Dare to Own Your Talent

IMG_1766.JPG
by MILKOVÍ

The other day, I had a thought-provoking conversation with a classmate. We were talking about our academic weaknesses, and this sentence came out of my mouth: “What’s the point of being aware of your weaknesses if you weren’t working towards bettering yourself?”

I instantly realized that I was saying it to her as much as I was knocking the door of my own conscience. Academically speaking (since we were at uni), I’m good at writing and not so good at presenting out loud, and she’s the opposite. So while I’m advising her to open the door instead of shutting it by dooming herself as “bad at writing and it’s just the way it is,” I’m also nudging myself to open up my own personal potential and dare to get out there and present my ideas into people’s ears rather than writing it for their eyes to read.

Then we talked about our strengths. She complimented my writing and I followed my thanks by reminding her of her excellent skills at presenting, telling a story, and grasping the attention of the audience. I then found myself saying that as much as I criticize myself and hide allot of my writing never to see the light of day, I nevertheless must believe that I am good at writing.

I absolutely and undoubtedly ought to believe that I’m good at writing. I simply can’t afford not to. What would be the purpose of my life had I given in to such lousy self-limiting beliefs? I’m confident in my writing not because it’s the only thing I feel naturally and effortlessly good at, but because it’s the thing that gives meaning to all other aspects of my life. Writing helps me understand what I’m going through; it helps me feel truly grateful  for my pain and failure as I watch my turmoil turn into chains of words that gracefully narrate a story and invoke a movement of thought and emotion in the reader’s consciousness.

Each one of us has something unique to personally experience and offer the world. Sometimes it takes years to find, but it’s there nonetheless. Just the fact that you will find your passion one day means that it already resides within you in this precise moment and that it has always been there. You just have to scrape away the layers surrounding it, disguising it, making you believe that you’re simply useless and will never be good at anything. Get rid of that self-critical talk. Remember, you are not this body and this mind only, you are the soul that’s shining the light of life into this marvelous human form. And a soul is naturally and instinctively creative. So who is your mind to tell you that you’re no good?

The Haze of Immersion

photo-1529460608-bc455fccd5a4
by Steven Houston

I don’t know what it is that’s causing this discomfort in me. It’s mild, and can easily be distracted, but it’s still there, persisting in the background, waiting for me to sense it. And I do. I pause and give myself the chance to feel, to truly feel this wind of unnamable energies floating in the sky of my being. Yet there’s nothing. I wait for the storm to strike and pass, but it’s a torturously impending cloud of doom.  So I write to-do lists and take my time to tick off every task, very often adding the next day’s tasks and getting them done too. I’m frantic but efficient, and I get lost in this immersion, yet the second I’m back to my senses, to the present moment, to my concoction of Self, I feel it all over again. The emptiness merged with discomfort. I find myself wishing for the days to pass like fleeting winds, like clumps of clouds, moving from one town to the next. Me, from one semester to the next, one year to the next, one self to the next. I am losing my life in time; it’s like I’m already dead. I don’t feel the fountains of Life rushing through me. I don’t feel the rivers of inspiration flowing in with every breath. I don’t remember the last time I felt the astonishment of a child, or the gratitude of a mother, or the wholeness of a saint. It’s like I’m not a real person anymore. Degraded from my sweet humanness and spiritual being-ness to the ego-driven acts of ticking off tasks and collecting grades and seeking the approval of professors and friends. I must find a way to come to life or else I would be dead and withered before arriving at my grave — and that would be a shame to this Life I have been gifted and all the good I’ve made out of it so far.

Words For a Lover

photo from tumblr

as an avid reader always with a book and pen in hand, swallowing pages and underlining sentences and scribbling comments on the margins, my head spends hours bent down with the vertebrae of my neck spiking up like the back of a dinosaur. the muscles of my shoulders and upper back are very often stiff from the words that i take in and the words that i’m trying to send to commute from my soul to my hand. from the continuous reading and frequent writing, my head sometimes feels heavy, and it makes it feel as though my shoulders are carrying me, not my legs. those are parts of myself that i take pride in, parts of my life that are precious to the extent of sacredness, only because they combine taking in and giving out in the form of words. this gives meaning to my life and vibrance to my existence, and for that the eternalness of my gratitude somehow expands every single day.

