One of the ways my anxiety and depression manifest themselves is avoidance – I avoid certain parts of my apartment. I tell myself that once I start cleaning, it will be easier. There are bursts of energy where I will scrub my bathtub at 11 PM but most times, I feel like a failure as an adult. So, this year, for my birthday, I decided I would look into hiring a cleaning service to at least give me a jumpstart. Maintenance is a lot easier than starting from scratch.

(If you’re in Seattle and have recommendations for cleaners who don’t charge a fortune, let me know!)

A spa day

If you have spent any amount of time with me in person, you’ve probably been witness to my twitchy body. I’ve had muscle spasms in my left shoulder since my late teens and when you add working at a computer all day to that, my body is a wreck. Which means I really need to start getting regular massages, and maybe throw in a facial once in a while.

Wine club membership

Because duh.

& wine glasses

Because I keep breaking mine.

America the Beautiful Pass

The goal this summer is to explore the PNW even more, and visit more national parks around the country. I have a lot to check off on my list!

Anything to do with books and writing

Because duh.

Quality time with the people I care about

There’s nothing better than sharing experiences with the people I care about – whether that’s sitting on my couch, watching Netflix, and drinking wine, or going on adventures together around the country. Every thoughtful moment is the best gift I could ever need.

How about you? What’s on your very grown-up wish list?


My very first comic con was in Seattle in 2013. I was struggling with adjusting to life in my new home, and I was beyond excited about comic con.

The most exciting part? Seeing Misha Collins in person. I knew that I wanted to do a photo-op with him, as well as an autograph session.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met celebrities before – I love meeting my favorite comedians after their sets. Sure, I’m a little awkward, but I look normal in the pictures.

So when it came time to meet Misha, I was nervous and ecstatic, but I had no idea what was about to happen. I got in line for my photo-op and waited for two hours. Mind you, this was my first con experience, so I didn’t know what to expect.

If you’ve never done a photo-op with a celebrity at a convention, let me enlighten you: [click to continue…]


Did you know you can now support me on Patreon? 

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, which is fitting on a global level. As I reflect on my personal life, it’s pretty fitting on a smaller scale for me as well. I was driving back from lunch with one of my friends and could not help but reflect on the impact women have had in my life this year.

I have, admittedly, always been one of those girls who got along better with boys when I was growing up. A combination of my home life, my tomboy attitude, and being bullied from a young age, my aggressive behavior resonated better with boys.

I had trouble connecting with other girls and would always find myself drawn to only one other girl who I thought was on the same page. That person usually encouraged me to be a lesser version of myself to build herself up.

Female competition in the workplace

I’m a bit of an overachiever.

I work hard. I always have. If something isn’t getting done, I’ve always been the one to be the team player and take charge when necessary to make sure it wasn’t reflected on to the customer when I worked in retail. I started my first job as a cashier at 16. In 6 months, I was moved up to the customer service desk and getting recognition for my hard work – which didn’t sit well with the older cashiers who had been there longer, just cruising by doing the bare minimum.

This continued in my professional journey as I grew older.

Women being competitive with each other in the workplace is not a unique phenomenon in my life. There have been countless articles written on this topic over the years. It’s almost ingrained in us at a young age in fairy tales like Snow White and fueled by the competitive nature of male-dominated industries.

In a world where there is an incredible gap when it comes to women in leadership, where we’re still not getting equal pay, and we’re battling harassment left & right, it’s no real surprise that this kind of competition still exists.

For me, it was another common thread in my life where I felt disconnected from other females.

A positive shift in female relationships

In the past few years, there’s been a significant shift in my personal life. For years, female friends (not so) subtly reinforced my belief that there’s something wrong with me.

Today, I find myself surrounded by strong women supporting me.

In both a personal and professional sense, I have women I can count on not to tear me down when I’m feeling weak, or worse, when I’m successful.

I have forged these incredible friendships with strong females that I didn’t meet until my late 20s/early 30s.

My 2017 was defined by fellow women entrepreneurs giving me a safe space to grow, opportunities to collaborate, and an abundance of encouragement.

In my personal life, I have an incredible group of women who are there for me every single day.

For the first time, I don’t feel like the outsider who just doesn’t get along with other women.

I am accepted, wholly, by other women who do not see me as a stepping stone or competition.

As individuals, we are strong as hell, dealing with shit our lives throw at us from all directions.

As a collective, we’re unstoppable, helping each other fill the cracks with gold when the rest of the world just wants us to shatter into pieces.

We do not thrive off of each other’s vulnerabilities.

We create a safe space for each other to be vulnerable and then act as reminders of our strengths.

So, as we enter into the new year, I encourage you to evaluate the relationships in your life.

Take it from this tomboy: It is possible to forge friendships with other females that aren’t riddled with catty drama.

You just have to be willing to cut the bullshit from your life.


I also touch on this topic and my friendships in my conversation with Renee on her Wild Cozy Truth podcast. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.


