Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentines Day. More importantly, it is the one year anniversary of one of the best nights of my life.

Last year at this time, I was surrounded by family and close friends to celebrate our engagement. It was an incredible night and it was a complete surprise for us. I’ll never forget it.

The weather today was a lot nicer than last year. Today reminded me of spring. When I was walking Niko I thought about how soon the flowers would bloom and I remembered instances where I would stop and smell the flowers.

There are rose bushes in my parents community and I would always stop to smell them on my way to the car or something. It was something I just did. It’s great to take that time to be able to do that and now I feel as though I am making sure to take that time to appreciate little things.

I appreciate last year’s surprise engagement party. I think about it often. It was amazing to see my friends and family there. Ever since I cut down on the amount of TV I watch, I am able to appreciate other things more. I feel as though I am finally starting to realize what is most important to me.

In one of the books I read I was given an exercise. Basically, envision you are attending a funeral, then I was hit with a curve ball when it stated the funeral was my own.

I took this exercise to heart and wrote down what I would want my family to say. What I want my friends to say. What I’d like my employer, and coworkers to say. Maybe even my clients.

As I wrote down what I hoped they would say about me, it made me realize what the most important things are to me. Ever since then, I have been trying to work to become that man that’s in that coffin. I’m trying to do my best to make sure they say those things about me. Things I want to ‘hear’ from them.

I have a great tight knit group of friends. I think I took it for granted until we played summer league basketball. It was really easy for us to put a team together. Some people struggle to be able to get 6-7 other guys on their team.

We are always there for each other and in a way I think we take it for granted and we shouldn’t. Many people in the world don’t have these relationships. Mainly because they grow apart from their friends. Schedules are overbooked. Nobody has time to meet up. Nobody has time to have a conversation. Nobody has time to stop and smell the roses.

I’m not saying stop and smell your friends.

I’m just saying appreciate them. Life is short. We all have to make time for what is most important. I’m trying to make a habit of committing to things when I’m excited about something. If there is a deposit to be paid, I will pay it immediately. This way, I’ll have to go through on it. I’m too cheap to lose that deposit. Otherwise, I may start to doubt the decision and end up never doing it.

I’m going to be more like this when it comes to my relationship with friends. Oftentimes, I don’t see them as much as I’d like. I make excuses because I’m too lazy to do anything. Or too cheap. What’s more important? The memories I’ll make with my friends or $60-70?

I’ve really been focusing in on my relationship with family too. This is so crucial as I start to get older. Now I have to make time to go to my parents house. I have to make time to message my sister who lives in another country. I have to make time to FaceTime with her. I think I do a pretty good job when it comes to this.

More than ever, I try to talk about important things with my dad. It isn’t just about sports all the time. Same goes for my mom. Although, she would always push for that herself but now I’m more receptive, at least I hope. It took a long time for me to understand how to communicate with my mom and dad. I think I’m finally starting to solve it. I still suck at it at times but I find I’m catching myself more. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. If we disagree on something, instead of shutting down, I’m trying to ramp up the conversation.

My sister and I have always had a great relationship but as I mentioned in an earlier post, things are changing. I need to make time to have conversations with her. Especially now that she is about to be a mom and her time will become even more limited. It’s great that she is in the country for the next 6 months. I’ll have to work that much harder when she’s back in Bahrain and a mother. For now, she needs to go on walks, and I need to take Niko out, so as they say, two birds.

Like anyone else, I have cousins I am close to and others that I don’t get along with as much. This is an area I’ve been trying to work on too. Reaching out and speaking to those relatives isn’t always easy. I don’t think I do a good enough job of it. Technology is definitely advanced enough that I can speak to my cousins in Turkey more often but I don’t. I make excuses. I fool myself into thinking I don’t have the time or some other bullshit excuse. As Richard Feyman said “The first principle is you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool”. I love quotes. I think that’s a great one.

You may be thinking I didn’t mention Eliz too much in this post but I feel she is the one person that I communicate with the best. I can be so open with her and let her know everything that’s on my mind. She’s probably the reason I have begun to think deeper. Have deeper conversations. It’s my practice with her that is making me better at this type of thing with others. She’s always encouraging me to have the most uncomfortable discussions. I now think this is extremely important in business and in personal life.

What I’m trying to say is, all too often, we let life pass us by without stopping to appreciate the things that may seem small. The things we take for granted. Our family. Our friends. Our relationships at work. We all can do a better job of stopping to smell the flowers.

