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? Read more Confessions of a Journal Hoarder

Nyctophilia

I’ve always preferred the night to day. I spent much of my childhood looking up – at the clouds, but mostly seeking the stars during the day. When they came out at night, my inspiration was revived with them. I found escape in the night. In a house full of chaos, my favorite time was the night. When everyone went to sleep. When I was left alone with my thoughts, for better or worse.

When I moved out and moved into a room that was essentially the size of a closet in a house full of 4 other people, I waited until everyone went to sleep before tip-toeing downstairs with my laptop or book.

The night and I became best friends. Worst enemies. The quiet in the night became my confidante. The internet brought me friends in different time zones, hundreds of blogs to read when I got lonely because the world was too quiet and my demons too loud.

My writing flows the easiest in the quiet of the night. I sit here, with music in my headphones, my cat purring in my lap and my fingers flying across the keyboard. Yes, even alone in my own apartment, I use headphones. It’s how I get in my zone. It’s how I create. It’s my bubble.

Not every night is productive. Some nights, I can’t shut my brain off long enough to sleep, nor can I slow it down to pick out a single thought. Some nights, my anxiety drives me into a panic mode and all I can do is clean and organize. Some nights, the depression is so heavy that all I can do is lie there, staring at the TV, not even attempting to reach for my notebook.

The night and I have a complicated relationship – but it’s a reliable one. As an insomniac, I accept it fully. The nights I can actually go to sleep, my subconscious takes over and I wish for the sweet release the manic nights when I at least feel a little more in control.

I know it’s hard for my friends to grasp. I know that this may change drastically when I find a partner who will be by my side to calm those demons when my nightmares start to creep in. But I can’t deny the truth that the night is my most creative time. As a writer, I try really hard to get into the zone during the day, like a normal person. But the night calls to me like a siren.

“It’s just you and me,” whispers the night. Not a single distraction in the world. No phone calls, no meetings. No sunlight tempting me to come out and play. In the quiet of the darkness, I am free. I am loud. I am raw.

I cut the veins open and words bleed on to the page without interruption.

On Perspective & An Announcement

When you’ve been blogging as long as I have, it’s really easy to get caught up in comparison, competition and the popularity game. Add social media to the mix and it’s incredibly easy to go down the ugly path of insecurity and playing the numbers game.

Why am I not getting more readers? Why don’t I have sponsor opportunities? Why aren’t more people sharing my posts?

When I stopped using my pen name and had my coming out, in a sense, a few years ago, it was hard for me to balance everything. I was throwing myself into this new world of freelancing, where my name became the most important asset I had. I worked hard to gain credibility when it came to my business but my writing fell through the cracks. I was pouring my creative energy in to my clients’ websites, their campaigns and all of my writing became almost formulaic. I decided to divide up my blogging with a personal site and a business site, which was a good idea. I just didn’t execute it properly and spread myself too thin. Whenever I found the time to write on my personal blog, it was just me opening up a vein and just dumping all of the feelings I was trying to process in my life. For the turmoil-filled time in my life, it  made sense.

Somewhere along the way, I lost perspective and my voice because I was too concerned about perception. I didn’t want to mix business with personal, even though my personal passion is what fuels my business.

The World Is My Jester.

I also forgot about the things that make me happy. The parts of my life that I don’t write about as much even though it’s all a part of me. At the end of the day, I’m not just a 20-something blogger. I’m a journalist, a photographer, a writer, a fan girl, a geek, and so much more. When I wrote an impromptu post about GetGlue’s decision to get rid of their physical stickers, I felt…whole. I’m not saying that my personal blog will be a hub of pop culture updates and news, but I want to write more about the things that matter to me. I don’t want to go to other sites just to write about things that I love.

I lost sight of what has kept me writing and blogging for a decade. It’s about my perception of the world. The reason that we write isn’t always to bring something new to the table, but to share with the world from our vantage point. As individuals, we can all experience the same exact event but come away with a completely different story to share. We each bring our past experiences, our emotions and our powers of perception to the table. Those of us who choose to share our experiences, especially on a personal level, shouldn’t be afraid of our voice.

How much is too much?

I often get asked why I share such personal experiences on my blog. I actually internalize a lot of my feelings as I am going through them. I have to process them on my own, sometimes by talking things out with close friends or writing in my journal. Yes, I do write about some intensely personal topics, like my recent post about the truth behind A Distorted Dream.

