“Follow the deepest longing in your heart.”
That’s what Dr. V said to me 34 years ago this spring. I was about to graduate with a master’s degree, and had three employers lined up waiting to see which one of them I would pick. But I had come to realize that I no longer wanted to do the job that any of them expected. I was in a quandary. And so I went to one of the persons I respected the most. Dr. V.
Dr. V was one of the professors at my graduate school. He and I had grown close over my years there. Unlike some of the other fine professors there, Dr. V was . . . approachable. He was a friend.
I found him in the downstairs part of the library, in the stacks, browsing, and I put forth my dilemma to him, knowing that I would receive a valid and wise perspective that would be logical, and incontrovertible. And what he said was, “Ivan, you must follow the deepest longing in your heart.”
I’m sure that other words were said by us both after that advice was given, but I cannot recall them now. What I do recall with clarity is the disappointment I felt; disappointment in the advice, and disappointment in the man who had given it. I held him in such high regard.
Following the deepest longing in my heart was not the most logical and defensible argument that I had envisioned giving to my potential employers and sponsors. If I chose not to pursue the career path they had all invested in, I would need to have some reasoning that went far beyond my “deepest longings” and feelings. But that is what I had been told to follow. I was so angry, and hurt, and disappointed.
I had about a mile to walk to get back to our apartment. And walk it I did. With an attitude. I rehearsed Dr. V’s words to me, over and over, unable to find in them any sort of defensible position. As I walked I brooded over my situation, and debated what I should do. I could, of course, proceed on course as if nothing had changed. Choose the best employer. Then work out the new found dilemma on my own, hoping that no issue would ensue. Or . . . I could announce to both my potential employers and my financial sponsoring organization, that I no longer wanted to pursue this course, thereby disappointing everyone.
By the time I had gotten back to the apartment I knew that Dr. V was right. My anger had worked itself into sensibility, and my disappointment into enlightened gratitude. There was no real future in me doing anything but following the deepest longing in my heart. And right then my deepest longing was to cease pursuit of that career path.
As the decision was made, the proverbial weight was lifted off my shoulders (literally, I could feel it). I did not know what I was going to do for a career, but I certainly knew what I was not going to do. All due to the wise advice of Dr. V, advice which seemed ludicrous at first, then disappointing in the follow up stage. But eventually . . . it is what brought freedom deep in my heart.
Decades have come and gone since that spring day. And more times than not I have refused to follow the sound advice I was given by my friend and teacher. Many decisions have been made since that day which can be characterized as last resort or necessary for the time being. But on occasion . . . I will “follow the deepest longing in my heart.” And when I do, I experience the same freedom, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, and peace I felt decades ago.
Why is it so hard for us? We learn, we grow, we gain experience through struggle. And sometimes, in spite of what we’ve learned, we will repeat the same mistakes again, and ignore the wise words that brought us through the desert rested, strong, vibrant, and at peace within ourselves.
I think I am at another of those crossroads in my life right now. It is decision time. And I can either honor the deepest longing in my heart, or . . . dismiss it. What would you do?
By the way, when I informed my potential employers and sponsors of my earth shattering decision all those years ago . . . nothing happened. I mean, no one shouted, or cried, or tried to punish me for following the deepest longing in my heart. They just respected my decision. Reminding me of the words of Mark Twain when he said, “I’ve had many troubles in my life. But most of them – never happened.”
I will never forget the words of Dr. V that day. He has remained a friend through the years. And I will always love him for trying to point me to my heart.