Story of a Sabattical – Letting Go

Starting a new life meant closing down the old one. It meant allowing oneself to be free of any burdens that may hinder one from being able to make free choices. My burdens which held me captive in Munich were my job, my flat and all my material possessions in that flat. I knew I did not want to stay in Munich any longer, I knew I wanted to go back home or wherever else, which meant I had to get rid of my burdens.

My sabbatical started at the end of 2015. I went to Buenos Aires and spent there almost two months. When I returned to Munich, I did not feel like spending days any more than necessary in my flat, not in my neighborhood, not in the city. Even my once favorite spots did not give me joy anymore. Looking at all my furniture and my clothes were choking me as if they were chains that tied me to that spot and I could not break away.

A month later I went to Seattle to visit my mentor and friend at work, who in the meantime had moved there and wanted me to come over and explore the local options. He suggested if I was going to change my life anyway, why not to Seattle?Thank you, Jonas, you and your family have been wonderful. I will always be grateful for the times we spent there together.

After almost a month in Seattle, my heart did not feel at home there. It is a beautiful city with lovely, kind and respectful people. Maybe it was simply not the right timing. I did not stay in Seattle. I went back to Munich and started to pack.

Releasing myself from my life in Munich was much more difficult than I had initially thought. I had naively believed that I would simply cancel my rental contract, sell or give away my furniture, get rid of my unnecessary clothes, de-register as a resident and off I’d go. And these were the things that I did after all. Yet, I had not thought about the emotional process they implied.

Canceling the rental contract was the easiest of all. Freeing myself of my furniture was the toughest. I had had that furniture for more than a decade. It looked still new and it had its life stories. Goran and I had picked each one piece together, mantled and dismantled them one by one, days and nights long. We had been sitting with our friends at that table, we had carefully brought beautiful Swedish glassware that gave us joy. I came to realize my past life was in that furniture. It was hard to let go. Even more difficult was to see that my furniture, in fact, and of course, did not mean the same to the others who wanted to acquire it. They came by and looked at my furniture, they criticized, they tried to artificially find flaws to take the price down. Sometimes they did not even show up.  They treated my furniture just like a piece of furniture, which it was. To me though, it has been the story of my thus far life.

Of all this soul-draining experience, there is only one about a lady that still fills my heart with warmth. She had three children, she was a single mother. Her boy was very sick, he needed close attention, so she could not have a regular job. They had no money to buy furniture but integrity not to beg for it. So, there was the mom standing in my hallway one afternoon dismantling my library to take it with her and still wanting to pay. I gave it to her as many other things, just so. She started to cry and told me more about her family. What touched me the most was when she told me that she hardly cries because she cannot afford it. At home she has to be strong for her children, looking happy and energetic. But here and now, where she just could be herself for a moment, she couldn’t help but cry.

I am grateful to her that she entered my life that afternoon, even if it was only for a few hours. It made a difference. I cannot even describe the feeling of happiness, contentment, and peace I felt with each little piece of stuff I was able to place in her bag for her to take away. I am hoping and wishing that their lives are easier today.

Trying to fit my whole past life into two pieces of luggage and a bag was a mix of fear, joy, freedom, relief, helplessness. Everything together.

Everything I could give away brought me closer to my personal freedom. Everything I decided to take with me meant I could not take something else, so I had to judge carefully. Since I didn’t know what expected me, I wanted to take the things that would be useful anytime, anywhere, would be sustainable and light to carry. This was my main selection criteria. However, it was hard to apply this to the things I was emotionally attached to. Like the paintings on my wall that we had brought from places we or I had visited in the world. I took their pictures and let them go…I only held on to a few books, the porcelains that my grandma had gifted me before she passed away and some Swedish glassware from my past with Goran. A dear friend of mine kept them for me so that I could get them later from him when I knew my place, wherever that may be.

After this experience, I learned to buy things in a different way. I ask myself each time why I want to buy this one piece of stuff and if I would take it with me if I again only had two pieces of luggage of space. I ask myself, instead of buying this if I could give away something else to someone else, who is in need more than myself. I learned that material possessions give me joy only on seldom occasions and only if they come alongside emotions.

Closing my apartment and letting go of my things took about two months. A life-changing two months for me.

I now know what it means to let go of a home and ‘my things’ to become free. I feel powerful and I know I could do it again even though I hope not to have to. I also know the toll it takes physically and emotionally, and that I can recover from it in time. That eventually I am a happier, stronger person.

I learned that giving fulfills me a lot more than receiving and that the lovingkindness experienced in one lady’s grateful crying can heal many wounds.

We make a living with what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Sir Winston Churchill


IMG_5490.JPGI was twenty-six years old. A happy, shiny, restless girl who was enjoying the life to its full extent in Munich. I was a student, having many international friends and taking everything that the city had to offer. I had a student job, a nice little cute student dorm to live in and lots of free time to fill with activities. Soon though, restless as I am, all these experiences started not to fulfill me and once again the urge started to show up in me to leave, to go far away, to discover new places, people, and experiences. Precisely this urge had brought me to Germany from Istanbul, and now again it was forcing me to move on.

My wish to leave was so strong that I could not resist. I got lucky. I got a scholarship to go to the USA, to the Computer Science department of the Kansas State University. A few months later I found myself in Kansas.

