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Canel Ataman: "In Berlin there’s no room for people with FOMO"

By: Amanda Sandström Beijer

Hate can’t penetrate something that is already served on a silver platter. Canel Ataman is proving that you can in fact get thicker skin from tough experiences. With a focus on harmony, she found out how to still her mind and disconnect – something that took time, but was well worth the struggle.

“At one point all my friends moved to Berlin. We were the ‘reject group’ and all felt that Berlin was the one place that accepted us and that’s why we came here. Although today most of them aren’t here anymore. They got ‘eaten by Berlin’. Meaning they lost themselves in the party scene, or in the drugs, or in connections in the city that weren’t healthy for them, and I couldn’t do anything to help them, so we just drifted apart.”

Today Canel has lived in Berlin for two years, but she didn’t move here to work, nor for the party scene.

“Berlin is a city that has so many assets, and there’s something for everybody. You don’t have to be into techno and nightlife or kink or whatever. Although I do believe that you need to know who you are, to survive in this city. Otherwise, you’ll be like a flag in the wind; you’ll lose your edges and disappear. In Berlin there’s no room for people with FOMO. They just won’t be able to stay for very long.”

“For me, I had my heavy party phase in my hometown area, and even lost some friends to drugs. So I already knew when I moved here that it was a phase, and that I didn’t want to bring that with me onto the next chapter in Berlin. When I got here I wasn’t triggered by it that much.”

Even if Canel wasn’t, some people from her hometown were triggered. Most of them didn’t know her but were excited of the idea to see her come back to her hometown with her ‘tail between her legs’.

“They made bets on how long I would survive in Berlin, or if I’d end up being a junkie. It’s funny because I was already out of that scene; not doing drugs at all and those people were of course sitting in a circle and living that exact lifestyle themselves. I guess it’s often like that; it comes from where it grows. But hey, I used to be the same, I just hope everybody learns eventually.”

Growing up in an area that she describes as pretty rough can make one’s skin thicker, but before coming out on the other side with some new perspective, it can be a tricky ride.

“In an environment that isn’t open – but more conservative, it’s easy to get really self-conscious. You can be the most empowered person within your true self, although when you’re the only one who sees the world in a specific way that they don’t agree with, it can be difficult. Along the way I’ve realized which people to surround myself with and which ones to avoid – this led me to grow my self-confidence,” she says and continues; “I mean, I’m a Libra, I depend on my environment and need harmony to grow, and Berlin is that for me.”

Just a couple of months after Canel’s arrival in the city, it went into lockdown. To find peace of mind, she, just like many of us, tried various activities to keep centered.

“During quarantine I tried yoga for example and it’s not for me. I’m more the ADHD kind of person and I can’t be still for too long as my focus is always shifting. Although I did find something that attracts me a lot during the quarantine when I stumbled upon a video of people doing punch needling which got me intrigued. The first time I tried it, I started at 10 in the morning and suddenly it was dark outside. I hadn’t used the bathroom nor did I have any food or drink in over 12 hours. I hadn’t even looked at my phone. This was a completely new experience for me.”

Since then, Canel has created several rugs and started selling them, as some people approached her to buy them.

“A friend of mine who's a graffiti artist ordered one of his signature faces as a rug which got me thinking that I could start doing it as a business.”

Starting out doing it by hand, today she does it mainly with a tufting gun which makes the process a lot quicker.

“With the gun it takes me around 48 hours to create a small rug, but then I need to glue it as well.”

Recently Canel found the perfect apartment with space enough for a studio where she crafts her works and has built a rug frame the size of a cinema screen to make it possible to create larger pieces. Besides forgetting about time in there, she has found her spots in the city that she always returns to.

“I love going to food markets and restaurants. Where I come from, we don’t really have a lot of that, but here in Berlin there’s so much to discover. The variety is crazy and it’s also very cheap still in comparison to other German cities. A big tip from me is going to Orient Eck at Kottbusser Tor on a Wednesday. They do Turkish food named Manti that looks like tortellini, which you eat with yoghurt sauce and it’s so good. My grandma always used to do it, and now I found this place where they do it perfectly so now, I go there every Wednesday,” she says and continues; “During the winter times I love going to different ‘Markthalle’ that we have around Berlin. I love going there to hang out for hours. Just to eat and drink and try a lot of different things. The one in Moabit is very old, they have a shop where you can buy old magazines and stuff. It’s so cute. And for me who was a big Donald Duck fan as a kid, it’s so nostalgic.”

“On my favourite comics, I used to write ’this one is approved by Canel’,” she laughs.

As a perfectionist who depends on harmony, the harmony-part is always number one. This dates back to her struggle with mental health problems in the past that even led to hospitalization.

“I was bullied in school and those things made me unhappy as well as unhealthy. Just by being different, and I felt like an alien in school for being Turkish, and outside school for not acting Turkish enough. Here in Berlin, it’s totally common, I know so many people who are likeminded, but not over there. I was also the craziest person within the family which made me feel like an outsider even within that closed group. And it’s a big ass family, I can tell you that.”

“It made me tougher though. Like now, when I receive hate on the internet, I’m like, duh, I’ve heard worse than all of that combined told directly to my face, so I don’t really care what you’re writing behind your screen. It’s also interesting that I can trigger so much hate, just by being myself, and for example, not plucking my brows. This means I touched your buttons and made you insecure and the only way you knew out of that feeling was to attack. That’s so sad. Just because a woman is not keeping up with the beauty standard that we’re caged into,” she says.

“To a certain extent I can understand how my existence can trigger people, but on the other hand I don't understand it. Although I know that by being different I stand out and I can use that as a weapon. I have already put my whole self on a silver platter, which means there’s not really anything for me to hide behind. This is the whole me, and if you don’t like it – that’s fine, but on the other hand, those who like me, they like the whole me.”

It may sound as if Canel is made out of steel, but sometimes you need to change the environment to really get past difficult times.

“I needed to take distance by moving to Berlin as a final step of getting past all that I was dealing with back in Gelsenkirchen. Because even if I moved forward, the whole surroundings back there reminded me of all that had happened before.”

“My big goal was moving to Berlin, and then I wanted to find something I enjoyed doing, and now I have achieved both goals. So from here on it’s just growing and experiencing what those things can offer me. Baby steps are good enough for me as long as I’m in harmony with my life.”


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