When I first arrived in Istanbul in September 2018 I wrote…
Istanbul would this time be a love story. Not between me and another but between me and the city. A few years ago I had left Istanbul confused and afraid. I had bought into someone else’s limitations and realized that I had begun living their story instead of my own. The relationship was difficult and traumatizing and it had coloured my experience of the city. What relationship it was is no longer important and thankfully it shattered like glass, once resistance kicked in. I see this relationship now as a catalyst for putting my whole life back on a more meaningful track.
Despite what I had been through I started to dream of Istanbul the moment my dreams became my own again and all the nightmares of him subsided. I began to return to the city through books and images connecting them both with my memories of things. It was a city that I remembered in pieces.
What I find interesting now is that when I started wishing for Istanbul, I had been left with nothing – no money, no job and completely traumatized – unable to think straight but I told myself that I would use my talent as currency and that I would write my way back. I didn’t know what that meant at the time.
When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose and I began to write my blog, not knowing what I was doing. This was the time in my life where I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror and preferred to brush my teeth in the dark. This was me broken and bewildered, unable to comprehend what had happened and how I had gotten to this point through the pretence of love.
I focused on finding and re-developing my talent, little by little and going back to what I knew best which was teaching. Through my blogging, a year later, I was connecting with another blogger I was following. He is an author of several books and he offered me an interview to teach at a university in Istanbul. It was the end of a very hard year but a year I lived deeply and fully, walking purposefully in the direction of my fears because I knew that they were the only way out into a brand new world.
In September I returned to Istanbul to teach and to write. I explored all that I had left behind undiscovered. I would sometimes walk for hours in places where I had once been forbidden to go alone. (Everyday places; poorer neighbourhoods rich in culture; the Grand Bazaar because there were too many men; the old town because it was unclean, etc. Everything elicited jealousy from him and a need to control my life. Besides, he would ask, why would you go there?)
Still sore from all that had happened, I realized that I was in Istanbul looking for myself. Did I find myself? Yes and no. Istanbul allowed me to work with my fears and gave me time to reflect on and heal my trauma. Istanbul gave me many firsts that I had not had in a long time. My own flat decorated with pomegranates and in one of the most historic neighbourhoods of Istanbul. It gave me a friendship that blossomed into genuine love no matter how much I resisted. His name is Anas and his last name translates to ‘well said”. (I love him most for his laughter and how it reminds me to be childlike.) Istanbul also gave me sisterhood, connecting me to a woman who had been through as much, if not more, than I. She has been a constant source of support and relentless kindness. Her name is Altynai and her name translates into ‘golden moon’. She has indeed watched over me the past 6 months. Istanbul also gave me a mentor who believed in my skills as a teacher, encouraged me and in the process also became a friend. His name is Leonard Durso.
Istanbul gave me one last thing – it taught me that there is nothing to be afraid of. What I learned through my experience of Istanbul was what I am not. Not afraid, not nothing, not worthless, not selfish, not a bad writer, not genuine, not stupid, etc. Realizing through my own determination and experience of what I am not, points me once again in the direction of what I am and that is undefinable. I have stepped into my own story and once again living a magical life, stronger than before.
In the end, I met myself.
It was almost as if, the moment I had this clear realization of myself, Istanbul told me it was time to leave. Circumstances reset another doorway. In the midst of all that was happening, I started wanting home. I wasn’t homesick because I am still unsure where home is but I wanted all that it promised. I wanted a place now where I could focus on developing my writing and developing myself as a teacher. A smaller place where I wouldn’t have to fight the traffic as much or the bureaucracy. Istanbul can never be home for me. There are just too many uncertainties. Nor are we returning to Bratislava.
The journey continues in the direction of a surprise that I will reveal once I arrive at the destination. Can you guess where we are going to next?