How To Turn Life’s Lemons Into Sweet Pitches

But really this is basically just about how annoying it is to get my residence permit

Sometimes you feel like you have nothing to offer. That’s me this week!

My fucking knee hurts, despite the supposed miracle injection I got last week. It actually hurts more than it did before the injection. I’m just so sick of living with chronic pain. It’s like a level 6 on the pain scale today.

And what does that scale even mean? Is 10 a bullet wound to the abdomen or like a really bad canker sore? Or is it the worst pain I can imagine, which is pretty bad because I have a great imagination. Also, I imagine a canker sore.

You know what’s fun to do with chronic knee pain?

This week’s other mood dampener was having to go to my residence permit appointment. Yes, yes, I’m privileged with the passport and the privilege and all the privilegey privileges.

Turkey’s residence permit system doesn’t really make sense and it changes every year, so you never know what you’re in for. Despite the fact that the process starts online, you (sometimes) have to go in person. You can’t take anyone in with you and immigration officers are very unlikely to speak a language other than Turkish. (I did luck out with an English-speaking one this year.)

You also can’t leave the country while your permit is processing — which usually takes at least one month — and sometimes not until you receive the card in the mail. That takes like three months but sometimes longer. So by the time you have your one-year residence permit card in hand, it’s only actually valid for maybe nine months.

Last year, I started my application in September, didn’t get my card until December, and when it arrived, it was only valid for one fucking month, which is why I’m doing it again now. This time it’s supposed to be good for two years, but who the hell knows?

There is, however, one thing you can always count on: the stupid pink folders pictured above. These hold your bank statements, passport copies, photos, and assorted other paperwork needed for the permit and/or to steal my identity. Glad all of my identifying information and bank details are now sitting unprotected in a random hallway in a random building that anyone can get into — at least until 2 p.m. when the appointments stop. And this could all be online, possibly on the same site that generates your appointment date and where you can track your application. But no. It’s like the absolute worst of both new and old worlds.

Learn to monetize your misery

Sadly, freelancers don’t get time off for chronic pain (though if you can afford to, you really should take some) or for day-long excursions to rando government offices around Istanbul.

That’s why being able to turn anything into a sellable story idea is such an important skill to have. Here are a few headlines (a.k.a. story ideas) that I could mine from this week’s misery:

  • The one-size-fits-all 1 to 10 pain scale doesn’t make sense for everyone — especially TK. It’s clearly silly to use the same pain scale for, say, women who have given vaginal birth without drugs and 20-something, able-bodied dudebros, so the moms were my first thought. But there might be other groups — folks with trauma history, mental illness, high pain thresholds — who could also fit that “TK.”

  • How bad does getting shot actually hurt? And does it hurt less if it’s art?

  • Apps for tracking your pain. Because I do that now.

  • How to freelance with chronic pain. Because I suck at it and sometimes it’s nice to get paid to research something you need to figure out how to do yourself.

  • What you can learn about Turkey from its residence permit process. And then I’d wax eloquent about how the process embodies fundamental cultural tensions between old and new. How it’s partially about-what-you-would-expect-in-the-west and partially what’s more normative outside that paradigm, e.g. “unnecessary” in-person contact, things take as long as they take…

  • Turkey’s immigration process unique challenges for [TK language] speakers. I honestly have no idea how anyone who does not speak Turkish and cannot afford a consultant to guide you through the process manages to get this done.

And for my first masterwork of investigative reporting and possibly my debut in The Atlantic:

Why Pembe? The History of Turkey’s Ubiquitous Pink Folder

And that’s all for this week, folks.