The fact is, 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.

I am in this for the long haul. I had a lot of time to reflect this week. It’s easy to get bogged down in comparison. I had to remind myself that my big passion isn’t sexy. It’s not pop culture. It’s something that will take nurturing and I’m in it for the long haul. So I took a deep breath, put things in perspective and got back on track.

The announcement? I am working on some big projects for 2014. I also want to keep in touch with you guys not just through this blog or social media, but via a newsletter. It will be simple. It will be bi-weekly, or even monthly, and I really hope that you will sign up for it. I know how easy it is for our mailboxes to get filled up with too many updates and newsletters, so I promise to make this as valuable for you as possible.

Just enter your email below and the first update(with the announcements for 2014) will be at the end of this month.

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The Silly Aspiring Digital Nomad Philanthropist

I want to tell you a story. I’m going to ask you all to close your eyes while I tell you the story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves. Go ahead. Close your eyes, please. This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little girl.

These sentences began the closing argument Matthew McConaughey’s character makes at the end of A Time to Kill. It was this movie, and this closing argument that made me want to become a lawyer. I was in 6th grade. From that point forward, my life became all about law school. I wanted to go to college and for that, I would need a scholarship. So I took the SATs in 8th grade, joined the Debate team in 9th and Mock Trial in 10th. I will tell you right now that in all of the experiences I’ve had in my life so far, nothing compares to how I felt in the courtroom, even if it was for mock trial. As soon as I turned 16, I got my first job as a cashier at KMart, working my way up to the Customer Service Desk in 6 months.

Because I didn’t know how to quit back then.

I loved helping people. Thus began my career in retail – between the ages of 16 and 19, I worked in customer service before I transitioned into law firms, sometimes working 2 jobs at a time while going to school full-time. My first full-time job was working as an office manager at a legal recruiting firm (I stayed there for 2 years). In the meantime, I was always writing but I still had my heart set on law school. It was my dream.  It wasn’t until I got my first communications job at a trade association and met the man I would consider my mentor that I even considered a career involving communications and writing.

My boss at that job was the one who convinced me to add on Journalism as a minor. He was the one that encouraged my writing while I was still using a pen name and if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have in my career now.

Losing that job and taking the leap to becoming a full-time freelancer was the best thing that happened to me. It was at this point when I had to figure out what my future looked like because law school was no longer a viable option. At least not on this path.

I won’t give you a play by play of my resume. You can find that on my LinkedIn. I also won’t tell you the story of how I became a community builder. You can read that here.

Instead, I want to remind you to do what you love, not just what you can.

In school, I was really good at math. I don’t know why, but it just clicked. I wasn’t passionate about math. I didn’t go above and beyond what was required of me. Up until my senior year in high school, it was just something I was good at so I got the good grades and somehow made it to AP Calculus. It may have made sense for me to continue on a math-related path in college but I didn’t love it.

When it came to history, English, and Psychology, however, I went above and beyond. Maybe it was that English is my second language but I had to spend extra time on my assignments but I didn’t mind it one bit. I fell in love with Psychology so much, I started a Psychology Club in my high school. It didn’t click as easily as math did for me but spending that extra time made me fall even more in love with it.

This has translated into my career as well.

When you hate your job, the quality of your life also diminishes.

do what you loveIf you’ve known me for even five minutes, it’ll become obvious that writing is my passion. I’m not just talking about blogging but writing. Researching articles. Doing journalistic pieces. Op-ed pieces.

It always comes back to writing and making a difference. I don’t want to just write fluff pieces. I want to talk about things that matter. I want to shake things up. I want to make a difference with my words. 

This is the common thread and this is the underlying passion that steered me toward becoming an entrepreneur and starting my own business. No matter where life has taken me, I’ve had a passion for a tiny project I started back in 2006. It has been fueling the fire in my heart, keeping me going non-stop, even through depression and unemployment. I will continue to fail and make mistakes. I’ll take detours on my career. I will have to take on projects to make ends meet that may bore me to tears at times.

But mark my words – I will never lose sight of my destination because my life just doesn’t make sense when I’m not writing.

So how do all of these pieces fit together? How does a writer who once wanted to be a lawyer, wants to travel the world and make a difference with her words find a career that makes sense?

Well, she creates it, of course.