 

 

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Jasmine Tea

As I write this I am having a great day. I’m sitting in my in-laws place and they happen to be out of town. I’m not saying it’s great they aren’t here but it’s just nice to be alone with Eliz and Niko. We have roommates at our place and we are always visiting with people so it’s nice for it to be just us.  Eliz is sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. Niko is sprawled out making sure to touch both of us and I’m on a recliner sipping Jasmine Green Tea that we bought during our trip to Bahrain.

This tea costs a bit of money. It was like $15 for a small bag. It’s the most expensive tea I’ve ever bought. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying this to show off. It’s just I never thought I would ever buy tea at this price. I’m Turkish. Tea is a big deal to us. Yet, we only know of one. Good old black tea. We steep it in Turkey of course. It’s pretty amazing how much tea Turkish people drink.

You have a guest over. Tea.

You go over to someones to quick to pick something up. Can’t leave without tea.

You go to the mechanic. Even there they offer you tea.

In fact, there is literally a job in Turkey, Çaycı, which translates to Tea Server. This is an actual profession. You could go to a jewellery store in Turkey and you’ll see the Çaycı pop his head in and out carrying tea. It’s actually pretty cool.

Why am I talking this much about tea?

Well, if it weren’t for Eliz I would’ve never bought this tea. I wouldn’t have even thought about getting it. Now, I drink a few cups a day. It tastes amazing and if relaxation came in liquid form this would be it.

As I sip the tea I realize how many other experiences I would have never had if it weren’t for Eliz. It’s quite outstanding. I’m more open to trying new things. People say it’s great to have habits and, depending on the habit, I would agree.

Habits could be negative or positive. It’s easier to fall into negative habits. You don’t need as much effort for them. I’m trying to make more positive habits. For instance, I’m trying to make a habit of trying something new. Doesn’t have to be everyday but definitely more often.

My schedule last few years went something like this. Wake up around 8:30. Quick breakfast then start work at 9. I did have long instances where I would wake up at 8 and actually meditate for 20 minutes before starting work. Then I would do what I needed for work and around 5 I would get to the gym. I’d play basketball until about 7.

When I got home, I’d have dinner then sit and watch a game until I slept.

I don’t think this is the right way to do things anymore. Nowadays I wake up earlier. I actually reserve time for reading. I haven’t been meditating as much as I like but I’m going to make time for that too. I’ve been thinking about my future and I just don’t want to fall into a rhythm where it’s the same thing day in and day out. That’s not living. In my eyes, that may actually be dying.

This doesn’t mean, go out and get yourself a small bag of $15 tea. I’m only suggesting that you take a look at yourself. Take a look at things that you simply aren’t doing that you want to do. This doesn’t have to be something enormous. Even something small like going ice skating. I remember Eliz and I went a few years ago. She tried to teach me. I learned how to skate, but I didn’t learn how to stop. It’s a great memory for me. It’s something so simple.

Trying new things should be a habit for everyone. I tell myself “Be First” in the mornings. Read this in Tools of Titans. What I took out of it was, be the first person to smile at someone walking by or the first one to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I’ve been doing this lately and it’s already had great ROI. I’m making a habit of it.

Thanks to Niko I’m making a habit of getting out and going on walks more. I’m starting to research parks. I never would have done that before. Canada has so much nature to offer and I never used even think of taking advantage of it. Well, I’m reinventing myself and going to parks and camping are things I’ll definitely be doing going forward.

I’m (what’s another word for cheap) good with money. When Eliz suggested we buy $15 tea the hair on my neck shot up like Niko’s does when he hears a knock at the door. I know for sure Mehmet a year ago would have put up a bigger fight. Now, I think, why not? If I actually achieve my goals then I don’t need to be worrying about spending this money. That’s how I am approaching decisions more and more.

This doesn’t mean just go out and spend money trying to find happiness. I don’t think you can find happiness that way. However, I also think being cheap and not spending any money because that’s all you ever think about isn’t a way to find happiness either. I get it, we should be responsible with money. Save, invest and all of that. I also think it is unwise to think we are taking any of this money with us. Is $15 worth an argument? Is it worth the regret of not having bought the tea and having a craving for it weeks later?

Money is interesting. Francis Bacon said “Money is a great servant but a bad master.” That’s a great quote. If I always make every single decision, even something as small as $10, as I often used to, with calculations and intensity then who is really the master?

