“Ideas aren’t a sideshow that make our factory a little more valuable. Our factory is a sideshow that makes our ideas a little more valuable!”
~ Seth Godin
Standing in my parent’s small kitchen one morning, groggy and basking in the warm sunshine and coffee smells, this conversation occurred:
Me (in facetious whiny brat voice): Why don’t people pay me to do what I love doing? Why do they seem to only pay me to do stuff I don’t really like?
Dad: I’ve been asking myself that same question my whole life.
Me: It just doesn’t seem right.
Dad: Well, that’s life.
Me: No, it isn’t.
And that’s it. This one brief exchange solidified so much about the perspective differences between our generations.
It’s not so much about a career, family, mortgage, retirement anymore.
Now, we’re regularly throwing around terms like ‘life purpose.’ As the above conversation illustrates, I am (and I think I speak for many gen-Y/gen X-ers) we are no longer able—or perhaps willing—to see a distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’.
Instead of a work-life balance, we see a fulfilling career that is a part of our life, not a separate compartment. We see passion, art, innovation. Sustainable, ethical, local businesses. Our ‘networking’ feels less like a cheesy business party and more like hanging out with people that we just authentically connect with.
My parents didn’t go to college, so they made a point of encouraging me to do this. Then came university. Then, I pushed my way through a post-graduate diploma while working full time at the university.
I was lucky to have gotten that part of my education for free. My Geography degree in particular shaped me into the (mindful) human that I am today, but given how much it actually cost, it did not lead to gainful employment. And I was so heavily burdened in student loan debt that working in a dull office job at the university was the only way that I figured I’d have a chance at getting further education.
So for a long time I felt cornered. I felt like I did everything right, like I am a good citizen, that I’m intelligent, creative and conscientious. I go to school, I go to work—usually both at once. Yet I’m still in debt and barely paying the bills. Everything about it just feels so backwards.
But out of this feeling of being incredibly stuck sprung a new capacity to see freedom and possibility: I figured I could wither away in a state of intensifying depression, or I could be relentlessly innovative about finding solutions to my problems.
So when I couldn’t handle another letter threatening legal action if I didn’t pay my loans, I found a lawyer to handle my case. When I realized how bad my job was making me feel, I took a sick leave. When I realized how badly I needed to be a writer, I applied for an apprenticeship here at elephant journal.
I also just started to tell people about how I felt. And I’d write about it. And my parents don’t understand how or why I can make myself so publicly vulnerable but in my mind it’s the only thing I (we) have. I’m not so sure if they can understand how this is the only way to free ourselves and actually live.
Here’s the thing: we are dreamers. Primarily (but perhaps not solely) because of the internet, we are (dare I say it…it’s going to sound pretentious) evolved. We can see our purpose with such clarity.
Artists and visionaries have existed since time immemorial—except that today there are a lot more of us than ever before. Maybe with globalization and digital connections it’s just easier for us to proclaim to the world that this is what we are. It’s easier to find and learn about things, and to show the world what we are really about—including the bad and sad and horrible stuff.
I am pretty sure that the X-Y generations have long had a nagging feeling that we are watching the world die, and this in itself is a key force behind our urgency to just be good.
We are tired of fighting for a piece of the industrial-capitalist pie that has been baking for hundreds of years now, because there are only crumbs left. We can’t survive on the crumbs. So we won’t.
We will find (are finding) a better way, something akin to a nutritious meal instead of dessert. Something that keeps us satisfied, that comes to us and is shared in a natural way. This is a livelihood that flows to us via working and living in ways that show love.
Simply knowing that no one gets to tell us how to live is this empowerment, this fullness. It’s no longer about a sweet-sugar rush-then-crash; it’s about longevity, something that will sustain us into generations to come.
The old school industrial business models and institutionalized academic systems just aren’t holding up in the face of our internet-based, social media driven world anymore.
This popular Huff Post article basically accuses us of feeling that we have some special sense of entitlement, going around being idealistic and calling ourselves unicorns because we are just so much more special than any generation ever before. But what is so wrong with this?
If we collectively believe that we are that special, doesn’t that give us a better chance of saving the world?
In choosing to believe that I have a choice in the way my life works and expressing this without hesitation, we can help others to see the same. And we can fight for those who truly do not have so much agency.
The more we put this out there, the more it comes back around, and then the ball keeps on rolling.
When we create and converse and spread compassion and kindness, truly support each other, are fully honest and believe that we are good—everything else falls into place.
It is only when we connect authentically that we can achieve great things.
What does it take to live out our dreams? To never, ever believe that life needs to be (is) otherwise.
And I think that we really are changing the world. So let’s keep going.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise