“Motivation is like showering. The effects are not long term. That’s why it’s recommended that you do it daily.”
Zig Ziglar

One day, I was chatting with my friends of at least ten years. One thing led to another, and I found myself talking about my college experiences. These were my closest friends, and even they were taken aback by my revelations. After I finished, one of them said, “I never knew you were like that, Esra.” 🙂

They were so surprised because they only knew me as a hardworking, responsible person, while I was now giving them the impression that I was the exact opposite in college.

Let me tell you the same story. Afterwards, you’ll believe that everyone can work miracles.

I had just turned 17 when I started college in 1994. Despite having trouble adapting to dorm life and missing my family, my studies went well for the first two years. The first year was just an English prep class, and the second year’s introduction to engineering was just like an extension of high school.

However, things started going badly during my sophomore year. I experienced my first academic shock when I failed two courses at once.

This may seem normal to some of you, but try to understand how ego shattering this was to someone who had been a high achiever throughout high school.

My classmate Zerrin, who had been with me since the start of college, had a similar educational background. Unfortunately, she also learned what it felt like to fail a course that year.

The next year, Zerrin and I moved in with another friend from the same class. Normally, you would expect us to improve, or at least stop getting worse, but instead we hit rock bottom. In our third year, we failed all of our courses. I’m not joking!

It was like this in our senior year: We took 29 courses together, two from the second year plus the courses from the entire third and fourth academic years! If that wasn’t enough, these were wickedly complicated engineering courses!

Back then, the system let us take all these courses at once, but we later realized there was no way to pass them all in a single year. The stress was so great that we turned to food. I had never gained so much weight in my entire life. It’s usually taboo to discuss a woman’s weight, but I’ll say that I weighed 33 pounds more than I do now!

Our families knew things weren’t going very well for us, but I guess it never occurred to them that we were so screwed. As we struggled to find a way out of this hole we’d dug for ourselves, our savior came onto the scene in a flash: It was Zerrin’s mother, Hüsniye!

I’d never met anyone like Hüsniye in all my life. I can’t express how affectionate, understanding, and loving a person she is. You instantly feel a sweet sense of security when you’re by her side. Tall, impassable mountains turned into gentle slopes in her company.

It was easy for someone as experienced as her to knock some sense into a pair of punks like us. She seemed to feel sorry for us, so she decided to shock us out of our apathy. She moved in with us before our mid-term exams and adopted a role similar to that of a life coach.

Here are Hüsniye’s secrets of life coaching:

  • She never blamed nor judged us for the situation we‘d got ourselves into. She never once rubbed our noses in our foolishness.
  • She was always positive, in both attitude and choice of words. She constantly motivated us and made us feel confident again.
  • She made sure we went to bed and got up early enough, restoring our severely wrecked biological clocks.
  • She made delicious vegetable dishes for us that were low in carbs.
  • She told us to take breaks when we studied for too long, giving us cooked fruit desserts  to quench our desire for junk food.
  • She took us for short walks every day without fail. After our walks by the sea, we would sit in a nearby park and eat the food we had brought with us, whether it be sandwiches, sunflower seeds, or whatever. Believe me when I tell you these walks reduced our stress levels considerably.
  • We enjoyed the view from our balcony when we took breaks from studying. She would make Turkish coffee for us and tell our fortunes from it afterwards. She always saw good things in those little cups. She would tell us that we’d pass an exam the next day, take a fun vacation later that year, receive good news soon, and so on. We knew she was making it all up, but our childish sides wanted to believe it, so it cheered us up.
  • Both Zerrin and I smoked like chimneys back then. Even though she was very sensitive to smoke, Hüsniye never once complained about it. She knew that it would be too much for us to quit smoking at that time and we would eventually quit smoking for good.
  • She never slipped into an admonishing mother role. It was quite the opposite; she was a great listener.
  • She never tried to psychologically overpower or repress us with all the things she did for us. We were like a bunch of besties, always having good times together.
  • Most importantly of all, she offered all her love and affection unconditionally. She always cared for us, regardless of if we passed our courses or not.

In conclusion:

  • Both Zerrin and I passed all but three of our courses, which we later passed in make-up exams. We just took a victory lap for our dissertations.
  • All of our extra weight had gone by the end of the year.

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that even if it hadn’t gone so well, Hüsniye would still have supported and felt proud of us, because she knew we tried and did our best. On the other hand, it was she who provided the right conditions for our success.
Here’s what I learned from Hüsniye while living with her:

  • Nothing is impossible. Anything and everything in this life is possible and achievable.
  • Positive thinking and motivation is vital for success.
  • It’s important to continue these conditions, and the only requirement for this is a trusting and loving environment.
  • When you’re in something for the long haul, like we were, you can’t ignore your physical needs. Regular sleep, a balanced diet, proper breaks, and daily walks are simple yet effective boosts for your body.
  • Enjoying some of life’s flavor and integrating it into the greater scheme of things is a precious virtue. Things like drinking Turkish coffee, eating low-carb desserts, enjoying your sunflower seeds by the sea, and speaking sweet nothings to each other all help you to appreciate life.

Regardless of how hard a situation you find yourself in, the support you need will show up out of nowhere if you truly want to overcome it. We evaluate the support we get depending on whether we got the result we wanted. However, when we look at the bigger picture, it’s clear that life is just waiting to offer its greatest gifts to us.

For example, if you asked us in our second or third year, when we were struggling with studying and life, we would say this support had never come for us. Now, if everything had gone smoothly for us in college, we’d have never discovered the little details about ourselves or our inner potentials.

As you see, you don’t need to have superpowers to be a hero for yourself and others. Believe me when I say that unconditional love and support is more than enough. I personally found this out with help from Hüsniye.

Another 12 years have passed since then. In retrospect, I feel I’m so very lucky to have my family and the people I care about to support me when I’m in need.

As I grew older, I realized that any external support is an unexpected gift from Heaven, a gift you should accept willingly. However, the real support and power, which we need to achieve the important milestones in our lives, can only be found within us, so our first aim should be to become heroes for ourselves.

Now tell me, which of the things above are too much to do for yourself? I believe we can do all of these, and much more, without needing any external support, as long as we want to do them…

I was reading Nil Karaibrahimgil’s column the other day, the one where she tells readers about her recent visit to England and an advertising campaign she saw there. It ends by saying, “I am what I am today because of others.” I want to finish my article with a similar, but broader, expression. 🙂

I am what I am today because of others. They translated the operating manual for my own infinite inner potential so I could understand it. This book, which I haven’t finished reading yet, starts by saying, “Don’t wait until you finish the book before translating it for others!”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
Henry Ford