Cautionary Tales of Berrak: Fire Extinguishers

Picture this. 

Ballard, 2020. 

I got the keys to my current apartment in the middle of November 2019 but my other lease wasn’t up until the end of December, so I had an entire month to move. My first night in my new apartment was December 30. Now before I take you forward to January 11, 2020, a little bit of context for the events.

I moved to this apartment to downsize because I was spending a stupid amount of money on rent every month. My new apartment is older and smaller, but I really like it. The only thing that drives me nuts is the lack of counter space and outlets in the kitchen, but I was determined to make it work. There’s also an outlet above the stove, so on January 11, when I was cooking, I decided to put my Instant Pot in the middle of the stove to make use of that outlet. When the cooking was finished, I unplugged the Instant Pot, emptied it, and put the insert in the sink to soak. 

I was eating my dinner in the living room when I smelled something odd. My windows were open so I thought it might be one of my neighbors cooking, so I didn’t think much of it. 

It must’ve been instinct because I decided to take a look at the kitchen anyway.

Apparently, when I moved the Instant Pot, I bumped one of the dials for the burners on the stove. There is a thick plastic covering the bottom of the Instant Pot.

Because my stove is electric, it was a slow burn but there were small flames.

When I was doing the walk-through of the apartment, I made sure that there was a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. So, I went to grab it out of the cabinet. Followed the steps. Pointed it at the stove.

Not even a whisper.

Maybe I did it wrong. I tried again.

Empty.

IT WAS EMPTY.

THERE WERE FLAMES IN MY KITCHEN AND THE FUCKER WAS EMPTY.

I have no idea how I stayed calm because the flames had gotten bigger at this point but the first thing I did was to douse the flames with water. There was a momentary uncertainty because I knew you couldn’t do that with a grease fire but what if I wasn’t supposed to do that in the kitchen, period? 

Listen, I said I was calm but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t panicking.

I got the fire under control and moved the Instant Pot.

The apartment is small, there’s no fan in the kitchen, and not a whole lot of air circulation. It was now full of smoke (this is also how I found out the smoke detector wasn’t working.) So, I throw Farrah in the laundry room and close the door. Open all of the windows, plus the front door, and use a box fan to air out the apartment. It took 45 minutes. I somehow stayed relatively calm throughout it all.

As much as I scrubbed with Mr. Clean (that shit really works), there are still some dark spots in my kitchen. But after 2 years, I finally replaced the two knobs that had melted. Apparently, my stove is so old, they don’t even make replacement parts anymore.

So, this is your reminder to, for the love of everything, CHECK THE LEVELS OF YOUR FIRE EXTINGUISHER.  And if you don’t have one, get one.

On the 4th anniversary of this day, I’m honestly still impressed with my level of calm during this ridiculous crisis.

“The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

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.  Read more “The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the light”

Making Peace with Being Settled

Sometime last year, I seriously contemplated the idea of selling all of my possessions (except for my books, of course), and truly embracing the nomad life.

The wanderlust was strong, and I was feeling antsy.

My life was going to be an adventure, with Seattle being my home base.

When I had to put Dot down last year, I wasn’t going to get another cat. I wouldn’t take on the responsibility of another pet.

I was going to be spontaneous – ready to get away at a moment’s notice.

There would be no need for me to settle down. I didn’t want to put down roots, even as I was finally building solid friendships with people I could actually trust to stay in my life.

Then heartbreak happened.

I felt like a failure as a friend. As a woman. As a partner. As a business owner.

Over and over again.

So, I kept driving. I embraced the road. All I needed was Roxanne, the clothes on my back, my laptop, my camera, and McLovin. Nobody else.

I didn’t want to settle.

But then… Read more Making Peace with Being Settled

I’m Needy. So Are You. And That’s OK.

maslow“I’m needy. You know this.”

This is something I tell my friends often. When I meet new people, I warn them about my neediness, because I know it’ll come up. My friends know this all too well about me, and they fully accept it.

“You are, but it’s OK,” they tell me.

Of course, there’s a level to my neediness. There have been days I feel an extra surge of insecure energy surrounding my psyche, and if it’s a day I have plans, I no longer hide from it. Read more I’m Needy. So Are You. And That’s OK.