I still remember that day. It was the first week of August in 2002. The international office of the university had organized an orientation seminar for the newly arrived foreign students. It was in an auditorium, and the campus was so big that it took me ages to find it. I have an awful sense of orientation. When I arrived I was late for at least ten minutes. When I entered the auditorium I found a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me down towards the doorstep. So embarrassing. I apologized and took a seat.

In the afternoon there was a picnic for the foreign students. I met a little group of Swedish students. One of them approached, a tall slim guy with wonderful green eyes and a very soft, friendly face and a heartwarming smile. “Hi, I am Goran, I saw you, you were late”. And he smiled. I smiled back. I did not know yet that I had met the love of my life.

Three months later Goran and I were a couple. It is hard for me to name it as a “couple only” because it feels like it does not describe what we had. Goran and I were soul mates,  companions, best friends, the two halves of one. We were one. We were like two lost children who had finally found each other in this big big world and we were going to be together until death sets us apart.  Everything else was impossible. It was like magic, and everybody could see it. We were shining and glowing and people around us could almost touch this light radiating from us.

A few months later we returned together to Europe. One year later Goran moved to Munich and we married. It was a wonderful December day in Stockholm and we said yes to each other in this little courtroom overlooking the sea. A most precious memory in my life.

Goran and I were together 10 years. Ten wonderful years that I am grateful for. I would not want to miss a single day, I would not want to change a single day.

We said goodbye to each other before the death could set us apart. I remember that day. It was a September day in Munich, and we waved each other goodbye at the train station. I think it has been the saddest day in my life.

Goran and I had loved each other, it was almost transcendental. It was so deep, so connected, so indescribable. We loved each other with the full heart of two lost and hurt children. We grew up together and while growing up we lost each other. We tried to reach out back, we tried to reconnect, we tried to find again what we lost fearing at the same time to admit that we lost. We held hands as tight as ever, but we felt growingly lonely.  On that September day, we said goodbye. I think the saddest day in my life.

Seven years past that day, I am now another person. Life gave me other sad and other happy days since then. I grew while still trying to keep the little child in myself. I would not have done anything differently; we had to say yes and then no to each other so that each of us can become the persons we are today. Healthier, and more in touch with oneself. I never thought I would love again that way. I did. It took 5 years, but I did. I loved again that way as a grown-up this time. Thank you, Goran for the wonderful 10 years. Thank you, life for everything you gave me in my 42 years. I would not want to change a single day.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy


Story of a Sabattical – The Beginning

57It all started with letting go. I had to learn to let go. It was not easy, at the same time it was my first step towards a happier self.

In 2013 I moved (back) to Munich from Cologne, Germany. I had studied in Munich, I had a history there and my friends, who have been a family to me. In Cologne, I was alone even worse, I was lonely. I was working a lot and then traveling away on most of the weekends. I think, to numb away my feelings of loneliness. At some point, I decided life should offer me more than this, so I made a move to go back to Munich. And it worked.

I got a wonderful PM (Program Manager) position with Microsoft (FAST Enterprise Search under Office 365) and loved my job and my team. The headquarters were in Oslo and Tromso in Norway, so I traveled there often and worked with other wonderful people. Until one day they decided to consolidate the Munich office to Norway and asked me to move to Norway for good. Now, that was a difficult decision. I had just got back to Munich and feeling home again, was finding all the emotional support from my friends and feeling really good being there. On the other hand, I really loved my job and wanted to be able to keep doing it. Then somehow magically and just in time, a PM position opened at the Bing office in Munich, whose offices were essentially one floor down. They offered me the position and I took it because it seemed like the best solution to all of my practical problems. My mind told me this thing, while my heart was not convinced. And my heart was right. I did not become happy at Bing. This experience deserves its own text and space. For now, all I want to say is that since then I have learned to follow my heart and not my mind.

I spent two years at Bing and in Munich growing unhappier every day and feeling too trapped to breakthrough. My job paid well. Hundreds of others would have jumped jumps to have my position. I was surrounded by smart people. I was literally going to work on foot or by bike, which was a luxury. I lived in Munich, which is what I had thought, where I wanted to live. I had my friends and Munich is a nice, safe, secure city. I had a nice flat with nice furniture at a very nice district of the city. I was having a life, which many others would be dreaming of, yet I was unhappy to the point of depression.

My shiny life from outside was quite dark from inside. I worked long long and irregular hours so that my private life was impacted. I did not share the core values of the working environment I was in. The tasks were not interesting enough and the human relationships were difficult for me. Many days I did not see the point in executing my job. I did not have a partner nor a relationship, and I picked up traveling away again almost every weekend. I did not see a clear purpose in my life. My body was exhausted, which contributed to my unhappiness. I felt helpless not knowing what to do.

Until one day when my mom told me “Pinar come home. Before you get sick, please come home”. It was so heartfelt, so genuine and so light. At that moment, I felt I had a home I could go back. Back to where I come from. I was not so lost as I thought and I had a choice. I could choose to stay and live this life I lived unhappily. Or I could let go. I could choose to go home.

I chose to go home. And my second life began. Thank you, mom.


We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell