Dear Future College Graduate in all your glory and wide-eyed anticipation,
Much of career advice today is focused on achievement. About impressing the boss, working long hours to compete with others, making money, making a name for yourself, or building your résumé. It seems as if the advice is more about appearance than authenticity.
As someone who has been through at least one round of job searching (and is by no means an expert on the subject), I come at this in a way that is less advice-preaching and more of a way to frame your intentions for how you will interact with this world while earning a paycheck at the same time. This is not to make you ashamed or feel inadequate with your job searching. I am offering this perspective because I desperately wish someone could have shared something like it with me as I was contemplating my life’s purpose, future, yada yada. (Metaphysical crises, anyone? We all have them at least three times in college alone).
Let me begin by saying I am incredibly blessed to have the freedom to enter the workforce in a field of my choice given the education and training I have received. I do not view my job as a means to an end. I do not ‘work for the weekend,’ or the vacation. I do not work for the Friday paychecks.* I have no other way to explain how I cultivated this view, other than finding the root of career choice: doing something I know would transcend the money and the time off. Something far bigger than I could ever be.
So what’s something that means more to you than money and time off? Than gaining personal accolades? Than getting experience to put on a résumé?
Back in a college, I was part of a discussion in a Bible study where we talked about how God ‘breaks your heart’ for things. What did God break my heart for? I didn’t know how to answer that question. I’m sure I probably told God that I don’t want anything to do with him if he’s going to break my heart, the big meanie.
Then I started realizing the things that literally make my heart beat faster. In classes I was taking, I learned about inequalities that existed in education. The impact of poverty on reading levels. The ineffective political panaceas that plague the nation. I remember watching the trailer for Waiting For Superman and tearing up. (I don’t buy into much of the propaganda in it anymore, however). I cried for kids I didn’t even know. And I believed, and still faithfully believe, in the power of education to change their lives. I just wasn’t doing anything about it.
My heart was broken for them—but I could do something about it.
My personal journey and mission to help kids is not a ‘job.’ It’s not a ‘career,’ although it most definitely is one by societal standards. It’s a journey. It’s part of my identity. I am not ‘me’ without being a ‘teacher.’ I am, every day, living out this story to figure out how I fit in. Who can I help? How can I help? Am I helping at all? During the past two years of being immersed and witnessing a lot of conflict, pain, abuse, neglect, and hopelessness, I have learned a lot about how screwed up this world is. But as much as my heart gets broken, it gets mended. I don’t have to go into specifics, but as you know, on this blog I write about the good and bad—mostly the good. To me, that is fulfillment. I get to help and experience good things. I can only imagine that fulfillment once I’m decrepit and near the end of the journey.
I have a hunch I won’t give a damn what was on my résumé.
So I ask you—What breaks your heart? What are you going to do about it?
*Some days are worse than others, and there are days I count down the minutes until I can drink a cup of coffee and lick my wounds. I am not saying that the work I do is NOT tiring, because it totally is. But the impetus of my work is not so that I can be done working. And getting paid is great too, because it means I have money to buy the coffee that I desire because I am so tired from the work, and the cycle continues.