An Identity Crisis: Born In Turkey, Living In UK But Where Is Home?

I have a confession to make: I am suffering from an identity crisis. Actually, I do not have one on a daily basis but a constant reminder that I am ‘Home-less’ is unpleasant. Let me explain. I know who I am – Turkish by birth and totally international by life experience. Put me anywhere, in any company and I will adapt. Seriously. I know where my home is – Henley-on-Thames – in fact it has been the UK for the past 36 years. I have only spent my first 16 years in my native country, Turkey. So when people say, ‘Are you going home for your holidays?’ I almost feel offended. I appreciate this may be difficult to understand but I would rather not be asked this question over and over again.

Identity crisis - who am I?

When will I cease to be a foreigner? Will I always be singled out and identified as the Turk? Or is there more to it?

Identity crisis - Ankara, Turkey at night
Ankara, Turkey

Maybe I have an issue with this word HOME. Home was Ankara. Recently my sons wanted to see where I had been born and raised so I took them to Ankara in May and ended up in the very apartment where I had spent my childhood until I left the country. It felt so good. I had a quick glimpse at my teenager bedroom where I was caught smoking by my father! It all came back in a flash, the big Alain Delon poster that I had on my wall, my new desk and book case (I can still smell the new wood for it was hand made), my lovely room that I had to leave upon the passing of my father in 1973.

Now when I revisit that recent feeling, it still fills me with such warmth. That visit made me realise, with a heavy heart, that no other room has felt the same since. Maybe that’s why where ever I spend time, be it a hotel room or even my classrooms when I was a primary school teacher, I try to create a homely atmosphere.

Curiously it is also possible that I want to forget that feeling and each time someone asks me if I have been home recently, I almost feel homeless. I really don’t know. But looking back, even now, HOME has always been an issue in my life.

I remember my mother saying, when occasionally her grandmother came and she gave them some random money, they would know that she had sold yet another property. For generations my family had enjoyed great wealth. Among the family members there were Grand Viziers, various ministers, even Princes. They lived in beautiful houses, had many servants, drank their tea from Limoges cups and saucers and used silverware every day. They were well-educated and fluent in French, German and English. It seems that they only lived for the moment, not a bad thing, but instead of preserving what they had, they have wasted it.

Despite that, my family continued to live in a false grandeur. My late mother had zero notion of money. She owned some beautiful flats in SW1, London. However my mother had to sell these flats because she couldn’t control her spending. The same with her beautiful summer house in the north of Bodrum, Turkey. I have wasted my inheritance from my paternal grandfather thanks to her and her husband. I choose to forget that painful period in my life because another property was lost as a result.

More foolish actions led me to having a strange divorce settlement. It is easy to talk with hindsight. The decision that we take at a given time is the best decision for that moment isn’t it?

Desperate to own something I have recently invested some money in a studio in Liverpool. Why Liverpool? Because it seemed a good deal. Is it still? I really do hope so.

Sunset at Benirras, Ibiza - identity crisis
Sunset at Benirras, Ibiza

Since I cannot have my old bedroom back, my dream is to have a home in the middle of the campo (countryside) in Ibiza one day. If I am close to a few fig trees it would even be better. Ibiza is an island where I feel totally free and in-tune with nature. The smells of the pine trees, oregano, thyme and other herbs bring me such happiness. Drying my clothes in the beautiful sunshine, watching the sunset in Benirras, north of the island, swimming in the blue waters of the Mediterranean as part of my daily activities would be my idea of heaven.

Who knows?


More of Zeynep’s posts can be read here