Wandering the desert is inevitable every time one takes a leap out of their ordinary world. It makes no difference whether one’s escaping slavery which was the case for the Israelites in the Bible or a government job, which is cushy, benevolent and keeps one in a golden cage with the promises of retirement benefits.
What fool would give up a stable income and the promise of living like a king in their golden years? Even the slaves freed by Moses started to have doubts wandering the desert and started to torment Moses for taking them down a path of uncertainty. In the times when they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, God brought down some sort of mystical bread called “manna” from heaven but still the doubts and anger among Moses’s people grew.
So you can imagine what self-doubt, lamentations and fears came up for me in wandering the career desert for the past nine years. I was numb to this at the time, too busy going from one job to another, but every rejection was digging into me, peeling yet another layer. It hurt but I never stopped to feel the pain. I carried on with bleeding insides trying to put myself into yet another marketing role at yet another small business that promised the intimacy of a family.
It took me a literal pregnant pause to realise that what I actually craved wasn’t a marketing career but intimate communication through the written word. When I had my children, I finally got to experience the space and the higher place to look at the landscape of the life I had behind me and saw once again what I’d always known as a child playing with words, that I am a writer.
Like me, there were others who quit the comfort, coffee, tea and cigarette breaks from the spectacular Bosphorus view of the U.S. Consulate. I wondered what their experience had been like in the pursuit of their bliss. I contacted my former colleague Ceren who danced to London and then to Plymouth, Massachusetts out of the confines of the fortress. I wondered if things had been as tough for her. Her words nourished me at a time of running low on faith. She lifted me up with her dazzling dance through life and made me realise there are three things one must prepare to navigate the desert when one has found their bliss and will follow it to the promised land.
From a young age, Ceren knew she wanted to be a dancer. She recorded the famous belly dancer Nesrin Topkapi on a beta videotape as a child and memorised all her moves and declared to the world “I will be a dancer”. Her mum insisted she go to university and to this Ceren responded that she’ll be a dancer with a college degree.
When in new terrain, you need a compass to navigate and these childhood stories are the truest device we all have. They point to our values. In Ceren’s case, dance is her passion and it is clear that there is a desire for personal growth that’s been passed down from her mum who insisted on university education for her daughter. Ceren went onto receive a degree from the most prestigious university in Turkey where she started her serious dance training.
From my personal experience, I can say that growth is a priority which requires a regular sacrificing of comfort to experience life more fully.
These days I’m a mum to two young daughters and use writing as a tool to express my view of the world and to gain insight into others’ (my family’s) experiences. Ceren is a developmental psychologist, working for an NGO that specializes in intervention programs for parents and young children. In her current job, she develops projects. Not surprisingly, her path into developmental psychology was through dance. While in the U.S., she worked as a Teaching Artist for an intervention program called Dancing Classrooms (subject to films “Take the Lead” and “Mad Hot Ballroom”) which taught children social competence skills through dance.
Ceren has taken her bliss and transformed it into a career. I haven’t yet. As I earn nothing yet from my dedicated practice to writing. For both of us, there’s a vast terrain to cover. It is never over, this seeking, this creating, learning, writing, publishing, growing and becoming journey.
“This crazy journey involved such life-changing encounters with the “maestros” of each form. An example is a workshop I got to attend with Tony Dovolani (of Dancing with the Stars) as an instructor at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios.”
Ceren also got to dance with her childhood idol, the legendary Turkish bellydancer Nesrin Topkapi, who attracted students from Japan and other far ends of the earth.
Finding and connecting with mentors be they dancers, painters, musicians, writers or any artist, is water for those of us seeking growth. We need so much water when we are wandering the desert. Fortunately, we come across oases, people who follow their creativity, like Ceren who are there to inspire us.
We have to recognise that there are others who have gifts to share with us and we must go seek them so that the sprinkling of their water on us may grow our seeds.
In my case, taking a memoir writing course taught by Louisa Deasey got me to the finish line on the first draft of my first memoir “The Mother of All Unwanted Gifts”.
“My insatiable desire to try out new forms of dance, movement and expression took me from ballroom dance to modern dance, from flamenco to African dance, from modern dance to Argentine tango…each and every form of dance opened up a new world for expression, a new set of challenges for my body…and mind, which really helps you grow multidimensionally.”
I don’t know if you’ve been at a desert at night time, but I hear it gets very cold once the sun retreats. This is why we need our fire, that is our heart’s desire, burning bright.
Fears and anxieties will put out the fire so a positive mindset is a must. I cultivate this through the conscious use of social media to connect with others who are creating each and every day.
Ceren can be found on Instagram @ the_baby_gazelle which is what her name “Ceren” means in Turkish. She’s made a video Homesick at Home showcasing tango moves against the Mosque-laden Istanbul skyline.
In her personal life, Ceren practices “somatic” or “embodiment” coaching, where she utilizes movement and body awareness as a tool for self-discovery and goal setting which are excellent ways to ensure that the fire within remains strong.
She offers a workshop series “Rhythm of Awareness,” which takes participants on a journey that starts with individual dances like ballet and flamenco to partnered dances like tango and salsa into more unstructured forms of “dance therapy,” such as whirling. The aim is finding transformation and healing through movement.
Even if you’re a writer or a painter, and feel you don’t need to use your whole body for your art, it would benefit to connect with your body. I found that there’s an intimate link between our body, mind and spirit. I don’t know how else to explain how a brisk walk brings so many new ideas to me which sets my heart racing or how Yoga opens me up to new ways of looking at the world.
This is my prayer for you, who dares to think of wandering the desert, find your compass, supply of water and fire.
Over to you
When was a time you left a secure job or sacrificed your comfort to pursue something that called out to you? How has this experience helped you see life from a different perspective? Tell me all about it, eda@WritePublishGrow.com