When I was younger, so much younger than today I read a book called the Celestine Prophecy. In it the author discussed the various energies of the world and the importance of being in tune with these energies. By being conscience of the signals the universe is giving around us, it is possible to live the best possible life. In a very simplified version, the idea is to go with the flow. In the Alchemist, the author promotes the concept that if you really want something, then the whole universe will conspire to help you attain it.
As human beings, I think we all have a simple base desire to be happy. We strive to reach happiness in love, in our friendships, in our accomplishments, and in our families. But we do not honor love, we do not surround ourselves with the people that make us better, we do not strive for accomplishments that fulfill us and we cut ties and create distance with our families.
Although we know what we want, and the universe is easily capable of giving it to us, we take the paths that lead to stress and unhappiness. We complain about friends that don’t give us the time and attention we need. We go to jobs that aren’t fulfilling, or go to school for programs that we aren’t interested in. We create castles built on unhappy foundations and then we feel trapped within those walls. Of course all of us don’t do all of these things but most of us do some of these things and then we plead helplessness when confronted with the consequences of our choices.
My coming to Istanbul coincided with losing my best friend and I can easily say it was one of the hardest things I have gone through in my life. I was so angry and hurt. I felt I would never get past the bad feelings and pain. I literally thought I would never stop crying.
In the Quran, God says: “We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives and fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere- who say, when afflicted with calamity: ‘To Allah we belong, and to Him we shall return” … “So verily, with every hardship there is relief. Verily, with every hardship there is relief.”
When we are going through something extremely painful it can be hard to believe that the universe is conspiring to help us. It can be hard to be in tune with the energies of the world because every part of our being is trying to go against them. And it can especially be hard to patiently preserve when we do not understand the nature and virtue of the test.
It is at this time more than ever that we need to do those things though. At the beginning I fought the urge to feel better. I wanted to feel sad and I would lay in bed refusing to do anything other than mope. But somewhere along the way something in me said, enough is enough and I began to re-emerge. Since then I have become a bit of a yes-woman. If anyone asks me to go out or to do something, I say yes. If there is an opportunity to apply for something, I fill out the form. If there are new people around, I talk to them and I try to give myself as openly as I can.
I feel I have not been this open to life since I was very, very young and the rewards for this rediscovered perspective have been ten-fold. In these last two months I have met some of the most amazing people. We have made friends from Denmark, Palestine, Dubai, Canada, Slovakia, Romania and so many other places. We opened ourselves to Turkey and in return she has showered us with so many amazing experiences and has filled our lives with Turkish people who truly live up to the great reputation that precedes them. And when I go to bed at night, it is with a body tired from adventures and a mind already excited for the prospects of the next day.
I understand that life will not always stay this wonderful and feel so good but I am also convinced that God did not put us on Earth to be miserable and that the universe is not out to get us. Happiness is in our reach but to grab onto it, we must first have the courage to let go of the negative things that we have been holding on to.
Today I was walking behind a guy and for the life of me I could not tell if he had just washed his hair or if he had not washed his hair in a really long time.
One of my objectives for coming to Istanbul was to try my hand and teaching and see if I liked it enough to make a career out of it. Alhumdulillah after a lot of help and preparation, I managed to find a teaching position a week after arriving in Istanbul. Right now I’m teaching an intermediate-level English class at Fatih University. Now, this isn’t an English class like the ones that you probably took at university or secondary school. This is a class on learning how to speak and read English properly. The students that I teach are all adults – either teachers themselves or university graduates. This is because, from what I understand, learning English in Turkey is a very common thing and is a must if you want to get ahead in the business world, or get paid more, or get that promotion that you want. Usually students take a TOEFL test after learning English, and based on the score that they receive on that, they’ll have more opportunities or the chance for advancement in their careers. Of course many students also want to learn English because they want to move out of Turkey to an English-speaking country, usually America. So for them to be taught English by someone like me, who lives in America, can be a real learning (funny, I know) experience. Not only do they get the chance to test their language skills, but they can also ask me whatever they want about what it’s actually like to live in the country they want to immigrate to.
I get a real buzz out of teaching. I feel like a performer on a stage with the students as my audience. I’m sure it’s similar to the feeling that musicians get when they play in a concert. It’s also not a bad thing if my students actually learn something from me! I don’t know if they have yet actually, as there’s been no tests since I’ve been their teacher, but it’ll make me happy if I discover that their scores have improved. I think another reason that I like teaching so much is b/c right now at least, there isn’t much for me to do outside of class for my class. The lesson plans are taken straight from a book and I just have to help the students get through them, and answer any questions that they might have.
Having adult students that are actually paying money to attend class also must make a difference. In fact, I remember that when I was a substitute teacher in Dearborn this was a real problem. The students just didn’t want to be at school and some of them would do whatever they could to mess with you and get out of class. It’s not like that here. If you don’t want to be in class, don’t turn up. It’s ultimately the students’ responsibility to do their homework and make an effort so that their English skills improve. I just need to help that process in whatever way that I can, and make my classes interesting and engaging so that my students want to learn and actually look forward to coming to class at 9:30 in the morning.