It’s been said that all personal journeys of growth share a similar structure. We have a hero or a heroine who feels there’s more to life than what’s around her, whether she’s in Kansas, Tattooine or the matrix.

So here’s what brings me to this moment, standing before you, sharing this book I’ve written, stepping into a new role as an author and a speaker. Like Dorothy, Luke Skywalker, and Neo, I felt there was more to life. Before I started writing, I was confined to the stereotypical mindset of a 9-5 government employee. Words and concepts have always flooded my brain, even as a young child. I knew I had to write them down and yet, I was told by the people around me that I had no talent. I was told by my teachers that I’m not creative because what I write is heavily influenced by the artists whose works I admire. I steal ideas to this day.  My parents thought it pointless to study art. For a long time, I thought the only way to live was within a secure 9-5 job.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, living in DC felt uncomfortable for me. In fact, I’d never felt at home in the US and certainly not in DC, where the majority of the people end up working for the government. In my early 20s, I moved to the city where I was born, Istanbul. And what did I do there? Work for the US Government, of course. I was employed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and filled out paperwork and sent cables and e-mails when I could squeeze in time between the office gossip and smoke breaks.

That’s where I first started writing a book. It was about the diplomats around me. The book wasn’t very good. I was full of judgment and did not understand the lives and values of the people I was interacting with on a daily basis.

Act 1: Alien Searching For A Home

When I first arrived in Newtown in December of 2010, it felt like that place somewhere over the rainbow. It was colourful certainly and there were lots of characters around. I came to Oz to visit my brother and met my partner within a week of arriving. We met at a Toastmasters meeting. He’d grown up in Lane Cove and had always wanted to return to raise his family here. We’ve been in Lane Cove for nearly four years now and this is more home than anywhere I’ve lived up to this point.

How did I go from feeling like an alien within my Turkish family, homeland, and in Australia to being at home in Lane Cove?

One of the first things I spotted in Lane Cove was a pomegranate tree in a front yard on Phoenix Street. I knocked on the door and the woman who opened the door kindly offered me a cutting. Unfortunately, it died. However, her hospitality and willingness to help stayed with me. She was not like the people in my family who thought the things that interested me were frivolous. She was genuine and willing to help.

Through such kind interactions I’ve had with the people in my neighborhood, I began to see that my judgments and criticism of others came from my own insecurities. I consciously began to enjoy life and started a writing practice where I wrote my heart out. I always felt there was this slice of heaven we all hold within that can be realised through the flow state of creative expression. In Lane Cove, I was finally home, in a safe place where my gifts could be seen and received with gratitude by others. With the help of mentors like Karen, our community chaplain, I felt for the first time that it was free to live the gift, I didn’t need a fancy car, designer clothes, the prettiest face, or a perfect family to enjoy the luxury of jasmine in the Spring and gardenias in the Summer. I was free to share my gifts with my community.

I found that exploring my wildest creative dreams led me to a home within myself. When I’m home, I’m always surrounded by the comfort of familiar faces, who are supportive, encouraging and inspiring.

Act 2: Tests, Mentors, Allies and the Enemy

My book writing and publishing journey began in North Sydney where I led a group of writers in a collaboration to publish an anthology “Pieces of North Shore”. Though an outcome was achieved, through the process of writing, editing, and publishing that book I lost friends and allies.

I had to stare down a terrible evil within me when I first conceived the idea for “Live the Gift”.  My wanting to realise an expected outcome at all costs sometimes made me as scary as a charging bull. I learned to dance with the bull and not let it hurt any innocent bystanders.

When I take the time to reflect, I understand that I had to go through painful experiences to produce “Live the Gift” a book written with lightness. No one’s creativity was harmed in the making of this book. It is as ethical and cruelty-free as they come. Just as trees shed their leaves in the winter and animals hibernate, my creativity also needed to rest and recharge around the Winter solstice and I didn’t force myself to be productive.

Like Mother Nature, we all hold incredible seeds of beauty within ourselves. Let’s have the courage to bring them out and see what they grow into. This book is the fruit of my trusting my creativity. This beautiful community before me is a result of honouring nature, which is, of course, human nature too.

Every day I aim to be like what Rumi described, a generous human being who shares her spirit.

“If you buy a pomegranate, buy one whose ripeness
has caused it to be cleft open
with a seed-revealing smile.

Its laughter is a blessing, for through its wide-open mouth
it shows its heart,
like a pearl in the jewel box of spirit.”

Act 3: The Heroine

The heroine now stands here before you, knowing that life is full, and the people around her have incredible gifts to offer. I also realise that I’m powerful and creative and will back myself and overcome the forces of resistance and fear to bring creative ideas into the light of day, where they can be seen and admired by family, friends, and the community.

Over to you…

I’m inviting you to please purchase a copy of “Live the Gift”. It is “pay what you want”. You can also barter if you have some plants, skills, or art you’d like to share with me in exchange for the book.

Image credit to my beautiful artist friend, ceramicist Nicole Miranda. Check out her work on her website here.