Beating my depression and out of a job, I decided to return to New York for a week to visit my family. They could see the difference. I felt the difference. I wasn’t 100%, but I was certainly not at the edge of death anymore. My grandma had come for a visit from Istanbul at the time so i got to spend some quality time with her. It was spring heading into summer so the weather was sweet too. It had only been a few months since I had moved away. It didn’t feel as if it was just several weeks ago that I was in New York, losing touch with life and reality. Even though I put those dark days behind me, I will never forget them. I keep them in the back pages of my mind. So I never forget where I was or how I felt, and always appreciate where I am. I always replay them in my mind to know how much worse it can always be.
Perhaps we all have that one period in our lives that we wanna forget and never relive. The truth is looking back now, my worst days were the best thing that ever happened to me. I can say that now, because without experiencing rock bottom, without ever being desperate, without ever knowing hopelessness, you can never fulfill your true potential. My greatest depression taught me that no matter what, that life can and will bring you down. You will fall, unless you have the strength and the courage to stand up and fight. I could have laid down and died. I felt my life was worth fighting for and I would have fought until the very end. With the support of my parents and my family, I am alive today. Stronger than ever. Never unbreakable, yet harder to break.
It was the same script all over again. The same screenplay thats been running since I hung up my football boots. I needed something new. I could have gone back to Florida, which was exactly my intention. I just knew being in New York was out of the question. I don’t really like New York. I’m proud to be from there though. I have always been and will always be a New Yorker. You can take me out of New York but you can never take the New York out of me. I just wanted to be somewhere else. Somewhere warm with gold sandy beaches.
I signed up for “Sea School” in Fort Lauderdale to become a deck hand. Work on boats and yachts for rich people. A friend of a friend told me about it, and the idea of making decent money, living on a boat and sailing the world appealed to me. I was gonna live up to my nickname “The Unchained Sailor”. I got that name because I travelled a lot and dropped anchor to live in different places. Of course my parents as always supported me. I was headed back to Florida. Almost.
Sitting on our porch having Turkish coffee with my mom and grandma, they suggested I go live in Turkey. I hated Turkey, so my immediate response was a strict no. Then my mom said those words that she’s been saying to me all my life “Eser, listen to me”. You can have a very nice life in Turkey. You have many job opportunities there. You can teach english, you can do personal training, you can cook, you can model, you can go for acting. You can live with your grandma, and not have to pay any rent. She will take care of you. You have friends there, you have family, it’s one direct flight away. You can travel the world with Turkish airlines, be closer to Europe, maybe even play amateur football just for fun.
She got me thinking. She had a very valid point. I forgot to mention that my mom has been in the airline business her entire career. Through her amazing job, I, as her son get amazing travel benefits. I can fly anywhere in the world at any given moment and pay literally a quarter of the price. Example, i’m writing this chapter on a flight to Bangkok as we speak. Guess how much I payed; $120 round trip. My friend next to me? $1600! Yeah. I’d hate me too.
I could teach English abroad because I had a TEFL certification. I can go anywhere in the world and find a job as an English teacher. I could do personal training there; sure, why not. I wont work in a kitchen, but it’s still an option. I can model; okay. Maybe act; sure. I could definitely travel the world, because Turkey is close to everything geographically. Since my mom worked for Turkish airlines, I could only fly with them, and obviously every Turkish airline flight to other destinations left from Istanbul. I love my grandma and I know she’s easy going. I know she would let me be and won’t nag me. Besides, I loved her cooking. But did I wanna play football?
You see the thing is, I have this incredible drive in me about football. Even at 25, I knew if I went back to full fitness and training, I would become a great goalkeeper. Goalkeepers life span was longer than outfield players. Greatest goalkeepers could play until their 40’s. Like, Edwin van der Sar, Peter Schmeichel, Oliver Khan. I just needed someone to give that chance and a coach to take me under his wing and believe in me. Then again, the passion that once was wasn’t really there anymore. I knew if I ever went back, it wouldn’t be for “fun”. I can’t do that. Because in my head, i’m still the same goalkeeper I once was. Just out of shape and tune. But it just didn’t make sense for me anymore. Life is bigger than football. Try explaining that to me while i was playing.
I decided to go back to Florida. After a week there, I packed my stuff, and came right back to New York. On May 26, 2014, I arrived in Istanbul, Turkey to try and make a life there for myself for the second time. There were still many questions and doubts in my mind whether I would adapt, or like it here. I gave myself 3 months until the end of summer and see if I’d like to continue to live there for a longer period of time. At first my mom and aunt had come with me. We spent a great week before they both packed and left the same day. My grandma was still in New York not due to return for another 2 months. All of a sudden, I was in Istanbul living in a 3 bedroom apartment all on my own.
