The New American Dream: Quit Your Job

Did you know that the term American Dream was first used by the American historian James Truslow Adams in his book "The Epic of America" in 1931? Fannie Mae later adopted it and used in a marketing campaign to sell mortgages to people who didn't necessarily need them and that's how we began to associate the concept with buying big houses to live the dream.


If you are at least fifty-year-old today, there is a great chance that you've been lied to all your childhood. You were told to get perfect scores on your tests at high school so that you could get into an excellent college! Or even a mediocre one, as long as you held a college degree in your adulthood. This was the most assured and respectable way of building an affluent and successful life for yourself.


Once you graduated from college as an enthusiastic, idealistic twenty something, who is ready to take on the world, you had to face yet another obstacle standing between you and your well-respected life: an entry level job. Competition for those is so fierce today that your college degree doesn't automatically qualify you for that low-paying, soul-sucking, mind-disturbing entry-level job at a big corporation. You have to have connections.

Networking opportunities come at their best when you join yet another highly respected, established academic entity; aka the Ivy League. I should know; my 30-year old husband is still paying student loans and is preparing to take on even more because he feels he has to. If we're lucky, our life will officially begin in our fifties.

Two more years in academia minus another $100,000 in your bank account and viola, you are finally worthy of a mid-tier, full-time job, where you'll be making just enough to go to the movies and maybe take one vacation in the Caribbean once a year after student debt, rent, car loan (strongly advised against), groceries, bills, in short - a life is paid for.

Don't you even think about discarding the vacation line item from your budget either because by the time you're allowed to take one, you will be burned out from your 60+hour work weeks. Take the damn vacation because if you don't, you're risking suicide, murder or being laid off at best. Not worth it.

Lucky for us, this no longer is the only formula to establish a happy, successful and well-respected life, where you are able to earn an acceptable amount of money to support your life style and then save some.

We cannot deny our obsession with money, can we? So much so that we start valuing wrong qualities in a person and focusing on the wrong goals like titles and careers that we think will bring us powerful titles. The point we keep missing though is all of this happens in our own sad, little head. In reality, the value and importance we place on our title only matters to us. There will always be someone with a bigger and better title, who earns more than you do.

We can't respect a concept; we have to respect the tangible results. Fighting for a title alone is sad and as funny as it sounds, that's what we start doing once we spend too much time within corporate mechanisms.

I was constantly asked what my title was when I held a full-time job. "What do you do" dominates our entire conversations at events or social weekend brunches. In fact, I am still asked that question by every new person I meet. I can't escape it. It's like my title is the only qualifier people will accept to mentally place me somewhere on their social mapping.

And I am a very social human being; I want to keep meeting new people so I accept that I need a job and a title to keep being included in the conversation. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I roll out my new title to you:

 professional ripe avocado picker at grocery stores in New York.

Catchy and a very well-respected title, if you ask me. I eat a lot of avocados.

What I do with my free time though is travel (a lot) and write (even more) and I do these things because they make me happy, not rich.

Not so long ago, I decided that finding meaning in one's life -without shadow of a doubt- is more important than finding money. It has to be prioritized over anything and I mean anything else before you can declare yourself a well balanced, healthy and happy individual, who sets out to accomplish countless personal and professional goals like changing the world for the better, contributing to society, helping others improve their lives, getting married, having kids, bringing them up as happy, healthy individuals and so on. Jesus, buy a house if that's still your dream!

But know this: if you're not happy, you will not be healthy. And if you're not healthy, you will NEVER be rich. That's just science.

I want to leave you with this scientific fact and promise to tell you more about how I personally convinced myself to quit my full time job and what I've been doing since then.

This is an open ended conversation and everybody is entitled to their own opinions as to how a life should be spent but I, Duygu Aktan, have decided that my version of the American Dream is to find happiness and go from there. If I end up as a home-owner somewhere along the way because of my happy state of mind, sure! By all means, I am not a saint, who is ready to give up all earthly possessions because I choose happiness. I like owning things, I still like money believe it or not. BUT I no longer kid myself into believing that money will bring happiness.

Money brings things and experiences. Happiness brings money.  



Writing In The Time of Snapchat

Snapchat wants you to send animated images or short summaries of short videos. If you have to type, you can do so within the borders of your phone screen, once. Two text boxes are not allowed, I think. I am 31 years old so don't quote me on that. But I did attempt to write a funny (?) sentence on a serious image once; which delivered zero mind-blowing results, whatsoever! Turns out we're supposed to do it the other way around with serious blurb on funny images. Mine was a full on sentence with a subject, verb and even...wait for object. I hit the character limit mid-way through, of course.

