Friday, December 12, 2014

"I don't know what I want to do with my life."

by Steven S. Vrooman

Although this blog is mostly about public speaking, I thought I'd share this. I posted it to Facebook today after talking with yet another student frustrated about life. As a Professor I hear this a lot, especially as graduation looms and students look with dread at the future where they will enter this frustrating economy.

Anyway, it was shared a lot, so I figured maybe the thoughts were helpful. Just in case they are, here you go...


I get all these students who look at me with a kind of sad resignation and admit: "I don't know what I want to do with my life." 

But here's the thing: it's not your fault. 

They all seem to feel so guilty for it, like some sort of personal failure is at work. The truth is that the world sucks. They always complain when I tell them this and ruin their Disney endings. The world is not built to make them happy or to value their unique contributions and passions. It is built to reduce them to cogs in a giant humanity-grinding machine all the while convincing them that their ability to fit themselves for the correct level of grinding is the most valuable thing about them. 

And, at our worst (let's be honest), all of us have helped turn the grinding crank on people we know and love, sometimes out of anger or selfishness, and sometimes because it feels comforting to be, like everyone else, a part of the world's suckage machine for a while. The world is not built to help you find what you want to do. It is built to destroy that and convince you that you really want to do what it wants you to do instead. 

The problem is "The world doesn't know what to do with me." 

Aren't you millenials supposed to be great at thinking things like that and not blaming yourselves for this? That's what the demographers say. 

Your task is to find a chink in the armor of the world. 

Your task is to find a small space, wriggle inside and start pushing. Build the best space that you can, because no one has built it for you. Not only does the world not care enough about you to have built that space, but it doesn't know you and wouldn't know to build it even if it wanted to be the kind of world that created great spaces for people to become fulfilled. That space that you find will not look like what you think it should starting out. 

You will feel bad for settling with it because it is Starbucks or your aunt's insurance company or some soulless corporation that you said you hated before you applied for a job. But again, whatever you were going to do would have been settling anyway. At least until you start pushing. But then, of course, the world does have a tendency to push back. 

Students: not knowing what you want to do is okay. Do what comes next. Find something you hate less than the other things and get ready to shove.

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