Jealousy

jealousy in relationships. why? i don’t get it. loving someone is not owning them. loving someone is not stealing away their freedom. loving someone is not guarding them to the point of suffocation. from what i see around me, we have no idea what the true essence of love is. we think that loving is depending on someone entirely, when in reality, true love is independent. it does not weaken the lover to the point that his whole life is in the hand of his beloved. that’s an illusion. what that is is need, not love. unconditional love sees beyond all those things, and is so much simpler than we think. it desires no control; it lovingly yields freedom. it gives and keeps giving out of love, not out of expectation to receive. true love between two souls does not narrow their whole existence down to each other’s presence in each other’s lives. love is so much more spacious than that. you love another human, but you don’t die when they leave. you love them so preciously that you don’t put the weight of your whole life on their shoulders. that’s the filthiest form of “love”; so much so that i pity those relationships because their basis is fear cunningly disguising itself as love.

so, back to jealousy. love your person, don’t imprison them. they are a bird in the sky of their own lives, and you are the beholder with the admiring eyes. you are the music to their dance. you are meant to uplift them, not bring them down just because of your own fears. love your beloved like God loves you. He gave you freedom, choice, and individuality. just like that. don’t strip your beloved out of her freedom, her choices, her individuality. support her. cheer her on. and you too. support him. cheer him on. know your places in each other’s hearts, and don’t let insecurity steal away your peace. remember, this is a companionship of not just bodies and brains, but souls too. eternal souls. souls that see beyond judgment and love without attachment.

2 0 1 8

i don’t know what to say about this year. it was scary, confusing, surreal. the first half was close to heavenly, and the second was close to hellish. i say ‘close’ because i couldn’t help but find heavenly moments in bad days and melancholic moments in good days.

confusion became my best friend over those months. while the first half of the year i was lovers with gratitude, confusion came one day in June or July and snuck its way into our bed. i became an ambiguous amalgamation of loneliness and wholeness, joy and sorrow, love and fear — so much fear. in the first half of the year, i lived my days in childlike astonishment. i woke up and thought the same bubbly thoughts and did the same things; but i wasn’t the least bit bothered or bored because a sense of joy was dancing around me. i was gliding in an ocean of gratitude and joy.

come summer, my arms began feeling weak. i couldn’t peddle with ease anymore. i could see myself pushing up the stream rather than flowing through it. a part of me was sitting there watching, still and surrendered, knowing that this was just another lesson for me to learn. yet the majority of this nation of voices that make up my earthly self were raging. i spent the summer holiday in my favorite places on the planet, İstanbul and Seefeld, yet allot of my poetry was the blood of my melancholic body rather than the nectar of my joyous soul.

however, i can’t deny that even in my sadness i found ways to find joy in my days. i would wake up early every morning and go for a walk either by the sahil in İstanbul or amidst the mesmerizing greenery of Seefeld. i would have a book in my hand, and an audiobook in my ears. i would be inspired by the pure oxygen and breathtaking scenery to unleash my inner turmoil in letters that i would email to my dearest friend who was in the opposite side of the globe. i would sit at one of the handful of cafés in town, order an americano, and i would lose myself in words, reveling in this gift of nonjudgmental and uncensored self-expression that i got to share with the most loving soul that sees light in my darkness and talent in my nonsensical blabber. i would walk out of the café, reentering the world of people and the intangible feathers of laughter they spread in the air, feeling refreshed and alive. my eyes would gleam like two full moons reflection the sun of my soul. my body would be bursting with vitality from the love pumping my heart and it would be full of energy from the euphoria of having written something beautiful.

August came with a wave of melancholy climbing my bones and wrapping itself around my body like a cloth. time lost its meaning and my body completely lost sense of it. doubt crept up my veins like a disease. i lost sight of my ambitions and aspirations. like a deflated balloon, i descended from faithful joyousness to doubtful stagnation. the hopeless old woman in me snorted once and said that my joy was a phase of wishful ignorance. her stubbornly hoarse voice was in a constant one-sided brawl with the innately joyful child in me that knows nothing other than an utterly pleasant existence.

img_7590-1

i would sleep as the sun was rising and wake up as it was setting, spending the hours in between either reading or watching something to keep my attention as far away from my conscience and sadness as possible. a few days into this, my hands picked up my laptop on a whim and began writing what i suspected was a short story. it was inspired by my current state of unexplainable sorrow; it was the fruit of my pain turning itself into art.

