I find myself a seat in the corner of a coffee shop; brown table, wood everywhere, the aroma of coffee and caramel filling the air. I place my book on the table or on my lap—either way my neck bends so low it aches after a few pages—and I lose myself in a different world, touching the pages as though caressing a lover. Recently I’ve been double-pretending; the first setting is that of the novel I’m reading, and the second is İstanbul. Wherever my body happens to be, my soul is nowhere but in İstanbul, all day and all night. This she-city; my loyal friend and my enchanting lover, my mind’s remedy and my heart’s home. I am under Her sky, my skin absorbing the life radiating from Her sun, my consciousness expanding in Her language, my feelings expressing themselves in Her tongue. İstanbul is the lover I never got to meet in the body of a human; She’s the beloved to whom all my love poems are about. İstanbul is both a manifestation of my soul and a being all on Her own. I don’t know where I end and She begins. I have never loved as fervently and wholeheartedly as I have fallen for Her. It is the waters that soften Her edges that are the blood that swirls in my body. It is the echoes of Her past with all its tragedies and triumphs that engulf me and make me believe that life is worth living, no matter how long it takes for it to feel like so. It is Her complexity, Her fascinating identity, Her secrets and hopes and memories that have slipped into a haze of amnesia that I most relate to… It is the voices of the souls that have taken Her as their home, both as a blessing and a curse, that fill my mind as I pretend that the corner I’m sitting in is on Her land, by one of Her flowing waters or in one of Her cafés. This is what keeps me thriving as I count the days to have Her air be the oxygen that kisses my lungs; to have the chirping of Her birds be the pleasant sound I wake up to in the morning and the flirtatious song of Her shores and rains that I go to sleep to at night.
On a plane, I am nowhere and everywhere all at once.
I am not the person time and space dictate that I am. Instead, I am a combination of all the versions of myself that I have embodied in the 18 years of my human existence. It’s 2017 rather than 2019—my happiest year rather than my most challenging yet; it’s a long summer vacation rather than a fleeting spring break; I’m going to a new city and sleeping in a hotel room rather than home in my own bed; I’m content rather than floating in a sea of melancholy; and instead of completely lost, I am grounded in my trance of not being in one fixed spot on the planet. Instead of it being a few weeks before my 19th birthday, it’s a few weeks after my 30th; instead of anxiously standing at the beginning of my life, I’m in the middle with the satisfaction of having fulfilled significant accomplishments and lived some of my dreams; instead of being just a student struggling with her sense of self, I am the strong independent woman that knows, accepts, forgives and respects herself enough to cast away the shadow of darkness that had been weighing over her for way too long.
On a plane, I am no one and everyone all at once.
I am finally confronting the rebel within me and waking her up to the fact that it is not physical freedom that I lack, but rather, psychological freedom that resides in my own mind. Yes, I am the prisoner and the imprisoned. I hold the key, even though I’ve locked myself in and thrown it away.
‘How is that?’ I ask myself.
‘Well, here’s how. First, let’s get the paradox of the key out of the way. I have the key to the door of this cell. Where is it? Look under the bed, in the drawers, in the books. Oh, don’t waste your energy looking in the wrong places. You are the key. You are your own salvation. You. It’s all you. You put yourself in here, and only you can get yourself out. You think you need a key of the material realm—driving license, your own apartment, sufficient financial independence—yet that’s no true key! Those attainments are beyond the door whose key you hold! Those dreams of yours will not be the cause of your happiness nor the sign of your freedom. They cannot be! Because they are not the source. They go through a process of manifestation, and that process’s first step is your psyche. So stop fiddling and quarreling with the outer world and look within for a moment. You need to heal the mess inside to produce a beautiful life on the outside. You are the cause, and the manifestation of your dreams is the effect. That is, you must be free on the inside to live that freedom on the outside; you must have a garden of joy for a mind to have a garden of happiness for a life; you must feel whole on the inside—compassionate and self-forgiving—to have a meaningful life. It all starts within. You are the first step. And if you neglect to start from here and go on your way to bring about your visions on the superficial realm of the material world, then, oh dear, you would be destroying your soul and killing yourself with all that effort and dread day in and day out. When you start your journey from the right starting point, you not only guarantee your arrival, but you also get to reach it through the easiest, least resistant, most divinely guided way.’
‘Easy and divinely guided? How?’ you ask again.
‘You’ll have the company of your wise soul; you’ll have your connection with your Loving Creator.’
Focus on this precise moment. Every single instant. Just stay here. Ground yourself. You have nothing to worry about. As long as you stay in the given moment, you won’t feel that drowning feeling. Just stay here. You’re safe here. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t have to know everything about who you are; you don’t need to have your whole future figured out. It’s okay not to know; it’s fine not to feel strong and confident sometimes. There are periods in life that are for stillness, and there are periods for action in which doing things feels effortless because it’s the right time to set things in motion. Right now you’re in the stillness stage. Don’t worry about the rest. You’ll rise. Those ideas you’re receiving will materialize. You just observe. It’ll all come together perfectly.
sometimes it’s hard. being on the threshold of your life, between innocent childhood and naive adulthood, feels so terrifying that you doubt you’ll ever become the person you aspire to be. you’re filled with ideas and lofty dreams, yet the ground you’re lying on is way too far from the sky you’re yearning to reach.
i’m at this point exactly. i’ve already passed my 18th year and grew so much that the more i learned the more naive and scared i felt. i’ll become 19 in a few days, and i don’t know what to expect. every new year of my life could be the best or the worst, and i’ve had my share of both, and now i’m not even sure of which one i’m more afraid. the bad years hurt, but they teach, and the good ones.. well they come with the fear of their end, the anticipation of the inevitable turn.
whatever these coming months will bring, i pray they’ll be accompanied by a wind of grace. i pray that along these days my darkness will be lifted and new light will permeate my life. i pray, and i pray, and i pray, and hope that my voice is not an empty echo in the air.
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?
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.