This is a somewhat personal story. A sentimental one too.

So, you’re warned.

I was at one of those resorts in Cuba.
Beach, sun, sea… All nice. Can’t be better.

One day in the hotel, I passed by a young gentleman sitting in the lobby.

I stopped, and I walked back to him and said:
“Hi, I do hope you don’t mind me interrupting you with your iPhone, but I have a question”

He saw / heard me and he stood up – This is an important sign. Politeness and respect. He is raised well.

He said “no ma’am, not at all”

Me: “The other day, I heard you talking with your friends at the beach. I didn’t want to bother you then, with your friends and all…. But one thing you said struck me.
You said ‘I do hate it man! The College, sales & marketing, and all that stuff.’

I could feel that you meant it. It came from your toes.
My question is: Why? Why do you do something you hate so much?”

He looked at me. He was a bit startled. He wanted to excuse himself. “Oh, no ma’am, it’s actually not that bad. Nothing that I can’t manage anyway, I just need to go through with it”

Me: “But, you do hate it”
He lowered his eyes. He said: “Yes….Well, ma’am, you know how it goes. My parents want it very much that I complete this study. The social norms, my girlfriend, expectations, and all that stuff”

I felt the need to give him a lecture. Which sounded pretty much like this:
“You know, you are a smart, intelligent boy. I can see that.
And you’re raised well. You should thank your parents for that one.
However, this is your life. And you live it only once.
Your parents? They are nice people but please forgive them, as they don’t know any better.
Your girlfriend? If she doesn’t see you for who you really are, …. well, you know what to do with that.
Social norms? Ha! Who cares about the norms that some other people have thought of, and above all, trying to impose on you.
This is your own life. You’re 21 and you have a whole life ahead of you.
Take responsibility of your own life and don’t use those excuses anymore.
And, if you don’t know what you really want to do, that’s ok.
Then take a break, go see the world, meet people, work as a bartender or cleaner or whatever at all those places.
I guarantee you. You’ll know what to do within one year.

You know, the youth in the Western World have many choices.
Many youngsters at the other parts of the world don’t have any choice.
So, you owe it to those who don’t have any choice that you fully use all your possibilities to find out what it is you want to do, and go do that.”

We were both in tears. He grabbed my hand and kissed it a couple of times. “I’ve never been inspired that much my whole life” he said.

Well, what does he know? He’s only 21.

“And, you’re a very good mother” he said.

I kissed him back and walked away.

Silence for me now.

Who has inspired who?

When I was young, I never thought of having children. I even never had dolls. I had my books, my marbles, and my books again.

My children happened to me.

After they were born, I went on working fulltime. At least 50-55 hours a week. And I tried to be with them in the evenings and the weekends.

I used to hear the question ‘don’t you feel guilty that you work so much?’ all the time. So I thought that I was guilty.

One day, I had enough of that. I asked myself “Bercan, stop thinking about what others think you should feel.
Do you really feel guilty?”
I decided I didn’t feel guilty. Not one bit.
I decided to take responsibility of my own life.

So I continued working, but then, at times, 60-70 hours a week.

Am I a good mother? That’s for my children to decide.

But I can tell you, I have the most fantastic children.

I’m immensely proud of them. I’m also proud of that young gentleman I met in Cuba.


Bercan Günel

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