My/Your Next Job

I now have been in an intensive process of looking for a job, applying, interviewing etc. Much reflection and experience have accumulated, which I want to share. I hope it helps you if you are going through the same process.

Here is what I learned for myself:

Knowing who you are: It is as simple and as difficult as it sounds. When we go to an interview we bring ourselves. We are expected to talk about us. So, we really need to know who we are, otherwise we are wasting our host’s time and ours as well. For me who I am, for the purposes of an interview, has two main pillars. One is what I can do for the company/organization professionally. What skills and experience do I bring to the company that it needs? How can I help the company make a difference with my experience and expertise? For example, “I am an IT Program/Product Manager with more than 10 years of experience in delivering products and running and evaluating projects. I have done this at global enterprises and organizations in the software and life sciences industries.” So I can help them run IT projects and develop IT products, and I can do it fluently also in the pharma industry, which is always a bit different. It would be best if I can additionally help the company explore new horizons  with what I bring in. New opportunities, new markets, new customers.

The other, and equally important pillar, is what are our values? What is important for us as a person, not as workforce.  We spend the bigger portion of our daily lives in our work environment. Whether we like to think of it that way or not, it is our family. Can you think of being a part of a family, whose values you do not share? I don’t. That’s why it is important to express our personal values, understand the company’s values and see if they are aligned. For example, for me respect, transparency, trust, open communication, humbleness, integrity and good will are extremely important. To me having a good social cause, helping the ones who are underprivileged are very important. As result I have preferred to work in the life sciences and healthcare sector over working at the finance sector. In the same way I will always linger longer in the teams where both negative and positive experiences are discussed openly and with good will. I will run away from the ones where shaming, blaming, fingerpointing and intrigues are common practices, even if the pay is very well. These are my values, these are what I bring in and look for.  It requires time and reflection to understand who we really are, but once we know the answer, I believe finding what we look for is so much easier.

Knowing what you want: Of course we all want a steady income, stability, routine and being able to say “Yes, I have a job”. It is only human. Still it is important to know exactly what we want and go only for that. If it is something temporary just to get an income we should be aware of it. If we want a career and have aspirations we should acknowledge it. If we value money over convenience it is good to keep it in mind. If we prefer a friendly working atmosphere to everything else we should prioritize it. It is very helpful to reflect on what we actually want and what fulfills us, so that we can be selective about the positions we apply. In this way we don’t randomly apply for just about anything which will show during the interview if we get selected at all. Instead we know how to position ourselves and speak confidently about why we are there.

A short CV: Definitely not more than 2 pages. I know this is very hard if you are an experienced professional. It feels like everything is important, which it is.  It is about you and your life and accomplishments. My earlier CV was a 6 page monster. Yet, realistically we are only one in the bucket of a million applicants. The recruiter is also only a human with limited time and resources. So we have to help him/her, otherwise s/he has no other choice to move on to the next shorter CV on his/her monster deck of applications. It is good to only mention the positions relevant  to what we are applying for. Surely this is much more work for us, but it pays off.

Customizing: Have you heard about Applicant Tracking Systems? This is an HR software that handles CVs before it gets to a human. It parses the CVs to extract keywords to compare them with those from the job description. Only when your CV passes a certain overlap threshold a human eye gets to see it. This means that we have to customize our CVs for each and every position we apply for to convince the software in the first place. Ideally, we reuse the keywords from the job description in the CV to  reach the optimal overlap. It goes without saying that I would put only those things that I am skilled at otherwise it would be asserting untruth. In other words, I write down things which I can defend and exemplify during the interview.

Being authentic: What really pays off, I think, is being authentic. I have heard this so many times from senior managers during my career. I admired it. Yet, I can say it is only now that I also truly understand and value it. Being authentic at work is not easy, because  after all we need money, stability and recognition. It seems an easy way to get there is to blend in. Going with the crowds, doing what the others do, not falling off. In the long term though this is not good. As human beings we are all unique and have our individual characters and values. This is what makes us us. If we compromise on it, we compromise on ourselves as humans, and no job is worth it. I learned for myself, given that I can afford it i.e. no children nor sick people depend on my salary to survive, I will not work for a company that does not share my values. I prefer to work for a company/institution that has a social cause than one that does not. I will not take a job, in which I do not find meaning, only for the sake of money. I will not compromise on my values and integrity. I learned that if I stay loyal to myself and to that what makes me me, I have the chance to contribute my best to the company I work for and that shines genuinely.

