At 39, I left an abusive relationship and moved into a one-bedroom apartment with my precious 4 and 7 year old sons. I focused on keeping alive what mattered most and nurturing moments that made our lives sweet. Painful things happened; and many magical things as well. I bought us a home, a pop-top Vanagon for adventure-filled camping trips, and continued to work as a teacher. I spent time alone to rewire myself.
Today, my boys are in their 20’s, creatively sculpting their way in the world. I am a people-loving artist, teacher, mentor, coach and love this gentle journey so many of us are on from trauma to joy and aliveness. I paint, work in myriad ways with teens and adults, have taken or led hundreds of groups and workshops and still forget that I am enough. Going through hard stuff has created a deeper capacity and presence I can share with others. I’ve navigated almost losing my son, being a single mom, healing from a serious cycling accident, and teaching a court school of troubled teens. I am resilient and strong, happy and simple, and love laughing and sharing in circles of women.
I grew up in Turkey and I was never a very good student. I didn’t go to a particularly good school so when I decided that I wanted to become a diplomat that seemed like an unattainable dream. In Turkey only about 10 spots open up every year for admission to the diplomat school. Before going to college we all had to take this big exam. I studied a lot or what I thought was a lot… I studied for 3 hours every day and initially I was really proud of myself. But some of my friends spent 12 hours a day studying, and when I realized that I got scared. I tried to study more but found that after 3 hours I just couldn’t concentrate anymore. Even if I was spending more time at my desk, I just ended up doodling.
The time came to take this exam. When I was filling out the exam it seemed way too easy, it was so unreal… I was convinced that I was solving the problems all wrong but when the results came in I learned that I only missed 3 questions out of the 100… nobody, including me believed that it was possible. My mom kept asking me if I cheated… even she couldn’t believe that I had this in me. It’s actually kind of sad that nobody saw my potential.
Because of my high scores I got one of these coveted spots at the diplomat school and I received a full scholarship. I was even featured in the Turkish newspaper. Since my parents didn’t have to pay anything for my college my dad bought me a car. Kind of funny that my three siblings had to take the bus to university, and I was able to just pull up in a car, but my dad paid a lot of tuition for their schooling so he said that this was the fair thing to do.
“When I realized that simple fact, all those struggles that I had experienced in the past became the source of my strength.”
Growing up, my family life was unstable. After a particularly difficult period, which culminated in my mom kicking my dad out of the house, my parents separated and life changed drastically. It was a very tough period and I think I always had this underlying sense of anxiety growing up – not knowing what was going to happen next. And with that, there was this sense of being paralyzed, of not knowing what to do next.
I wandered through life without direction – letting it happen without awareness of who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go and with no sense of being connected to my life. I went to school, got a job, moved to a different city, got into different relationships. It was only after truly falling in love and being scared witless about it that my anxiety came front and center and I experienced a serious bout where I needed to see multiple therapists, psychiatrists, and was even briefly on medication.
I knew I could not go living like this. I finally got to a point where I had this realization that Life did not just happen TO me, it happened FOR me. When I realized that simple fact, all those struggles that I had experienced in the past became the source of my strength. They made me the strong and loving person that I am today. I feel I now have that direction and purpose that was missing before and am much more fulfilled, connected, and excited about my life.