1) Our Origins, Discontentment #1, Welcome to USA. We were quite well off in Turkey, part of the jet set in the city, us the children attending private
boarding schools, summer camps, parties, etc. But
mother, who is a second cousin of father, from a
very-well-to-do branch of the family (her father a
medical doctor), who had attended American schools,
did not quite fit in with father's side of the family,
who were from one of the poorest branches of the clan
at the time--though I have several medical doctor
cousins in that branch now. This discrepancy,
mother's American schooling, a degree of inner
restlessness and sense of adventure, and the desire to
search for wider horizons . . . were factors as to why
parents eventually decided to come to USA, as father
thought, perhaps for 5-10 years, despite strong
warnings by his friends and colleagues that he was
being crazy to leave "all this" for the unknown in
USA, that he was not the typical immigrant . . .
2) Rude Awakening. In contrast to YOU who left dire times in your homeland and found a dream-come-true opportunity in USA, our introduction to the USA was the opposite: an ugly rude awakening. Father with 2 medical degrees, and 18 years a medical doctor, had to begin as an intern at a third-rate hospital at age 45. We, who had grown up with maids and a rich social life of almost every night having visitors, going out, etc., did not have a friend, someone saying hello or even showing interest, except for the occasional visits by the exchange teacher who felt guilty and responsible for our situation. We had 2 options: 1) return to Turkey despite considerable costs we had already incurred, 2) endure and hope for better times. If we stayed, father had to prepare for the very arduous exam for foreign doctors, and my sisters and I did not know any English to make sense of our classes. Having attended an Austrian (Jesuit) boarding school in Istanbul, my older sister (3 years) and I (5 years) were fluent in German. Father decided to stay; so Mother brought us to Germany to finish our schooling, while father prepared for the exam and worked. It was against the law in those days to take funds out of Turkey; so we subsisted on father's meager income. After being uprooted for 2 years, father passed his exam and Mother and the girls returned to the USA; I stayed to finish my last year at the Max Planck gymnasium, memorizing, among much else, Goethe's Prolog im Himmel (die Nacht) for the Abitur, knowing that 9 years of schooling and fluency in German and all this work would be out the door when I rejoined the family in USA and again began from scratch, to start university with perhaps 200-300 words in English.
3) Our Americanization. Finally, the worst was over and we became middle class. Father's first job was in Weston, West Virginia (pop. 3,000), a nice and friendly town, but the position did not pay well, why father prepared for the Pennsylvania board exam for better paying positions in that state. His income more than tripled in a few months when we moved to Waynesburg (population 5,000), Pennsylvania, and bought perhaps the nicest home and property in town, alas surrounded by very dull, illiterate, inhospitable, unfriendly, ah-so-religious, and very conservative people. (Some church-going neighbors called their kids home when they saw them speaking to us, this 10 years after we moved there.) I am not sure YOU can envision the environment I am describing, where people are shunned for being different, for not going to the same church, for not going to a church at all. Culturally and socially we were on ice, and we who could blend to just about any environment did not see an opening. My older sister and I were at the University in Morgantown at the time and were not affected by the aura at home, indeed were having fun and loved it there, in the liberal milieu of a university town. But mother and my younger sister had a terrible time with monotony and boredom. A nice and casually sophisticated German-Jewish family from New York, also shunned like us, became our only friends. And we began crossing paths with other families from abroad, scattered in various small towns, also on the lookout for soul mates, all complaining about the inhospitable environment around them, dissimilar people using almost the same words to describe their feelings. 2 years later my younger sister Gigi joined us at the university and isolation became a real problem for mother, which we tried to mollify by coming home (20 miles) every weekend, and even during the week, and bringing along an international assortment--indeed, most of them American--of friends. She called and talked with each of us every day . . .
4) Discontentment 2, American Dream. We lived in Waynesburg for nearly 18 years and could not wait to get out. The years there also became a factor as to why freedom, also to select my own environment, and changing it at my whim, became of utmost importance to me, why now I would live ONLY at the center of 3 or 4 selected cosmopolitan--i.e., not purely American milieu--cities in the USA. Parents shared my feelings. Waynesburg was practically a prison sentence for Mother, but Father had a good income there and having passed one arduous medical state board medical exam, he did not want to prepare for another, just to be out of there. And, of course, we had very many cozy days in Waynesburg over the years. However, in retrospect, I doubt that even with friendlier neighbors our feelings about life in America would have been much different then. Having come from a zestful Mediterranean lifestyle of cafes, clubs, dances, visits, trips, and lots of people arounds us, in my case reinforced by a very vibrant social life in Germany (where I was a celebrity of sorts as the only non-native attending the gymnasium), we could not imagine a duller place to live than small town America, quaint cemetaries for robots and the living dead, we thought. We understood how this lifestyle contributed to American prosperity, but we wondered about the psycological costs, why we surmised loneliness, boredom, routine, and thus alcoholism, drugs, crime, etc. played havoc with lives in America.