Twitter allows for 140 characters for self expression (God! Was it always this short?). Most tweets on my newsfeed look something like:

Live: on #kindle new #scifi #book #read #amwriting #write @kindledownloadlink #spacebook

Too painful to keep scrolling down. I stop and rest my phone on the table, face turned down. I want to check writing platforms that are still not completely mobilized. I log in to Medium .

One after another, I am bombarded with warning messages on how long my read will take. I am welcomed by a two-minute read, five people hearted it; it can hardly be worthy of reading. Three-minute read, no hearts, next. Four-minute read. Ouuv 1K hearts. Score! This has to be good. Let's see. A self-proclaimed expert on social media marketing discusses the perils of generational gaps in content creation for unicorns. ehem...I whisper to myself softly this is not interesting. I am more in search of thought-provoking new ideas that will feed my curiosity and maybe make me giggle a little bit. I am not in search of the next Shakespeare. I know the guy wrote 5000++ pages of stuff in characters that are much smaller than the standard 12-point Word documents come with. I'm not naive and am in fact fully aware that the best of the writers use 1.5 line-spaced paragraphs if not the whole two. So even the long essays are only 2016-long, which is short for 19th and most of 20th centuries. 

There are two major road blocks standing in the way of thought-provoking, new ideas being freely expressed. One, they cannot be fictional or else! Our busy executives, great CEOs, the hardworking little rascals of today, can't waste their time with...gasp...fictional content. What? It's not even real? Also, why isn't it communicated in a numbered list format?


  1. Write shorter.
  2. Use emoticons.
  3. Add images.
  4. Use links, no need for grammatically correct sentence forms.
  5. You might as well make a video for it.

Problem two: thought-provoking, new ideas require full sentences to be explained. I can't chop my subjects off, shorten my verbs and add annoying hashtags to my objects. In fact, let me apologize in advance for I might even use a full paragraph with a few sentences back to back to explain one part of the concept to you. It will add to my reading minutes, which won't intimidate only three people on this planet, two of which are my mother and my husband. So popularity is not covered under this warranty.

Dear impatient, young person,

I promise you though; if we begin to read properly again instead of skimming through, scrolling down or just looking at the GIFs (I have one coming, don't you worry!) we will continue to see genuine content pouring in through the gates of online and/or offline platforms. Let modern Tolstoys experiment with style; let Pamuks of today write paragraph long sentences but please stop trying to shorten the way we express ourselves. If you push me too much, I will have to turn to my greatest possession for help; my

Unless coldblooded, sheep-biting blockhead is something you particularly enjoy, I will write pages full of long sentences and guess will read them because one day they will get 1K++ hearts and you will think, oh this must be a good read. Until then, off to @snapchat #livenow #later #trending


In a Committed Relationship With...

One of my new year resolutions was to read (at least) 50 books in 2016. Yes I, too, have those and I find them quite the proof that a person is an actual, living, breathing human being and not a robo-survey taker. That’s how I test myself anyways.  

To read at least 50 books means that I have to get under my belt four books a month minimum and one extra every six months. That’s quite an undertaking for many of us in generations X to Z. It seems that only retired people might have enough time to read four books (and more) a month these days because they only have 25 friends on Facebook (50 if they have a large family with numerous kids and grandkids, names of some occasionally skip their minds) and haven’t yet turned other social media platforms into a living hell (Beware Snapchat! They’re watching you). Other times, they’re just bored and need to fill their time with hobbies that won’t require a spouse’s participation (nagging). Who knows what the circumstances are? One thing’s for sure; no one has time to read.  

I beg to differ but more important – I know telling something has yet to work in life if you want to change people’s minds so I set out to show that reading isn't about having enough time or not having any. Time is the irrelevant element in this equation; unlike desire. One of my closest friends has once told me (and I quote) that whenever she gets a chance to read something, she prefers to read useful articles about her industry that will benefit her in advancing her career and achieving her goals.

WOW. Dostoevsky just shed a tear on the other side and Hemingway had to take out a handkerchief to wipe it.

Long story short (see I already know I’m losing some readers at paragraph four, page freaking one) I decided to take on a mission to read 50 books in 2016 (such a brave heart I turned out to be). My purpose? Is to prove to my generation and probably few others to follow that reading is pure fun and doesn’t require a person to find the time. We can only find things that are lost. Time restarts itself every day giving us a new opportunity to not lose it so why worry so much?

Today is February 21, 2016 and I am happy to report that I am well on schedule, having enjoyed companionship of five books already with three more next in line before the month ends.

So far, I have read (and reread some parts of) the below pieces of fictional and nonfictional literature and better yet, internalized their core messages and already applied the new skills I acquired through these books in real life.


failed to put the fourth book in my read basket. Will make up for it in February. 


still debating what the fifth book should be. Any suggestions? 

