Leaving My Heart on the Stage: My First Ignite Talk

“Don’t trip. Don’t trip.” 

These were the thoughts going through my head as I went up the steps to the stage. During pre-show prep, I saw that the carpet where I’d be standing was a little shaggy. I looked at my boots.

“Shit, maybe I should get my flats from the car. My heels will get caught.”

But I didn’t. There was too much adrenaline pumping through my body. I focused on knowing where I’d sit. Remembering my first words. Remembering my last. Forgetting that there were 800 people in the audience that night – not to mention the live stream.

Did I mention this was my first big public speaking gig? I sent the proposal to Ignite on a whim. I’d done that before, and just like the past, I figured I wouldn’t get picked. So many more inspirational people with incredible stories apply every quarter. Why would mine get picked?

It did. I got the email right before Kelly Clarkson took the stage at Key Arena on August 12th. I was already an emotional mess because I’d been wanting to see Kelly Clarkson live for 13 years, so I didn’t even have the time to process the fact that my Ignite talk was accepted. No time to process the fact that I’d be standing on stage at Town Hall in Seattle, baring my soul about a topic I’d kept inside for 20 years.

Not that I had time to process it after. Traveling, work, conferences…the next month was a whirlwind, and right before I got on the plane at Cleveland to head back to Seattle, I submitted my slides for the talk.

“Shit, well, that’s happening.”

On September 17, I listened to 6 amazing people go up on stage and give their Ignite talks before me. I started to lose focus. I had to remember to breathe.

I made it on stage without tripping, grabbed the microphone from Scott Berkun and then was transformed into a Charlie Brown cartoon. My own words sounded like the teacher’s garbled speech, the audience like the background drawings that stay still. I made the mistake of glancing down at my slides once, and it threw me off. I glanced up at one point and noticed my friend’s husband in the back row (but didn’t focus enough to see her.) Three of my lovelies were in the audience that day, plus a few of my friends watching at home.

Once I got off the stage, I sat down. One of the other speakers gave me a hug. I grabbed my phone. There was one more speaker between me and intermission. I tried to hold back the tears. My friends were posting funny screenshots of the live stream on my Facebook. I smiled through the tears that inevitably came down my cheeks. At intermission, my friends found me to give me a hug.

“Did I say words? Were they in English?”

Audience members came up to me, thanking me for my bravery. For sharing my story. The guy who was in charge of the slides told me that I was right on point – I must’ve practiced meticulously.

I remembered that there were 800 people in the audience that night. My knees buckled.

A good friend asked me what made me choose to share my story – this story – now. I told him that it was time. The reason I hadn’t shared it is because I’d been scared, but I have bigger fears I tackle every single day to survive.

Besides, I said I wanted to do more public speaking. What better way to start by ripping my heart out and leaving it on the stage for the world to see?

 

The Memory Keeper’s Burden

Friends passing the volleyball around in the sun.

Families having picnics, as the kids run around chasing bubbles.

A friendly baseball game between families.

Daisies peeking out in the sunshine.

One of the girls running trips and falls, ripping her white tights. Her dad immediately swoops her up as her mom strips off the tights to clean her wound. Her brother still running after bubbles with bare feet.

These are all portraits of my past that I’ve kept locked away for so long, because with the positive memories come the nostalgia, the reminder that somewhere, something was broken, and those memories are now just a distant reminder of my childhood. I sat on a bench, unable to hold back my tears as all of these memories unexpectedly flooded my heart and soul this past Sunday. I couldn’t hold it back. It all seems so lost – the memories seem to be fading, and I fear that because I don’t talk about it, my brother might not remember it all. Read more The Memory Keeper’s Burden

Sleepover, A Runaway Dog & Spongebob

“Would you have thought this moment would happen 2 years ago?”

As we stood in my room at my parents’ new place Saturday night, my insightful fiance asked me that question.

The answer is “No.”

Because we were staying the night at my parents’ for Father’s Day weekend. If you’ve known me for even 6 months, you know what a big deal this is.  Hell, if you’ve had an overnight trip with your significant other for the first time with your/his/her parents, you know what a big deal this is.

