Today Is My Birthday, Age 35, I Don’t Know Where I’m Down The Road
In the last couple of days, I’m jokingly telling my friends: “We’ve come halfway down the road.” There’s a famous poem that everyone in Turkey knows, called “Age 35.”
The reason why this brilliant poem (to read it) http://siir.gen.tr/siir/c/cahit_sitki_taranci/otuz_bes_yas_siiri.htm).
written by Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı who was born in 1910, became so famous other than the fact that it was beautifully written is because it’s a meaningful piece that makes us understand that, just like other living things on earth, human life has an end to it.
After this poem which is written in the first half of the 20th century, conditions and the human nature have changed a lot. In the last century, hard living conditions, problems that arose from malnutrition, epidemics, medicine being helpless for most of the diseases of the time and the two World Wars that took place were factors that shortened the lifespan. In the first half of the 21st century that we live in, living standards in many countries around the world increased, the nutrition problem around the world, except the continent of Africa (actually, because of the constantly increasing population and the limited number of resources, water and food scarcity will continue to be a threat for mankind) was solved with technologies in this field (e.g. soilless greenhouse), cures for lots of diseases that were considered to be fatal were found with the advances in medicine and World Wars didn’t take place (unfortunately, there’s still war going on in some countries) and this in turn extended the lifespan. These days, the number of people who live more than 90 years increase day by day. In other words, if there are no accidents, age 35 is not halfway down the road, but it is 2/5 of it.
If we have to study my life, I can say that I went through three stages. I will write more about them later, because I believe that my experiences will be beneficial to a lot of people. Shortly, the first stage consists of the times that were the most comfortable, beautiful and farthest from any sorts of responsibilities.
As the first children born as the third generation of the Süzer Family, I can say that we, my twin brother Baran and I, had a happy childhood. We grew up in a crowded family (other than our parents, my grandfather, my grandmother, my uncles and my aunts were in charge), in İstanbul and in Gaziantep. Also, my elementary school, high school and university years all have their own beauty in them.
Really, life was so pleasant during the years I went to school.
Of course, there was an end to this bed of roses.
While I was working in Generali Sigorta in America, my father told me to come back and with that, the second stage of my life began. I immediately went to the military service, thinking I would go into business life right after. The military service I did in Denizli for 8 months was not at all easy for me. I got to truly know our country and people during the military service. Although it was tough, military service has an important place in my personal development.
On the day that my service ended, our bank was confiscated and we clearly understood that life was not a bed of roses anymore. I’ll write about this subject later on in detail. However, for now I can say that my entrance into business life was like someone who’s about to learn how to swim being pushed from behind and falling into a wavy sea to which he was looking from the dock. There was such a view in the second stage of my life: Kentbank was confiscated, our reputation was damaged, all our bank accounts were frozen, and we had gone into the most critical last two months for the opening of the world-famous hotel chain, Ritz-Carlton, etc. We went through many more painful and rough times. Thank God, we overcame all of these. Of course it wasn’t easy. For years, we have patiently worked day and night to solve these problems and we found a solution to each of them one by one. We have won all the court cases about the bank, including the ones with the State Council and the European Court of Human Rights.
The third stage of my life began last year. When I began my career in the family business, I promised myself that if things go well in this company in the next 10 years, I would open a new page in my life and would go into businesses that I would truly enjoy and that would excite me. Last year, in November, I quit the position of CEO of KFC and Pizza Hut Turkey and went into the solar energy sector.
In this third stage, everything is different for me. I determine the rules to a considerable extent in this stage. I try to meet the friends whom I enjoy being with, I eat the food I like at certain intervals and go to my favorite restaurants. I listen to music, read books and watch documentaries that I enjoy. Of course, all of these require huge effort, because we all live an accelerated life and most of the time we can’t catch its speed.
Maybe, the biggest difference between my past and present is this. In the past, everything was calmer. The limited number of excitements in our routine lives could be planned. Today, each and every day has a different excitement. This can be pleasant at times but sometimes it can cause serious stress on the person. Some nights, I can lose my sleep.
Actually, there are lots of differences between my past and my present. For example:
In the past, I wasn’t able to eat anything but the Turkish cuisine. In fact, I remember my French friends taking me to a sushi restaurant for the first time in my life in 1995 when I was a freshman in university. I almost threw up when I first tasted sushi. Today, I feel like eating sushi almost every week and I can enjoy different cuisines (Peru, Thailand and Italian cuisines are my favorites. Of course Turkish cuisine is still my favorite).
Before doing something, I used to think a lot about the issue on every aspect in the past. Today, I immediately act upon my thoughts, just like Nike’s motto (Just Do It). The reason is that I saw that if you make a mistake, you can correct it later on. So in other words, taking action without the fear of making mistakes is far better than not taking action at all.
In the past, the mosaic of our country was a source of joy, because everyone was learning new things from each other. Today, there are separations in our country that get deeper and deeper every day. So, unfortunately we see a distinction like “those of us and those that are not.” This is the biggest threat formed for our country.
We got carried away by the Turkish pop rush that started with Ajda Pekkan, Sezen Aksu and Aşkın Nur Yengi in the past. Today, I enjoy a lot of different music genres like bossa nova, jazz, rock, salsa, reggae, hip-hop etc. (Unfortunately we can’t say that Turkish pop music has made a major progress since then. It needs to improve. It should leave imitation aside and create pieces in their own originalities).
In the past, we used to watch American movies only but now we watch Turkish movies more than before. Of course I enjoy watching Asian and European movies besides these. They reflect the culture of the country in the best way and this gives me pleasure.
While going to the same places in the past, now I like to visit different places in our country (Mardin, Manisa, Balıkesir, Van, etc.). I enjoy visiting abroad (Costa Rica, India, Argentina, and Kazakhstan etc.) and getting to know different cultures.
The internet caused a major change in our life. Business life speeded up. We have to respond to email s within a certain amount of time. Being in contact with all my friends in Turkey and those all around the world thanks to the social media and being able to share the work I do with them is a fabulous thing.
All of these are changes in my life related to maturity. People can also change physically. I’m a bit lucky about this. For now, I haven’t changed much physically (my middle and high school friends that I haven’t seen for many years can still recognize me), but I know that this won’t be the case 10 years from now. People can change physically but the important thing is to keep the coherence of the soul. Here, I would like to list the elements in my life that haven’t changed and won’t change in the future:
The commitment to and the love for my family,
Taking action after thinking conscientiously,
My hunger for learning and my curious character,
The respect I have for different cultures,
My ability to empathize,
Always being proud of being a citizen of the Turkish Republic and being a world citizen at the same time,
The wish I have to always improve myself: To me, everyone can improve in every age. I always read, I closely follow technology and I go to courses for my personal development when I find time for it. For example, I learned Spanish after age 30 by going to weekend courses. Now I attend sign language courses. I read tens of articles every week about solar energy. I closely follow the technological developments in the fields I’m interested in.
All in all, I experienced lots of things so far up to this age. I can say that I have experiences that few people of my age are able to reach. I will continue to improve myself, will show the necessary effort for the people close to me to be well and will work in order for mankind to make progress.
I’m 35 years old; I don’t know where I am down the road, but here is something I know: I will continue to contribute more to mankind each and every day. While doing so, I won’t disregard taking pleasure out of life.