Tag Archives: People
Ali Amca (Uncle, in Turkish) knows hats better than I know anything, I’m quite sure of it. He’s been making them by hand since he was twelve years old, back when a well-made hat and a well-kept mustache were a requirement for any Turkish gentleman. A visiting Jewish man once liked Ali’s hats so much that he offered to bring him to New York City to make them for the gentlemen on Madison Avenue, but he declined the offer, sure that he’d miss hearing the call to prayer ringing out through the streets five times a day. I met Ali with his big warm smile in his dusty little hat shop while getting lost on a sunny day in an unfamiliar town. We ended up spending the afternoon sipping on tea, looking at photos of good old times and talking about the ways the world has changed. In the 63 years that Ali has been making hats one thing that hasn’t changed too much is his process..each hat stitched together one by one..or the melodic words echoing from the mosque five times a day, of which Ali Amca’s shop is in perfect hearing distance.
Let me tell you about today.. Today I had my residency visa appointment in Istanbul. It’s something I’ve gone almost totally bonkers working towards and have been equal parts nervous and excited about! But today after 13 months living, learning, working, and volunteering in Turkey, my visa was denied and I was told I have ten days to leave the country. I left my appointment feeling shocked, a bit heartbroken, and with no clue what to do, but then I realized there’s a beautifully unexpected silver lining to this–This past year in Turkey and the Middle East I’ve met countless people whose biggest dream is to go to the very country I came from, and who have worked their whole lives trying to make that dream happen but haven’t quite been able to. As Americans that isn’t something we get to experience all that often. With the most powerful passport in the world, we don’t often get to know what it’s like to have the door to another place closed on us. My visa being denied today is an opportunity to try to understand what it’s like for those people hoping to get somewhere not quite in reaching distance, and for that experience I can be thankful. I’d like to encourage my friends in the US to have patience and compassion for foreign people around you. They are living in a place not totally familiar to them, speaking a language that isn’t their own, attempting to follow rules in a system that is probably quite different from the one they know. They are likely some of the hardest working people around you at the moment and have probably been the most intentional about absorbing your culture. Those people deserve just as much kindness and respect as those who were lucky enough to be born a US citizen, and the label “illegal” is no reason to deny them that. Maintaining a legal immigrant status is not always realistic or possible when working to achieve a difficult goal (speaking from someone who is, as of this morning, living somewhere without a visa). Rather than focusing on borders and differences and ‘us’ versus ‘them’, let’s focus on the fact that we are all humans sharing one planet and we are all trying our very best to contribute something positive to wherever we are. I feel so incredibly thankful for the people who have made me feel welcome as a foreigner so far, and I know that extending that sense of welcomeness will mean the world to whatever foreigner you meet today too. I betcha their story will amaze and inspire you if you stop and listen. As for my current state of visa-less-ness, I’m going to look at this last minute total change of plans as an opportunity for an unexpected adventure. I’ve got a week to figure it out. Wish me luck!
I want to be wrong.
I want to see, experience, learn something that causes me to question what I once thought to be true. I want to be sponge-like…absorbent. I want to say, “Maybe that’s different and maybe it’s better. Maybe it’s right and I was wrong all along.” And there’s certainly no shame in that. It’s quite beautiful in fact. I think it’s important not to hold on to too many things too tightly. We’re all just learning as we go, after all.
I want to be scared.
The kind of fear that comes from doing something I’ve never done before, that comes from not having all the answers, that comes from question marks. I want to be scared enough to begin to walk away but brave enough to turn back around. I think that kind of fear is a good kind of fear; it’s the sort that makes us better. It pushes our boundaries an inch or two further. It makes us so much more capable. It makes impossible things possible.
I want to be lost.
I want to spin around a see everything but something familiar. I want to test my senses, my faith in myself, in my surroundings, and find that in most ways we’re one in the same. I want to dig deeper, to climb higher, to be amongst it, in it. I want to spin around again and find that what once was unfamiliar now seems quite like home.
I want to be uncomfortable.
I want to encounter people, places, and situations I can’t quite wrap my brain around. To approach them honestly, intimately, and vulnerably. I want to be open and to fill those open spaces with new perspectives, ideas, and ways of going about life. Because there’s at least a million and a half of them, of that I’m sure. And I think it only makes sense to look beyond my own. It’s probably a whole lot more interesting over there.
I want to be challenged.
Challenged to love harder. To think deeper. To be stronger. I want to problem solve, to learn and grown a bit more every day. I want things to go off track, to look back and laugh at how I thought I had it all under control. – Because we all know that almost nothing is. – I want to encounter things I don’t understand, to find answers in books, in people, in myself. I want to share and give, to be a light for someone else. I want to be the best me I can be.
So far, boy, have I been wrong, scared, uncomfortable, and challenged. But I’ll tell you what, I’m all the better for it.
