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Zeynep Colpan

My mom's friend, my namesake Zeynep, sent her pictures of these photos from the mid 1970s while they were working as English teachers at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. 

Zeynep is the wild, curly haired beauty second from the left with the read sweater and requisite cigarette. My mom, Seyyare Silivrili (her maiden name) is to her right, with the flowered, mint green dress. This was about a decade before I was born, which makes my mom in her late 20s here.

I am sure the daughters, sons, partners of all the people in these pictures have a beautiful tapestry of stories to weave in, but I wanted to write about it for me. 

I am well familiar with the feeling of homesickness. The gravitational pull of mixed feelings, gnawing. Sometimes I even get nostalgic for the various homesickness feelings I have had at different times of my life. But looking at these photographs of my mother, I'm timesick. Nostalgic for a time that I didn't even exist in. 

It's impossible to know who was feeling, thinking what in these photographs. I have asked my mom and she says that this was just a regular Friday night with her colleagues, but I want to know everything. If Ankara was a warmer, kinder place. How did everyone relate to each other? What were they joking about? What had happened that day in the news? 

Mostly, I want to go back in time and be my mother's best friend, to know her objectively, separately and not as someone part of her. Who did she like? How did she feel taking the campus bus home on a cold winter night, was she lonely? I know I have the luxury of asking her now, but words and answers are simply a simplified abstraction. I want to spend time with her, observing her, maybe talking on the phone after we both get home. How was she in the face of uncertainty? 

I spend hours thinking of this in circles, and each time I have to pull the brakes on myself and to jet back to the present. And to simply look at the photos for what they are: capturing light reflecting off of biological and man-made surfaces for a tiny sliver of time. But, if anything, that timesickness feeling helps me reconnect to the fact that we're all doing the best we can, across time and space. That we are flawed and perfect, all at the same time. 


I want to be a Minimalist but I don't know how

Zeynep Colpan

Yesterday I watched Minimalism, a documentary about "Examining the many levels of minimalism by looking inside the lives of minimalists from various walks of life." 

It basically centers on two rich white dudes that decided the path to true happiness laid in getting rid of all of their stuff and stopping the mindless consumption of goods. 

I wanted to be skeptical. Yeah, yeah, of course two white corporate guys can afford to give up everything and have one pair of socks for the rest of eternity. But what about the rest of us. I wanted to roll my eyes. And I did, for a while. Especially in the segment about tiny houses concerning a heterosexual couple. Again, I respect the people who choose this path of environmental and spiritual sustainability. I do. But in all honesty, most of my respect centered around how a couple living in such close proximity to each other had not murdered each other yet.

Having lived in a Tiny Dorm room in Montreal and a Tiny, Dirty Council Flat Room With Two Roommates in London, my vast experience with Tiny Living mostly made me question a) how they can keep such tiny spaces clean and b) most importantly, how she hasn't stood over their tiny bed with a giant glinting knife before looking to the heavens, gathering strength and stabbing him forty times for leaving out the tiny cup beside the tiny sink for the billionth time and so on. 

It also didn't help matters that I had just ordered a fabulous FlowLife massage pillow that my lower office-chair-beholden back was very excited about. I cradled the pillow, the massage balls moving while flashing red, to my chest, not wanting to let it go. My partner rolled his eyes as I cried out, "But I LOVE THIS PILLOW." 

And yet, a small, thoughtful, Wise part of me stirred and started spewing thoughts that I finally caved into and agreed with. Buying without consideration, adding more and more stuff to our lives doesn't necessarily make us happier. Bowing down to a system that treats us like dopamine addicted rats doesn't bring us joy and fulfillment. To be more aware before decisions, whether it's reaching in for a mindless snack or purchasing a massage pillow (!) can be the ignition of change towards not destroying human lives and the planet. 

So ultimately, the message of the documentary caught up to me and I was converted by the end of it. I will spend the next few weekends truly decluttering and putting financial limits on my credit cards before I spend mindlessly on objects that don't make me "happy."

*This is all with the caveat that I completely recognize that this is a very privileged position and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to buy anything at all.

How I ended up in Stockholm

Zeynep Colpan

I get this question almost on a daily basis so I thought I'd write it out here so when future digital archeologists excavate the dark, boring, dusty corners of the internet they will be inspired by my epic story. 

 I ended up in Sweden for a six month internship on a whim, almost five years ago. I had finished my Master's in health policy and was trying to stay in London where I had been living for about three years. With recent policy making it bureaucratically very difficult for non-EU (and I guess now also EU citizens, hello fellow unwelcome friends, please, come, take a seat, may I offer you some Turkish tea and a sympathetic hug?) folks to stay in the UK unless they were earning a salary the size of the GDP of a small country, I was looking for jobs anywhere and everywhere. My master plan was to emigrate to Canada, but the process still had a few years to go. So, I was job hunting while nursing a painful dental surgery.

I made myself send out one job application every single day, which wasn't that hard since I couldn't engage in any of my two favorite activities (eating snacks while watching TV and talking). I randomly saw a job advert for a Dutch intern on a health economist organization website. I figured perhaps the same medtech consulting company needed a Turkish intern (emerging markets! a population of 80+ million! a rising middle class!) and applied. Perhaps due to the gentle high of the high-dose pain medication I was on, I am pretty sure I thought the company was in Amsterdam. It was only later I discovered the company was based on the outskirts of Stockholm. 

Stockholm. What did I know about Stockholm? Even colder, even darker, even wetter than London, three facts (which I had absolutely no control over) which I had been complaining about for the entirety of the three years I lived there. Great. 

But, it was either living in Stockholm for 6 months or parents' couch for an indeterminate period of time. I figured I could always leave if I was unhappy and figure something out. So, a few months later I packed a few bags and headed to the great unknown. Risk-taker galore!

Almost half a decade later, I'm still here, alive and kicking. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made #noregrets.