Go with your hut.

One morning, about fifteen years ago, I walked into Swork Coffee in Eagle Rock, California with a heavy backpack filled with college textbooks slung over my shoulder.

I had an hour before my first class of the day. I ordered my usual drink—black coffee, no sugar, no cream, because I was pretty uptight back in those days—and sat down to study for my Anatomy exam.

At the time, I was attending a prestigious college. I had a perfect 4.0 GPA. I’d been awarded a merit scholarship to cover part of my tuition. I’d won an undergraduate research grant, too. I was focused on Kinesiology. My professor was pushing me towards medical school. “We need more female doctors,” he urged me.

It seemed like a good plan. But my heart wasn’t really in it. Sure, I was a good student. I worked hard. I could make color-coded flashcards and memorize the names of muscles and bones and recite every single one, no problem. But I didn’t have a dream. I didn’t know what I was passionate about. I felt lost. And I felt guilty for not being happy. Sometimes, I just wanted to escape my own body, my own life. I developed weird habits, like drinking cough syrup before bedtime and then covering my face with a blanket and listening to Enya. It was a strange time.

It was unusually quiet inside Swork that morning. Sunlight poured through the windows, warming my face and chest. For just a moment, I felt completely at peace. No pressure. No stress. No chatter in my mind urging me to study more, harder, longer. Nowhere to be. Nothing to do. I just… sat there.

Next, I did something really naughty. So rebellious. Instead of pulling out my Anatomy textbook, I pulled out a different book. It was a book about the scandalous, twisted lives of the ancient Roman rulers Justinian and Theodora. I evaporated into the book, tearing through page after page, completely losing track of time.

When I finally glanced up at the clock… OH NO. I had just seven minutes before my Anatomy exam. I was horrendously late. If I left immediately and sprinted like an Olympic athlete, I could probably make it back to campus in time. Just barely.

I reached for my backpack, but I hesitated. A tight feeling gripped my chest. Constricted. Heavy. Like I was having one of my childhood asthma attacks. Fifteen seconds passed. Thirty seconds. One minute. Now I was seriously late. I needed to go. But I couldn’t will myself to move.

And then, I heard a quiet voice inside my head, whispering very softly, and very kindly:

“What if you just… don’t go?”

I was startled by this voice. I didn’t recognize it. Was I losing my mind?

The voice came again, quiet, but insistent:

“Don’t go.”

This is the voice that, these days, I call my “hut,” which stands for “heart + gut.”

Your hut is not the voice of reason, logic, or Excel spreadsheets. Your hut is the voice of instinct and intuition, that inexplicable feeling of what’s right for you and you alone. Your hut doesn’t always speak in words. Sometimes it speaks in feelings, tingles, an invisible hand on your shoulder, a fire in your belly, tears in your eyes that won’t stop.

On that day inside Swork, I did something bold and a little reckless. Something totally out of character for such a perfectionist, rule-abiding, straight-A honor student:

I decided to follow my hut.

I didn’t go back to Anatomy class that day, or ever again. Instead, I sat on that couch and read about ancient Rome for hours. I ate an almond croissant. Every last crumb. And I felt euphorically, unbelievably happy. I felt hopeful. I felt free.

A few weeks later, I officially filed the paperwork to take a leave of absence from college. I spent a few years traveling, working a ton of peculiar jobs, reading a lot of plays by Oscar Wilde, and figuring out that I wanted to be a writer. Eventually, I went back to school and I finished my degree, but I switched my major to English.

The last fifteen years have rippled with so many adventures—writing hundreds of articles, working on hundreds of projects with hundreds of clients, getting short stories published, and poems, and books, teaching writing in four countries and eighteen cities around the world, appearing on TV to share writing tips, producing a digital magazine, putting “Thank you mom and dad” in the acknowledgments section of each book. And this year, I’ll reach another career milestone, when my first sci-fi novel gets released in hardcover—online, in bookstores, libraries, everywhere. A dream come true.

This beautiful adventure began for one reason and one reason alone:

Back on that sunny morning inside Swork Coffee, I listened to my hut.

Your hut might speak to you today, or tomorrow, or sometime soon. Maybe when you’re stuck in traffic. Maybe in the middle of a meeting at work. Maybe the night before your wedding. Maybe two minutes from now, when you glance up from your phone and you notice a poster pinned to a bulletin board, you walk over and read it, your body zings alive, and you know that whatever this poster is describing, you’re supposed to be there.

When you aren’t sure what to do, or which path to take, trust your hut.

When you can’t remember who you are, trust your hut.

When you’re minding your own business, just trying to navigate through the day, and then your hut starts talking to you, insistently, quietly at first, and then louder, listen to it. Believe it.

Go with your hut.