A cup of black tea sits at my side, its circular shape tossing a fuzzy shadow on my childhood dresser, a physical space that houses my past and present selves in unnerving harmony. Each item on my dresser represents one self or another, and the tea cup is no different.
I never write without it, for it reminds me of many things: my relatively newfound need for caffeine, Turkey (the country that drinks more tea than any other) and, most of all, the importance of an expanded definition of love.
A year ago today, I began packing for my Jan. 9-24 trip to Turkey (a major feat for me, given I’m typically pack in a fury the night before). While I gained new experiences and learned new things on the trip — including a taste for tea and an interest in Arabic — above all, I learned it’s possible to fall in love with a place.
Too often, the definition love is limited to familial or romantic relationships.
And when you go abroad, no one informs you that you might fall in love with a country. That it will be intoxicating, thrilling, nerve-wracking and sometimes, painful, all at once.
I think of Turkey every day, remembering the time I sipped sketchy pomegranate juice from an Istanbul street vendor’s limping cart. The time I admired the Arabic writing in the Hagia Sophia — and realized a nagging desire to read the swirly script.
Every time I find myself flipping through my Turkey photos, I remind myself that love manifests in myriad ways, and I’d be silly to trivialize or ignore them.
I love writing and its role as my go-to source of healing.
I love the Arabic language because it’s beautiful, and it reminds me not to take myself too seriously.
I love life-writing. Even as it invites me to explore others’ worlds, it subtly forces me to examine my own.
As I sip my obligatory writing-time tea, two things happen: I time-travel back to a country I love. I remember to actively expand my definition of love.
I’m grateful to Turkey for tea, baklava, Arabic and questionable fruit juice. But more than anything, I’m grateful for Turkey for reminding me every day that it’s possible to fall in love wherever I am.