I paid off my school loans in 18 months after my graduation day. Roughly $28,000. I went to war with my student loans. I was lucky enough to still be living at my parents and worked part time for 6 months then full time the subsequent year, all at the same company. I was on contract then hired.  I still think I did the right thing with that money. I didn’t want to be another person that complained about their student loans. I also didn’t want to have a monthly payment I needed to make. Maybe I could’ve done something different with that amount of money. The interest on a student loan from OSAP isn’t that much. I may have been better off using the money as a down payment on a house or something. I didn’t really know about interest rates. They never teach you that in school. Think about that for a second. They don’t teach you interest rates in school until maybe university. Interest rates and how credit cards make money should be taught in high school, before you even think about getting a credit card, but I digress.

Basically, I don’t want to be cheap anymore and I want to make a habit of trying new things. Maybe being in tune with nature is the best of both worlds. It doesn’t cost much to visit parks. Especially this year when Canada made all national parks free admission. My entire life I always thought about the implications of buying something as small as a coffee. I would think, if I buy a coffee and it costs approximately $3 with tax then over a year it would come to this much and over 5 years it will add up to this much and blah blah blah. Like, dude, if you want a coffee, just get one. Relax a bit. It’s not like I drink one everyday.

I’m not an expert on money and I’m not claiming to be. I’m saying there are things that we all do when we speak to ourselves. I was hard on myself for the way I used money and in some ways, maybe I let money be my master. I’ve said in my blogs before, I’m just trying to be easier on myself and this is a place that I think I can be kinder on myself about.

At the end of the day, whether it was $5, $15 or $50, that tea brought us happiness and every time I drink it I am reminded of that great day we went for a stroll with my sister and mom in Bahrain. That memory is worth a lot more than $15. If I decided to put up a fight I may have saved some money but I know I would’ve deprived Eliz of something she wanted and it may have caused a rift between us. Is that worth $15? Definitely not.

I’m looking within more and more each day to find out how I can be happier. It actually does take hard work to be happy and I’m willing to do it. Journaling in the morning. Having a great workout. Working on my online store. Pushing to new heights at my work. Blogging. Having intimate conversations with loved ones. I find these are all making me happier. I will do my best to continue to do each one.

8 Years Later

Just write.

That’s basically what I got from authors that have found a way to beat ‘writer’s block’.

I don’t think I have that but today I was thinking about what I should write. Then I sat on the laptop and paused for a second without anything coming to me so I started. Just writing. Let’s see what sticks out. What comes to me as I spew these words on the ‘paper’.

Maybe I’m a little hesitant because I usually write my feelings on here. The past few days have been kind of great but there were instances that were hard.

I moved to Brooklyn, New York when I was 7 (again, literally putting this in to get a few of my friends angry lol).

When we moved from Iskenderun, Hatay, Turkey we didn’t know a word of English. That included my mom, my sister and my dad. My dad had already been living in Brooklyn for the past 4 or so months before we arrived but, trust me, he didn’t know the language.

My sister and I had each other. My parents had us and we had them. We had to rely on each other. For everything, all the time.

As I’ve grown I realize that this is not the normal way to grow up. Kids get to visit their grandparents when they’re on holiday. Even on weekends. We didn’t.

Kids get to go play with their cousins. We didn’t.

Kids get presents from their aunts and uncles on their birthdays. We didn’t.

Kids get to ask their aunts and uncles questions about their parents. They get to listen to the type of person their parents were before they came around. We didn’t.

Sounds a lot like I’m complaining but I really didn’t notice this until Eliz began telling me about her childhood. She’s a single child. Yet, as she told me, she never felt like she was an only child. Her family was tight knit. She got to spend time with many of her cousins. Be it from her uncles, her great uncles, her aunts, her parent’s cousins. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, whatever the occasion. For us, that wasn’t the case.

Again, not complaining because we had amazing times. Also, as a kid if you grow up a certain way, that’s it, that’s all you know. Until I was introduced to how Eliz grew up I didn’t think I missed out on anything. I still don’t feel that way. We did have our aunt there with her kids as well. Although they came to New York much later than us and left for Canada. Sure it would’ve been nice to spend those formative years near more extended family but it didn’t happen for us.

We didn’t see our grandparents for 8 years. We didn’t see our uncles, aunts, cousins. We had cousins that were born and were 7 by the time we first saw them. I was 7 when I left. 15 when my grandma saw me again. I remember it. We had come in very early in the morning.

