From the bottom of my heart

by Berrak on November 26, 2015

There’s a little pawn shop on 15th street. It’s an unassuming little pawn shop tucked away on a busy street. I drive by it often, and I don’t always notice it but I know it’s there. Just two short years ago, I frequented that little pawn shop when I needed to put together money for rent. I didn’t have much, you see: a couple of small diamond earrings, one white gold necklace with a broken clasp – but those few dollars I got for them made a difference. I’m glad that little pawn shop is there, on a street that’s part of my everyday life, because it reminds me how far I’ve come.

Not that I could ever forget.

Three years ago today, I was still trapped in a miserable situation in DC when I was supposed to already be in Seattle, celebrating Thanksgiving with friends.

Shortly after moving to Seattle, I hit rock bottom – hard. I lost the only friends I had here, my brother was thousands of miles away, and I came this close to being evicted.

It feels like I’ve fit multiple lifetimes into three short years. Three short years full of ups and incredible downs, challenging friendships, new friendships, new opportunities which came with their own set of failures. I’ve struggled hard core with my body image and still do every day. I’ve learned to be OK with not being OK. I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve learned that most days, I’m the only one who thinks I’m not worth a damn and I should stop that. I’ve had my heart broken in more ways than one.

Thank you for accepting me as I am- A hyper, crazy cat lady obsessed with penguins, all sorts of fandoms, books, sharing moments, friendships, and of course, Friends. heading

This past year alone has been a whirlwind. An amazing one, but one where I’ve struggled with changes all the same. These past two months, I’ve found myself spiraling again, going back to old, dark habits. I’m thankful that I recognized my spiral enough to be able to make an attempt to stop. I’m even more grateful to have friends who did not leave my side. With their small gestures, as simple as an “Everything OK?” text to letting me just break down in tears – I’m surrounded by people who have shown me what a real friend looks like. More importantly, they’ve taught me that I’m worthy of having that.

Oh and then there’s my brother. I mean, this kid is my everything. This year, we’ve gotten a lot more closer. I’m grateful for the conversations we’ve had, seeing how much he’s grown up, and how hard he tries to understand me. I can’t wait to be able to see him every day when he’s living just a few minutes away from me.

I’m grateful that my loved ones gave me the courage to rip my heart out and leave it on the stage for the world to see – and I’m even more grateful that the world didn’t stomp on it the way I expected them to.

Career-wise, I can’t even begin to talk about how grateful I am. But I am. I’ve thrown myself into my work, and it’s paid off. I’m lucky to be doing something I love every day, working with amazing people on amazing projects. I mean, I get to work with my best friend. Could I be more grateful?

I can. I am. My heart and soul is overflowing with gratitude. Today especially because the holidays are always difficult for me, but every day. Every single morning, I wake up and wonder how I’ve gotten so lucky. Life isn’t perfect. It never is. But it’s the only one I’ve got.

Sometimes, I drive by that little pawn shop just for the heck of it, almost like a pinch to remind myself my life is real.

Thank you, today and every single day, to all of you who make my life worth living in your own way. I know I don’t say it enough, but I promise you that if you’re a part of my life, I’m grateful for you. Even if we don’t talk every day. Even if you think that you didn’t have an impact. If we’ve had a conversation, you’ve had an impact.

Happy Thanksgiving, you crazy kids.






(I posted this on my FB the morning after the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. I wanted it to have a permanent home, so here it is.)

I don’t talk about my religion and faith a lot, mainly because I firmly believe that it’s something very personal. There are moments in the aftermath of tragedies that compel me to defend myself. Defend my belief. Defend my religion. I feel compelled to remind people that terrorists don’t represent our religion, and by definition, they only use violence to instill fear in others. When I see articles and tweets of Muslims from around the world defending our religion, my initial response isn’t pride. Most of the time, the defense isn’t about educating, but immediately throwing dirt on others. We can’t show kindness, we can’t show solidarity, we can’t show our humanity…by slinging dirt on Christianity. By talking about other extremists groups. By bringing political commentary about how Paris is only getting attention because it’s a Western country.

That’s how hatred spreads. Those are how the seeds are planted. That’s how children can be brainwashed into believing that the world is against them, and that’s how they turn into the people who spread terror. Hate begets hate.

The truth is, right now, humanity is crumbling in every corner of the world. There is terror that is happening every day. There is evil all around us, lurking in quiet corners, taking innocent lives with more weapons than just guns and bombs.

So instead of pointing fingers, instead of throwing mud to show how clean we are in comparison, let’s just practice what preach. Let’s practice kindness. Let’s practice understanding. Let’s shine light in to the shadows. Let’s give the world something more than hate.

I’m Muslim. I’m human. I’m a citizen of the world.

Let's give the world something more than hate


Thank You & an Announcement

by Berrak on November 11, 2015

I’ve been thinking a lot about a specific June day in 2009. What began as a normal morning ended with me taking a cab back to my house with my belongings from my desk. In that moment I lost my job, it felt like my entire world had gone up in smoke. I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. I got home and wrote a blog post. I was still using a pen name during that time, and that day triggered a new journey for me. Within a couple of hours, my friends had sent me leads, I had a few phone interviews set up, and by the end of the week, I had decided to freelance full-time.

I’ve written about my journey before, and it’s been a rough one. Impostor Syndrome has been a constant, but so have friends and mentors who have believed in me. I’ve struggled – a lot. But I’ve also grown. I even launched my own small business blog.


I never thought I’d be at a point in my life where I would say “I’m leaving my team at Google for a new opportunity, a new challenge,” but that’s what I’m saying today.

Yesterday, I accepted an offer for a new contract at a new company. I’ll talk more about the details of that job after I’ve started in December but for now, I just want to say thank you.

I want to say thank you to my friends who’ve never lost faith in me, even when I completely lost faith in myself.

I want to say thank you to mentors who’ve helped guide me on this crazy journey since that faithful day in June, and there are many you who might not even know the impact you’ve had on me with a single word or conversation over coffee. But there are two people I want to especially thank:

  • Thank you, Marie, for taking a chance on me when you brought me on as a Global Community Manager at Fluke, giving me a newfound love for B2B.
  • Thank you, Karina, for reaching out to me about this crazy project at Google that would define my life for 18 months. If it wasn’t for your faith in me, there’s no way I’d be able to take this step now.

As I’ve told my team, I’ll still be the Community’s biggest advocate. I could not be more proud of what we’ve built, and where this team will take it in the next year. Keep an eye out, folks. There are even bigger projects and initiatives coming down the pipeline for small businesses. If you don’t already, give them a follow on Google+.

In December, I’ll be starting a new adventure – and I’m terrified. Mainly because I’m going to have to go from being a hermit to working with a team in an office again. More to come on that later.



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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