On Turning 29

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A year ago, on my birthday, I was alone. My birthday was on a Monday and I was hoping that some of my friends would still want to come out and say hi, but they didn’t. I thought it was a fluke. I thought that things would change. I spent the majority of my life as a 28-year-old alone. Drinking alone. Hitting rock bottom alone. You always hear that saying about how one can feel lonely in a group of people. I know that feeling all too well. I didn’t realize it, but that would be the case until the door was closed on me, I left that crowd behind and got to know myself again.

It took me a really long time to get out of my own way. Even tonight, as my best friend was making me an early birthday dinner after she had a long day at work, in my head, I was looking for ways to push her away because I thought that she would want that. Because I’ve been thinking nonstop about where I was a year ago, how maybe that’s where I still belong.

28 was the worst and the best year of my life. It was the year I spent an entire weekend crying because I missed my brother’s birthday for the first time since he was born. It was the year that I nearly got evicted – twice. It was the year I finally remembered that I have grown up and maybe, it was time to let the rest of the world see that too.

It was the year I cried so much, I went numb. It was the year I spent too many nights finding myself drowning at the bottom of a bottle. The year I borrowed money from my family for the first time, asking for help from friends in a way I never thought I would have to. It was the year my friends proved themselves – for better and worse. I opened up a vein and let the rest of the world see the truth behind my words – even if that made you uncomfortable. Read more On Turning 29

My Impostor Syndrome Is Currently In Remission

My fascination with clouds and the stars began long before Instagram filters and #cloudporn. Before I started working at 16 years old, I would make my parents buy me disposable cameras, and when we developed the pictures, 75% of them would be clouds and the sky. To this day, when I go through old pictures, I’ll come across a random print of a random cloud formation.

At night, my obsession was with the constellations. My dad was the one I shared that obsession with. He would help me pick out my favorite constellations at night and tell me their Turkish names.

To this day, if you’re ever outside with me, even if we’re just crossing the street to go to the next bar, you might catch me with my head pointed toward the sky – day or night. I can never get enough of it. I don’t need to point things out. I don’t have the desire to point out shapes in the clouds. I’ll get lost in it momentarily and all you have to do is say my name and I’ll keep walking. After all, my feet always remain on the ground, even if I trip once in a while.

This is pretty much how I’ve lived my life. Head pointed toward the clouds, shooting for the stars but always, always with feet on the ground. Tripping once in a while (OK, more often than I’d like to admit) and usually lost in my own view of the sky once, forgetting about the people around me. Because how could I not get lost in the stars? The possibilities? The mysteries?

The only thing that stands between me and the next star that’s my destination is…can you guess?

I always get in my own way. It’s self-doubt. It’s impostor syndrome. It’s being too selfless. Too passionate. Too scared. Not scared enough. Too foolish. Too…too everything.

In the last couple of years, I keep telling my beloveds and myself that I am working on getting out of my own way. Let’s be real honest – I can’t even fool myself on that, let alone those who have been my champions.

But I guess somewhere along the way, I actually did get out of my way. I stopped tripping up too much. The star I’ve been aiming for didn’t burn out by the time I reached it. In fact, it found me when I was probably trying to take in a sunrise or that cloud’s reflection in the water by the Great Wheel.

All this talk about stars and clouds and the sky, I never mentioned my North star. Because that’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it? Even when you get lost, even if you misread the constellations and stars burn out, as long as you keep aiming at your true north, you will find your path.

For me, my true north has been my always been my passion.

I identified it years ago and I never lost sight of it, even if I got lost. The path may alter once in a while, but that’s the fun part, isn’t it?

While I was gazing at stars, taking pictures of clouds, and keeping my feet on the ground one step at a time, a great opportunity found me. If we’re connected on social media at all, you probably noticed that last week, I began working for Google.

Yes, that Google.

There are a lot of fantastic things about this opportunity, but the reason it was so unexpected is because I didn’t apply for this job. Everything I worked so hard to build over the last five years paid off and my hard work spoke for itself when I didn’t even realize someone was listening.

I am beyond excited. Even today, after spending last week at the Google HQ, getting to know my team, I’m still a little bewildered. Nothing feels as good as being recognized for all of my hard work, even if I felt like I was running in place most days since starting this journey 5 years ago.

I get to work with a fantastic team, for an awesome company, doing exactly what I love, in a city I fall more in love with every day.

