2012 started for me with a small conversation that has been causing big ripples.
I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with a handful of very close friends, plus the guest of one of those friends. That guest was Ella Saltmarsh, who has just finished writing a feature-length screenplay set in Kabul. Ella works “at the intersection between storytelling and strategy” and she is ‘evangelical’ about using the creative industries to build a fairer world. She’s also a yogini.
As you might have guessed, we had plenty to talk about. And then, just as the conversation was getting going, Ella asked me -
Do you have any plans to get back into the field?
As I started to answer, I found myself tearing up and realised that I haven’t been paying much attention to how much I miss living and working in places like Afghanistan. I’ve been telling myself that work in Afghanistan is better done by Afghans, and that I don’t need to look any further than my own neighbourhood to find opportunities to use my passion for storytelling to support social justice and change.
And at the same time, I’ve been quietly applying for short-term consultancy positions with various UN agencies and as I miss out on one after the other, slowly losing my confidence. Without wanting to admit it, I’ve been inching towards the conclusion that yoga teaching is the only marketable skill I have left to offer ‘in the field’.
So do I have any plans to go back into the field? Yes, actually I do. Or more accurately, I have a won’t-go-away, ache-in-my-belly desire for it. What I need is a plan. More on that soon. For now it was enough to acknowledge it.
Then she asked -
What are you working on now?
And – despite the fact that I’m working like a crazy person at running a restaurant, launching a book, teaching yoga, creating a new online course for change-makers, and setting up a co-working space and a communications collective – I felt like I had nothing to tell her.
Why? Because I couldn’t think of anything I was working on that related to our shared passion for that intersection between storytelling and strategy, between communication and social change.
Of course in one sense, everything I do touches on that space. But – I realised in that moment – not quite in the way I need it to. Some of the projects I’m working on have potential to get closer and closer to filling that space. But for now they are only tangentially related.
And I want more.
Some wise(er than me) friends of mine talk often about the importance of desire.
‘Don’t analyze it too deeply’, she says. ‘Just let it roll and rumble a bit. It may be there to humble you, expand you, heal, surprise or reinvent you.’
So this year, although I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions, I do have some New Year’s desires to follow.
Starting with these desires:
- to write more meaty posts, to explore those ‘big’ ideas and questions that lurk on the edges of my mind, tempting me to dive into deep caves of reading and thinking.
- to write more for the Huffington Post (last year I earned myself a regular gig on HuffPo and then proceeded to write all of two pieces in eight months) and to be smart, professional and bold about seeking other writing opportunities.
- to go back to Afghanistan – and work with Afghan writers/storytellers to co-craft stories that explore the relationship between Afghans and internationals working there.
Those are the desires that made themselves known to me in the form of tears and discomfort at the dinner table on New Year’s Eve. So I figured they were a good place to start.
I’ll be kicking things off this week with a post on why I think passion isn’t enough – for writing, do-gooding or yoga. Next week I’ll be posting a substantial piece here and at the Huffington Post. Like I said, I have some big ideas and questions to explore. I hope you’ll come exploring with me.
I’ll also be creating one post per week here with links to things I want to share with you. I come across so many amazing things and although I share them on Twitter and Facebook, I just want to put the very best of them together in one place. So I’m going to follow that desire too.
And I’ll continue my series of interviews with change-makers because I love finding out what makes the people I admire and respect tick. These interviews will continue to be erratic in their frequency, since I’m not making resolutions here, just following my desires, remember!
Any desires lurking for you? Anything you haven’t quite admitted you want, despite the deep pull in your belly?
I recommend a Desire-Amnesty. Give yourself permission, just for a moment, to want what you want. Take a break – just for this one time – from the reasons why you shouldn’t want it. Let yourself desire what you desire. And then follow that desire. Even just for a few steps. Let’s see where our desires take us.