Embracing rejection: Not getting a position, being turn down after an interview is not a personal failure. There are so many factors that contribute to the decision of a company whether to hire or not. The budget may be cut, the managers might be leaving, the position might have been promised to someone internally long ago. Or we just don’t fit with the company culture, which is totally fine. It means the company culture doesn’t fit with us either. Would you want to spend your everyday with someone, who you do not understand and appreciate? Would you choose to marry someone who you do not love? It is the same thing. So rejection is not rejection as such, but it is an opportunity for us to understand ourselves better so that we will still have the chance to find the right match. It is an opportunity to grow personally.

Not overselling and underselling oneself: We all put ourselves out there. We want to look good, smart, we want to be accepted, we want to convince. It is so easy to overdo this during the interview within the intensity of the moment. One more skill to add up, one more little success story to share…However, recruiters and hiring managers are also humans, and they have been there where we are now. All day They keep seeing many other candidates, who tell that they are “oh so great”. I think, also here being authentic, being modest but self-confident is the best approach. Just to tell what is relevant to the question, and to undermine it with credible facts and numbers. A small anecdote may help, but not to each and every question. Having said this, overdone modesty is not good either. We all have lived, worked and accomplished things in our lives, that we consider as success and we are proud of them. Why hold back on those? Isn’t it wonderful to share those experience with others? Maybe our experiences can help them in their current situation, or at least make them smile. Isn’t a smile worth a try?

These have been the major topics that I had to reflect on for myself. I will share others as I accumulate them.

Would You Do a PhD?

It has been 5 years since I completed my PhD. After a very long time, this morning I returned to my thesis to read the Acknowledgements section I wrote back then to feel and understand why I chose to do a PhD. At this very moment, I can only say I am a happy and a lucky person that I could do exactly what I wanted to do. I feel the same passion and emotions that I felt before I got on that journey. I am sharing what I wrote back then hoping that it could help maybe you to decide if that could also be your journey.

15. April.2011

My limitless curiosity and hunger to know more has led me to do a PhD. The reason why I decided for a PhD in computational linguistics is that I find peace in the calmness of rational thought and excitement in the surprises of natural language.

After three years of research, I realized that this has been one of the most challenging journeys that I have ever taken. I have taken many journeys to many different places and cultures but this has been an essentially different one. It has been a journey to myself, during which I discovered new horizons and my own limits.

In the first place I would like to thank my supervisors Klaus Schulz and Paul Buitelaar, who invested a wealth of time and thoughts to make this research happen. Without their expertise, insights, patience and without our valuable discussions that inspired me, I would have been lost during this journey. Whenever I was on my way getting lost, they showed me the directions that put me back on track. Thank you.

I want to thank my parents for encouraging me, supporting me and cherishing in every little success I had, be it a paper accepted or a presentation that went well. Thank you that you stood by me whenever I felt insecure along the way.

My Dr. Göran Wennerberg thank you for the unconditional support you gave me, when I most needed it. Having traveled the same journey, you knew how I felt at every single step I took. Without your support, this book would not have been here now.

Thank you my friends that you have been very supportive and understanding for all my unavailabilities and my moods that ranged between joy and agony.

Finally, I want to thank Siemens Research for funding the research presented in this thesis, and supporting me to make it happen. It has been a valuable experience for me to conduct this research within the Siemens Corporation as it showed me real life research problems. It has been a very satisfying experience to and solutions to actual problems and to eventually make the owners of the problems happy.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett

 

The New Life – Sun and Clouds over Barcelona

It was a lovely Friday. All sunny and happy as everyday has been in Barcelona. The day before the Sitges Tango Festival had started. It is an old famous festival known for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, utmost mediterranean. I had wanted to go there for many years but there had always been something that hindered. Mostly work. Now it was happening just around the corner as if it was saying “this time no excuses”.

