Self-Portrait 12/10/14

December 13th, 2014

Self Portrait 12/10/14

Sometimes, it comes out perfectly the first time.


November 25th, 2014


Millenium Park, Chicago. September 20, 2014.

Why I Don’t Wear Daily Make-up

July 5th, 2014

Because I don’t want people to associate me with a face that isn’t naturally mine. Because once I start wearing daily make-up, the one day I skip wearing eyeliner, people will feel the need to ask me if I’m okay or tell me that I look “tired.” Once that happens a few times, it will trap me into a cycle of having to wear make-up every single day to avoid getting comments like that.

I am not against make-up. I started to play with eyeliner in 10th grade. For me it’s fun, it’s art, and sometimes it’s like facepainting in a carnival. I reserve make-up for special occasions, and I like how it looks. But I don’t want it to be a habit and expectation for both myself and for those who look at me on a day-to-day basis.

I know of people who would never leave the house without make-up because they no longer feel like themselves without it. I get it; I’m the same way with my glasses. It’s “my look.” I know people who get eyelash implants so they won’t have to wear mascara for a month. I know people who wear make-up tattoos so they never have to worry about being seen make-up-less. For me, that seems like too much of a hassle to “feel like myself.” Yes, I’m a little bit lazy, but I’m comfortable with myself, so it works out. Therefore, I want people to know me by my natural face… for now.

Photo by Rotem Eren-Rabinovich.

Happy Pigeon Appreciation Day

June 15th, 2014

Pigeon Next to Ashtray

Okay, you got me. Pigeon Appreciation Day was June 13th, two days ago. I celebrated by feeding pigeons at a duck park, the only place where it’s socially acceptable to feed pigeons ’round these parts. My plan was to take beautiful pictures of the pigeons, but the pictures didn’t turn out great. Instead, I’m sharing these (more beautiful) photos I’d taken while I was visiting Istanbul in March.

Expectant Pigeons

My mom and I had come for our usual coffee at the terrace of Bebek Otel, which faces the Bebek Cove within the Bosphorus. It wasn’t too warm outside, so it was just her, me, the pigeons, and a seagull.

Layers of Birds

The pigeons weren’t afraid to come up close and personal. I was delighted when they flew onto our table and shamelessly paced toward our faces as soon as we sat down. So friendly!

Handsome Pigeon Pose

This white splotchy guy was my absolute favorite.
Blobby Pigeon

How did you celebrate Pigeon Appreciation Day? If by some strange reason you missed it, you should add it to your calendar for next year. Shame on you.

This Seemingly Beautiful Photo of a Dove Will Horrify You Once You Notice This Tiny Detail

June 10th, 2014

Look at this photo. Isn’t it pretty? I captured this shot of a dove’s nest on a windowsill just below my grandma’s window when I was in Istanbul. I was pretty proud of myself, as this was the first time I’d visited Turkey since upgrading my camera last year, and I was trying to be artsy. I smugly grinned to myself as I admired the image composition and how sharply I’d captured the dove’s features.

AND THEN… something weird caught my eye.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Perfect Haircut (For Now)

May 31st, 2014

After a year of premeditating and pinning, I finally got my hair cut in an angled long bob, and it’s exactly what I wanted.

It seems like an insignificant event, but let’s review some background information. Having curly hair is tough; there aren’t as many options out there. I don’t like huge, poodle-like volume in curly hair, so my go-to style has been long and sleek curls for years. I don’t like how most long-haired women get their hair layered where it’s shorter in the front and extremely long in the back, and I also don’t like the un-layered cuts, because it makes my hair flare out like a pyramid. And straightening (either daily blowdrying or chemically straightening) has always been out of the question.

My hair hadn’t been this short since 7th grade. I got a medium-length cut a few years ago, but I hated it; it was just so boring. When I got my previous haircut last spring, I cursed myself for not going shorter. Even worse, I was too lazy to get another haircut for another year, so I admit that my hair got a little out of control over the past year. Below is a recent image of me looking fancy with my long, beautiful hair blowing in the wind, but I’m actually annoyed as I push it out of my face.

The other thing that bothers me about long hair is that, though it’s beautiful, I never know how to place my hair. Sometimes I get frustrated and throw all of it behind my shoulders, and other times I gather all of it in front of my shoulders, which probably looks weird from the back. I often pulled half of my hair back, which allowed me to wear my hair down and still have peripheral vision. I’d been tired of feeling like I was carrying a “pelt” on my back at all times, so I love that the back is short now. It’s one less thing in my life to worry about.

There are lots more I can write on hair, including how hair length is perceived on women in a professional setting, and how Felicity’s ratings plummeted when Keri Russell chopped off her hair, but I’ll leave that for another time.

New haircut photos taken by me, long-hair photo taken by Rotem Eren-Rabinovich, and haircut is courtesy of Ouidad Salon.

