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Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself

So, there’s this funny thing that happens when you’ve spent 20 years talking to people on the internet, sharing both your personal and professional journey.

You wake up one morning, 34-years-old, with the realization that a majority of the people who have “met” you over the past 5 years only know you in your professional capacity, while you have your high school friends, your blogger friends, and then your girlfriends who aren’t bloggers but still like reading your writing (you assume).

What follows is a bit of an identity crisis.

I had this little crisis a few years ago when I was meeting a lot of people at conferences and even attempted to “segment” my posts on Facebook for the different audiences I had.

Needless to say, that fell apart pretty quickly.

Then there’s the whole thing where I decided to build a business on my own strengths, without separating the business from who I am, and so my Twitter & Instagram feeds have become a mix of both personal observations and professional insights. Oh, and then I decided to go in house at an agency after being a freelance consultant for a decade, so that’s been a fun transition.

While all of this has been happening over the course of the past few years, I’ve also lost ownership of my own narrative. The most basic truth about human nature is that we all only share parts of our stories to certain audiences. We package up our life to serve the anticipated expectations of the people we encounter. Before the internet, this was limited to our families, our friends, and coworkers that were physically present in our daily lives.

With the growth of our perceived audience, the anticipated expectations of people have grown exponentially.

For me, the consequence of that was being so afraid to share my narrative to my segmented audiences that I just stopped sharing, not only with the world but with myself.

I lost touch with my own healing process—I stopped writing.

I began censoring myself.

I tried to fit the mold of so-called “best practices” not only in my professional journey but my personal life too.

My depression and anxiety began taking over my inner monologue, making it even more difficult to express myself to the outside world.

I became lost in a sea of expectations, seeking validation from people who don’t even know how to accept themselves.

I began to shrink.

Then I had an epiphany.

The most radical act of self-care is reclaiming the narrative.

So, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about who I am today.

I’m Berrak Sarikaya, a 34-year-old April Fool Baby who is Aries AF, and feels no shame about it. According to the Enneagram Institute, I am Type 2: The Helper.

I am an immigrant and proud of it.

I’m multipassionate, and no, I do not want to monetize every single hobby that I have because I want to just enjoy things without feeling judged.

Full disclosure: I do however have an Etsy shop

Being multipassionate also means that if you’re following me on social media, you will see me go from geeking out about the latest Doctor Who episode to talking about politics (both in the US and Turkey) to sharing memes to sharing marketing tips to amplifying job postings to connect people to…whatever it is that’s on my mind that day.

Life is too short and I am too busy living to have a curated persona for your benefit.

I’m a writer, first and foremost, but I’ve also worked my ass off over the past decade to curate a career that combines a few of my different passions.

While I am growing as an integrated marketing strategist, I’ve also got a soft spot in my heart for small businesses, content marketing, and freelancers/solopreneurs.

I am not an expert in anything, but I do have a lot of experience.

I am curious as fuck, and I will ask questions. If you have the answers or an opinion, I want you to answer those questions.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am expressive. I am easily excitable.

I take big leaps. I am more scared of being successful than failing. I make mistakes. Lots of them. I let people down.

I make snap judgments. I let my insecurities take control.

I wear my soul and scars out in the open.

I am thirsty for knowledge. I am overwhelmed.

I am a survivor.

I am evolving.

So, welcome to my life. If you’d like to be a part of it daily, here’s a little cheat sheet to connect with me.

  • Twitter (@BerrakBiz): This is my favorite platform. You can engage with me daily on here for random thoughts, industry insights, cat pictures, random observations about Seattle life, and generally geeking out.
  • Substack: This is a brand new endeavor and where you can find more of my writing. 
  • Instagram (@BerrakBiz) (personal): This is where my biggest identity crisis is happening and things are shifting. I wanted it to be a curated experience as a small biz owner, but I’m shifting back to it just being me. I use the stories a lot, and I’ve begun posting a little bit more to just share daily thoughts, books I’m reading, etc.
  • Instagram (@BerrakLava) (food & fitness): This is where you’ll find posts about my fitness journey, foods I’m loving at local restaurants, and new recipes I’m trying as I reconnect with my roots.
  • LinkedIn: This is where I’m professional AF. Obviously. I’m pretty selective about who I connect with on here but if you want to connect, be sure to send me a note with your request.

Now, I’d love to meet you. Tell me something you discovered yourself in the past year. 

Remember: You can subscribe to get email updates until I’ve got my biweekly newsletter up & running!