That’s why I’m an aspiring digital nomad philanthropist. That may seem like a silly title now but give me another 18 months and all the pieces will fall into place. (Update: I pulled the trigger on the big project that’s been driving me for the last 7 years. Check it out)

Who knows? In 10 years, I’ll probably talking about getting into law school and starting my first day of class.

Haven’t you heard? I’m kind of an overachiever.

***

Inspired by this prompt from Laura: You are not your resume; you are a collective of your life/work experience combined. If you were to look at all the jobs you’ve had, the hobbies, the things you choose to do, and what excites you the most, what’s that common thread that weaves all of those things together? Who are you at your core? What is it that you can’t, not do?

‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer

2 years ago, I wrote this post on the biggest lesson I’ve learned about being a grown-up. In the post, I talked about how being on the road is what helps me feels centered when I’m losing control and the chaos of my life takes over my calm. When Laura sent us the prompt about what kind of traveler I turn into, that post was the first thing that popped in my head. Then I started to really think about the question. See, I’m kind of the odd man out in my family. I dream too big, I care too much and I just can’t quite fit in. I’m also the memory keeper. From Turkey to DC to Seattle, I’ve kept all of the pictures for my family. I don’t mean just of my lifetime. I have my dad’s high school diploma, my mom’s pictures from when she was a teenager and black & white pictures of relatives I can’t name because they passed away years before my parents even met.

When I unpacked my suitcase from my east coast trip last week, I noticed that one of the zippered compartments of my suitcase was a little bulky. I couldn’t remember packing anything in there but I unzipped it to find a stack of letters from when I was 9, before we moved to the US. My best childhood friend and I sent each other letters when my family and I moved to a different city in Turkey. The wave of nostalgia that hit me was too great to handle, but it got me thinking about what life looks like for me on the road.

I’ve been doing a lot more traveling in the last few years. I do take a lot of pictures but I also experience the moment. Whether it’s my first time going to a new place or it’s somewhere I’ve been countless times, every experience is a new opportunity for me to notice different nuances of that particular location. Even if nothing in the landscape has changed, there is always something different.

Because I’m different.

Every time.

So I explore. I observe. I take it all in. I take pictures when I can but I also try to experience the moment, not through the lens of my camera but my own two eyes. I smile at strangers. I take deep breaths. I take out my headphones and listen to the moment instead of my music.

I turn into a tourist. Even in a city where I spent a majority of my life, if I’m in the mood, I become a tourist.

*Playing tourist in front of the White House*

I wander.

The thing is, I’m a hopeless romantic and by extension, I’m a hopeless wanderer.

And I travel to remember – who I was, who I am, and who I am going to become as I continue on my journey.

I don’t call myself an aspiring digital nomad for shits and giggles. I want to wander into as many corners of the world as possible in my lifetime – observing, experiencing, and when appropriate, being a tourist.

***

Inspired by this prompt from LauraSome people travel to relax; some travel to remember. Some reinvent themselves into entirely new people when they travel. What kind of traveler do you turn into and what does life look like for you on the road?

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).

My Very First EBook: A Distorted Dream and Other Works

In 6th grade, my English teacher opened up an entire new world to me with just a prompt. Our assignment was to write a poem completing each prompt. The first line began with “I am…”

Up until that moment, poetry was  just something I read. I grew up reading “If” by Rudyard Kipling in Turkish, and then in English when we moved to the US, not to mention all of my favorite poems in Turkish. That day in 6th grade, I realized I could also write poems.

Granted, they were crappy poems, but I got better. In high school, I found spoken word poetry, though I never had the guts to do it myself. I went through high school writing ridiculous poems such as “First Kiss” (Because I was in high school when…I had…OK, moving on) and other teenage angst filled poems.

In my late teens and early 20s was when I really got into my poetry and started to branch out as far as stanzas and imagery. Granted, a lot of it was pretty doom and gloom and emo. Then I got a little sassy and you can see my attitude problem coming through the lines.

The last time I wrote a poem was years ago. This past year, I made it a personal goal to get back into poetry and eventually try my hand at spoken word. To do that, I went back and re-read some of my older poems, discovering that while most of them were crap, there are a few that I’d like to share with the world.

