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Longevity and quality of life

Longevity and quality of life

18 Jun 2021

Two consecutive articles by Serdar Turgut on excellent topics are occupying my mind: the first was “Live Longer” and the second was “Improving the Quality of Life”.

I agree with him on both accounts. I have always felt that these issues were related to each other, even intertwined.

Turgut addressed the issue of improving the quality of life in terms of the approach of different cities (I think European) to their inhabitants. He evaluated the use of bicycles, the comfort levels of bicycle use in each city, and even the attention to detail and effort spent in meeting the needs of cyclists. 

He concluded his article by saying, “I know that we all deserve this kind of life in Istanbul and that it will happen one day, even if it won’t be in my lifetime.” While the heart wants what he suggests, my mind says, ‘wait a minute’.

I think Istanbul is a very tiring city in terms of daily life. New York and London are also demanding cities, but Istanbul has its own Turkish style tedium, its Middle Eastern culture. In fact, this has become even more evident lately. I’m sorry, but sadly, I can’t fathom ‘the quality life’ that Serdar Turgut expects “to be in the future”, and from which deep end this quality life will rise to existence. 

My friends know that I am someone who loves and misses that innocent life of the 60s and 70s. I have always been fond of the naïveté particular to the films from those years, and “talking with the TRT lingo”, which was the subject of Cem Yılmaz’s first stand-up show. Perhaps because I was a child from the 70s towards the 80s, I always feel like life was ‘more innocent back then’.

Now, respect, seek and you can’t find it. Love, no way. Courtesy, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen it. When this is the case, it doesn’t matter whether you are on a bicycle, on a motorbike, or on foot, whenever you have to be around people, you have to endure the stress caused by the confusion, the rush and other similar phenomena.

Serdar Turgut concluded the penultimate paragraph by saying, “I am after ways to enhance the lives that can exist with less, better quality, and considerate consumption in common living spaces in a planned and programmed manner”.

I don’t know about the kind of considerate consumption he refers to, which can be promoted to planned and programmed living spaces, but I think that people are starting to gain awareness and act more consciously about these things, albeit slowly.

Now, let’s move to the most important aspect of human life for me, the act of ‘living fully’, which Turgut does not mention in his article.

Of course it is good to live a long and healthy life.

Of course, it is good to try and live in quality with both the opportunities that can be offered in common spaces but also with our individual consciousness.

But there is also living life to the fullest, which is the one that I value the most among these three.

Those who have listened to my TED talk know that I have tried and tested three different business sectors in my life. 

My first career path was in the automobile industry. I had a car dealership for seven years between 1987-1994, and as someone who was both selling and racing cars, I had a job that I enjoyed very very very much and years of youth that were very pleasant—I will talk about the various sports I pursued in a little bit.

I lost everything I had during the ‘93 crisis.

Then I got into the catering business; I had three restaurants, two of which were small. It just so happens that, I was in this industry for seven years, too. My best days were the days when the restaurants opened, the days when they were full, and when the reservations had to be made weeks in advance (thanks to an article by Serdar Turgut, another coincidence).

I witnessed pilfering, convulsions, mistakes and disruptions, which took years from my life. Still, overall, it was an invaluable experience for me.

My second bankruptcy happened during the 2001 crisis.

Yes, I underwent two big bankruptcies in my life, and I went through some very difficult days during these times, just as I had very pleasant ones.

Now there is MSA, and I am in the education sector. In fact, the whole idea of MSA was fueled by the need for trained staff that I’ve observed and experienced around me my whole life.

MSA has developed, and its accomplishments have deservedly crossed the borders of Turkey. Now Moscow, Vienna, Lisbon and others are about to line up next to Istanbul.

The know-how we have accumulated at MSA and the system we have established are about to be adapted into training for other occupational groups. Three more vocational schools in Istanbul are on the way in addition to the school of culinary arts.

MSA has led us to branch out as well. In addition to its global organizational skills, MSA continues to make me and my colleagues elated and proud, with its magnificent museum and library, which I had mentioned in one of my articles, its radio, which recently became the talk of town, its training restaurant inside the Sabancı Museum.

Let’s talk a little bit about sports.

I have had hernia operations for my both my cervical and spinal discs; in fact I’ve even had operations on the same herniated disc twice. 

This must be expected after 30 years of horse riding, and hundreds of falls. Not to mention the reverse blows one gets on the saddle.

From championships in the Balkans to those in Turkey, from name cups to club competitions, I had an unforgettable equestrian life. With my victories as well as my losses, my rights and my wrongs, and my dear friends, I have a saddlebag full of horse riding that I would not give up for the life of me.

I have been involved with motor sports for ten years; I participated in rallies as well as Formula 3 competitions. Here’s another sports activity where you are constantly sitting down and being subjected to nonstop impact.

I have won races, just as I have lost them. There were those when I was able to cross the finish line, and those where I ended up opening my eyes at the hospital. But still, I have no regrets.

Oh, by the way, when you add the two major racing accidents to the tally, you also need to account for a skull fracture and a few more rib fractures in the mix.

When you are in motor sports, you can’t help but not get involved in go-karting; in fact, it is the most enjoyable of all motor sports. Of course, if you ride without rib protection like me, you will get hurt… I guess I must have broken 5 to 10 ribs there.

There is also the time when I hit a racer whose car had stopped at my blind spot during a race in Izmir, and because my hands had been on the steering wheel when I hit him from behind, both of my wrists were broken.

Do accidents only happen during a race, of course not, there are also the leisure-time mishaps. I fell from an ATV in the forest, and broke my shoulder; I fell from the scooter in Büyükada, and broke my shoulder blade.

And these are the ones that initially come to mind – imagine the ones that I forget!

Most were due to gallivanting about…

Even during my most penniless and most difficult times, I tried to travel every inch of Turkey and Europe, either by car or motorbike, and to see many different countries as much as I could afford it.

That childlike desire to do something prevented me from getting depressed or giving up when faced with challenges.

When I met my wife, I didn’t have enough money to take her out to dinner, but now we have an occupation we love (and dreams about that occupation), two girls we are in love with (and dreams for them), a home we love (and dreams about the future) and the devotion and the desire to sustain these as long and as healthily as we can.

And, of course our beloved friends. The people we help out when we can. What could make a better cohort, a richer community?

In my previous article titled Trees and Forests, I talked about Sibel, a friend of mine of 40 years, who now lives in Michigan.

Sibel is a therapist, with many years of experience, and she works, and in fact (as I understand it) prefers to work with people who have experienced trauma in the past, such as the loss of a loved one or people suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. She gives them psychological counseling. The name of this discipline is psychotherapy…

While we were sailing in Dalyan, the subject of our conversation (without going into the private details regarding clients) turned into the levels of contentedness versus the regrets of people who knew that they would be dying soon.

She had never heard of anyone, who knew they would die in a month or six, and was preoccupied with money, houses or cars. Instead, they only talked about their families, friends, their travels and experiences, their joys or sorrows.

Their regrets were not due to the things they couldn’t buy, but because of the people they had hurt.

Their joys were not because they had grown their businesses, but because they had cultivated friendships and memories.

The years I have lived have left countless scars on my body as well as countless marks on my memory.

Do I regret them? No.

Am I living fully? Probably.

Am I living well? As much as I can.

Will I live for a long time? I hope so.