On üç.

One of the biggest complaints of late is a lack of inspiration in my life. There are so many things I love and so many things I want to do, but I’ve been able to come up with specifics of all the things I want. Getting out of Seattle, taking a vacation, and seeing family and friends have got my brain churning in a way it hasn’t in what feels like months.

I’m a great lover of lists and I’ve come out of my vacation with multiple lists of (re)inspiration — foods to cook, songs to listen to, books to read, people to call, plans to round out my summer.

It’s the first time since the early spring that I’ve found myself truly excited to dive into life and all the things I love best. That’s not to say I’m finished slogging through the muddy waters of life’s doldrums, but I’m moving through, determined not to get stuck in the Doldrums and become a Lethargian. I need to hold onto and explore these (re)inspirations.

On bir.

A hot, sticky July night, cruising through downtown Memphis, with country music streaming out of the speakers. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to country music and I’m falling in love all over again. Something about being with old friends, being back in the South, driving aimlessly late on a summer night. Puts me back into my teenage years. The conversation meanders through many topics until we settle on music. Someone mentions Shania Twain, and C.P. and I burst out in unison:

Whose bed have your boots been under?

And whose heart did you steal, I wonder?

This time, did it feel like thunder baby?

And who did you run to?

Return to the best of friends. Return to the best of seasons. Return to the best of music. Simple nights are the best nights.

On.

This weekend I find myself in the company of the best of friends. The friends who know the best way to deal with stress, exhaustion, and heartbreak is with humor. The friends who know that laughter and wine are the best medicine. The friends who know just the right YouTube video.

Dokuz.

I’ve been sitting here, on this fold-out couch in my family’s beachside apartment rental in Montauk, NY for the last half hour, trying to come up with an idea of what I am grateful for today. That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for anything tonight. Rather, all of the things for which I am grateful and about which I want to write are big things, stories that require thought, effort, care. But it is late and I am on vacation and I must get up early tomorrow, so I don’t want to do thought and effort. And I shouldn’t need to do thought and effort. I’ll save that for a later day, when I’m home and back to real life. Sometimes, you just need to give yourself a break.

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So, instead, I’ll settle on this — I’m grateful for my vacation. An escape from Seattle to the East Coast was just what I needed at this juncture. I needed to escape my routine, the people and places that I frequent, the day-in-and-day-out-ness of life in which we find ourselves. I needed to revel in a bit of muggy, humid East Coast summer and to see the people who know and love me best — my family and some of my dearest friends. Ignoring my day-to-day life, taking a break from my routine has allowed me to decompress, recharge, rejuvenate. I’ve dug into some deep thoughts, some real feelings, and I’ve got a myriad of different things about which I want to write. But for now I just want to enjoy my lack of responsibility and the ease of old, unconditional-love relationships.

Yedi.

Ocean waves pounding on the shore,
Overlaid with a chirping chorus of cicadas.
The scent of honeysuckle and sea salt
Intermingle and hang heavy in the air.
Lighting bugs skin the grass that
Tickles bare, sun-browned feet.
Tomato-red sunburns warm the body from within,
As ocean breezes cool from without.
Ice cream, sweet and soft, melts on tongues
And drips on cutoff shorts.
The delighted squeals of children echo
Late into the dark, warm
Summer nights.

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Altı/Çin şehri.

Wandering around Manhattan’s Chinatown is an attack on the senses. So many sights, smells, sounds that you cannot process them all as they hit you. Turn a corner and you’re greeted by a person, sight, smell you’ve never encountered before.

Sight: Fruit stand after fruit stand, laden with fruits of all shapes and sizes — some I know and love (cherries), some I recognize only by sight and name (dragonfruit), but most I have never encountered before (brown and prickly, what are you?). An old man giving no never mind to the traffic as he crosses the intersection diagonally, pushing his cart full of who-knows-what at a snail’s pace. Storefronts selling “real” Gucci purses next to mops and dustpans. Rats scurrying under the big, metal gates of shops closed for the night. Twenty old men in a park, doing nothing but standing in the sunshine. Daily buses to Atlanta for as little as 60 bucks.

Sound: A young Chinese man offering foot rubs for $25 and full-body rubs for $35. People, young and old, men and women, hawking their wares in a language I cannot even begin to fathom. Trucks beeping as they back up, buses roaring down too-narrow streets, cars honking at fellow drivers who wait a hair too long after the light changes from red to green. The music of scores of songbirds, brought by their owners to a park on an early weekend morning. Incomprehensible conversation.

Smell: Roasting chicken, roasting pork, raw meat. Dim sum wafting tantilizingly above the stench of yesterday’s garbage, piled on street corners. The smell of sweat, of work, of bodies, of life being lived. Smog and exhaust linger in the air, mixing an mingling with the scent of overripe vegetables. The heat of a muggy summer storm on the horizon.

Taste: Bagels and spring rolls bought on the same street corner. Green tea- and soy sauce-flavored ice creams melting on your tongue. The stinky, tangy taste of durian, something new for you. Salty sweat dripping off your nose and onto your lips. Grime, soot, dust,, debris kicked up into the air by thousands of pairs of feet.

Touch: Hot asphalt under foot. Beads of sweat and dirt lazily sliding down your back. The wet, wrinkly texture of cabbage leaves in your hand as you weigh heads (of cabbage, not actual heads). The snack wrapper stuck to your calf, covered in Cantonese symbols (or are they Mandarin?) that you cannot read. The sun beating down on the top of your head and warming your whole body. The crunch of a fortune cookie between your teeth and the dip of excitement in your stomach as you slowly unfurl your fortune.

Chinatown.

Üç.

I can no longer use the phrase, “last year in Turkey…” to start my stories, because this time last year I was recovering from jet lag on my parents’ couch in Chicago. It’s difficult to accept that a whole year has passed since I boarded that flight from İstanbul. I’m not ready to let go of that idea.

That year, though challenging and exhausting, gave me seemingly infinite opportunities to grow. I learned so much about myself and how I react to obstacles thrown in my path, and came home a more self-accepting, quirk-embracing individual. I won’t wax lyrical about all the lessons Turkey taught me; this whole blog is a testament to that (Poke around this site if you want to read more.). For now, I’m just grateful for the opportunity I have been given to go somewhere else and fall in love with a place that is so different from where I call “home.” No other period of time in my quarter-century has been more life-changing or life-affirming. Afiyet olsun!