The Memory Keeper’s Burden

by Berrak on April 14, 2014

Friends passing the volleyball around in the sun.

Families having picnics, as the kids run around chasing bubbles.

A friendly baseball game between families.

Daisies peeking out in the sunshine.

One of the girls running trips and falls, ripping her white tights. Her dad immediately swoops her up as her mom strips off the tights to clean her wound. Her brother still running after bubbles with bare feet.

These are all portraits of my past that I’ve kept locked away for so long, because with the positive memories come the nostalgia, the reminder that somewhere, something was broken, and those memories are now just a distant reminder of my childhood. I sat on a bench, unable to hold back my tears as all of these memories unexpectedly flooded my heart and soul this past Sunday. I couldn’t hold it back. It all seems so lost – the memories seem to be fading, and I fear that because I don’t talk about it, my brother might not remember it all.

The good memories were rare, but they were there. When we lived in Turkey, and after we moved to the U.S.

We would spend almost every weekend in downtown DC, sometimes close to the Reagan Airport, laying on the grass as the planes took off and landed, passing above our heads. My brother and I would kick the soccer ball around.

Most of the time we would go over to my cousin’s house – us kids playing volleyball, soccer, baseball or a combination of the three in the field behind their house. There were days we ventured down to the tennis courts. Then there was the pool.

It’s no secret that I’m very nostalgic. Tradition is important to me.

I’m the memory keeper of my family. From my brother’s baby pictures, to my parents’ wedding pictures to their pictures in their respective teenage years, to random black & white pictures of great aunts and uncles I never met.

I hold on to my memories with dear life, holding on to whatever tradition I can as life moves forward – way too fast, way too slow, way too chaotic, way too distant.

It’s critical to who I am as a person – remembering where I’ve come from, remembering the memories time tries to wipe away as life becomes too burdensome, pushing moments deeper and deeper beneath the scars.

I’m trying to create traditions for myself as an adult. It’s difficult because my blood family is too distant and my friends have traditions of their own. If my life goes down the path of having a family of my own, with a partner I can rely on to help me raise our kids (if I end up having kids), I want to carry these traditions from my past into their lives, making them our own.

For now – I’ll try to hold back my tears as I lock these memories away, until the times I’m ready to dive into the deep end of my soul once again.

In the meantime, who knows, you might finding me picking up a volleyball again.


(I originally wrote this post back in 2009.)

Dear Mother Earth,

I know we forget to appreciate you, a lot. We neglect the beautiful things about you, we forget to take care of you and the fact that we are guests in your home seem to slip our minds a lot. There are a lot of amazing things that you give us…but my favorite?

I love the rain. I love the summer rain. I love the sudden downpour that drenches me to the core and refreshes my soul.

I love listening to the rain beating against my window and even though rain sometimes brings me bad memories, it always leaves me feeling refreshed.

I can feel you crying Mother Earth and I’m sorry that we forget how much we need you.

But please don’t give up on us. And most of all, don’t stop the rain. Oh and keep singing to us with your beautiful thunder.

Because we all need a little cleansing of the soul now and then.




On Turning 29

by Berrak on April 1, 2014


A year ago, on my birthday, I was alone. My birthday was on a Monday and I was hoping that some of my friends would still want to come out and say hi, but they didn’t. I thought it was a fluke. I thought that things would change. I spent the majority of my life as a 28-year-old alone. Drinking alone. Hitting rock bottom alone. You always hear that saying about how one can feel lonely in a group of people. I know that feeling all too well. I didn’t realize it, but that would be the case until the door was closed on me, I left that crowd behind and got to know myself again.

It took me a really long time to get out of my own way. Even tonight, as my best friend was making me an early birthday dinner after she had a long day at work, in my head, I was looking for ways to push her away because I thought that she would want that. Because I’ve been thinking nonstop about where I was a year ago, how maybe that’s where I still belong.

28 was the worst and the best year of my life. It was the year I spent an entire weekend crying because I missed my brother’s birthday for the first time since he was born. It was the year that I nearly got evicted – twice. It was the year I finally remembered that I have grown up and maybe, it was time to let the rest of the world see that too.

It was the year I cried so much, I went numb. It was the year I spent too many nights finding myself drowning at the bottom of a bottle. The year I borrowed money from my family for the first time, asking for help from friends in a way I never thought I would have to. It was the year my friends proved themselves – for better and worse. I opened up a vein and let the rest of the world see the truth behind my words – even if that made you uncomfortable.

“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” – The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams

For the first time ever, I truly bet on myself. 

I admitted to myself, and to the world, that suicidal thoughts crossed my mind again when I was at my lowest. I promised myself and to the world that the next part of my journey would be epic. It was hopeful thinking, sure, because it wouldn’t be epic for a while. But hey, fake it till you make it, right?

I shed a lot of old skin. I was raw. Exposed. Incredibly vulnerable. Timid to the touch.