The Girl Who Thanks Too Much

Did you know you can now support me on Patreon? 

“You do say thank you an awful lot,” one of my best friends joked the other night. While I’ve been working on trying to stop being the one apologizing too much, I didn’t notice my transformation into the girl who thanks too much.

My initial reaction was to get defensive, but then I started thinking about it on my drive home. What’s wrong with thanking too much? We live in an age where we’re rushing through humanity, showing recognition only with a double-click, or on dedicated days to jump on the trending hashtags.

I know, I sound a little grouchy but I’m part of the problem.

I’m fully aware of my contribution to this culture of instant gratification, which is why I don’t mind being accused of thanking “too much.”

Is there such a thing? Does it take anything away from my day to show gratitude for the little actions of people around me?

During my first job as a cashier, I had to smile and say thank you to every customer. I would’ve done it anyway, but it was my obligation as part of our social contract at that moment. I had to say “thank you” to a customer who had just screamed at me while trying to return a stained shirt. I had to say “thank you” at the end of a transaction to a customer who had made low-key sexually inappropriate comments.

When I say “thank you” to the server refilling my water at the restaurant, it doesn’t take anything away from my experience. But it could make a small difference in his/her day.

I’ll thank you for holding the door; I say “thank you” out loud when someone lets me merge in traffic, I signal “thank you” to the car coming the opposite direction on a narrow street. I’ll say “thank you” not because I feel like I have to but because I like showing appreciation in every way possible.

We live in a thankless society. Look at online reviews – most of them are complaints because we don’t instinctively think to leave a review after a positive experience.

We don’t think about showing gratitude as often as we should.

So, sure, I say “thank you” too often and maybe that even makes me a little annoying. Does that mean I’ll thank you out of obligation if you don’t deserve it? Probably not.

But it doesn’t hurt any of us to make more of a conscious effort to show gratitude in small ways throughout our days.

So, as you think about your 2017 and get ready for 2018, plan on sprinkling a few more “thank yous” to your daily interactions.

I promise it’ll make a difference.

And as always, thank you for reading.


My bio says that I’ve been sharing my stories with the world since 2003 but it began way before then. Maybe it was with the first AOL trial CD and the first time I found myself in a chatroom. It could’ve been the first Tripod page (think Geocities) I built, trying to figure out how to code a page. I think 2003 refers to my first LiveJournal, but I can’t be too sure. Then came Myspace blogs and finally, my own website. BeingBerrak.com is the 3rd or 4th domain name I’ve used since leaving Myspace behind and ventured out to the internet.

All I know for sure is that I’ve processed everything life has thrown my way by writing it down, and throwing those words out to the world via the internet during my loneliest days.

I’ve received a lot of criticism about how much I share about my life. A lot of people have had opinions about how I should process my pain and how it’s improper that I share so much of my life with strangers.

If only those people know how much I haven’t shared.

Back when I was still writing under a pen name, I used to occasionally post password-protected blogs. They would be on my public blog but only accessible if you knew the password.

Even those were the tip of the iceberg.

I’m 32 years old and every year of my life as long as I could remember has felt like its own lifetime.

In the past few years, as I’ve found my footing as an individual, the urge to share has been fighting its way to the surface. My blog never really went anyway – it’s just been hard to find the words as I fought to keep my head above water.

What was I to do?

A book of essays? I mean, sure. That makes sense. After all, it’s the personal blogger way.

But that didn’t feel right.

One of the biggest rewards of sharing my life online has been the community I’ve been able to build. Even more importantly, it’s the stranger who’s stumbled upon my blog at the time they needed in his or her life and messaged me to say “Thank you for sharing. I needed to hear that.”

I write about the uncomfortable so the people who may stumble upon my words today or months from now can have that reminder when they need it – you’re not alone. There’s someone else who gets it. You will be OK.

But the thing is, the blogging landscape has changed. I didn’t want to worry about the SEO of my personal blog – I have to do that enough in my professional life.

I didn’t want sharing my stories to become a chore. It’s hard enough finding the strength to share. It feels cheap to pimp out personal blog posts.

Then came Patreon.

I’ve been playing around with the idea to start a Patreon for the good part of a year, but I felt like it was only for creatives. Why would anyone want to become a Patron to read my essays?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could tap into what I’ve loved the most about sharing my stories online: No filter, a community, and providing a safe space for others who are not ready to share their own stories.

That’s how Password Protected came to life.

My goals for the space as it evolves are:

  • Write & share my stories regularly with your feedback on the next steps
  • Create a safe space where you (the patrons) can engage
  • Give a behind-the-scenes look on how anxiety and depression impact my day-to-day creativity
  • Share your stories, anonymously if you choose, to get you feedback and support from our community.

This is where I invite you to join me in this journey. For just $1/month, you can show me the support you’ve shown me for as long as you’ve been part of my life. If you’ve known me for longer than a day, you know how much I struggle with asking for anything.

This isn’t me asking for a handout.