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How I Found My Groove in the Orange Zone

Growing up in Turkey, I was used to running around all the time. Our days in elementary school were long because we had recess between every single class. So I would spend half the day in the schoolyard in my dress uniform, running around behind a soccer ball, heckling most of the boys in my class. Fun fact: My biggest expense as a kid was tights because of how many I tore through running around during recess.

When we moved to the U.S., I spent my weekends playing soccer, baseball, and tennis with my cousins. In middle school, I hated running in track & field but in high school, I tried out for the volleyball team every year. I was never the most athletic kid but damn if I didn’t try so hard to be part of a team. I loved playing volleyball but just could not get over my own insecurity issues to ever make the cut. Of course, this being high school, I threw myself into kickboxing in gym class and threw food right out the window. My body images issues have been around for as long as I can remember and I’ve already written about that.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house and in with a house full of roommates when I was 24-years-old, I threw myself back into working out. I would come home from happy hour to do the 30 Day Shred in my tiny room as my roommates slept.

I was feeling strong and about to dive into P90X when I got in my first major car accident. My car was totaled, the whiplash was awful, and I never got treated for the injuries. My shoulder spasm issues were already under way when this happened so I just gave up. I slowly started to gain weight and stopped taking care of my body. 

I never really found a way to make peace with my body to the point of trying to become active again. My ex was a runner, so when we first started dating, he pushed me to go jogging with him once. It did not go well. The first time we went hiking was encouraging but then we took on a more challenging mountain and well, we made it to the top but I didn’t feel like my best self. 

That was the last time. 

Fast forward to January 2018. One of my best friends had started to do barre and she gifted me a 5-class pass. “You can go at your own pace,” she told me. The first class was absolute torture but something in me finally clicked. We started our Saturday mornings sweating at barre class and little by little, it became sort of easier. 

Then I got into another car accident. This one was brutal. Thankfully, I had health insurance so I finally went to see a chiropractor. The first thing he said to me was that I had a “10 year old car accident on my spine.”

Needless to say, the adjustments were NOT easy. I went back to barre class about a month later and it was so fucking painful but I didn’t back down.

Yet, there was still something missing. Barre was great but I knew I needed to also get back into cardio work. I didn’t want to go to the gym, and I didn’t want a personal trainer. The last time I had done a spin class was a disaster. A few of my friends had seen success at Orangetheory Fitness. They encouraged me to try a class but I was terrified.

“I’ll go when I’m a little stronger,” I kept telling myself. I kept delaying, and delaying, and delaying…until I finally made the commitment. I texted my friends.

“I’M GOING TO MY FIRST ORANGETHEORY CLASS NEXT WEDNESDAY.”

On November 7, 2018, I walked into my first OTF class. Everyone was super nice, and my coach showed me the ropes. They told me I didn’t have to run and I could do the tread blocks as a power walker.

The biggest selling point of OTF for me was that it’s a guided workout, but everyone goes at their own pace. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself. Except my first class was a partner workout. They begin every first-timer on the rower, so the person who was at the same number station on the treadmill was my partner. As the rower, I was the one keeping pace for our switches. 

Y’all. It was the most intimidating situation and I was worried about holding my partner back. I was in pain. I was out of breath. I was cramping up. I wanted to drop the handles and run out—and never look back.

Except I didn’t. I have no idea how but I pushed through the class.

Then I signed up for another one.

My next class was a different format and a little “easier” in the sense that it was not a partner workout and I was able to get in the groove a little more comfortably. It was also a different coach, so I got a more well-rounded perspective about OTF in general.

And I kept coming back. I went from going 2X/week to 4-5X/week depending on how I’m feeling.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished in the 5 months since that first class:

  • 2,000 meter row benchmark. Twice. Beating my own personal record the second time
  • My first DriTri
  • Numerous personal records when it comes to the weight floor
  • My first 90 minute class

 

I stopped caring about the scale. When I began going to OTF, the number on the scale was the highest it’s ever been my entire life, but I made a choice not to focus on that number. I am focusing on how I feel, how my clothes fit me, and the fact that I keep showing the fuck up.

So, what is it about Orangetheory that helped me find my groove?