I went there together with a friend taking the train to the south riding along the Costa Dorada. Beautiful views passed through my eyes. Sitges is a lovely village with an architecture that captures you. There is an old church a little bit uphill situated in a plaza that gives you a wonderful view of Sitges. Soon the dancing started down at the beach. Feeling the sea water under my feet, the sunshine on my skin and the tango music in my ear, I felt this is life as beautiful as it gets. I saw old friends, we went for a glass of cava together, happily chatting, catching up, laughing. Just passing time together until the evening milonga starts. We were first going to dance at a nice open air location in a garden with palm trees, then we were going to continue at the church plaza overlooking Sitges. Creating happy memories for the rest of my life.

It was already late night. On my way to the milonga my cell phone started ringing. I was too late to catch. I saw that it was my good old friend from Germany who called. But he doesn’t really call unexpectedly like this and he knows that I’m here now. So why ? The phone rang again while I was staring at it all confused. Pinar I am really sorry to disturb you like this and I mean it well with you, but I thought you may want to know. There is a coup happening in your country right now. It started just 10-15 minutes ago.

There is a what happening in my country? It was like a slap on my face. An ice cold shower. A knife cut. It was so surreal. I was in this beautiful paradise and my family and everyone I loved and valued in the middle of chaos.

I know what coups mean in Turkey. I have bare memories of the last one. I was still a little child. We were not allowed to go out at nights, there were electricity cuts all the time and soldiers everywhere. My parents would sit in front of the TV every night and watch the news hoping for a reconciliation and a return to normal life. My mom would wait for my father to return home after work, as one was never sure what was happening out on the streets. I know there was much more going on than this, which my child mind could not grasp back then. Fears of childhood remain.

I stopped struck. A coup happening again, while I am here and I cannot do anything about it. It is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and guilt. I am here and my loved ones suffer. Are they safe? Are they secure? Can I reach them? Will I be able to reach them tomorrow too, and the other day? Thankfully I could. Thankfully they were alright. As struck as I am in the middle of the night.

My mom tried to comfort me as sweet as she always is. Pinar, don’t worry about us. We are used to this. This is not the first time it happens. You know that. Everything will be alright. Tomorrow it will pass. Don’t you worry. When you have no options, when there is absolutely nothing in your power to change anything you have to accept what is happening around you. Otherwise you cannot cope. This is what my friends and family doing. Cope to survive.

I am sitting here and watching my country falling apart in bombs, my people killing each other, children dying, moms crying…for what? They wrap it nicely calling it democracy. Killing innocent people to maintain power is NOT democracy. That is hypocracy. My two good friends have babies newborn. One is not even a month old. I don’t know what to think. Will they have a place to call home? Will they be able to write down happy childhood memories like I do?  Stealing those babies’ future is NOT democracy. I find no words to express…

Sun is shining on me in Barcelona. I wish I could give it away to my people’s hearts to tear their clouds away. I wish the same sun would be so strong to awaken my sleeping people, those in the dark. So strong to burn the unsatisfiable egos of madmen, who have forgotton the meaning of human. My heart hurts. Hurts that I am here, hurts that they are there. Hurts for my home, for my people, for the past that made us who we are and for the future that carries more worries than hopes.

A man’s job is to make the world a better place to live in, so far as he is able—always remembering the results will be infinitesimal—and to attend to his own soul.

Leroy Percy

The New Life – Days in Barcelona II

This is now my third week in Barcelona. Time is going with the wind. Everything still feels right and in place. I am getting up in the morning without worrying about the weather. Without the feeling of missing out on something by staying at home. It is a relief. I am taking each day as it comes and I am just being. Nice things are happening.

Since I announced that I moved here, I have received many messages from my friends across the globe. Many cheered up for me who knew how much I have been longing for the south. Some were surprised and some opened their heart to me. They said I have done what they have been dreaming of doing but not daring. They wanted to know how I did it. How did you do? How is it possible?

Why not? We have only one life, which we don’t know if we have it tomorrow. We spend it either by missing our ‘happy’ past or making plans for our ‘happy’ future often in an environment that we force ourselves to fit in. How about being happy now? That we postpone because we are too busy with worrying or planning. How did I do? I stopped doing that. Instead, I bought a flight ticket.

