Filed under: life, the city | Tags: friendship, Love, NYC, professional life, Rain, tucson, University of Arizona
I have so much to do before I leave but I will take a moment to list some things I want to remember about Tucson. Let me tell you what Tucson did to me.
I grew up a lot in Tucson. Especially professionally. I had a certain plan about my future, and nothing turned out as planned. So, besides everything else, I once again realized the inconsistency hidden inside every plan. I came here to spend five years and get a PhD. I rather spent three years, got a master’s, and now I am moving to New York City for my PhD.
I paired up with mind-blowing professors and thinkers. I translated a novel with one of them, while I learnt a lot about my research with the other. I started learning how to research, analyze, argue, and write from scratch. They were amazing guides all along. I cannot think of a professional future without any one of the two.
I experienced the harshest of work politics, as well as friends’ support, and past-friends’ treason. Again. I have learnt how to turn everything into a learning experience, not to hold grudge, and get things done no matter what. Again. I thought Galatasaray University’s academic and social environment had taught me all. Apparently, they had only prepared me for worse.
I discovered friendship and its various forms. I made two BFFs at first sight; I saw how a high school friend turned into a partner in crime; I became a colorful figure on a multinational canvas with big words written on it. I also sadly witnessed how past-friends jumped off the ship when I was out of sight. My new life was full of such wonderful people or their wonderful versions, I really didn’t care a second as bad things happened. Life was hashtagging snapshots of my life with “#zerof*cksgiven.”
I fell in and out of love; broke some hearts and bones. I loved, left, returned, left again, but mostly wandered in the grey area between heart-shaped boxes and bed. I got addicted to the excitement of not knowing what will happen in the end. My love life in Tucson was a Tucsonan July. You knew it would rain, but you never know when and how much it would.
I became someone else. If you don’t believe in that, look at my left arm. You’ll know what I mean.
Now Tucson’s time is up. I know I will return one day for a brief visit. I’ll collect memories from the rapidly gentrifying downtown, and reflect on them whilst walking on 4th avenue. I’ll probably stop by Plush. You know I don’t like Sky Bar. I actually hate it.
This year has been the year of firsts. Here is what was new to me in 2012.
The first time I was left behind
Since 2003, I move. I change apartments, schools, cities, countries, and continents. I describe life as “perpetual movement.” For a long time, it hurt. Now, it just feels natural. However, for the fist time this year, I was the one left behind. A very close and dear friend of mine moved away, and I felt what my thoughtless ventures out of my “safe zones” meant to me dear friends left behind.
I met P. in Tucson in the middle of a health crisis. I had recently moved to a new apartment, went through a break-up, and had been continuously sick. I missed school for a whole week, cancelled all my sections, and stayed home for days and nights. Those lonely and dark and hazy days lead to some serious reflection about who I was, what I was doing, etc. In the middle of this, P. showed up out of the blue, and said: “Run with scissors! F*ck everything off!” We were like two kids who played a game, had so much fun, and shouted with joy: “We are best friends forever!” It was that simple.
The following months were dominated with my tumultuous love life, and his sincere attempt of making sense of American dating scene. We both failed. However, along the way, we became so close that he didn’t mind driving down to the city for 30 minutes in the middle of the night just because I called him and sounded awful. He let me spend a weekend on his couch, obsessively watching Sex and the City and reaching enlightened revelations about my life while he ran his experiments at his laboratory. But his time was limited in Tucson, and had to leave when everything was so perfect.
And he left. On a plane. Just like that. For weeks, in any discomforting situation, I said: “Oh I wish P. was here now.” For months, whenever I had the urge to instantly gossip about someone around me, I quasi-yelled at my friends: “Why don’t you speak French like P. does?” The fact that I was the one left behind, and I was the one immersed in a worse version of life without him hurt me more than I anticipated. I finally realized what I have been doing to my close friends for 10 years now. I am sorry y’all, but this is how life has been.
My First Vegas Trip
We were such good friends with P. that we decided to test it with a trip. Although we still don’t know whose idea it was at the first place, we went to Vegas. And wished we had never gone.
Las Vegas promises good time only to those who are not willing to think about the actual quintessence of things in Vegas or who are too drunk to do so. Vegas is a messy and flashy stage where a third-class play is performed with second-hand costumes and run-down make-up. Las Vegas is where people go to drink and be promiscuous, on the streets. The whole trip was dominated with an existential dissatisfaction and class-aware frustration. Vulgar use of space, abundance of tackiness, and too-many light bulbs made me constantly sick, and I wanted to get away.
We found ourselves in the Valley of Fire, and then at the Hoover Dam—a set for Cold War movies with a handsome Western agent trapped in a Soviet military facility. Who knew the best part of a Vegas trip was when we were the farthest from people?
