I write about the uncomfortable“Don’t trip. Don’t trip.” 

These were the thoughts going through my head as I went up the steps to the stage. During pre-show prep, I saw that the carpet where I’d be standing was a little shaggy. I looked at my boots.

“Shit, maybe I should get my flats from the car. My heels will get caught.”

But I didn’t. There was too much adrenaline pumping through my body. I focused on knowing where I’d sit. Remembering my first words. Remembering my last. Forgetting that there were 800 people in the audience that night – not to mention the live stream.

Did I mention this was my first big public speaking gig? I sent the proposal to Ignite on a whim. I’d done that before, and just like the past, I figured I wouldn’t get picked. So many more inspirational people with incredible stories apply every quarter. Why would mine get picked?

It did. I got the email right before Kelly Clarkson took the stage at Key Arena on August 12th. I was already an emotional mess because I’d been wanting to see Kelly Clarkson live for 13 years, so I didn’t even have the time to process the fact that my Ignite talk was accepted. No time to process the fact that I’d be standing on stage at Town Hall in Seattle, baring my soul about a topic I’d kept inside for 20 years.

Not that I had time to process it after. Traveling, work, conferences…the next month was a whirlwind, and right before I got on the plane at Cleveland to head back to Seattle, I submitted my slides for the talk.

“Shit, well, that’s happening.”

On September 17, I listened to 6 amazing people go up on stage and give their Ignite talks before me. I started to lose focus. I had to remember to breathe.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 5.11.58 PMI made it on stage without tripping, grabbed the microphone from Scott Berkun and then was transformed into a Charlie Brown cartoon. My own words sounded like the teacher’s garbled speech, the audience like the background drawings that stay still. I made the mistake of glancing down at my slides once, and it threw me off. I glanced up at one point and noticed my friend’s husband in the back row (but didn’t focus enough to see her.) Three of my lovelies were in the audience that day, plus a few of my friends watching at home.

Once I got off the stage, I sat down. One of the other speakers gave me a hug. I grabbed my phone. There was one more speaker between me and intermission. I tried to hold back the tears. My friends were posting funny screenshots of the live stream on my Facebook. I smiled through the tears that inevitably came down my cheeks. At intermission, my friends found me to give me a hug.

“Did I say words? Were they in English?”

Audience members came up to me, thanking me for my bravery. For sharing my story. The guy who was in charge of the slides told me that I was right on point – I must’ve practiced meticulously.

I remembered that there were 800 people in the audience that night. My knees buckled.

A good friend asked me what made me choose to share my story – this story – now. I told him that it was time. The reason I hadn’t shared it is because I’d been scared, but I have bigger fears I tackle every single day to survive.

Besides, I said I wanted to do more public speaking. What better way to start by ripping my heart out and leaving it on the stage for the world to see?



Saying Farewell to Dot

by Berrak on July 2, 2015


“Dot is going to outlive me.”

That’s the comment I’ve been making to people every time someone would react to her age. “Wow, 16. She doesn’t look it!”

And she doesn’t.

Dot 1I first met Dot a couple of years ago when I met my best friend and her dad. Dot was his cat.

When I came back from my road trip this past fall, after my best friend (and Dot’s) dad had passed away, she became a fixation in our apartment and my life. When she ran away from our apartment, in a neighborhood she wasn’t familiar with, my heart stopped. I couldn’t do anything but worry about her for those two days. I ran around our neighborhood. I tweeted. I prepared fliers, ready to plaster them all over town. It was then that I realized she became a part of my heart. When she came back to us, I could breathe again.

So, when I moved into my own apartment in December, she came home with me.

If I stayed out all night at a friend’s, Dot would be there to greet me when I walked in through the door in the morning. When I sit at my desk to write, Dot is right there, keeping my wrists warm. When I get home from a trip, Dot is there to tell me everything that had happened when I was gone.

Her health, for the most part, has been solid. Except for the throwing up. I thought it was because her hair was long and she was giving herself too many hairballs. The throwing up kind of stopped for a bit after she got groomed. And then it began. So did the pooping out of the litter box. Watching her throw up and seeing tears form around her eyes from the force tore me apart every time.

A couple of months ago, a tumor appeared in her ear. dot 2

She kept losing weight.

“She’ll be fine,” I kept telling myself.

The other night, I woke up to her throwing up – twice. And then again in the morning.

