Story of a loser: How did I become a columnist?
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgI really don’t know. But here I am, writing once a week since October 2012.
How did I get here? I really don’t know that either. I only know it took a very long time. Unlike the other millions of literate, grown-up Turks who genuinely believe they can be exceptionally good columnists, I never imagined myself as a columnist. Call it low self-esteem or just being realistic, it was far from being a career goal. (What was my career goal is a good question at this point. I dare not say for the third time “I really don’t know.”)
I guess I had no career goal; working in the media was just a life-style: bringing home food, paying my rent, then later on –stupid parents we are – paying a tiny portion of the over expensive private school we sent our son to – well, it was my architect husband who paid the lion’s share of everything (and that last part is coming from a person who strictly believes in gender equality). But it is a fact that you don’t make decent money in journalism. -- Oops, I’m lost…
Oh, my career goal. Having a social life, being a part of an office, fish for a boyfriend in my single years, then hating the office, torturing myself trying to keep my job, repeating to myself “I will never quit before I see that bitch leave,” (at some points, I really liked my job). Then years passed and retiring began looking increasingly better in my eyes.
Well, how did I end up being here? It is because of my blog on Hürriyet Daily News’ website, posted under another name – Belgin Tan. (Aha, self-esteem issues, again.) My boss said he enjoyed my posts, liked the way I wrote. He said I wrote like Dave Barry. Did I know who Dave Barry was? No, I did not... I immediately looked up Dave Barry. English is not my mother tongue and I don’t live in the United States. And surely I’m not as clever as my boss. (Well done, Belgin) Thus, I did not understand many of his columns… But, I kept trying. And yes, I got some of it… Especially the one when he tells about how he had a colonoscopy… He is at the doctor’s office getting ready for the procedure: “I … put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.”
I want to be a Dave Barry when I grow up...
Didn’t I have other opportunities to become a columnist in all those years? Oh, yes, believe it or not. My previous editors and editors-in-chief all praised my writing and urged me to write. Especially one, a giant one, once told me, “Belgin, you are the best writer in this whole paper.” Yes, he did say that. I have witnesses. However, after some time, he forgot my name. That’s how good I am in office politics.
I set out to write a humorous, light-hearted, non-political column, on daily life in Turkey, working women, family, kids, Istanbul, traveling in Istanbul, İETT, medical experiences, schools, doctors, offices, gender issues, medical procedures, food, diets, the office and colleagues.
I write in short sentences and short paragraphs. I call my style “reader-friendly,” even though some of my readers attribute it to my “poor English.” I am easy to read. I am determined to stay like that.
Some of my pieces have become very popular, translated into other languages. My former editor Professor Haluk Şahin once told me “You have become the ‘Art Buchwald’ of Turkey” (How much I love him…)
I am frequently caught in writer’s block, like almost every week… I have run out of excuses for my editor, who is also my dear friend, Beril Aktaş, when I cross my deadline. I am abusing her tolerance…
Well, I had prepared this piece for a special occasion, for my anniversary or something. But because I could not come up with anything this week, I pulled this up from my reserve – there is no occasion to write this. I even counted my columns. This is my 86th column.
Just wish me luck…