5) Discontentment 3, Washington, DC & American Dream. Now to address your "second thoughts" as to why we might have "really" left Turkey, let me explain this more precisely through 2 examples from my own life. Some people reading the lines I wrote so far may feel "what a (perhaps interesting but) miserable story." They would be missing the point entirely. What I have really tried to underline with this story is that, indeed, DISCONTENTMENT, like luck, is a variable of life and can--though not always--lead to even higher achievement and a more dynamic form of happiness than contentment, though this is not for everyone. Foremost, it has to be IN the person naturally--for otherwise people might initiate changes for the sake of it. Yet discontentment is not an uncommon trait. For example, many marriages break up because one or both partners feel it no longer serves their purposes and they seek happiness with another partner, why relationships have flourished over time. I had mentioned in Paragraph 1 that "inner restlessness" was a factor that made us pack our bags and seek the USA. Apparently parents had it in their genes, as I do. But "inner restlessness" is essentially the same as "unexplained discontentment." It does not necessarily have a discernible cause, but it is a fuel, a force that drives the people who feel it, why, for example, Columbus may have had the urge to see if he could reach the east from the west, when most people then and now can care less about such puzzles. So now 2 most profound examples of this from my life, though I have more of them to cite.
6) Discontentment 4, Saudi Arabia. My discontentment in DC had led to my biggest break in life, to my land of opportunity, and I never looked back. In Arabia, I doubled my income every year, primarily thru travel fees that paid me $350 extra per day when I traveled, like 58 days to 13 countries in Africa, staying (as a guest), for example, at the presidential suite at the Khartoum, Sudan, with a view to the White Nile from the bedroom, the Blue Nile and the confluence of the 2 from my living room, followed by 2 weeks to several countries in Asia, followed by 10 days in Latin America, then attending a strategy meeting at the European headquarters of the World Bank in Paris for 3 weeks, etc. Whatever I touched turned into gold in those days. In late 1978, the Saudis decided put me to work inside Saudi Arabia for SABIC (Saudi Basic Industries) under the Ministry of Industry, working as an analyst (of financial viability) on (each) $1 to 3 billion petrochemical joint ventures with Exxon, Shell, Mitsubishi, etc. and building entire new cities for 250,000 people in the desert, like Yanbu. The 4th and 5th years, I had under-the-table form of payments in the form of fringe benefits, like paying my social security taxes in USA, sending my daughter to a private boarding school, around the world travel for her and me, and other gimmicks, like adding 15 days to my leave for a 3-day stop with Mitsubishi in Tokyo, with 15 days of extra daily premiums, and so on. And, the Saudis also paid my travel to economic conferences around the world--where I presented papers and chaired sessions on 7 occasions over 5 years--once also for my mother, a round-trip ticket Pittsburgh to Hawaii. Of course, there were also lots of working dinners and parties at the Intercontinental, etc. BUT one thing was missing in my life: intimacy with a woman companion. This did not seem important at first, perhaps due to my promiscuity when I traveled, but eventually it became a source of discontentment. And the dinners and parties and "Your Excellency such and such" were getting old. I moved out my villa and began living in the desert to listen to my soul and inner voice. Already after by the 4th year there I had enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life. Actually living in the desert, away from confining structure, gave me enough energy to continue for another year. Some of my greatest joys in Saudi Arabia came about in the company of NOT "Your Excellency this and that" but simple Bedouins I found in the desert, who always invited me to tea in the shade of a tent, sometimes even a roasted sheep or camel.
7) My Way. Concluding my story, I have been spending 12-16 hours a day designing and redesigning my web pages, our own (presidential) library, so to speak, complete with photos, a 675-page book about our history and assimilation to the USA, family trees, etc. Let me expand on that tip of the iceberg a bit. After I returned from Saudi Arabia in 1981, I did not need to work, and I did not want to. On the other hand, I had been also a very active consultant for 8 years. While in limbo, I had applied to the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, near San Francisco. They made an offer, I accepted, and rented an apt. in San Franciso. I had dreamed about such elite think-tank places while in school. 3 months later I had enough. This was Mickey Mouse compared to Saudi Arabia and I decided I did not like the robot-like work environments in USA. I quit on Sep. 27, 1981, and never again had a full time work here. But I knew that I had to invent personal projects to balance my time and establish some sort of roots in USA after being away for 5 years. I moved into my home in La Jolla and began teaching classes at various universities and colleges, and the US Navy, in San Diego and Los Angeles, also to sample my female students after each semester. It was a wild, promiscuous, and colorful time socially. Then I got into astrology research, which got me into a dull robot state (to which a young woman named Sharon added the only intimacy and human touch for 8 years), which induced me to smoke 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day, which led me to my software business initially in New York, then in Washington, which began to interfere with my freedom, which I then divorced 8 years later to move to Miami, to conclude my other projects that I had invented along the way, still wanting to balance my time, AND to be in USA when father retired, in case parents needed guidance, a root besides my sisters, and to show my gratitude. I bought this condo for them, and father enjoyed it for a month before his death. He died here.
8) Philosophy.You may think I have been writing these lines about our unhappy introduction to the USA with a "grim" look on my face. Indeed, I am/was smiling all along, in part re-living that curious history, but also mischievously happy that each of us won in the end, despite the remarkable odds and hurdles. Here is the last part, concluding with a bit of personal (macro) philosophy after so much context.