Most of my life I was afraid to be myself. So I lived the life of someone else. My non-self protected me from what I feared the most, judgment and rejection, so I blindly let it rule my life. My non-self ignored my heart’s desires and pleasing others became more important. My non-self kept me from living my life’s true purpose and it kept me from singing my song uniquely, as only I can.
I write to you as someone who's spent the majority of my life being afraid to embrace my life's calling; for me, that calling has always been to write and perform music. Music that shines a light on some of the inequalities still present in our world today. Now you may wonder what finally triggered me to leave my non-self behind. Well, let me tell you. My journey to adulthood began 10 years ago when I packed two suitcases and moved from Sweden to the U.S. for college. What I didn’t know then was that this was the first of many decisions that I would end up making, or rather, that my non-self would make for me out of fear.
I had always been a top student, ambitious throughout high school, so I saw a college education as the obvious next step. But my dream since I was a child was to sing and write music. Growing up my parents always supported my desire to pursue music but it was encouraged only as a hobby. My parents placed tremendous weight on the importance of education because they feared that if I weren’t highly educated I would go through life enduring the same struggles as they did, particularly with economic hardships.
My parents fled the war in Eritrea and the military regime when they were in their early 20s and migrated to Sweden due to its receptiveness of immigrants, at the time. My father always described it as an involuntary move and longed for Eritrean independence. I always respected my parents’ wishes because I saw them sacrificing so much for my siblings and I and our everyday freedom. I was determined to make my parents proud so I told myself I’d keep making music fleetingly and one day I would get to do it full-time. But the more time that passed the harder it became.
Five years ago I decided to attend law school at Fordham in New York City. This was yet another decision in my life based on fear and misguidance. I was in my first year of law school when I began experiencing severe anxiety. I was falling behind in my studies and I was the girl nobody wanted in their study group. I felt like a complete outsider that did not belong there. And naturally that is how others in school viewed me as well, since what you reflect is what is returned to you, always. So everyday for three years I considered dropping out. But I never did. I never dared to take the leap though I was clearly unhappy. I just kept dipping my toes in the water but I never took the plunge.
I just reached my word limit. But if you are interested in how my story unfolds it just so happens that I recently gave a TEDx talk on this subject (Spoiler alert: I took the plunge!). The title is “Use Your Voice Uniquely, As Only You Can.” I hope my story will inspire you to leave your non-self behind as well. It’s truly remarkable how life changes once you get over that initial wall of fear.