1.How to pronounce my name: I’ll start with my name because if moving to Canada taught me something, that is nobody knows how to pronounce my name. For the last year, I’ve been called as Esem, Echem, Ekem, etc. but none of them was correct.
The C’s are read like G’s in Turkish, so the proper pronunciation of my name would be “A Gem” for my first name and “U Gel” for my surname in English. Ecem literally means “My Queen” in English (I know, mothers!) and I quite enjoyed my name while I was growing up — especially because there was usually only one other girl who had the same name as me in all the schools I’ve attended, so I always felt special in a way (till I started to hear it everywhere four years ago; apparently, there’s an Ecem trend going on in the generation a decade younger than me).
2. I’ve been reading books since I was three: My mother taught me to read when I was three years old because looking at the pictures in the books wasn’t enough for me anymore. Growing up, there were times in my life when the books were literally the only friends I had (they got me through the horrible times when I was bullied by other kids in new schools); and because our financial situation wasn’t good (my parents got divorced when I was one and my mother raised me all by herself) I used to read a book many times. To give an example, I met Harry Potter books when I was eleven and read the first and the second books fifteen times each. Books have always been my escape from the real world, and I couldn’t get through with life if they weren’t there for me. So far, I have read 1,105 books (it’s not as many as some of you guys have read) and I meticulously keep track of the books I read in a great book website named Goodreads (if you’re also on GR add me as a friend: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16307241-ecem-y-cel).
3. I was going to be a violinist: At the age of three, I saw my mother doing something so damn magical one day, and after watching her from the doorway doing her magic, I firmly decided at that moment that whatever she was doing, I would do it one day. She was playing the violin.
My family has many musicians in it; my mother used to play the violin, my father played the drums, my aunt is a traditional Turkish music chorus singer, I have other relatives who are violinists, composers, and opera singers. So, I was already familiar with music at that age, but seeing my mother playing the violin changed something in me. Growing up, I burned with the passion for playing the violin but we didn’t have the money for the lessons etc., so I had to wait until I got my chance in high school.
I passed the high school of fine arts exam when I turned thirteen and learned to play the violin. I practiced day and night without complaining; I wanted to become better as soon as possible. My dream was to become a virtuoso and play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D with a symphony orchestra one day. But I had horrible teachers in high school who kept saying, “Of course you’re not going to be a violinist, you can only be a teacher, it’s stupid to dream that high at your age, you should’ve started to play it at 5 or 6.” They caused me so much stress that I got both ulcer and reflux at fourteen, usually finding myself in the emergency rooms. My stomach hasn’t really recovered ever since.
One day, a Turkish violinist who played as one of the first violins in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra came to our high school for a workshop. He was so amazing, he made my blood boil, so I decided to play for him even though one of my fingers had been injured and I hadn’t practiced the violin for two weeks previously. He told me I was a talented violinist, that he really liked my playing. That evening, right after his concert, I went to talk to him more in the backstage, and he invited me to Berlin to become his pupil. Now, fifteen years later, it still hurts me to think I had to kiss my dream goodbye because I had no money or means to go to Berlin to become his pupil.
Two years later, I passed the undergraduate exam of a Turkish Music State Conservatory in İstanbul, played in some classical and jazz music youth orchestras as one of the first violins, and tried to be the pupil of some other well-known violinist, but he was drowned in his narcissism too much and treated me like a pariah that I had to draw the line somewhere. At that point, I had had an endoscopy and learned that my stomach was about to die from all that stress, so I turned my whole life and dreams around and put my health first. I quit music.
4. I became a translator instead: After saying my music career goodbye, I took the university exam again and became a student of the Translation and Interpreting Studies program. I was happy there, more or less. My dream was translating books, of course, and I achieved this one dream. After working as a classical music magazine translator for a couple of years, I translated a book on classical music composers and their compositions. A year later, I had the chance to translate Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” from English to Turkish (I translated the last paragraph at 6:00 am after staying up all night because I was late for my deadline, and I cried so much because I had to say goodbye to Buck).
Last year I moved to Ottawa, Canada to complete my Master’s in World Literatures and Cultures program at the University of Ottawa, so I stopped translating more books since I didn’t have time for it anymore. Currently, I’m doing my PhD in Translation Studies at uOttawa, and hoping to translate more books one day (or better, write one).
5. My life as an (almost) Otaku: In my first year of Bachelor’s in Translation, a classmate gave me a CD of a Japanese anime called “One Piece”. It’s about a seventeen-year-old boy who has eaten a fruit that gave him special powers and sails out to become a pirate and find a great treasure called One Piece. Now, eight years later, it’s still airing (it’s about to reach its 900th episode) and I still watch it. It’s the sole reason I have watched 5,939 episodes from 149 different anime, read over 200 volumes of manga, grown an interest in Japanese literature and culture, learned Japanese and got my N5 certificate in Japanese Language Proficiency Exam. I can cook more Japanese meals than I can cook Turkish meals, I love Japanese dramas, and have never been but wish to visit, even live in Japan for a while. Not to forget that I dream to translate a Japanese novel into Turkish someday.