My impostor syndrome is currently in remission.

But don’t you worry, because I’ll still keep making faces like this in public.

On Closure

In the past 18 months, I’ve looked for a lot of closure in my life. Friendships, relationships, jobs, and even family. 

I learned that closure isn’t always clear. It won’t come in a neatly tied package and say “Here you go. Here are all the answers to your what ifs and the burning questions. Now you can move on.”

Closure comes in bits and pieces, and sometimes, the only closure you get is the decision you make that it’s time to move on. 

I’ve let go of bits and pieces of the ‘what ifs’ of my life that have been weighing me down for years. I know that my life wouldn’t be what it is now if I hadn’t slowly created my own closure, instead of waiting for the clear cut answers. Sometimes, when you get those answers, they lead to more questions. 

It’s not perfect. There will always be a part of me that will miss certain people, have things come up in my life that will make me want to reach out to those old friends that I miss so much but it’s better to be able to reminisce and cherish the good memories when I finally let the wounds close. 

I’m lucky to have friends and mentors who have been patient with me (whether it’s been for months or years) as I figure my shit out.

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This Is Not A List of Resolutions

(I originally wrote this in December, 2011. These remain true for me today)

Around this time of year, the blogosphere is filled with reflections, resolutions, and everything in between. Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to learn a lot about myself but that’s because I didn’t leave my reflection to the end of the year.

I get the sentiment – a new year is peeking at us and we’re overwhelmed with this sense of renewal. For some of us, the new year can’t come soon enough. I’ve had those years myself, when everything associated with that year seemed like a bad dream.

Maybe it’s because I’m an “over-analytical bag of compassion” (as I’ve been called) but I tend to do my reflecting on a daily basis, so when December rolls around, it’s nothing new. Sure, I look back at my year and reflect a little but for the most part, I’m just ready for another day.

Because that’s how my life is – day by day. At times, it’s hour by hour, because I can’t predict anything anymore.  The only thing I can do is reflect, try to figure out patterns and then find out what works for me.

Over the last few years, especially over the last two, I’ve nailed down a few truths about my life.

***

Blood does not family make. Blood makes you related to someone else. It’s the mutual love and respect you have for another human being that makes you family.

People in my past who treated me like shit and broke me gave me a chance to rebuild from the pieces.  I may have jagged edges but the pieces are still me – just stronger, a little crooked but a whole lot wiser.

I will have bad days where I slip, whether it’s emotionally or literally as I hide out on my couch. The world outside will keep moving but I’m in control of the direction of my world.

My gut never steers me wrong. I just need to listen to it.

I think about death, way too often. Sometimes, it’s in irrational fear. Other times, it’s to reflect and remind myself that no matter how bad my day feels, I was alive today.  Tomorrow isn’t promised.

I’m a hot mess. That’s never going to change.

When my best friend tells me that a situation is sucking the life out of me, I should probably take note. For her to tell me that means that it’s been gradually pulling me down for a while.

When I get super drunk, I cry. A lot. This is a fact of my life. Sometimes, I throw up. I’m working on the throwing up part. The crying will probably never go away.

I’m an emotional wreck of a human being. You don’t want to know the things that make me cry on a daily basis.

Those who I call my best friends, the ones who are family by my definition, won’t leave me hanging – no matter how I insecure I get. I can’t let my past pain color the good in my life today.

Life is hard. Words are hard.

I can’t ever stop writing.

My life is where I want it to be. I can stop sabotaging it now.

I will never fully fit in to my surroundings, but I didn’t come this far in my life by fitting in. I came by owning the fact that I’m an outsider and making shit happen for myself.

I could never be any kind of inspirational writer/coach/speaker/fill-in-the-blank. I don’t know how to actively inspire others. I just know how to live and share. Anything else, to me, feels fabricated. [This is not a commentary on anyone else. This is something that I came to learn about myself after joining a couple of group sessions, trying to writing ‘inspiration blogs’ etc.]

No matter how old I get, I will never be too old for the silly things that make me giggle.

***

These are my truths based on my life and experiences at 2 years old. In a year, I might add a couple of things, or nothing significant could happen to change it.

All I know is that I’ll be doing my reflecting quietly, without any kind of life lists, because that’s what works for me.

***

How about you? Are you the reflect and make resolutions type? 

Do you have a life list?

