On adventure and rebellion in Istanbul

Galata Tower in IstanbulSpecific dates zigzag through my mind, darting in and out of memories that organically pop up during any given day. April 16, my senior Prom. December 13, my Drake graduation. January 19, the first day of my first big-kid job. October 18, my first half-marathon. Friends’ and family members’ birthdays. I like how defined they are; each one apportioned 24 hours, it begins and ends. This is an obvious fact, of course, yet I seek refuge in its tangibility and envy the concrete hours, minutes and seconds that add up to one day.

It is the feelings and fears that linger long after the seconds have ticked away, embedding specific dates in my mind. Today is one such date, January 23, one I ruminated on for more than a year before lumbering into an ongoing stage of reflection. 

This day two years ago, I let rebellion and adventure blur in my mind, a phenomenon that reminds me of the classic color-changing milk experiment we do for children at the science museum where I work. Droplets of food coloring fall into a tin pan of whole milk. I like them; they’re neat and orderly, each occupying its own territory. I plunge a soap-infused Q-tip into the center of the milk, pulling the colors from their comfortable corners, swirling together until they are indistinguishable.

On January 23, 2014, I (purposefully) wandered away from my university tour group in Istanbul’s famed Grand Bazaar to meet the charming translator I had met only 13 days earlier. In that moment, I realized that my fear of rebellion had kept me from adventure; on that final day in Turkey, I couldn’t miss out on either one.

As I navigated my way from the bazaar to our meeting place, the sounds of Turkish and English, the scents of hashish and tea, the call to prayer and the hum of the city all blurred in a colorful swirl of adventure and rebellion, indistinguishable and intoxicating in their inextricability.

A hug and a hollow “I’ll see you again someday,” and it was over, leaving 21-year-old Taylor in emotional despair upon return to Iowa.

Awkwardly, slowly, lumbering once again, this specific date has transformed into a pivotal one, one I turn to, oddly, when I feel lacking in strength or resilience. The day I learned that no one owes me anything ever, and I don’t owe anyone anything either. That it’s exhilarating to let rebellion and adventure blur, to be overwhelmed by the sensory experience of abandoning my comfort zone for something indefinable.

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