When we were leaving Vegas, I remember mumbling about not going back ever again. I don’t know about P., but I still stand where I was back then.
My First Madonna Concert
Another first and last experience. I remember hearing about Madonna and her outrageous behavior when I was growing up. But it was not until Frozen exploded all over our teenage minds that I got to know her. Since then, I have been a Madonna fan. A loyal one. I even liked her “American Life” album.
When I moved to Paris in 2008, Madonna was on her “Sticky and Sweet Tour”, and she scheduled an extra show in Paris at the last minute, leaving a lot of tickets unsold. Until the very last day, I could get a ticket and see her with my own eyes, reaching to a level of completion in my “fandom.” I didn’t do it because I had no one to go there with, and regretted for years.
The moment I heard she was coming to Istanbul, I messaged my friend HC, and told him that I want a ticket to MDNA. I added: “You are the only one who is capable of doing so. I trust your skills. Let’s do it.” Years of organizing college events together blessed us with such a confidence for each other at moments like that. When I came to Istanbul months later this conversation, my ticket was ready. We went to the concert, and had a great time.
However, the whole Madonna experience was also a “once in a lifetime” thing for me. It was great, she was queen and all, but something about that concert told me that I could not do things over and over. Some experiences in life are meant to be done once. My first Madonna Concert was awesome, but also unique in my own story.
And other things…
This year I tried many new things, and had other firsts. There were bad moments such as when I experienced my first mobbing at work. Or there were great moments such as I went camping for the first time. There were milestones based on one little man, my nephew. Overall, I must say it was a good year. And it renewed me in many ways. I even tried those frames!
Have a good new year y’all!
#3, January 8, 2012
I am sitting on the benches of Istanbul Ataturk Airport, waiting for my partner in crime, Deniz, to arrive. I have thirty minutes before check-in starts, lots of alcohol in my blood, and some extra holiday pounds. They will leave me when time arrives.
I am sitting here with two major feelings: An ultimate satisfaction deriving from quality time spent with friends and family, and a major heartbreak created by two important people in my life.
I am sitting here with my coat on and with one song in my ears looping. The song summarizes the major heartbreak, the expected moment of my life. After two great nights spent with friends, who know how to love and deserve more love than I normally give them, I am waiting for my departure time to arrive with a bittersweet feeling, tending to darken due to those heartbreaks.
During this visit to Turkey, I did not have the time of my life, but luckily, last two days were amazing by all means. I reconnected with most of my dearest friends until next time—this June or another cold and rainy December. Throughout this stay, I have eaten more than enough Turkish food, many of them being delicacies I craved in the middle of warm Tucson nights. I have seen four amazing Turkish movies, took many positive steps for my academic and literary career, talked to many strangers about life in Turkey and grasped an overall sentiment about the latest developments. It was better than I expected in certain issues, and worse than in some others.
When I started this entry, I was expecting a catharsis on this heartbreak. My alcohol level, my sleepiness, the song in loop signaled this very-needed catharsis. However, as I realized and explained in these chronicles, I had changed a lot. I fire frustrations faster and easier than I used to, and this is totally new to me. I think as Istanbul becomes a more touristic, attractive, sign-board invaded city, my character complies with it: The loses are obvious, the human cost is huge, and the history is massively neglected, but to become more flexible as a person, to have a life with more lights, to welcome more people, I quit burdening friendships easier and quicker than usual. My friends at college used to mock my short temper towards people close to me. It was something funny, because although I claimed ending my relationship with many people, I never had succeeded, and my short temper was only a funny reaction of mine to human conditions.
This time, the heartbreak occurred so gradually and deep down, no one challenged me when I talked about my heart breaking. They all admitted that my relationship with those two former friends was over. It was easy, apparent, accepted by everyone around. The decadence was recognized with ease.
And just like that, after two amazing nights, I took a cab from Taksim to the Airport, and started waiting for my flight. It was that simple.
The country I grew up has neither a clean record nor a bright present towards the minorities it is home to. Putting some exceptions aside, our governments have never liked minorities, and not only the ones it officially recognized, like Greeks or Jews, but also the ones that you could call, in my native language, “aykırı sesler”, which can be translated into “incongruous voices”. The ones, who know exactly how governments treated those voices because they were once underrepresented, are in power now, and they ironically have adopted a similar discourse to their oppressors’. And including the last one, every government acts as if they treat the minorities fairly. This is what I call “grand hypocrisy”. If you wander in Turkish academia, you will find quality research on the history, but this “grand hypocrisy” is not my topic today. I want to talk about something similar but different in level and size. I want to talk about “minor hypocrisy”.