So this was a big deal. (In case you missed it).

We drove up after Andrew got off work Saturday night & were up there around 11 pm. The surprise of the weekend wasn’t how awkward it was but how much Andrew fit in with my family. We sat around the table, teaching Andrew how to play Rummikub (Which is kind of a big deal in Turkey) and it was a  peaceful sight.

Andrew fit in with my family*. In his own goofy way.

When I went to bed that night (In my own room while Andrew slept in my brother’s room because whoa, one step at  a time people), I was at peace.

The next day, the dog ran away.

The little bugger figured out how to get out of her collar and ran away when she was supposed to be peeing. WHOOPS. If you’ve never seen a young Siberian Husky run, they run FAST.  My bro & Dad looked for her on foot, and after a couple of minutes, Andrew & I decided to look for her with the car. It was my dad that found her but whoo, that was quite an adventure.

What? I'm not planning anything.

Never a dull moment with my family!

Then I found my old Spongebob visor from middle/high school, which I had to wear in the pictures we took at the end of the day before Andrew & I headed back. Those were the only pictures we took all weekend, which a shame because the Godfather card Andrew gave my dad for Father’s Day was epic.

Just like this first weekend with my family.

Maybe next time Andrew & I can sleep in the same room when we visit my parents.

Not the same bed of course, until after we get married.

 

My boys.
With my boys. (And Spongebob)

How was your Father’s Day weekend?

 

Not the actual card but you get the idea.

 

*I did have a moment and thought about whether or not any of the men in my past would’ve fit in with my family like Andrew does. The answer is “No.”

 

[Family] Land of No Secrets

It was completely unplanned.  She asked me if I had anyone in my life and a smile took over my face. I couldn’t stop. So I said yes.

It began with me telling her I was just seeing someone.

For over a year.

Oh, and my dad & bro have met him.

In between these little factoids, we went on tangents.

About my feelings, about our relationship and how much I wish it was better.

It just kept unfolding. Words kept flowing and eventually, I told her that I was engaged.

Oh and that we’ve been living together for a year.

I couldn’t stop gushing, and at the same time, I was so worried about her reaction. The reason we hadn’t told her was because we didn’t know how she would react.

I don’t know how I would’ve reacted 6 months ago,” she told me the next day.

I didn’t plan to have this heart-to-heart with my Mom. The truth is, it’s been hard not being able to share my happiness with her. It’s been hard keeping secrets, and not being able to call her whenever I had something share.

The conversation got awkward at times. We’ve never been that close. My mom doesn’t really know me, hasn’t known anything about my life for the past 6 years.

The secrecy wasn’t because I wanted to keep her out. It was so I could find myself. I needed to make my own mistakes, find my own footing, and embrace my own feelings.

I know I’ve broken her heart at times when I lashed out. I lashed out because she had no idea what I was going through, and she may have thought I was being overdramatic when I got frustrated over work. In reality, I was probably frustrated over work, a broken heart & hurtful friends all at the same time on that day.

She didn’t know.

Saturday, as we sat in the living room of their new house, something was in the air. It was as if everything that I’ve been holding in my heart got released and was hanging above us, waiting for her to absorb it.

And she did.

I gushed over my life. I gushed over the man who would become her son-in-law.

I told her about how he makes me laugh when I need it the most.

I told her about the way he took care of me when I was sick.

I told her about how much I love him.

I showed her pictures of us, even the silly ones.

I just kept talking about him. I couldn’t stop.

When my dad came home from work, and she said “I guess our daughter is getting married,” he told her that Andrew was made for me.

This is a new chapter in our lives, as Mother & Daughter and as a family.

I think we’re all in shock.

Every time I talk to her, I’m afraid the magic will disappear.

There will still be times she frustrates me. She will say things, like all mothers do, that will make me want to hang up the phone. She’ll make me feel defensive. We’ll probably have a fight or two [or10].

I welcome those moments. I welcome them, because at the end of the day, we’re growing closer. I welcome them because we are now in a land of no secrets.

