Longing is simultaneously one of our most agonizing and, ultimately, most fulfilling emotions.
Sometimes we long for something or someone specific. Often we long for something ambiguous that calls us to action before we can clearly see the next steps to take. Longing is almost always an unspoken dream needing to be realized.
I recently spoke at the 15th Anniversary of the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai. It was the first time in my life I was introduced first as an author who happened to work in technology – rather than the other way around.
I bonded quickly with several of my fellow author-speakers over several unexpected parallels in our professional journeys. We all came from different cultural backgrounds and had developed expertise in wildly different fields, but we found one unifying theme. We had all had a moment of bravery when we leaned into our longings for something more and chose to center our work on our passions and mission above anything else.
Professor Saba Karim Khan was the moderator for one of the panels I was on, “The Reality of Ambition & Work Culture for the Modern Woman”. She shared a personal story which I think perfectly captures the powerful feeling we all had at this event. She shares,
“I was sitting in a class one winter at NYU with a guest speaker, a Headmaster of a school in the UK, Sir Anthony Seldon. He was speaking to the students about mindfulness and being immersed in the moment. He quoted something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a rehashed version of a quote by Henry David Thoreau that went something like this:
‘Most men and women, lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with their song still in them.’
And he then asked us, ‘What’s your song? Take 5 mins and scribble your song on a piece of paper and share it with the person sitting next to you.’ And I remember feeling both overwhelmed and excited at that moment. It sort of forced me to reckon with something I’d been putting off for ages. But I recall writing, “storytelling is my song.” I think the seeds of my novel, Skyfall, were really sown that morning.”
This personal anecdote really resonated with me. I, and so many of the amazing authors I met at this Festival of Literature in Dubai, were first-time authors. We had established careers in science, athletics, academics, technology, and more. And yet we had all felt, resisted, and then ultimately answered the call to write our first book. That was more than one song in our hearts.
Do you, too, feel haunted by the fear that you are missing out on your true, full potential? Are you leading a life of quiet desperation? What is the song, or songs, of your heart? The steps to resolving these feelings are simultaneously simple and scary.
First, be brave enough to acknowledge your unique song within yourself.
Second, resolve to make it non-negotiable and write it down.
Third, share it with someone close to you who will keep you accountable and cheer you on.
These are the first, but often hardest, steps towards becoming the person your heart knows you to be. This path is easier together. I’m glad you’re here.
Tag and share this with someone who knows your song and helps you sing it proudly.