Yesterday I met a friend. I had not seen him for fourteen years. We had studied together back in the USA. We were both exchange students. He just happened to be around here with his family and we met. What a magic moment. As if no fourteen years had passed. As if we had seen each other only yesterday. His beautiful kids showed me their souvenir toys shyly. Happiness of being here and now and it is priceless.

In the evening I went out for dinner with another friend. A touristy place but we didn’t mind. In a little while a street musician walked in and he went directly towards a big a table to entertain them. I started listening to him as it was impossible not to. I thought I heard him singing in Turkish. But that must be an illusion. Did I miss home already? No. He was really singing in Turkish. He was singing the old tavern songs that I remember from my childhood. My family and their friends used to go out to those taverns to eat fish and drink raki, later the music would start and everyone would dance. He was singing those songs.  The big table was all Turkish. They started to dance and sing along loudly. I sang with them and clapped my hands. Just like back at home, back in my childhood. Then we all started to cheer up together. The musician was not Turkish. And he understood no single word. He just knew and sang the old Turkish tavern songs so perfectly. So perfectly that he filled us and himself all with joy.

I have been seeking these moments. I have been longing for them so strongly that nothing else mattered. That is how I did it. Happiness of being here and now and it is priceless.

If you want to be happy, be. Leo Tolstoy

The New Life – Before Barcelona

What happened that I came to Barcelona? As exciting as it sounds, I really didn’t decide it overnight. It has been a long process of thinking, checking with myself and calculating whether and what is doable.

My life in Munich was what many would consider perfect. I had a well-paid job, a nice apartment in a popular part of the city, a safe environment, friends, plenty of social activities to choose from plus the freedom and the health to be able to do everything. So why change?  This was the question that my rational mind was asking me all the time and convincing me that I should follow him. My emotional core however was a rebel and she was totally unhappy. In the end I could not ignore her any more. I gave in and listened  to what she had to tell me. Well, she was not an easy case.

So, she started telling me all the things she really needs but doesn’t find in Munich. Ok, well what are those things that you want I asked her. She counted one by one:

Warmth. Warmth in all senses. She wants more sunshine and the summer. She said you remember when you were a child, you never worried about the summer because it would arrive. You would have sunshine everyday. You didn’t have to wait for a few days of sun and plan way ahead what you would be doing then. You weren’t sad if the things didn’t go as planned, because next day was another sunny day. You didn’t worry about your clothes, you were just out enjoying the warmth on your skin, day and night. You were free. Then she continued she needs warm people.

Smiles. How do you mean warm people? She said when she goes out to the streets people are hardly recognizing each other. They are so worried to hurry somewhere, get things done, buy something, whatever. They don’t see each other. But you know, at some other places when people see you on the street they smile at you. Just so. Because you are at the same place at the same time. When you are waiting in the line, someone behind you or in front of you start chatting with you and smile. Just so. When someone hears your name he asks what it means and smiles when you tell. At other places people kiss you on the cheek to say hello and goodbye and they smile. She wants that.

Sea. She misses the sea. As simple as that. The sea would comfort her, would give her peace and happiness. She said, when you were a child, your grandma would take you everyday to the seafront, because you loved to throw stones in it. The bigger the stones, the more fun. The seafront was only a hop away from where you lived anyway. The smell and the sound of the sea would wrap you all around, and you would forget about everything else. Later everyday you took the boat in Istanbul from one side to the other. Everyday you smelled it, were out on it. I need that, it is a part of me now.

A cause bigger than herself. What do you mean with that I asked my core. You know, other people call it success and status. They define it through the high salary they earn, through the projects of millions of whatever currency they manage, through the houses and expensive cars they own, through the thousands of miles they fly, through the fancy diners and clubs they attend, the designer clothes they carry. Some even define it through the titles they have at work, the number of employees they are responsible for, the number of important meetings they have been invited to. The list is endless.

She said she cares for making an impact, big or small doesn’t matter. For example, helping an underprivileged person  to gain access to resources of health and education. Help the unhealthy, the elderly, the uneducated have a better life. And I can do this using information technology because this is what I am skilled at. So, I am not dreaming of going to Africa and feeding the children by hand (though it would be nice), but I  can manage or contribute to the projects that enable this.