  • For those 60 minutes, it is only about that workout. Whatever’s going on in my life and the world that day, I leave it at the door as soon as I step into that studio. My phone is left behind.
  • The coaches are fantastic. They’re hands off because they have an entire class to pay attention to but they don’t let me slack either. They encourage me to keep pushing, just a tiny bit every time.
  • I don’t have to worry about making any decisions except for which station I will begin on, and how will I push myself for the next 60 minutes. I have decision fatigue during my everyday life, so not having to think about which workout I should be doing, or how long I should be on the rower, or which core exercise I should be doing…it is a literal sigh of relief.
  • If I don’t give my all in one class because I’m having an off day, it’s completely fine. That is ONE class. I still showed up. I still did the work, and I will be right back in the studio the next day.
  • I have never felt stronger. I am still not a runner but that’s OK. The tread and rower workouts are fine but when a coach comments on my form on the weight floor, that means the world to me.
  • My left shoulder is still incredibly weak and I still suffer from muscle spasms. Yet, every time I go into class feeling “off” and planning on hitting the lighter weights on the floor, my body surprises me.

Orangetheory taught me that after decades of feeling at odds with my body, it is possible to make peace.

It’s possible to slowly gain confidence and strength.

It’s possible to listen to my body, understand its limits, and then push past that comfort zone.

I can’t wait to see what I can do next.

If you want to follow along with my OTF journey, I post all of my updates over at @BerrakLava on Instagram.

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“I’m going through a rough patch,” I told one of my best friends last night as we sipped our nightcaps after a great meal and a show at one of our favorite venues.

She looked at me straight in the eyes and said “a rough patch where you have a roof over your head, a job you love, and pretty solid life. You’ve been through worse.”

She’s right, of course. I have been. In fact, earlier that night, I had given her a highlight reel of one of the toughest periods of my life. I met her right at the tail end of it, when I was still healing and wasn’t really talking about the details.

There’s so much of my story I haven’t shared with even my closest confidantes because I met them after I had come out of the fire. It’s never about “hiding” my past but choosing to only share the details as they become relevant to today.

And sometimes, honestly, because I’m so open with them, I just assume that I’ve already told them everything, even though I’ve lived lifetimes before our paths even crossed.

So this is 34. It’s no longer about just moving forward and just surviving and thriving in small, present moments but owning my full story.

It’s going back to my roots of sharing my pain, my flaws, my weaknesses, and the lessons I’ve learned, not only to begin healing but to help others understand my story.

This is 34.

It’s owning my anxiety and my bad days and being honest about how much I’m struggling.

It’s reminding myself that I am allowed to cry it the fuck out when my heart is broken into pieces.

This is 34.

It’s being selective with how I choose to spend my limited energy, and not feeling guilty about leaving people behind when they’re no longer a good fit for who I am becoming.

It’s about not only growing out of my own comfort zone, and remembering that I will grow out of other people’s comfort zones. It’s knowing that I do not have to apologize for either.

This is 34.

It’s being able to stop saying “I’m too much” and instead, pivoting to proudly owning my personality without feeling the need to shrink to fit into anyone’s expectations.

It’s loving things and people passionately and enthusiastically without justifying my feelings.

Oh, and I guess it’s safe to say that this space is going to get a little busy again.

I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed sharing. I’ve missed my community.

So, if you’re new or if you’ve been around for a while, I hope you’ll stick around.

Because this is 34, and y’all, I have a lifetime’s worth of stories to share.

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When I set out to clean my apartment this morning, I never imagined the kinds of breakthroughs I would have while picking crud out of my dishwasher filter with a toothpick. It wasn’t until I was on my stomach, cleaning the dust filter underneath my fridge that everything clicked together.

I know, what a visual, right?

2018 has been rough for me but if I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling for about a year now. There have been ups and downs, yes, but mostly, it’s been this weird limbo. I’ve felt like I’ve been walking around with that feeling of needing to pop my ears but never being able to, no matter how hard I blew my nose.

I’ve been stuck emotionally. Mentally. Professionally.

I’ve been stuck in a walk-in freezer, unable to push the handle while the words I need have been haunting me through the frosted window.

<Insert endless metaphors about feeling stuck and depressed here.>

A few weeks ago, I had another candid heart-to-heart with one of my best friends. Right before my 30th birthday, she had asked me if I was freaking out and at the time I wasn’t. My 30th came and went with the regular amount of fanfare and not too much freaking out. I was happy.

“I think my 30th freak out is hitting me now, 3 years later,” I confessed while crying into a glass of red wine. That night, I went home and sat down to write.  [continue reading…]

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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. [continue reading…]

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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: [continue reading…]

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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. [continue reading…]

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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.” [continue reading…]

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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. [continue reading…]

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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: [continue reading…]

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