My academic interest to minorities does not rise from an awkward personal affection, as some fellow students ridiculously put it with funny statements like “You know, I love Islam. So I study Turkish society.” I believe how institutions and people treat minorities reveals a lot about their set of minds. In a responsible academic environment, an accurate study should distance the people from the institutions to a possible extend. What strikes me in my own life is how, sometimes, those people we dissociate from their governments actually behave the same way. The hypocrisy I call “minor” emerges when those people proclaim themselves strictly distinct from their vicious past and present governments, but they treat their friends and loved ones just like their governments did, does, but hopefully will not in the future.
No theory is good without an example. Here, take O.N.L. He is an educated, so-called humanist friend of mine. He likes to distinct himself from the society he lives in with his artistic expression, clothing, personal attitude, and his total adoption of and adaptation to the “humanist” discourse which welcomes “everyone as they are”. If you ask his friends or family, or even to those who watch him and his plays on the stage, he is a very nice person with a big heart. He detests the current government not because of political differences but also because the government does not treat the differences in an embracing way. He, himself, is an incongruous voice; and he mourns for the catastrophes that the minorities of our country went through. He even shared a video on Facebook condemning the past. Maybe not a good citizen for the current mentality, but such a good friend, and even a good intellectual, right?
However, when how he treats his friends who had to leave the country unfolds, we see a different story. This “nice person with a big heart” tends to consciously forget some of his friends live abroad. In addition, the departure of his friends, who were close enough to confront him with truths about his life, enabled this person to passively expel them. Their choice of living outside the country, or their obligation to do so, gave him the opportunity to gentrify his environment. He cut the communication with them, he deliberately lost touch, and it was something he could not do before, not to hurt the humanist image he is counting on in his personal relations. This virtual supporter of minorities failed to distance his behaviors from his country’s past and present towards his friends of a different type of minority.
So, when I saw the video he shared on Facebook, I immediately recognized a minor version of the grand hypocrisy I always condemn. He is the bearer of the pieces of a grand hypocrisy, and I am sure he sleeps well with his minor belongings. On the other hand, I feel the need to address any hypocrisy I detect, and minor or grand, it doesn’t matter.
How do I overcome homesickness?
One day, a close friend’s mom, Güniz Teyze, read my fortune from coffee grounds in my cup. She said: “You will always be on road. When you are here, you will have a bag ready to depart anytime. When you are there, you will always miss here. You don’t belong here, or there. You belong to both.”
She had known me since I was 14. I was 23 years old when she told me this. I believed in her with the whole of my heart.
In one month, I will be celebrating my 26th birthday in Arizona, and not on an island for the first time in 7 years. This year has been the year of change, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy it. I am leaving some habits behind, just like some expressions, or a couple of favorite dishes and fortunately many obsessions. I am building up a new life in America in general, and in Tucson in particular. I have a bag ready to depart here, too. But for a long time, I plan to stay on this part of the world.
However, this does not mean that I don’t miss my life back in Turkey in general, and in Istanbul in particular. Looking at a crowded street from the second floor of a building, and feeling the noise rather than hearing it is at the top of my list. I miss people filling streets up and me looking at them from Oyuncular Kahvesi or somewhere in Nevizade. Or I miss sitting under the pergola in a quiet summer afternoon, drinking tea and looking at Galata Tower. I miss the chilly spring mornings of Gülhane Parkı or taking a taxi from Taksim to Kuzguncuk, my last neighborhood in Istanbul, and not realizing how we crossed the Bosphorus bridge as I am already sleeping because of that last drink. I miss live clarinet, buying a simit and running to a bus with it, or getting soaked under the rain on my way to Ortaköy and cursing myself for not taking the bus. I miss things unique to Istanbul, unique to life there, and mostly individual moments rather than collective ones.
Why individual rather than collective? Why personal rather than communal? The answer is hidden in “Virtual Rakı Sofrası”.
I don’t miss collective moments because my friends are creative enough to organize a virtual gathering on Skype, around a Raki table, with all rituals completed. They turn on their Skype, raise their Raki glasses with me, and stay up until 4am just to talk with me around the table, something very different than any gathering including alcohol. They have time for keeping my spirit up with such an event on particularly May, the best month of Istanbul, full of festivals around the city. They are so sweet that they read me passages from my yearbook, which recently came out and is so heavy and emotionally valuable to be shipped. They keep me updated, they keep me happy, they keep me belonging to two without sacrificing one or other. Their kindness, and valuable friendship, and considerable efforts leave me with my yearning to only individual moments.
I can’t thank them enough, so I just raise my glass.