I welcome them because they’ll be far and few in between the conversations about how much men are alike and they never grow up.

I didn’t plan it but I think this may have been the best Mother’s Day present I could’ve ever given my mom.

Me.

Unfiltered.

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Awkward.

I’m really awkward. Especially if I’m seeing a second cousin for the first time in 10 years. Especially if we were super close when we were younger but I’ve barely talked to him in those 10 years. Especially if he is now studying in the US, living with my parents and is a little judgmental of the fact that I’ve moved out.

What do I do when I’m awkward?

Give him an awkward hug when I walk in the door and avoid him for the next 10 minutes  as I talk to my dad as if he isn’t sitting there 10 feet away from me.

Awkward. Very awkward.

The rest of the day was fine. My brother and I took him shopping, and got him a new phone and all that jazz. He was very grateful for all of my help. I’m glad he’s here but at the same time…

AWKWARD.

People change a lot over time. Especially in 10 years. Especially if we grew up on two different continents. Especially if my entire family is against the fact that I moved out.

He was under the impression that I was now living hours away from my family and was completely disconnected. My dad told him that I was 15 minutes away and came home to see them every week and it was just a decision I made for myself.

We talked about what I was studying, which was cool because he has a Journalism degree but then again, my Turkish vocabulary isn’t as good as it should be.  It’s worse when I’m feeling awkward.

On a not so awkward note, I was glad and comforted by the fact that even though we’re older, he had the same mannerisms, which was familiar to me.

I’m really glad he’s here but I don’t think I’m going to get any less awkward around him but I will certainly try.

In not-so-family related news, I’m around but notsomuch. Classes, work, writing articles, being sick, being lame, etc have kept me from being around and reading/writing blogs, etc. I will hopefully be back in full swing of the e-life at some point in the next couple of weeks.

I’m A Young Soul In This Very Strange World

Three suitcases packed standing against a barren wall covered in cracks and scratches…AC unit blowing air into an almost empty room in the middle of the night while the rest of the house is silent…Even the animals are at rest…

And here sits a girl, trying to make all of this real. Because right now, this just feels like a vacation that is almost too good to be true and if I go to sleep, then I will just wake up back in my bed at home…staring at my posters, hitting snooze on my alarm clock hoping that today will be bearable. Day after day, everything stays the same and then one day…

Everything is different.

Can this be real?

I won’t know until my room is fully clean, my bags are unpacked and the walls are filled with my memories and things that make me happy.

The other side of my wall, I can’t hear my brother whispering to his girlfriend how much he loves her. He isn’t there to say good night to me…or to laugh at how much he bugs me sometimes. I won’t hear a knock at my door just as I’m trying to fall asleep…because he needs my headphones. He’s now a phone call away…the phone call he’s reluctant to answer now because I know he’s hurting and I know he misses me. I’ve only been gone two nights and I miss him like an amputee misses their phantom limbs.

I wish I could stay…I wish I could be home and make it work but it wasn’t working. In the last two days, I’ve been able to talk to my mom on the phone without any tension. I can pick up the phone to talk to her without worrying about her pissing me off…or blowing up at her…because being home everyday to listen to her, even knowing she’s unstable…it was wearing me down.

We needed this. We need this.

I do feel selfish because I spent the day cleaning this house. I hung out with my roommates watching a movie at the end of the day. I laughed and I was carefree.

I miss my brother. I do miss my dad clicking away at his Poker game on his laptop while I’m watching TV. I miss my mom napping in the other room. I do.

But I also need to find myself. I need to be the daughter they deserve instead of a daughter who resents being home.

I hope that this will help my mom and I be close again. I hope that this will force my brother to spend more time with my parents instead of locking himself in his room. I hope that my absence makes them a family again by bringing them closer.

So I’ll try to fall asleep in this bed that doesn’t feel mine just yet in a house that feels like our vacation home in Turkey…and wake up to the first page of the next chapter in my life…or back to the first page of the endless chapter of my never ending nightmare.