My apologies for being a bit MIA for a few days, it’s been a hectic week. I’ve been scrambling around to get stuff together for my trip to Turkey. I will be arriving very shortly. As some of you may know, I was born in Turkey and came to the U.S. at age 9. Huge transition for sure, but now that I look back at it, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to have the chance to move to one of the greatest countries. My future definitely would have looked a whole lot different if I resided in Turkey.
Being an immigrant and going through all the changes and struggles is not an easy road, but if I could go back in time to let the little girl know that this is all a blessing in disguise, and that she is very lucky, I would. I am writing this on my flight to Turkey right now and getting flashbacks of my plane ride with my sister and mom way back in 2001. That was my first time going on a plane and I was so happy the whole time because it meant that I would get to see my dad. My dad was in the Turkish Air Force and part of NATO for 20 years which meant we moved around a lot. My dad was always gone for long periods of time and as a little kid, I hated being apart, so naturally I would do anything to be with him. One of the many destinations for him was America, and ever since then, he knew he wanted to live there. Shortly after, he moved there to test it out and we followed a few months later. I knew America was a “big deal” as a little kid, but I didn’t really care much about it, all I wanted was to be reunited with my father.
In the summer of 2001, is when one of the biggest changes of my life happened. We bought a one-way ticket to the U.S. and never really looked back. We didn’t pack much because we didn’t think it would be a permanent move. We assumed we would only stay about a year and come home to Turkey. Well, as you might already guess, that did not happen. Boston has been my “home” for about 16 years now.
One of the biggest challenges of being an immigrant is learning a new language. I did not know one word coming to the U.S. Usually in Turkey, they start teaching you English in fourth grade, but I left in third grade, missing those classes. I think the only word I knew was “Hello” and I remember going into my classroom in fourth grade and being mind blown with what my teacher was saying. I did not understand anything that came out of her mouth. It was actually kind of humorous. Slowly, and fortunately due to my age, I picked it up fairly quickly. Another challenge that surfaces is building a new home from scratch. You have to start all over and build a new life. It’s not as easy as you might think. It’s especially not easy when you constantly think, there’s a chance, your family will change their minds, and you will move back.
The one memory that comes to mind often is flashbacks of being in a cab in Turkey and saying goodbye to my grandparents and the rest of my family. That moment will be a permanent image in my head for the rest of my life because in that moment I realized a huge change was in the works. I knew in that moment that nothing would be the same anymore. I spent a lot of my childhood with my grandparents and we would stay the whole summer with them. Moving to the U.S. meant that that tradition was gone. Although, on the plus side new traditions arose, and new adventures in the U.S. which I enjoyed every bit of!
Turkey will always have a little piece of my heart and is a big part of what has shaped me to be the girl I am today – compassionate, gentle and loving. I still have a little bit of my culture embedded in me and being able to have a second country to call home is one of the best feelings. I didn’t always feel that gratitude towards it growing up, because I always felt “different” than everyone else. Now, I embrace that and treat it like it’s magic. I believe everyone has to embrace what makes them different, that is when you get to be you and be truest to your core.
Also, I feel that having my culture embedded in me has been able to make it easier for me to resonate with other immigrants all around the world on a deeper level. The funny thing about America is, we are all immigrants, and we all tend to forget that sometimes. That’s one of the best characteristics about America and why it has become so free and less judgmental is due to the uniqueness of community of people from all around the world.
I am so grateful for my move to the U.S. and being able to have the opportunity to go to one of the best colleges, to have had such amazing experiences, and to have the job I have today. All of this is not possible overseas at other developing countries. That’s why I emphasis on taking advantage of our blessings and go after what we want, and help others who are not as fortunate.
The saying “Home is where the heart is”, resonates with me a lot because whenever I think of Turkey, it warms my heart, my soul knows it was a good memory for me. I think “home” always has a warm place in all our hearts, wherever that may be. Even if it wasn’t a good situation, you will always remember where you came from. When we don’t forget where we come from, we bring forth a part of us that differentiates us from many others.
I think the best thing to do if the thought of home doesn’t bring pleasant memories, is to see who it made you today and how you grew from it to become much stronger and resilient. You will always have that place that has shaped and made you who you are, and the magical part is it doesn’t have to be your full story — it’s only one chapter, the rest is still unwritten….
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’ve read this far, thank you so much!
Until next time,
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“Life takes you to unexpected places….Love takes you home.” – Unknown