Was 2013 a “Shit, I am so over it. Bring on 2014” kind of year?

Letting Love Win

Love is the child of an endless war
Love is an open wound still raw
Love is a shameless banner unfurled
Love’s an explosion,
Love is the fire of the world
Love is a violent star
A tide of destruction
Love is an angry scar
A violation, a mutilation, capitulation

Love is annihilation.

–“Inside” (Sting & Police)

I wrote a blog a few years ago on love and what it means to me. I began by saying that romantic love is merely a form of love, and went on to list a few of the other things that love means to me. I could list everything on that list (which has grown) but at the end of the day, it boils down to this:

Life is love.

When you can look past your prejudices, your materialistic values, the popular opinion, the selfish motives, the insecurities, you will see that life is love. Being able to breathe is reason enough to love life and be thankful but we take that for granted. We sometimes take ourselves for granted. Some of us hold ourselves too high and take the rest of the world granted. Some of us don’t even know that true love is so close that we go out looking for it in places it doesn’t exist. We are so afraid that we’ll go our whole life without finding “true” love that we step over the real love that’s around us.

“You wear your emotions on your whole shirt, not just the sleeve.” – How one of my good friends summed me up a few weeks ago.

I’m a hopeless romantic. The bottom line is that no matter how much it may hurt, and how vulnerable it makes me feel, I choose to let love win and it’s a big part of the foundation of who I am. Every decision I make is an end result of letting love win. Whether it’s a love of writing, love of laughter, love of friendship, love of books, love of being a dork, love of love, my life and heart revolve around letting love win.

At the end of the day, my love of life has me going forward every day, even if I feel like I can’t take any more disappointment, because tomorrow always comes.

Have I stumbled? Of course. Has my heart been broken? Naturally.

Do I regret any of my decisions?

Absolutely not.

**

Inspired by this prompt from Laura Love is a gigantic word that’s definition and how we use it has evolved over time. There is family love, life partner love, BFF-always-and-forever love, and OMG-I-loooooovvvvveeeeee-that love. Tell me a love story about one version of “love”–what it represents, what it means, and how you use it (or don’t).

I Am…Beautifully Different (And other things)

I am…

…5 days away from being back on the east coast for the first time since I got in my car and left it behind 10 months ago. I am feeling all sorts of anxiety and excitement that I haven’t been able to properly articulate in the last couple of weeks. So much has changed since I left DC behind and I have no idea how I’ll feel walking those familiar streets.

…Writing again. Or at least trying to. I’m trying my hand at NaNoWriMo again since I have a title for my next book. I’ve also been lucky enough to surround myself with incredibly creative people, so I’ve been inspired pretty much on a daily basis for the last few months.

…Challenged every single day – in pretty much every aspect of my life. I love it, but I feel like I’m falling behind on everything.

…No longer waiting for the other shoe to drop.

…Allowing myself to feel genuine anger for the first time in my life. I can’t really explain it – it’s a strange, new feeling. Growing up, I never felt like I had any right to feel anger – I denied myself that feeling. I needed to be positive and I felt like anger wasn’t something that would help me get through the day. These days, though, I’m learning that it’s something I can’t deny, but I also have to be very careful not to be consumed by it.

…Happy.

…Truly drama-free. I used to be consumed with drama. When I was younger, a lot of my decisions fueled that drama. Mainly because it gave me some sort of purpose, until I grew up and realized what my true purpose is and once I learned to accept who I am, my life no longer had any room left for unnecessary drama. I no longer feel the need to justify my decisions about my life to anyone. I take a look around to the friends I have who love me unconditionally while being honest with me if they feel concern with a decision or the way my life is going. It’s not how long someone has been in your life but why they stand beside you today that matters.

…Embracing my inner-geek once again.

…Letting love win. My love of life has me going forward every day, even if I feel like I can’t take any more disappointment because tomorrow always comes.

…In competition with myself, and only myself. Once you start measuring yourself up against other people in any way, you lose yourself and who you really are. You become a shell of the person you are, shrouded in the shadows of other people. Life isn’t a dick measuring contest.

…Continuously cultivating wonder and the only way to cultivate wonder is to stop, strip away the layers of superficial weighing you down and live.

…Healing.

…Still obsessed with too many TV shows, too many books and way too much coffee.

How about you?