as i worked on it every evening for two months, it grew from a short story to a novel whose writing was cut short due to my subconscious resistance to completion and success. the only thing i knew was that i wasn’t  dying before finishing it. that was September, and it was the first time in my life that i had something more dear to my heart than death; something that would replace my lingering plea for cessation with a sweet feeling of wanting to live, wanting to be here in this world.

e5d8385c-e421-4b34-9603-8bacaf1286b1

in October, the knot of fear that had been hiding in the darkness of my being came to light. the rebel within me that thought it was strong and could handle to actually live its unconventional ideas got slapped with the reality that i was only rebellious to what i was forced to do, and that my urge to rebel gets deflated the moment i do what it says and face the fear and decide to go back to the easy way of living where i do what i’m meant to be doing at the age of 18: studying, because high school graduation doesn’t mean the end of academic education.

November was a continuation of October’s unpleasant discoveries. what i found out about myself during those 30 days could make up an entire book of agonizing and disconcerting self-reflection. what i discovered was so painful and embarrassing that i couldn’t even admit to myself what i knew had just come to my awareness.

IMG_9018.JPG

all i can say is that i’ve come to the conclusion that being human is — as silly as it sounds — very much like being an onion. multiple layers are covering your true essence, and you must peel them as you go, your eyes burning and weeping at the effect of the shocking sight of what you’ve been accumulating in your psyche from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb.

the most significant example of how this year entwined good and bad in such an impeccable and bewildering way is that while my problem with food and my body had been resolved in an effortless and unexpected manner, my sadness still remained. it’s as though the heaviness had transferred from my body to my very being, my very existence.

to put this year simply, here’s a comparison: in January, i was a blooming sunflower amidst a field of blooming sunflowers feeling utterly grateful and blessed and lucky to be me; in December, i very often caught myself wishing i wasn’t me, that i wasn’t this girl in this family, in this life with all those distant dreams, in this human vessel living a life that lacks true meaning and fulfilling purpose.

Expansion Through Language

by Himesh Kumar

a human being, with his or her brain that can store beyond its comprehension of how it does it, is not made to speak only one language. not even two. i think we dissected the way of expressing ourselves into hundreds of languages, each of which expresses our ideas in a way that another cannot do with the same intricate efficiency. for me, i was born into Arabic, placed in a sea in which the swimmers swam in English, and upon my taste and curiosity, i chose to dive into the seas of the Turkish language. what i noticed as my brain gained the capacity to think in three languages is that my consciousness expanded and felt like i have more space to think and more paths on which i can embark to reach different discoveries. what i write in English transpires in a different way than what i write in Turkish unfolds. what i say in Arabic can be put in two words while holding meaning as deep and novel as a whole book; but if i voice it in a language like English, its true essence would be anchored into more words and perhaps the meaning would be lost in length and translation. what i am trying to say is that in every language, i am different and i think differently; in every language, i am someone i cannot embody through another language.

Elif Shafak put it beautifully when she was asked why she wrote some of her novels in English first:
“I have come to understand that sometimes distance brings you closer, stepping out of something helps you to see that thing better. Writing in English does not pull me away from Turkey; just the opposite, it brings me closer.
Every new language is an additional zone of existence. This is the century of people who dream in more than one language. If we can dream in more than one language, if our brain is perfectly comfortable with this multiplicity, then that means we can write in more than one language too, if we so wish.”

İstanbul

had it been up to me, i would have booked a flight three hours after my last final exam, and a reluctant return flight on the Saturday night before the first Sunday of the new semester. with a heart flying like a glorious white bird, i would leave the obligations of university behind and embark on my journey back into myself, free in every sense of the word.

but it isn’t up to me; i’m still too young for such a luxury, and i accept it.

the different thing about this vacation is that it’s only 10 days in my favorite city. usually we stay longer than that. this shortness with its fleeting moments has inspired me with the idea to spend my days here really here, not in other places through this screen. i’ve vowed to the birds dancing over the Bosphorus to live my moments in this city without staining them with wishes and nostalgias, and i’ve vowed to the ebb and flow of the Sea of Marmara to keep myself open to the inspiration that will rain on me from this serene İstanbul sky.

with a novel whose writer makes İstanbul as much a part of his characters as their hearts and minds, and with a passionate urge to get my hands on every Turkish book translated into English that my eyes know they’ll never see in the shelves of the bookshops back home, i roam through the city and let its winds, its sounds, its scents, encompass me like a hug.


photos by İlker Yılmaz