In my gut, I knew it was time.

It’s the hardest decision I’ve made in my entire life. I could be selfish. I could put her under anesthesia to have the tumor removed, put her on meds so that she’s by my side for another few months. Maybe it’d just be weeks.

But I’m not the one throwing up. I’m not the one who’s sick. I’m not the one who can’t communicate my discomfort and pain.

So I made the call.

Tonight is my last night with Dot. Tomorrow morning, my sweet girl will go to sleep and finally get some rest.

Saturday morning, when I wake up, my apartment will be silent. There won’t be a paw on my lips, trying to get me to wake up.

Anyone who’s owned an animal knows the unconditional love that they have for their humans. Yes, cats are fickle animals, but deep in my heart, I believe that Dot has always been an introvert like me. Her love filled up my heart, and on my loneliest days, just having her near me helped.

My sweet girl lived a long, full life. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been a part of that life, even if it was just for a few months.

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doppelgangerAlthough the concept of the doppelgänger usually refers to more of the physical attributes of a person, I’ve been thinking a lot about the personalities we come across or invite into our lives. I met someone recently who reminded me a lot of a person from my past. It wasn’t so much the physical similarities but the personality quirks of this person that are similar to a friend from a different lifetime.

It got me thinking about the people that come in to our lives. No matter how much I grow or change, I seem to be drawn to certain personalities. Sometimes, their presence in my life is fleeting – maybe a conversation that lasts as long as it takes for me to drink a pint of beer at the bar. A passing conversation. A person who won’t be a lasting part of my life but that short conversation can awaken a feeling, thought, or untie a knot that’s been tangled up in my mind.

This is why, even as an introvert, I try to make an effort to talk to strangers when the time is right. The other night, I was sitting at the bar and one of the girls ordering a drink was asking for a recommendation. I spoke up with my thoughts and next thing you know, we were talking about road trips for an hour.

Another conversation led me to meet a couple who had just come back from a trip to China and they were both creatives, so we ended up talking about art and writing for two hours on a random Saturday night.

I walk away from most of these conversations inspired.

People can surprise you. Yes, that can be a negative surprise too, but the beauty of these fleeting conversations is the ability to walk away. If you’re feeling more drained than inspired, walk away.

If you meet someone who has the same kind of spark of a friend from the past, embrace it. Maybe it’ll remind you of good memories. Maybe it’ll encourage you to finally send that email you’ve been wanting to send. Maybe it will remind you that there’s a reason the past is the past and you should delete that email that’s been sitting in your outbox and move on.

The world is constantly talking to us but we hardly listen. Once in a while, it takes the Doppelgänger Effect to make us stop and pay attention, even if it’s just for the duration of a short conversation.

It’s easy for me to get lost in my own head, until a conversation with a stranger sparks a thought, debate, or clue to help me find my way back to the right path.

When was the last time you paused long enough to listen to the world around you?


Big girls do cry

by Berrak on June 3, 2015

Last night, I cried. It was unexpected. It was inevitable. It was necessary.

Ironically, it was after an incredibly fun night with my awesome friends. We’re in a mini golf league this summer, have I mentioned that? Last night was the first night. We drank beers, laughed and hit balls. Afterwards, we went for food and drinks. It was a good night. It was a great night.

Then I walked home. It was a full moon. It was a beautiful Seattle night, with the smell of the rain still lingering.

I came home, undressed, headed straight to bed – and started crying.

There’s been this loneliness creeping underneath the surface. This pain that I don’t talk about, and try not to think about.

My life is good, I remind myself daily.

I’m loved, my friends remind me.

I do good work, my coworkers tell me.

I’m not alone, but I am often lonely.

One of my best friends and I were having a conversation a couple of weeks ago and I teared up a little. We hadn’t had a one-on-one in a while. She reminded me that being independent and building the life I want can be, ironically, lonely.

That’s the way it goes.

Crying is good. It’s cleansing. I’m emotional – it’s part of the package.

The loneliness, though? I don’t know how to overcome it. It’s the biggest irony of my life. An ambivert with an independent soul that craves solitude to recharge – but also craves the intimacy provided by other people.

So, sometimes, I just cry myself to sleep.

The next day is always a little better, even if my heart is always heavy.

a good cry



by Berrak on May 29, 2015

the world is my siren

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