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On January 21, 2017, I had the honor of joining 130,000 human beings and fellow Seattle citizens to march down the streets of our city for the Women’s March on Washington. We were 130,000 out of millions around the globe. It was my first time participating in a movement like this. It took me out of my comfort zone. Crowds give me anxiety, but I had close friends I trusted, and I didn’t even hesitate.

It was empowering, but it was also a reminder of how much of a bubble I’ve put myself in over the past few years. It’s not that I’ve been silent about injustices, but I thought the only difference I could make were with my words. I’m a writer. I’m an amplifier. I thought my power was limited to speaking out with the written word, but to be honest, I haven’t even done that as much.

The Women’s March on Washington, the conversations leading up to it, and the discussions that will continue to happen reminded me that as a Muslim immigrant woman who’s survived sexual assault and harassment, I’m still more privileged than most.

To make a difference, I need to come to terms with my uncomfortable truths.

Yes, I’m a Muslim immigrant woman from Turkey, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at me. I’m not olive skinned. I have an accent, but I’ve been here long enough that it sounds more like an east coast accent than a foreign accent – unless I’ve been drinking or I’m fatigued. I’m Muslim, but I don’t “look” Muslim (which is a whole different conversation).

Yes, I’ve been sexually assaulted and stalked, even worried about my life being in danger at one point, but I’m a survivor. It’s not something I carry with me – or at least I try not to. I was able to leave the situations that made me feel unsafe. I’ve created a safe environment for myself. I had the opportunity, as painful as it was, to remove myself from a dangerous environment. I’m lucky. There are millions of women (and men) right here in the U.S. who are physically abused daily.

My relationship with racism and marginalization is complicated.

21 years ago, when my family and I moved to the U.S., I remember being confused about racism. I studied about slavery in school. I knew about the civil rights movement, which is why I couldn’t understand how racism could still exist. It’s not that I didn’t believe it did – I had trouble wrapping my head around anyone thinking another human being is beneath them on a fundamental level. When I studied about the Holocaust in 8th grade, that same confusion led me to become intensely interested in learning more about the Holocaust. I read book after book about how Hitler came to power, trying to understand how a person could be filled with so much hate. In high school, I became obsessed with forensic profiling and trying to understand serial killers (think Criminal Minds, the high school edition).

But I didn’t continue in my due diligence. I was going to study psychology, and go to law school. Instead, I continued my journey by embracing the power of words as a writer.

I still don’t understand how there is so much hatred in the world tied to religion and skin color. I don’t understand how someone could claim to be a superior race when we’re all part of the human race. When I say that, I don’t mean it as a naive statement or ignorance. It’s just disbelief, in the same vain as the signs I saw this weekend reading ‘I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap.’

There are LGBT issues. There are transgender rights and equality issues.

I know that’s the tip of the iceberg.

My personal acceptance of everyone’s equality as human beings despite their religion, race, sexuality, and gender doesn’t make me immune to ignorance.

My truth is that I’m thirsty for knowledge, but at the same time, I feel like I’m drowning.

I’ve been overwhelmed with news about what’s happening back home in Turkey. I’ve been overwhelmed with seeing shooting after shooting in our home. I’ve been overwhelmed with seeing story after story of black men and women being brutally attacked. I’ve been overwhelmed with police aggression. I’ve been overwhelmed with homophobia, Islamaphobia, and the helplessness of not being able to help the LGBT and transgender individuals feeling helpless because the “It Gets Better” mantra seems far from the truth. I’ve been overwhelmed…

…from the safety my apartment, surrounded by loved ones and the comfort zone I’ve been able to build for myself.

Yes, my power still lies in words, but I also need to arm myself with the knowledge to make those words even more powerful.

In the last 24 hours, I learned that:

So, what’s next?

How do I control the firehose of knowledge to educate myself on issues that are out of my comfort zone?

One sip at a time.

I pledge to dive deeper into the history of the civil rights movement, the men and women who were not in our history books, and those who are fighting to make a difference today.

I pledge to put one foot in front of the other at more events – yes, the #BlackLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter marches too.

I pledge to speak out louder at injustices online and offline.

I pledge to continue to do my due diligence when it comes to facts and never spread false information. If I see false information being spread, I pledge to continue to speak out with the facts and resources.

I pledge to be cognizant of my privilege and check it at the door when entering discussions.

I pledge to recognize my shortcomings and arm myself with knowledge.

I pledge to ask questions.

This is where you come in. If I come to you to understand your history and your battles better, I hope that you won’t be flustered with my questions. I don’t mean to be ignorant – but no matter what I read in books, I will never fully understand what it means to be in your shoes. But I will try, and your answers will help me understand.