6. I wrote my Master’s thesis on Haruki Murakami: As I said above, I did my Master’s in World Literatures and Cultures program last year, and for the first time in my life, I was academically free to write my thesis on whatever I want. So, I wanted to write about magical realism in Japanese literature but my professors found the subject too broad and told me I had to narrow it down. After that, I focused on Haruki Murakami’s use of magical realism and its relationship with the identity search of the protagonists in two of his novels. I titled it as, “The Fantastic Path Toward Self: Magical Realism and Identity in Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase and Kafka on the Shore”.
7. I’ve been a Beatlemaniac ever since I was fifteen: My best friend and I discovered The Beatles in high school and I guess it’s safe to say it changed our lives. I fell in love with Paul McCartney and she fell in love with John Lennon and we wrote a story about two high school girls (us) and two high school boys (younger selves of John and Paul) who meet in a fine arts school, fall in love and have these adventures growing up together. We filled ten thick notebooks for two years and wrote a trilogy with these four characters. We wrote about everything you could imagine: love, sex, drama, break-ups, car accidents, kidnappings, attempted rapes, attempted murders, suicides, attempted suicides, even more car accidents, illegitimate children, oh-my-god-one-of-the-main-characters-is-dead, oh-my-god-one-of-the-main-characters-won’t-be-able-to-walk-again, pregnancies, more make-ups/break-ups, oh-my-god-two-of-the-main-characters-got-engaged-to-other-people, weddings, more children, etc. The stories were silly, but we had a blast writing them, they were our way of escaping our boring, stressful, adolescent life. After all, not all the girls find the chance of dating Paul McCartney and John Lennon fifty years after their adolescence period, and twenty-five years after Lennon’s death.
I became somewhat of a walking encyclopedia on The Beatles during those years too, but I don’t remember that much anymore. I collected their albums, posters, books, LPs, DVDs, merchandise, etc. I also saved money to buy my first (and the cheapest) guitar to learn to play The Beatles songs because one night, John Lennon visited me in my dream, wearing the white suit he wore in Abbey Road, and told me he would teach me how to play the guitar so I can play his songs. I taught myself how to play the chords and I think Yes It Is was the first song I’ve ever played on the guitar. I also wrote some silly songs with bad English, and my guitar playing is only good for drunk ears.
8. I have irrational fears: When I was a kid, I used to have this irrational fear whenever I looked out the window or sat on a balcony that someone in a car passing in the night would come and shoot me with a gun. I even wrote a poem about it: https://medium.com/@ecemyucel89/her-biggest-fear-e72e1dfdde1f
I’m also afraid of snakes though I haven’t seen one up close so far (and I hope to keep it that way). My worst nightmares always have snakes in them. You don’t know how many times I woke up and checked for snakes in my bed.
9. The jobs I had: In high school, our teachers would take me and my other classmates to various fairs such as Food and Drink Fair or Technology Fair or cocktail parties held by the city’s chamber of commerce so we can play music in the background. In these places, we played for hours, for free, and were only given a bad meal after playing long hours. Maybe those teachers were paid instead of us, who knows. My best friend and I tried to turn those bad situations into our gain by taking bags of food samples (like noodles, cranberry juices, bread, etc.) and bringing them to our houses to feed our families (well, not like they depended on us to be fed, but still) or by drinking the whiskey of the chamber of commerce (it was my first time drinking whiskey).
I also played my violin at some cafes, birthday parties, hotels, and even at the beach as a street musician to earn money during high school. One summer, I worked as an assistant in a photography shop at a big hotel too (the customers and the hot weather were the worst).
In my university years, I volunteered to work as a manga translator to get some professional experience. Then, I worked as a freelance translator in a translation company, as an in-house editor of a classical music magazine, and a publishing house, as a freelance translator and transcriptionist of the said classical music magazine along with a travel magazine and an education magazine. I translated children’s books, a non-fiction book and a novel for different publishing houses.
Now, I work as a graduate research assistant on a theatre project at my university.
10. How I started to write: I started to write little stories and poems when I was nine. I was writing poems mostly because I had a childhood sweetheart who also wrote me love poems. Back then, I used to read the great Turkish poets and try to write like them. When I was ten, I won the second place in a short story contest held among the elementary schools of the city I lived in. I wrote a one-page story about libraries for the National Library Week. I have won no writing contests ever since (not that I join them often), it was the peak of my writing career.
During middle school, I tried to write epic fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings or any other books Tolkien wrote. I still have some of my notes, and I still admire the imagination I had in those days. After that, other than my fictional love affair with a Beatle, and a couple of stories I wrote during my university years, I didn’t write much until a year ago.
A year ago, I joined the writing website Scribophile, found great friends to encourage me to keep writing, and now I’m here with you guys, and I keep writing.
Thanks for reading! ❤
P.S.: Everyone I know was tagged by others, so I don’t have anybody to tag. Instead, I call out to anyone who wants to join this prompt and hasn’t been tagged yet. Cheers x