A Distorted Dream is the first short story I was ever able to finish, and it took me approximately two years to complete. The poems that follow in the book were selected from all of the poetry that I have kept. These words should give you a little more insight into who I was back then and the demons I had to fight in order to move forward. They’re not all bad, though. A couple of the poems in the second section will show you the hopeful side of me, and the third section?

Well, let that be a surprise.

What happened to the poems that didn’t make it into this book? Well, they’re sitting in a reject pile, ready to be put into a book of their own. If I hit 150 sales with this book, then I will release a free PDF that will include brilliant works such as “Etch-a-Sketch Bitch”.

You can download the PDF version of my very first EBook for $4.99 using the link below.

That’s a cheap price to pay for an intimate look into my soul.

Oh, is this where I mention that the third section is erotica?  (Sex sells or something?)

Add to Cart

[Reverb10] Writing

Even as I’m getting ready to write this blog, I have a million things going through my head. About school, work, money, other blogs I want to write, different article ideas, the article I have due tonight for Borderstan, holiday plans, working out, looking for jobs, family…

And so on.

My biggest hindrance on writing? I can’t shut my brain off long enough to focus.

I was born to write. I know this from the bottom of my heart and the feeling that washes over me every time I complete a piece is proof of that.

I am just bad at planning and outlining.  When I have a paper due for school, I cannot outline. I just get my ideas in order and start writing, hoping for the best and plugging in the resources at the end.

I need to be able to write freely but life doesn’t always allow that.  The times that blogs get written out in my head are usually when I’m too busy with something else or too tired to type out the words.

By the time I get to it, I already have a million other ideas and words in my head.

I need to do more free-writing.  I need to dedicate a half hour of my life to just write. Shut off the wi-fi so I’m not tempted to check my emails. Turn off my phone and leave it in the other room (Which is impossible sometimes) and turn on the music.

There are days when ALL I want to do is write.

I just have to force myself to write every day because that is what frees my mind and soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Today’s prompt: What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

It Was Time

Sometimes in life, it’s necessary to have a pen name.  Sometimes, it just makes things easier because all you’re doing is creating a name that is not so uncommon that it comes up on Google searches.

Sometimes, you just need that safety net.

And then, there comes a time when it gets too complicated.  You make friends, you sign up for conferences and your business cards and everything else has your pen name while your name tag at the conference has your real name.

Sometimes, it’s time to figure out the best way to consolidate the two because you still don’t want your real name EVERYWHERE on the web.

You have to start somewhere. So I have.

I’m not sure how I will go about consolidating the two LinkedIn profiles, or my bio on here.  I will figure it out.

I do know one thing.

The ‘PQ’ stays.

Welcome to the next stage in my life, where I finally take control.

Be patient with me as I figure it out.  Just stick to calling me “B.” or “PQ” online. Let’s keep it simple.

Though, I’ll be honest. Seeing MY name in a byline? Priceless.

If you’re around D.C. tonight, you should stop by 18th & U for a  Fundraiser for LGBTQ Youth (The Trevor Project). Details here. (Yeah, that’s my real name up there.)

Occupational Crossroads

I’m torn.

I’m 25, studying journalism and a social media fiend. I know that what I want to do in my life will have to be in Communications, where I interact with a lot of people and stay on top of the latest trends.

I want to be in the middle of it all. I certainly won’t be the next Penelope Trunk or Derek Shanahan but I can be a cog in the machine.

The problem is that, while my freelancing and blogging are surely opening up doors, I want to open them up faster, with a more solid foundation. I want my resume to be so impressive that there is absolutely no doubt I’m the right person for a job in Communications.

I have been at my current job for the past 18 months and only with the new Director do I really have a shot at being more hands-on with the Communications aspect of it. My new Director is telling me that he wants to strip me of administrative duties and help evolve my position to something equivalent to “Media Relations Assistant.”

I work at a trade association, which is certainly far from the non-profit I want to start myself before I’m 40. It’s far but it’s a start.

Then there’s reality.

The reality is that I can get a far better paying office manager/executive assistant job that pays at least $10,000 more. I could spend a year making that money, letting life drone on and come out of the other end with less (possibly zero) debt. I’d be a lot more comfortable but I would be running in place as far as my career aspirations are concerned.

Do I take the risk and stay in this job that pays less with the opportunity to develop myself or do I go take an ‘easy’ job that pays more which will just add one more ‘administrative’ notch to my resume?

My gut says to stay with this job.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be listening to my gut with this one.