The truth is that what I do will never feel like it’s enough, but I also know I need to do more.

Yesterday’s march was a first for me, and it won’t be the last.

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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? [continue reading…]

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The Year of Gumption

Starting the year a little brighter and a lot bolder.

Every year, I start a new photo album on Facebook. Every year, I try to come up with a title for that album beyond just the year. In 2015, it was the “Year of Dirty Thirty” because, well, I turned 30 that year. In 2016, I didn’t have anything specific in mind, so it was the “Year of [TBD]” and I honestly still couldn’t describe the year in a word.

When I was uploading the pictures from Saturday night, on a whim, the name for the 2017 album became the “Year of Gumption.” I thought it would be something like “bold” or “adventure,” but I like gumption better. [continue reading…]

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Let’s talk about 2016

What do we do with things we don’t like? We put them in the cupboard. – Doctor Who

There have been way too many moments throughout 2016 where I thought it needed to go in the cupboard. Both in my personal and professional life, I suffered heartache. I felt helpless and useless and simply put, destroyed. There were days that the outside world didn’t help this turmoil.

Yes, this year was awful in a lot of aspects.

On more than one occasion, I said that 2016 was trying to take the title of “Worst Year of My Life” away from 2006.

But here’s the thing.

It…really wasn’t.

I know. Look. I’m watching my home country essentially burn to the ground from the other side of the world. The country I’ve chosen to call home is doing some pretty…scary things on a large scale too. It’s a downright scary world right now.

I’ve had friends lose loved ones and have felt helpless with tending to their heartbreak. I’ve had loved ones leave my life when I was no longer useful to them. I’ve felt helpless on more occasions than I’d care to count.

But as a survivor, I can’t help but focus on the positives. The lessons. The silver linings. The days I made it through without a bad thought. The ability to laugh through the tears. The strength to ask for help.

2016 brought me a lot of good things too, which is why I’ve had the strength to make it this far.

I’ve got this incredible support system. My brother and his girlfriend moved out to Seattle, just a few minutes from me. After years of being single, I met a man who worked his “I hate taking pictures” self into my heart. One of my best friends brought a tiny human into this world and I got to hold him when he was just a few hours old. I took risks. I tried new things. I had my best friend of 14 years come out to Seattle for my birthday. I pushed myself to new challenges in my career. I left the country to cross the border into Canada and then flew to Bangkok.

I took risks. I tried new things. I pushed myself to new challenges in my career. I went to my first Seahawks game and cheered until I nearly lost my voice.

I drank way too much. I risked my health. I made stupid mistakes and even stupider decisions. I drank way too much coffee. I didn’t drink enough coffee. I took way too many selfies. I didn’t sleep enough. I gave into depression and slept too much.

But, the thing is, I lived. I keep living. I keep getting up every morning and even when I’m frustrated, I’m trying to create something – anything with my life.

Because my life is all I have. This is it. The good days, the bad days, the “I can’t keep going but have to” days.

I can’t control the world. I can’t control the people who choose to break my heart. I can’t prevent my heart breaking  because I can’t stop being who I am.

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason.” ― Anaïs Nin

I’m a giver. I love too hard. I’m overly anxious. I give second chances. If I have to, I’m ready to give the shirt off my back to someone who needs it, even if I need to be cold for a while.

In 2016, I learned to finally really let go. I reconnected with my past selves and remembered my strengths before I let the world get to me. I remembered that my life makes sense when I’m unapologetically being me – because no one else can live my life. No one else should tell me how I can live my life.

It’s hard. At times, it’s lonely. But this is the only life I have.

So, yeah, 2016, you were kind of an asshole. There’s no guarantee that 2017 will be any better. Hell, it might be worse.

So, it’s time to buckle up and decide: How do you want to remember your 2017? How do you want to react to the world? How will you continue to be you in a world of chaos?

 

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Self-Care Doesn’t Take a Holiday

December is such a weird month for me. It’s always been full of new beginnings and sometimes, terrifying endings. I know that the holidays bring out a lot of emotions for everyone, no matter what’s going on in your life.

I’ve come a long way since I ran away to a new life when I packed my car and drove to Seattle four years ago. 21 years ago, my family and I made a similar journey when we moved from Turkey to the U.S.

At 31 years old, I’m finally feeling like I’ve got a good handle on life. I’ve got a solid career path, a group of friends I can finally trust to be there but also know when I need to be alone. I’m in a healthy relationship (we just passed the 9-month mark, what!). Most importantly, my baby brother and his girlfriend are now living in Seattle.