Room Full of 5000 Women: The Highlights

May 25th, 2014

Last week I went to the 25th annual Professional Businesswomen of California conference in San Francisco. Usually I’m leery of all-women activities, but it was an excuse to visit friends in town (and because Arianna Huffington was one of the keynote speakers). The conference convinced me that there are certain issues that require gathering thousands of women in one place and educating them, but also that more men need to be involved in the discussion.

The main takeaway from the conference was that women feel stressed and overburdened, because they take on too many things and want to do all of them perfectly. That certainly resonated with me. When women don’t do everything to perfection, they lose confidence and hold themselves back. Being aware of these differences is the first step to doing something about them.

Arianna Huffington focused on burnout. She likened valuing money and power for success to sitting on a two-legged stool; it’s unstable and prone to failure. She encouraged us to get more sleep (something I’ve already improved over the past two years), and take time to relax, disconnect, and reflect. Her most shocking and memorable part of the speech was when one day, sleep-deprived and exhausted, she collapsed onto her desk and woke up in a pool of blood. She had broken her cheekbone and had to get stitches. That’s when she realized, “If you come to in a pool of blood and nobody has shot you, that is not success.”
Three other quotes from her speech that I particularly liked were on not internalizing stress and not feeling victimized when things don’t go as planned: “Life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen,” “Live life as if the world is rigged in your favor” (Rumi), and “Our eulogies have nothing to do with our resumes.”

Another powerful keynote speaker was Charlotte Beers, who is apparently known as “the most powerful woman in advertising” and “the queen of Madison Avenue.” It was obvious that she had extensive experience and wisdom in succeeding in male-dominated corporate environments. I was so intrigued by her that I bought her book, I’d Rather Be in Charge. She advised us to “go for influence instead of the corner office.” She pointed out that women are too modest, and to “Burn ‘modest.'” Women apparently focus on knocking things off their to-do list and getting their work done instead of building relationships like the men do, so she snapped at us to “knock it off!”

One of the break-out sessions I went to was titled “Gender Differences in Saying ‘No'” by Dr. Lise Vesterlund, an economics professor in the University of Pittsburgh. Much of Vesterlund’s recent research focused on how many promotable and non-promotable tasks that women and men work on during their careers. Non-promotable tasks are trivial assignments that add little value to a person’s career in the long run, but are things that need to get done. The nature of the task varies on the industry, but in an academic career, examples include sitting on university committees, taking notes in meetings, and organizing holiday parties. In a certain university, she found that female professors performed 8.5 hours less research per week than male professors due to their undertaking “non-promotable” tasks.
Through surveys she found that when women consider turning down requests for non-promotable tasks, they focus on the negative career consequences and how people will perceive them, whereas the men evaluate whether or not it’s a good use of their time. As a result, women feel more worn out and worried when making these decisions.
Through a series of experiments that involved clicking a button in groups of three (eliminating the ‘competence’ factor), these three conclusions slapped me across the face:
1. Women volunteer more for non-promotable tasks.
2. People (both men and women) ask women to do more non-promotable tasks.
3. When asked to do a non-promotable task, women are more likely to say yes.
The finding that was most surprising in the experiments was that when no women were present, men stepped up and perform just as well in the group setting. So it’s not like the women were saving the day or anything. Therefore, we should recognize that just because someone says they will and can perform a task does not mean that they should perform the task.
Vesterlund’s research was illuminating and has been the one thing I’ve been preaching to everybody who’s asked me what I learned in this conference.
Vesterlund and a few colleagues have started a “No Club” where they get together once a month over wine, talk about decisions they have to make, and discover what triggers them to say yes to things. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea!

Fran Zone‘s “Smart Out Loud” seminar gave us a taste of what she means when she says: “Don’t do more; be more.” She rejects what she calls “sweat equity.” She gave us tips on how to make a better first impression, how to leave a memory, and how to appear more credible. She encouraged omitting the words “trying” and “hoping” from our vocabulary and instead using “focused on” and “committed to.” Finally, I liked her play on words when she said that women “audition” for roles whereas men act with “audacity.”

One of the final highlights of the conference was the panel of representatives from Chevron, Genentech, HP, Walmart, Silicon Valley Bank, and Oracle. I won’t go into all the details, but I will share the one striking thing I heard in this panel: that we need to recognize when we need help and ask for it. There were several anecdotes of women resigning from their companies because they didn’t see part-time or flexible hours as an option, and didn’t think to ask for it. The companies ended up finding an arrangement that worked for them. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.

Coming out of the conference, I commit to the following:
– Take more risks to stretch myself, in areas that would improve my career.
– Think more critically about the purpose of every task I’m doing, both in and outside of work, and be less afraid to say ‘no.’
– Recognize when I feel self-doubt and learn to ignore it.
– Pass on what I’ve learned to more of my coworkers and friends, both male and female.
– Bring more people with me to this conference (or a similar one) next year.