This is me inviting you to the next chapter of my writing career as I finally dive deep into my past.



Small Business Saturday 2017: Etsy Edition

I’m a huge advocate of shopping small when possible, every day, but especially during Small Business Saturday. If you’re not familiar with it, Small Business Saturday is an initiative by American Express, which has taken on a life of its own.

Every year, I try to highlight a few of my favorite Etsy shops and the women behind them.  One of my favorite parts about Small Business Saturday is reminding everyone that shopping small can mean online, supporting Etsy shop owners who work hard at creating high quality, handcrafted goods with love. (If you’re a frugal shopper like me, I’d like to point out that Ebates now provides cashback for Etsy purchases as well. Right now, you can get 6% cashback on your Etsy purchases)

On to the shops: [click to continue…]


Breaking the Habit

I’m sick of the tension, sick of the hunger
Sick of you acting like I owe you this
Find another place to feed your greed
While I find a place to rest

I’m about to board a plane to Spain and this trip could not have come at a more pivotal point in my life.

I’m tired of being tired.

I say this to my friends – a lot.

Life has always been overwhelming but it feels like the past 6 months, the Universe keeps giving me the middle finger.

At least it feels like that.

The truth is, I want to get on this plane and as I cross the ocean, I want to start letting go.

I want to let go:

The constant disappointment I feel in people after giving them a second, third, eighth chance to let me down.

The grief.

The “what ifs” that have been holding me back for years.

The resentment.

The anger.

The doubt.

I want to let go so that I can finally start healing.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for weeks but I also almost cancelled it the other day when all I wanted to do was scream. When all I could do was cry.

I’m going to let the Spanish air envelop me and I’m going to start to heal.

I’ll be surrounded by loved ones, friends I trust with my life, and opportunities to make new friends.

My support system here at home has been helping me keep my head (barely) above water and I am forever grateful to them.

I’m going to write. A lot.

I’m going to drink wine and eat cheese and watch sunsets (and probably sunrises).

I’ll be back with a lighter heart.

If I come back. (I kid. Kind of.)

I’ll probably be posting on SnapChat (BerrakDC) and Instagram (BerrakBiz) the most. 


The Snort Heard Around the World

You know the drill.

You’re standing in front of your classroom/office and you’re buck naked.

I never had that anxiety dream.

I also never pictured that I would stand on a stage in front of 3500 of my peers, mentors, and strangers at my favorite conference in the world.

I certainly didn’t picture myself SNORTING INTO THE MICROPHONE.

But alas.

It happened. [click to continue…]


Between panic attacks, hiding in my apartment, obsessively reading the news, and working, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the people in my life.

There have been a few great heart-wrenching conversations over the past few weeks.

I visited North Carolina to spend time with my best friend of 18 years.

One of my closest friends visited me in Seattle this past week, and even though we’ve only been friends for 3 years, I consider her family.

Another one of my best friends is someone who’s only been in my life for a little over a year.

18 years. 3 years. 1 year.

I’ve been a friend of convenience to many people in my life. The person they needed to boost themselves up before moving on to the next chapter. I’m fairly certain I’ve done that to others throughout life as well.

It’s just how we operate. Sometimes on purpose. Most of the time, subconsciously as we try to navigate this emotional maze of life.

I’ve let a lot of people down. And in some instances, I’m still making amends. I mean, I really am a bad friend.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about people is that we’re all fighting our demons, and we all make assumptions.

I certainly do.

A lot of tears have been shed over the past couple of weeks as I’ve finally broken down and said “I know I disappointed you. I know we’ve drifted, but this is a friendship I want to fight for. How can I make amends?”

It’s hard to quiet the noise in my head yelling at me about being unworthy, telling me that every single person in my life will leave eventually. It’s hard to think over the screams of doubt, to find the strength to sit down and write the words.

It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Because people will come and go during my life. I firmly believe there are seasons of friendships, but when the dust settles, who do I want by my side?

Those are the connections I’m fighting for. Those are the connections I want to mend. Those are the threads that I’m holding on to for dear life.

I want those 18 years of memories to turn into 36. I want every moment I spend with my friends to count, even if all we’re doing is sitting on the couch and watching Will & Grace.

So, I’m fighting.

I’ll keep fighting but there are days when battles are lost, or cancelled because I can’t find the strength after fighting my own demons.

There are days I won’t make sense. Days I’ll be extra needy. Hours of crying. Moments of doubt where I’ll ask “No, but seriously, why are you friends with me?”

And sometimes, there will be those times when I am so worn out, so defeated, so scared, that I’ll get on the defensive.

The walls will come up and I’ll push the world away.

Real talk: That’s where I am now. I can feel the defenses going up. I can hear the walls being built. I can feel my fragile heart retreating to recover.

I honestly don’t know what it will take for me to feel secure again. I’ll keep fighting those battles when it’s necessary but right now?

Well, you’ll have to bring those battles to me.


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…]