Life is good.

Life is emotional.

It’s the constant struggle, isn’t it – to feel sad even though you’ve got a lot of things right in your life? “Things could be worse,” we tell ourselves. I tell myself that all the time.

I also allow myself to feel the sadness and anxiety that comes up because they are part of who I am. I need to process feelings to understand where they come from, and maybe, help me become a better person.

That’s the beauty of being human. We can feel conflicting feelings all at once, defining who we are at a given moment by choosing to embrace the positive ones as the negative ones run their course.

I know I’m not alone in this.

We feel guilty at this time of year if we personally cannot live up to the standard to be ever-cheerful and happy and joyful. — Dr. Arthur Hayward, Kaiser Permanente

Whether you’re spending your holidays surrounded by family and friends, or not – remember that self-care doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, it’s more important than ever. What you’re going through matters, whether it’s good or sad. I want you to remember that too.

Here are a few tips for practicing self-care this holiday season.

 

  • Give yourself permission. To take a walk. To take a break. To be a bit selfish. To feel happy. To feel anxious. To feel – period.
  • Take your time. If you’re going home for the holidays, everything can feel rushed. You have to see everyone. You have to rush from house to house, event to event. Where and when you can, take a breather. Maybe spend a little extra time getting ready. Take the longer route from one house to the other. And yes, cancel on events if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to be everywhere, all the time. (I know this applies more to social activities versus family obligations.)
  • Hydrate. No, seriously. Water. Don’t forget about it – especially between those glasses of wine at family functions.
  • Laugh. Even if it’s through tears sometimes.
  • Take a walk. Put on your coat (or light jacket), put away your phone, and take a walk around the neighborhood. Don’t forget to take deep breaths.
  • Indulge. Listen to your favorite songs. Put on your favorite holiday movie. Make your favorite treats.
  • Give up expectations. Nothing will be perfect. Something will always go wrong. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself (and others) and try to enjoy the moments.
  • Breathe. This is the most important one. No matter what, remember to breathe.

What are some ways you get through the holiday blues?

 

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Welcome to Being Berrak

My blogging journey began on AOL message boards in the late 90s.

Then came a very angsty personal blog on Tripod or AngelFire or GeoCities (I can’t really remember), which was actually the first time I tried to teach myself coding. I was using GIFs before I knew they were called GIFs.

Then there was LiveJournal…and Myspace…and my very first stand-alone blog which was hosted on Yahoo. Sometime in 2008, I found myself in this space, though it didn’t always look like this.

I’ve been constantly evolving as a writer and a person. My personal blog has always been a safe space, even after I dropped my pen name and came out.

You know what happens in someone’s life over the course of 13 years?

[continue reading…]

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How to Get an Early Start to Your Day

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  • Wake up in the middle of the night with painful cramps.
  • Check your phone to see what time it is (1:30 AM) and notice an important email.
  • Unwisely open said email while you’re in an already emotionally raw place after four days of being sick & go into another emotional tailspin.
  • Wonder if you’ll cry yourself to sleep (and actually sleep through your cramps).
  • 2:27 AM – Nope. The cramps are too much.
  • Wonder how early is too early to take a shower without waking up your neighbors.
  • Decide that 5:30 AM is reasonable.
  • Lie back down, contemplating every mistake you’ve ever made while doing the “If I go to sleep now, I’ll get X hours of sleep countdown.”

[continue reading…]

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Making Peace with Being Settled

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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. Shit, I started a nomad conference with my friends because I truly expected to meet them in various parts of the world throughout the year.

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.

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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… [continue reading…]

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IMG_7819I have no strong feelings about Pokémon. When my brother was younger, I took him to see the movies in the theaters, he collected the cards, and I would sometimes play the games with him on his GameBoy color. As he grew older, his interests changed, and Pokémon wasn’t something present in my life.

Fast-forward to summer of 2016. A new app is sweeping the world. It’s augmented reality. It’s nostalgic. It’s fun. I downloaded it because why not? I still don’t have any strong feelings about Pokémon but this app? I’m really enjoying it – so are a lot of other people.

[continue reading…]

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This Is 31

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I turned into a drunk pumpkin at midnight on my birthday. 

It was, by far, the best birthday celebration of my life. My best friend of 16 years flew in from North Carolina. My brother was there (MY BROTHER LIVES HERE NOW). The wonderful guy I’d only been dating for a few weeks was, well, wonderful. I invited my friends to my favorite bar because I knew that I would get overwhelmed if I had another house party.

I built in an escape plan to my own birthday party.

It was pretty spectacular. [continue reading…]

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