If I knew even only one person sleeps better, breathes better, knows more because of me, I will feel grateful and happy.  This is a cause bigger than myself, this is my success. If the rest, that is, the title and the money come as a side effect that is fine. Then it is the way it is. But I will not seek them in the first place, that is not what drives me.  

I understood her so well. So well. Then I asked her to tell me what she doesn’t want.

Security. Many of us need security. We generally define it terms of a house, an apartment, a flat to rent or ideally to own, a job where chances of getting fired are low or none, many material possessions that gives us the feeling that they belong to us and that we can afford them (so we are good). We need people around us all the time so that we do not feel alone, that we do exist. My core is a rebel. She didn’t want these things. She said I want to be free. I want to be able to live with the people I do like to live with, to work with the people I do like to work with, to contribute to a cause that I feel meaningful and do my best for it. I want to be in a place, which I would love to call home. I do not want material possessions that bind me to place because I now have them. I do not want a work that I have to go, so that I can pay for my high rent in a city I do not want to live in and to buy the things I actually do not need. They burden me. 

Perfection. This one was her secret and the one that took me the longest to understand. She didn’t want all the perfection around her. The system is perfect; everything is on time and functioning. Everybody commits to the rules so things will never fail. Perfection is everywhere, perfection is expected. Not matching up to that perfection will be punished,  it will be criticized. It will make you feel bad, because also that it is expected that you feel bad. You should feel bad. You know what, I do not want to feel bad just because I have been five minutes too late, I that I have been walking on the biker’s lane, because I was waiting in the wrong line and now as I result I created a little chaos. You can also smile at these things instead. No? Besides, you know what I already expect from myself to be perfect, and I try to do my best. I feel bad if I don’t. So, I do not need other people on top to tell me that.   

It is about the little things. A little bit more tolerance, acceptance because we are humans. We are humans. We are not perfect. Perfection the way we define it is an image, it does not exist. With all our good and bad sides, we are humans and we fail. We will fail, and we will be reborn as better people. At the little failures of ours’ and of others’ we will smile. Out of the bigger failures we will learn and grow. This is how I see the life and I want to live in an environment that sees it this way too. I know it exists, I have seen it, I have been there, it is truth. Take me there.   

Take me there. So I took her there.

In Barcelona she has the sea that she has been longing for, she can be in it, hear it, smell it, watch it. She has the sunshine everyday. She doesn’t worry about missing a rare sunny day, because the sun shines on her everyday. She has the smiling people. Daytime, nighttime, in public offices, on the streets, she has people chatting with her while waiting in the chaotic lines.

I also released her from most of her material belongings, all she has now are the two luggages and a bag. She is now as free as a bird to move around as she likes. I am now trying to find her a cause bigger than herself and I know I will. I am not the only one in this place, who thinks and feels like this and the alikes find themselves. I will find her her cause. As for the imperfection, I think that one looks good too. Although that one will take a little more time to understand.

Now my rational mind is a bit upset, because he feels inferior. But he doesn’t need to. I listened to him, too. I did not come here without prior research, without checking the grounds, the jobs, the housing, my financial situation, my family and their needs, my healthcare and all what our safe and sound minds tell us. I listened to him very carefully. Just that, this time I followed my core and I smile.

The ultimate source of happiness is not money and power, but warmheartedness. Dalai Lama

The New Life – Days in Barcelona I

This is the name of a book by Orhan Pamuk, one of my favorite authors. The New Life. I never thought one day I would refer to my own life as such. My new life is very new. It is only one week old and it was born in Barcelona. Like any other newborn it is calm and sweet. I have been wanting it and planning for it, nevertheless it was not an easy birth. Now that it is there, I am happy. There are two reasons, among others, why I wanted to move to Barcelona: it is at the sea and it is warm. Warm in all senses. I felt it several times already in my first week.

My new life doesn’t include a job. As yet. So last week I went to the unemployment agency to register. As  you would expect, there is so much paperwork to be done and dependencies, and deadlines and requirements. Bureaucracy at its best and I speak no word of Spanish. As yet. One could expect horror. I had one of the most heart warming experiences in my life.