That first month was the toughest one. All I did was go to the gym, came back, cooked dinner and put on a movie to watch. I didn’t think it would be easy starting off, and I certainly didn’t think that everything would come to me all at once. I always kept a positive mood and had the right attitude to really try and make a life for myself in Istanbul. After all, no matter what, there was a milestone between me then and me in New York just a few months back. I knew I could be a success, I just needed to be patient. I knew I could adapt to Turkey. I just needed to put my head down, shut my eyes, close my ears and mind my own fucking business. Hear no evil, see no evil mentality. Even though there were plenty of things on my list in which I didn’t agree with and hated, regarding people and the country itself, I wasn’t there to change the people nor the government. I was there for me and my own life, and that’s all I needed to worry about. I didn’t care about anyone or anything else that made me feel negative. I didn’t want external forces dictating my life. I didn’t want other entities to restrict my potential.
All the while I continued my supplements. I had stacked up on them before coming to Istanbul. My state of mind was certainly miles better than it was before. I was still not where I wanted to be in regards to being in control of my life, but I knew that was a process that needed hard work and patience. I wasn’t happy, nor was I sad. I wasn’t euphoric, yet nor was I depressed. After my depression my levels became stable. Never high, rarely low. I would never be too happy about anything because I knew the happier I was the lower I would go. I was always right in the middle, like a zombie. Most feelings and emotions had diminished. I was no longer getting too angry, too sad, too happy, or too excited about anything. Nothing mattered as much anymore. For a long time I didn’t like that. I felt as if I lost all these feelings and that I would never feel them the way I ever did before. Then as time went on I started realizing that this was exactly where I needed to be mentally and emotionally. Not putting too much significance on anything. Or life for that matter. I cared about things, but I no longer wanted anything so bad that my happiness would depend on it. I would care, but not to the point where if I lost it or didn’t get it that my world would crumble. This doesn’t apply for the death of a loved one though. You can never replace or bring back someone you love back from death. That is the only thing in life without a solution. The rest is just gravy. My mom used to always say that.
After several weeks, I got a job as an English teacher at a language school. I also got in touch with my agency and told them i’d be here and was ready for future projects regarding modeling and acting. I started to make some friends from the gym and was slowly building a network without putting too much effort. It seemed I had settled down before I knew it. I had adapted. The feeling inside was the feeling of a person who belonged where he was. It didn’t take long before I started feeling “home”, at peace. This was where my life was now and I was content with that. I was living the foreseeable future of my life in Istanbul.
I never taught before. I didn’t know much about teaching English. There is a difference between speaking a language and teaching it. I was comfortable in front of a crowd though. I had been in situations where I was in front of many people at once before. Leading for me came natural. I thrived on it. Working as a Personal Trainer, you’re in charge of telling people what to do, how to do it, and when to to it. I knew once I got started and got the hang of it, I would make a great teacher. The company that I was going to work for was very helpful with trying to phase me in to teaching. After all, how hard could it be to teach something that’s a part of your life on a day to day basis.
I started observing some classes to get an idea of what it was like before I took on my first class. The first teacher I ever observed was Aden. He’s from New Zealand and moved to Istanbul for some crazy broad that threw all his stuff out of the window when they broke up. Aden and I would eventually became buddies. We hung out right after his class and wouldn’t you know it, we hung out almost every weekend for the next few months to come. Sitting with Aden in the teachers room having coffee one day, a guy walks in with an American accent. That’s when I met Glen.
After chatting up for a bit I asked Glen where was from. He said, the US. No shit, I replied, where in the US? New York. Where in New York? Rego Park, he replied. Rego Park was literally 10 minutes away from Middle Village where I was from. “Holy shit bro i’m from Middle Village!” What a small world huh? What are the odds I come across a guy who’s from New York, living 10 minutes away from me all his life and of all places we end up meeting in Istanbul. He too moved here for some chick. A mistake i’m very much familiar with. Aden, Glen and I were like the 3 musketeers. They became like a family to me. I met amazing people through teaching. Fellow teachers who would come to teach in Istanbul from every corner of the world. Cultured people who have seen and done things. Smart, interesting, good people who traveled the world teaching english. I found a community of awesome people which I felt a part of. There are many people I would always keep in my heart no matter which corner of the world I go or end up. There is no better way to live and travel the world than teaching English abroad. There is no place far enough, no destination wide enough. Getting to experience a different culture, learning the language, interacting with new people. That’s what life is about. Experiencing the unknown and exploring the diversity of the world we live in. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In the months i’ve been working as a teacher, i’ve adapted a certain style of teaching and have become more efficient in getting through to my students. I look to teach, motivate and inspire them. But in truth they are the ones that have been teaching, motivating and inspiring me. I love the respect the job brings. People look up to you, they listen to what you have to say, they look to you for guidance and learning. This is in no shape or form a rub for ego. It’s the mere fact that instead of cleaning restaurant kitchen floors, you are teaching someone something significant. But is this really what I want? Do I wanna teach English for the rest of my life?