I went on dates. First dates – that sometimes just turned into one night stands. First dates that were awful. First and second dates that gave me hope – but then taught me about what I don’t want. First dates that reminded me that I just wasn’t ready. After all, I needed my would-be wedding date to pass before I could even be remotely ready. I wanted to be – oh, I so wanted to be but I wasn’t – yet.

“I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
I know right now you don’t care
But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
And how I used to be”

I let the world see me, unfiltered. Full of passion, fear, anger and ugly.

Most of all, I lived. I got out of my own way, let others leave me because they wanted to let me go and slowly began letting others in. I learned to trust – in myself, in my heart and in those who see right through me. I giggled. I acted like a dork – alone and with others. I let others in. I let them show me their love, unconditionally.

The biggest lesson I learned at 28 was that what I needed out of life and out of my friends at 22 are not the same things I need from them at 28. No – I take that back. I’ve always needed the same things out of my friends – honesty, acceptance, love, and understanding. The difference between the friendships I forged at 22 and the friendships that found their way into my life as I was buried in the ashes is this: the friends I have now never let me apologize for who I am – they accept me, unconditionally. Not only do they give me the honesty and respect I deserve, they don’t just stand by and let me disrespect myself. 

This is the biggest lesson I’m taking with me as the clock ticks one more year closer to 30. I spent the last 20 years living under the shadow of self-doubt, judging eyes of the world, and the insecurities that covered me, from head to toe.

The thing about shadows is that they need light to exist – and I’ve spent far too long wasting my light giving life to the shadows, instead of illuminating the path in front of me.

So on we go, full of ridiculousness, silly faces, immigrant moments, all the penguins, all the unbridled passion and of course, adventures with my best friend. After all, I’m just a caffeinated April Fool that you either love, hate or love to hate.

birthday collage.jpg


My fascination with clouds and the stars began long before Instagram filters and #cloudporn. Before I started working at 16 years old, I would make my parents buy me disposable cameras, and when we developed the pictures, 75% of them would be clouds and the sky. To this day, when I go through old pictures, I’ll come across a random print of a random cloud formation.

At night, my obsession was with the constellations. My dad was the one I shared that obsession with. He would help me pick out my favorite constellations at night and tell me their Turkish names.

To this day, if you’re ever outside with me, even if we’re just crossing the street to go to the next bar, you might catch me with my head pointed toward the sky – day or night. I can never get enough of it. I don’t need to point things out. I don’t have the desire to point out shapes in the clouds. I’ll get lost in it momentarily and all you have to do is say my name and I’ll keep walking. After all, my feet always remain on the ground, even if I trip once in a while.

This is pretty much how I’ve lived my life. Head pointed toward the clouds, shooting for the stars but always, always with feet on the ground. Tripping once in a while (OK, more often than I’d like to admit) and usually lost in my own view of the sky once, forgetting about the people around me. Because how could I not get lost in the stars? The possibilities? The mysteries?

The only thing that stands between me and the next star that’s my destination is…can you guess?

I always get in my own way. It’s self-doubt. It’s impostor syndrome. It’s being too selfless. Too passionate. Too scared. Not scared enough. Too foolish. Too…too everything.

In the last couple of years, I keep telling my beloveds and myself that I am working on getting out of my own way. Let’s be real honest – I can’t even fool myself on that, let alone those who have been my champions.

But I guess somewhere along the way, I actually did get out of my way. I stopped tripping up too much. The star I’ve been aiming for didn’t burn out by the time I reached it. In fact, it found me when I was probably trying to take in a sunrise or that cloud’s reflection in the water by the Great Wheel.

All this talk about stars and clouds and the sky, I never mentioned my North star. Because that’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it? Even when you get lost, even if you misread the constellations and stars burn out, as long as you keep aiming at your true north, you will find your path.

For me, my true north has been my always been my passion.

I identified it years ago and I never lost sight of it, even if I got lost. The path may alter once in a while, but that’s the fun part, isn’t it?

While I was gazing at stars, taking pictures of clouds, and keeping my feet on the ground one step at a time, a great opportunity found me. If we’re connected on social media at all, you probably noticed that last week, I began working for Google.

Yes, that Google.

There are a lot of fantastic things about this opportunity, but the reason it was so unexpected is because I didn’t apply for this job. Everything I worked so hard to build over the last five years paid off and my hard work spoke for itself when I didn’t even realize someone was listening.

I am beyond excited. Even today, after spending last week at the Google HQ, getting to know my team, I’m still a little bewildered. Nothing feels as good as being recognized for all of my hard work, even if I felt like I was running in place most days since starting this journey 5 years ago.

I get to work with a fantastic team, for an awesome company, doing exactly what I love, in a city I fall more in love with every day.

My impostor syndrome is currently in remission.

But don’t you worry, because I’ll still keep making faces like this in public.


Reminder: Be Kind to Yourself

by Berrak on February 7, 2014

I needed this reminder today, so I wanted to share this Vlog, in case you did too.

My unrehearsed answer to the question: “What is your reaction to the word “self-compassion”?

Related reading:

On Learning to Ask for Help

If We Keep This Up, We’ll Feel Guilty for Being Alive


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