I walked into the office and started to talk in English to the lady at the reception. She grabbed another young colleague of hers, who spoke perfect English. I told him what I needed and it turns out I missed a document, which there was no way for me to get as fast as I needed. He told me not to worry, that there is a solution for everything. He talked to his colleagues, made a few calls and found a way to do it without that document. He simply went out of his way to help me. He never put his nice smile aside, and told me how much he appreciates my move, that I came here with no Spanish, trying to do all these things. My heart warmed up.

I had to  go back to the office next day to complete the process. This time there was a lady to help me. She put every effort to speak her best English with me. She did everything to make me feel comfortable and at home, while she said I was a guest and it was her duty to make me feel welcome at my new home. That she knew new beginnings are always tough, but she appreciates so much that I came here and that I try. Whenever I need help and have questions I should come and find her. I almost hugged her.

These things happen in a country with a high rate of unemployment. This man and  woman could have easily seen me as an intruder, who is trying to grab the opportunities of  their people. Coming here claiming their jobs-rare-to-find, without even speaking their language. Everything is a matter of perspective. I can’t imagine that crossed their mind a millisecond. Instead they embraced me with their big hearts and smiles. My heart is warm.

Today is the first day of my second week. I am installed, all paper work done. I know where to shop, have a Spanish mobile phone number and I even started receiving mail. I found a language school. I am starting to learn Spanish, so that I can return the warmth I receive in their own language.

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. William Shakespeare

Seattle 2016

I went to Seattle at the end of March. I have to admit I was not not very enthusiastic about it. There is a story behind it. Today as I am writing this, I am so grateful I went. I had wonderful three weeks.

I went to Seattle because of Jonas, my friend and my former mentor at Microsoft. He is one  of those persons that if you didn’t meet him in your life, you missed out on something. Jonas knew about all my plans that I was going to stop working at  Microsoft soon and that I was planning to move to Buenos Aires (over Barcelona). He supported me, as he always did, but he also kept telling me I should come to Redmond (Seattle), which is the Microsoft mothership. He said there are thrillingly exciting projects for a person like myself. I should at least catch a glimpse of them before I exited.

I was not so enthusiastic. I had made up my mind, I had my plans and I wanted nothing and noone to keep me from my way. Besides, I had just returned from Buenos Aires, where I had stayed for six weeks and Microsoft in Redmond looked like another planet to me. Yet I liked Jonas, he has been a great mentor to me, and a good good friend and I knew somewhere deep in my heart that he was right, that I should give it a try.

I have to tell you, I packed my luggage for the three weeks in Seattle only in the morning of my flight (I truly hate packing), which I also almost missed because of some complications at the airport.  At that time I would have been indifferent if I did. Now in hindsight, it would have been such a pity.

Once I was there, Jonas and his family including the cat gave me a home in every aspect. It was lovely. With them I discovered the city and the whole area. Seattle is made up of Seattle the city (west side) and two more towns on the east side of the lake: Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond. The whole area is absolutely beautiful. You get the lakes, the mountains, the green grass, very kind hearted and helpful people, with a European touch on top. If you are yearning for a bohemian kind of life, you will get  that too.

I stayed at Kirkland but I walked literally everywhere. Waking is my latest passion. So I walked from Redmond to Kirkland, from Bellevue to Redmond, from Kirkland to Bellevue, miles and miles and miles. Everywhere is green, actually forest with trails, so you always have the option to walk if you want to. I learned that Redmond equals Microsoft. The town is the company and vice versa. I so much appreciated the fact that Microsoft did so much for its employees’ wellbeing, so that they can work (and live if they please) in such a huge forest that smelled wonderful.

In the Seattle city, the Fairmont area is awesome. It has many many little coffee shops, where people hang out with their books or friends for hours and hours. It is right at the canal, so there are lovely sunsets. For those who are in tech as myself, Google’s offices are also there, which have very petty views of this canal. By the way Seattle also has great coffee, which they are proud of. The put every effort to make it the best and they succeed.

If you like the not-so-mainstream, alternative life style, Capitol Hill will be for you. It is a lively part of the city, with many restaurants, shops and towns which are unique in their own way. You will see young people with hair in all colors, extravagant clothes hanging out on the streets. Very nice.