In all fairness, a 2-week travel to Brazil slowed my reading schedule down but never stopped it. I will of course share my life-changing experiences in this beautiful part of the world, where I honestly think the creator was a bit more generous with its imagination while us, the humans were destructive enough to shadow its beauty,  without fail.

Just in case you don’t believe I can keep up the pace (or interest), below is a commitment contract that I learned existed thanks to a book called Carrots and Sticks

by Ian Ayres. His ideas around commitment are actually very impressive and well-worth fifteen minutes of your time. (You can find them here to dwell on the subject). If I fail at my mission, I swear to donate money to Donald Trump. That’s how serious I am. Also if you want to follow my progress more closely, let’s be friends on Goodreads and you might even catch a few of my thoughts and ideas on what I read if you fancy.

Game on.


Happy Baby

It is a typical Friday; I have to agree with my immediate boss for sixteen times, fourteen of which I strongly despise and the other two times I am too hungry to start a revolution I know I can’t see through so I say “absolutely” and go for Starbucks instead. Revolutionizing corporate America will have to be carried out another time. Totally stay tuned.

On my way back home, I have to listen to a homeless preacher preaching about “JESUS” on the train. Sure, he is loud and smells a bit but a bit is better than a lot and he makes me day-dream about changing the way Jesus looked. Like, what if we shaved his beard off completely and gave him the allure and charisma of a strong leader we follow today. Obama maybe? A black Jesus? Hold that thought for another day, for sure. But basically, salvation is not going to come from Jesus tonight. He might save; but not me. On this particular Friday night, yoga will save me, not because I am a Hindu but because I like breathing and stretching in a safe environment where a pose named tree is considered legal (I’m watching you. You know who you are) and nobody judges you for perfectionism over downward-facing dog in, well, perfect form.

With a towel in my hands and class pass that gives me access to eternal and internal peace, I walk right in to my yoga class, grab a mat, not be disgusted by the several thousand people before me doing long, relaxing child’s poses on it and dive straight into action, as dutifully as a girl scout on cookie mission.

One perfect, harmonized, synchronized om starts it all, though some people are definitely slacking. They don’t om; they expect you to do the job for them even when the job is to relax; ugh typical! But this is not the time or place to rant; this is where I must let go so I stop thinking and just keep oming no matter how some of my yogi neighbors seem to regard the whole notion as too weird and would not let their voice boxes participate in the action. Please, they have standards sister and I, the overly enthusiastic omer, just fell below them. Moving on.

For the beginning poses some yoga teachers take the peaceful road and start with an easy breathing exercise while others make you feel like they’ve been handed their yoga teaching certificate by Gandhi himself. They do not joke around and command for a perfect head stand right away. Just joking. We’re not on the Indian Himalayas; this is the Upper West Side and we are in a yoga class full of middle-aged Jewish women and three mixed-race men. I am pretty proud to say that one of them is my Turkish-American husband. I love it when a large man enjoys his yoga and religiously follows the instructor’s position commands. He oms, too! I definitely hit the jackpot with him.

Between the warm-up poses and finishing touches on extreme stretching, you spend about an hour taking a trip among poses that are named after surprising things from an interesting palette of animals to common house-hold items and occasionally planets. Half-cobra, pigeon, cat, half moon, cow, chair, warrior, triangle and eagle are among the favorites of our yoga teacher. Then of course there is the happy baby pose. Apparently babies become really playful when they’re happy and for a ten pound, twenty inch creature who is as flexible as a rubber band, it’s not a problem to lay flat on its back, rocking from side to side while holding its two flexed feet with its hands on each side. That particular movement might not be a problem for me (a fully-grown adult) either but I also painfully remember at times that babies are not discouraged from relieving themselves of internal burdens in the form of gas.

Wouldn’t it be extremely comfortable to just let go of a long, hard day’s post-lunch gaseous accumulations while we’re in the happy baby pose? Wouldn’t it just make us so much happier and thus better in line with our happy baby pose? There’s a noble Turkish saying that goes like this: bad things can’t stay in good people. Farts: bad. Hardworking, stress-prone, yoga-loving people: good. I am just going to go ahead and declare farting as socially acceptable and in fact encouraged in happy baby poses in all yoga classes around the nation with an ultimate goal of legitimizing the practice on a global (intergalactic) level.

I am only kidding, dear reader. Why so serious?! I never fart. Do you? Eew! It’s like I’m too noble to execute such a vulgar gesture. Even if I did, I am sure it would smell like fresh strawberry milkshake. Yeah, that’s what I want to leave you with; refreshing clouds of strawberry incense coming out of yogi bottoms in happy baby poses. Om motherflowers.


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