“For the past five years, I have lived my life in and out of Turkey. I lived two years in Istanbul, a year back in the states and then finally moved to Izmir, a city in southwestern Turkey, nearly two years ago. In my time living in Turkey, I have lead teams, married a Turkish man and started a small company about Turkish gastronomy. While my love for Turkey is deep, my journey since moving to this country has been challenging. Every step of the way, I have wrestled with finding my core identity in this foreign yet familiar culture. I have tried on every hat available to me in my search for my ultimate identity. So far, I have found that searching for identity can be a cyclical pattern of unsteady emotions if we do not have a secure place for our hats to hang.
No matter your geographic location, I can attest that the quarter-life crisis is real. For most of my life, I have been educated, poured into and prepared for the moment when my education leads to a professional career. Up until then, I had been on a secure and explainable path. Upon the completion of my master’s degree, I moved to Turkey which ultimately led me to my darling husband, my professional passion and our sweet community. However despite my path being full of joy and celebration, it can be hard not to peek back into the life of many friends in America and use them as a backboard to qualify and measure my own accomplishments. In the process of justifying my choices, I have worn so many ill-fitting hats that I tried to squeeze on my head to explain my path to myself and others. In this season, I have been constantly torn between my inherent value versus the works, actions, and accomplishments I have or do not have, on my resumé.
One hat that I having recently been trying to squeeze on my head is my “I Speak Turkish Fluently” hat. You would think that my Turkish would be perfect after having such a long relationship with this country and marrying a Turkish man, but it is still a work in progress. Language has continued to be a battle of identity and worth because learning languages is not one of my strongest skills – I am pretty average. Worst of all, I allow my language speaking ability to be a determining factor of how well I fit into the culture. It has become such an emotional indicator of success. When I can follow conversations and contribute ideas, I feel elated but when the opposite is true, I feel hurt and isolated. In these moments, I can feel a palpable choice between two paths. I can intentionally extend grace to myself and remind myself of my steady identity or I can let my feelings of shame and embarrassment win. I can think of many examples of when I have taken either path.
While these hats used to define ourselves are not inherently bad, they can be a distraction of what remains consistent. Our hats will change but our core identity remains steady. And ultimately for me, my core identity comes from my faith, I am inherently valuable because I am God’s creation. We are tempted to define ourselves through situational events – other people’s comments, uncontrollable circumstances or lofty expectations. While this feels natural to human nature, we have the opportunity to stand steady in the face of an unpredictable world and remind ourselves that we were made for a time such as this.”
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