And then there was tango. Seattle has a lovely tango scene with beautiful dancers, who will be friends with you, will take care of you, will not only dance with you but also listen to  you, will show you around and will be truly interested in you. Even before I went there, they created a FB group and put me in there, so that we could be connected during the three weeks I would be there. With them I had not only great tandas at nice milongas, but also new people in my life whom I would now call friends and would hope and love to see again.

Three weeks went by very fast, and I did get more than a glimpse of the thrilling projects at the Microsoft mothership. Also there I met wonderfully friendly, very smart, enthusiastic and kind people, who wanted to do a great job, while always caring for and respecting the others. I did not relocate to Seattle out of many reasons, which are truly because me and has nothing to do with the city and its people. These two are lovely. My heart is beating for my plans and I learned to follow my heart.

I am grateful to Jonas that he convinced me and the three weeks that Seattle has given me.

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Fear of Life by Alexander Lowen

“One day I read a book and my whole life was changed”. This is what Orhan Pamuk writes in his book “The New Life”.  That is a difficult book, it cost me a lot of time and energy to understand, if I did at all…But. Recently, I read a book.  My whole life was changed. No. Just, everything fell in place…It is a book by Alexander Loewen called the “Fear of Life“. It is a book that you find searching in the category ‘Psychology’ in Amazon. It is such a coincidence how I landed on this book… I am grateful.

After having read the book many things fell in place. Even my education on English language and literature. The book discusses the Genesis, the Fall and the Greek mythology extensively.

I found this book because of tango. How could you tell…I stumbled upon a blog one day called the Tango Principles. The author was talking about a therapeutic approach called Bioenergetics and how it helped  him overcome the tensions in his body. Being the curious person am I went on reading.

The founder of this school called Bioenergetic Therapy is Alexander Loewen. He has numerous books and is the founder of the institute with the same name. I started reading him. A lot.

It is a beautiful book which wakes you up to yourself and to life, if you let it. A few years ago I may not have understood many things I read, or connect with. But now everything falls in place… Loewen’s main message is that we cannot be happy if we ignore our bodies and operate only with our minds. Yet, our cultural society and the civilization drive us to do so and reward us when we do so. We are all after success, money, titles, possessions because we equate them to happiness and security.  Are they?

If freedom is happiness, how free are we when we have all those things? He says we don’t need much to be happy, we just need to ensure that our ‘self’ is aligned with our body. Meaning listening to what comes from our heart,  core and physical body and not only or mainly from the left side of our brains.

So true. I had to think back about my life and decisions…everything I decided with my heart and ‘belly’ felt right and made me happy…All decisions resulting only from rational thinking turned out to bring me unhappiness sooner or later.

Why do we do that though? Why do we ignore our instincts and always go with the mind? Because the civilization and acculturation educates us to do so. But then, Loewen says, our bodies are so much older than our minds. They are the products of millions of years of evolution, they have been through things. Our bodies know. All we need to do is to trust them more and let go.

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. Hippocrates

As Long As You Live I Will Continue to Live

‘Yes grandma’ I would reply every time my grandma told this to me. She would smile, happy and content. My grandma and I were born on the same day. May 6. Just that her birthday was 50 years earlier than mine. I was apparently very much in a hurry to arrive and everyone was trying hard to get my mom to the hospital in time. Nobody, not even my  grandma herself, realized that it was her birthday that day.

We always celebrated our birthdays together. Two cakes, hers with 1 more candle than mine. And she would say ‘as long as you live I will continue to live’. ‘Yes grandma’. I can no longer see her smile. My grandma and I were one. She was our home, and my country and my roots. She was strong, beautiful and full of life.

My grandma always said that on the day she passed away we should not be sad nor cry, but we should celebrate. Celebrate the fact that she lived the life she wanted to live. She wanted us to drink raki and cheer for her. My grandma always told me whenever I felt sad, I should wear my best clothes, wear my best make up and jewellery, look at the mirror and tell myself how beautiful I am. Then go out so that everybody can see me. My grandma never went outside without being at her best. Never. And how beautiful she was.

She would look at you directly at your face, right into your eyes, and would tell you what she wants. She would walk into the restaurants by herself, no matter how empty or crowded they were, nor if there were only men inside, and would lunch or dine the food she liked. How self confident, yet humble she was.

She liked the chocolate cake, I liked the strawberries. July 17 2015. It has been eleven days now, you continue to live.