Okay. Stick with me on this one, ’cause it’s gonna (attempt to) weave together a few big topics. Namely, your life’s purpose, your career, and your education. Here’s hoping it comes together as nicely as it’s floating around in my head.
I read a blog tonight (which of course was the inspiration for this post and is well worth a read) that centred on the whole “how do you know what you’re doing has enough of an impact on society to justify you doing it” thing. As a recent grad, I’m sure you can imagine how that kind of question has been intertwined with my job search. It’s a constant battle between finding something that’ll pay the bills, and finding something that’ll lead you to finding that elusive career that you’ll enjoy and won’t have to work a day in your life as a result (I’m still thinking that’s a bit lofty…). And given the current job climate, for a lot of people neither option is actually available.
I’m not saying I’m expecting a life-long career to be handed to me straight after graduation (although, if anyone’s got one of those handy, I’m down). But when you’ve got people with Masters degrees working at the local chain restaurant, something’s wrong with the system. I’ve got nothing against people who work there – someone has to, and I’m sure many people take pride in working there – but when you spend thousands of dollars investing in an education that guidance counsellors and parents and teachers promised would be your key to finding a job, you might expect something more meaningful than clearing dishes and delivering meals.
That is, if you assume university was meant to be the gateway to these illustrious careers. If, for you, university is more about professional development than personal development, then you’re well within your rights to be angry that a Bachelor’s degree gets you a shot at a job that used to be for high school diplomas. But if it’s more about personal development than professional development, then what do you care what your career is? If, however, you’re leaning toward a happy medium between the two, then you’re in quite the quandary.
And that’s where the third element comes into play. Your life’s purpose. If you want to lead a life where your career defines you and your success, and your purpose – good on ya. I’m not one of those people. I used to be, but I’m not anymore. I’m of the mind that if I happen to end up working at such an establishment the rest of my life, then I’d find a way to make it a means to my purpose rather than the be all and end all of my life.
My time as an undergrad (in particular my very last semester) showed me that education was more than just the classes. Success, I think, is more than your salary and your standing within a company. Life, I think, is more than your career. And that brings me to the whole point of this post.
While browsing through quotes (if you don’t already do this, I recommend finding some time to do so – what you learn about yourself and your life through the words of others is nothing short of eye-opening) on the topic of time, I found one that came together nicely with the blog post I’d read just beforehand.
In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer
It occurs to me that my current job – a soccer coach – that barely pays the bills, could be construed by many as a career that holds little significance in society. It’s a small club, and I deal with a fraction of its population. And yet, I can’t help but feel a bit proud of my contribution to society through it. I coach mostly young kids, who are still impressionable. I think back to my time as a youth soccer player and the people who impacted me via their coaching. They had a big impact on who I became as a person. Maybe I’ve already had that impact on one of my players. Maybe I will have that impact on one of my players. Coaching, not unlike teaching, I think can have a big impact on people.
Soccer both extinguished and rekindled my inner fire. There have been people I met along the way that served as that human being that made my inner fire burst back into flame. I am incredibly grateful for those human beings. And I am somewhat humbled by the fact that I could be one of those human beings for someone else.
And that brings everything full circle for this post. I went to school and grew as a person. I graduated, and am still looking for work, but whatever my career might be, it won’t define my life’s success. What I hope (and think) will define whether or not I’ve led a meaningful and successful life is whether or not I’ve had that impact on someone, whether or not I’ve made someone’s inner fire burst into flame again. If, when I’m 100, I can look back and say that I had that impact on someone, then I think it’ll have been a success.