Fear. It’s a scary thing. A scary thing made up of scary things. It’s also silly. It causes us to do silly things, or causes us to do nothing at all. And there’s one type of fear that I think is sillier than all the rest. It’s the type of fear that comes from crossing boundaries. Boundaries we set both internally and externally. From breaking rules. From breaking down boxes. Why is this type of fear the silliest of them all? Because it keeps us from doing one of the most important things in life–living. This type of fear turns into routine. Normalcy. Cookie cutters. And where’s the fun in that? Coloring in between the lines is safe. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. But by doing so we miss out on page after page of line-less life to scribble all over with any color we might imagine. For that reason, this type of fear is my motivation. My motivation to live differently. To travel paths less travelled, or to forge new paths all together. My motivation to be uniquely me. For that reason, fear isn’t something to be avoided, it’s something to embrace. Some of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever encountered were found just on the other side of something that scared me. Challenging my ideas, seeking other perspectives, chasing experiences with the intent that they will expand my horizons, my identity, my concept of life and all its possibilities. Living with this intent can be seen as adventurous or free-spirited or brave. But one thing that it’s not is fearless. That particular path I took scared me, but that is precisely why I took it. And the most beautiful thing about it is that it no longer does. That is a boundary I have pushed further, and as a result have expanded my capabilities as a human being. I’ve seen, I’ve done, I’ve loved something I never would have otherwise. And as a result I’ve added depth and vibrancy and page after page of colorful scribbles to just what it means to be me.
My bookshelf is filled with tales of little princes and rabbit holes and wild things. My walls are strung with photos of sun and sand and stars. Of magic. A paper map is pinned with places I’ve been, and some places I’ve been only in my dreams. My room is the color of celery. My white linen curtains just barely shade the sun, that magnificent light I can never be too far from. In the morning sunlight streams through my windows and I know I have to chase it. I run down paths lined with trees, surrounded by a world much greater than myself. The sun never touches my skin but it touches the leaves above me, making them look like they are glowing from within. I know that my legs and my muscles can take me anywhere. I appreciate what my body can do. I appreciate the sweat running down it. I appreciate the breath within it that gets faster and heavier the further my feet take me. When I stop, my breath and my sweat and my muscles don’t. I walk out from under the leaves on the trees into the sunlight they’ve been hiding. I lift my chin and close my eyes. The sun warms my skin and fills my body and mind with light. I know that whatever the sun touches is a part of me too. I know that as long as the sun is shining I can do anything, absolutely anything I imagine. I’m eager for the future but in love with the present. I see goodness-in myself, in people. I crave adventure and fear and challenge. I want to be confused, amazed, enlightened, breathless. After the sun sets and paints the sky with color, and after the moon comes out to take its place, the world slows down around me. My mind slows down. My heart slows down. Stars sprinkle the black sky above me and fill it with the most magical kind of light. The stars remind me that the sun I love so much is just one of countless others. Of countless other suns shining light into countless other hearts across countless other galaxies. I wish I could pluck one out of the sky and hold it in my hands and press it to my chest. My imagination is a beautiful place. I know that I look at life through a child’s eyes in many ways. I know that I see it through the eyes of a soul much older than myself in others. Mostly, I know that I’m me. Just me. And that makes me happy.
It’s a cloudy afternoon and I’m daydreaming. Daydreaming of a night without a cloud in the sky. Daydreaming that I’m lying in tall grass underneath an ancient tree with bare branches reaching into a sea of black, absolutely sprinkled with stars. The harder I look at the speckled lights above me the closer they seem to be. The brighter they become. Like they are ever so slowly falling down to Earth. Or maybe Earth is spinning ever closer to them. I want to run my fingers through the sky and hear them sparkle. I want to rearrange the constellations. They seem close enough to touch. I pick one out and stretch up my hand. Just before the tip of my finger reaches it, it bursts like a firework into thousands of flecks of shimmering golden light. I reach for another and another until the whole sky sparkles. Stardust rains down and kisses my cheek. It falls into the grass around me. I close my eyes. I feel a cool breeze from some far away place. I feel the galaxy spinning around me. I feel my mind spinning just the same. I open my eyes to see that the golden flecks of light have grown wings and turned into fireflies. I sit up. They swirl around me, lifting my hair into the sky above me. I watch as they fly higher and higher, thousands of them, up into the bare branches of the ancient tree. There they glow and there they stay until they must return to their place in the sky, to light up the world.
Hi, I’m Lauren. Born in the Midwest and living in the Middle East, I’m on a bit of a personal mission to reduce the spaces between.
With endless questions and an extra helping of curiosity I created this blog as a way to reflect on the places that curiosity takes me and the answers (bust mostly more questions) I find along the way.
My hope with Miss LaQuist is to collect, share, connect the dots and one day make sense of what it means to be a member of this human family and resident of this global village.
I hope you will comment, message, share, and if nothing else..follow that spark inside you that has the potential to light up the world.