It was a summer day in Iskenderun. She has a gate around her house. We parked the car out front and my mom went in. It was the break of dawn. The weather was beautiful. I remmber getting out of the car and the sky was beginning to brighten. I could see the mountains right behind her house. I went to the trunk of the car to grab the luggage. My mom stepped in and walked up to the front door.

We knocked and there were screams. Everyone was already at the house. My aunt, my uncles, my cousins. All there, ready to greet us. They had prepared for our arrival. They prepared together. Until this moment, I didn’t think about that. How they were all together and making preparations. It was just another moment that they were together and we weren’t there. Like countless others.

My grandma opens the door. Clearly, she’d just woken up. Huge smile on her face she kisses her daughter, my mom. Gives her a big hug. I look back and my dad is still unloading some luggage. By this time my grandma grabs my sister. She begins to say some things in Arabic. She’s fluent in 2 languages. No doubt expressing her emotions in a way that she can’t in Turkish.

It’s my turn. She gives me a hug and a big kiss. Then she turns to my mom and, in Arabic, asks “Where’s Mehmet?”. By no means am I fluent in Arabic but I understand some words. I look back and say grandma it’s me. She takes a big step back. Looks me up and down. And sighs.

The person before her isn’t the same person she said bye to 8 years ago. This is a 15 year old man. This isn’t her 7 year old grandson. He’s grown so much. He has a little mustache. Hair on his chin. He isn’t 4 foot nothing. Granted, he isn’t that tall but he’s certainly taller.

As I  write this and think of this moment for the first time since I experienced it, I’m teary eyed. I never really thought about things in this way before. Never thought about it from my grandma’s perspective.

What must she have felt? She didn’t recognize her own grandson. She thought she’d greeted my dad and I was still grabbing the luggage. She remembers a time when my dad looked like me in that moment. As a 15 year old. In her eyes, for those 8 years, every time she thought of us, maybe she saw Mehmet as a 7 year old. She saw Ezgi as a child. She didn’t have those 8 years. She didn’t make memories and have those moments when you realize how much a kid can grow overnight.

It was tough on us but like I said we didn’t know any different. I digressed a bit here but what I wanted to discuss is that because we were away from family we became extremely close.

Ezgi was always looking out for me. She was my best friend. Some kids don’t get along with their siblings. That was never the case with us. We always had each others’ backs.

Our parents and us were always very close. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my aunt’s family more. They also lived in New York for a short period. Then they moved to Hamilton and we joined them in Canada. They were our second family. They still are. During that 8 year span there were many birthdays we celebrated together but there were many we spend just us.

The initial tough part is what brought us so close to each other. An incredibly simple task as taking the bus was tough. This is before Google Maps. New York is a big city especially if you don’t know how to get to specific places using public transit. Take a cab, you say? Who can afford that? Not us.

We went through some hardships but we always had each other. I didn’t know any different. Now, it is different and I think we are all struggling with it. I’m engaged to be married. Ezgi is married with a baby on the way.

There is going to be additions to the family. Sometimes without thinking I’ll say something to my brother in law. He’s weirded out by it. Ezgi does the same thing to Eliz. It’s a learning curve. That’s why the past few days have had tough moments.

As I mentioned Ezgi has always been protective of me. When we told her about a decision Eliz and I made she said something that was rude frankly. In her eyes, she is still protecting me. We simply don’t need to anymore. Our family is getting bigger and it’s going to take some screw ups to get it right.

In the past I may have swept it under the rug. Or the more likely scenario, I probably wouldn’t have heard it because I was watching a game. Feelings were hurt but I just looked at it like ex-Navy Seal leader Jocko Willink. He always says “Good…”. So, that night as I thought about it, I said “Good, this is a perfect learning experience”. We had a great conversation. Cleared it up.

The power of talking openly with your family members should not be underestimated. It is so powerful. It could’ve been easy to leave it alone, try to forget about it. That’s what leads me to grinding my teeth. I couldn’t have let it go. Maybe Ezgi would never have known how I felt. It was a 20 minute conversation that may have saved me weeks of anxiety and regret. I would’ve fixated on it. I’m glad we spoke. I think the only way to truly solve problems that come up within the family is to discuss it thoroughly. Have an open conversation. Most things can be resolved quickly. Some take longer. If you don’t take the first step then it may eat away at you. This is my life at 25. I’m working towards being happier. It takes work to be happy. It took courage to have that conversation. I hope I can continue to have that courage going forward.