Finally, if you want to read more, the keynote speakers in the conference recommended that everybody read the recent article The Confidence Gap. Having read it, what will you change in your life?

Thoughts On Being Bicultural

March 11th, 2014

The two of us laughed at her when my cousin asked if Americans have a different sense of humor than Turks. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized the appropriateness of her question. I was staying with her and her husband for the night, and we were watching funny YouTube videos; things that had gone viral that I hadn’t heard of before, like the Serkan is my Girl video, made by two cousins to annoy their Uncle Serkan, that took Turkey by storm. [It’s been 3 days since I saw the video, and it’s still stuck in my head.] When I tried to think of funny American videos I could show them in return, I was at a loss; it wasn’t the right mood for that type of humor.

It was then that I remembered how I felt during my first few years in the United States, around the age of 10, when I didn’t always quite “get” what was so funny about some of my classmates’ jokes, and when my awkward humor that was well-received by my friends in Turkey was often received in the new world with a disapproving quirk of an eyebrow. With time, it clicked, and it helped that I’m often easily amused. Fast forward to a few months ago: while I’d been laughing with tears for over an hour at funny Turkish Vines while I should have been doing homework, I suddenly realized that most of my American friends would look at me funny if I shared these with them, and the magic would be lost.

I feel lucky and even blessed to be able to appreciate the humor in both sides, but it also feels bittersweet. The best way to describe it is that I feel like I’m sharing part in a big inside joke.


The next day I found myself in my grandmother’s kitchen in Tekirdağ, staring at her bulletin board full of photos of her immediate family: herself, her late husband, me, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins at various stages of our lives, some of whom are no longer with us. Having been transplanted from Turkey at a small age to spend the next 20+ years in California, it’s become increasingly jarring to me when I face my relatives and realize our facial similarities. I’m used to feeling “exotic” for most of my existence, and the annual visits home are becoming forceful reminders of where I came from. It’s like I’m back where I belong, but not quite. Something is amiss; a part of me has changed too much. The change is indescribable with words further than these.

The following day I am on a bus from Tekirdağ to Istanbul. The trip is only two hours, and I watch the Sea of Marmara coast in the heavy rain. The Tekirdağ visits always invoke a deeper kind of introspection, because unlike the modern, sprawling Istanbul, it’s a more modest city with a small-town feel. Life is simpler there. People know each other. My relatives’ worries, perspectives, and aspirations are different from my own. What do I talk about with them? Enough things. If I were there for an extended period, surely the conversations would be deeper. I’m already too full from eating Tekirdağ’s traditional meatballs before being dropped off at the bus station an hour and a half earlier, but I consume the tea and cake they’ve handed out while reflecting on the past two days, watching the rain hit the windows on the bus to Istanbul.

Madame de Marelle

March 7th, 2014


I finished the novel Mahrem by Elif Şafak the other day (apparently it’s been translated to English, but according to the reviews, not very well) and was inspired to draw this little scene from the story. I enjoyed the vividness and grotesqueness of some of the imagery, the “seeing and being seen” theme that dominated the book, and the way it all tied together in the end. I have so many new perspectives on things now, and so the book has climbed to one of my favorites by this Turkish author.

Now, a little bit about the drawing. The point wasn’t to create a masterpiece; rather, it was something to occupy my time and get me to play with shapes and colors while I listened to an online lecture for about an hour. No furniture, no shadows, no details; too lazy for all that. Give me a break; I haven’t drawn anything substantial in years, so I consider this just a sketch and a half-success. Anything that moves me enough to make me draw these days is something that comes close to a miracle.

I will update with a higher resolution version once I can access a scanner in the next few weeks.

Profound Loneliness

February 23rd, 2014

Yesterday I put some coffee in my thermos and walked down to the beach to watch the sunset. There were several people, either by themselves or in groups, who had gathered along the water to watch the sun dip behind the neverending waves.

I sat along the edge of a sand dune, about 30 feet away from another person in a hoodie, who was watching the ocean for a while, but then lay on her back and alternated between looking up at the sky, napping (?), and looking at her smartphone. She seemed relaxed but had no interest in watching the momentous occasion of the sun setting.

I had chosen an unfortunate location, because directly in front of me there was a guy who was standing with his feet in the water, facing the direction of the sun and taking it all in. Occasionally he’d look around and take pictures, but he stood firmly there for at least a good half hour. I watched him, a screaming child running along the beach, a pair of friends taking a walk, and the sun. The guy finally turned around to leave once the sun set, which meant I could take pictures without him obstructing my view.

The guy walked over to where his shoes were, and I realized that he and the girl with the hoodie had come here together. They exchanged a few words and walked away together.

Even though I had come here alone, I felt that the guy felt more lonely than me in that hour. And, I thought, that is how I would describe profound loneliness.