Purpose Where You Are

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about addressing the fact that our lives don’t always feel significant…”shiny” is the word I used. I gave a hint that I was experiencing this myself but wasn’t quite  sure how to explain it without feeling very pessimistic. Seeing that I’m not a pessimistic person (generally), I decided to wait. So here’s what I think about it all:

The idea of a shiny life is fairly standard. It may mean big houses with attached garages and cars under 100,000 miles, but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes I envy those who travel the world in a year with a couple backpacks, social entrepreneurs with one really good idea or authors with a ton of them.

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Regardless, the message of chasing your dreams, acting upon your good ideas, pursuing passion disguised as work and living as an empowered go-getter is everywhere, from the college classroom to internet memes.

What I recently learned, though, is that if you ask the average baby boomer, or even the generation that came after, if they experienced this same bombardment of uncovering “what you were made to do,” they would likely say no. They worked to work.

I won’t go into what mentality is “right” or “healthy” (seeing that I’m not sure, myself). But it’s interesting to me that this work entitlement seems to be strongly correlated with younger generations – my generation. So we graduate college, and many of us want to work a job that doesn’t feel like work at all.

I’m an idealistic person. I believe in passions, coming into the fullness of who we are, and using our gifts well (and if we get paid for those gifts, even better). But when I graduated and began working full-time for a small marketing company, idealism and realism clashed right in front of me.

Let me pause and say this: I enjoy my job. I love meeting different people and figuring out how best to convey someone’s message. My boss opened this door for me and took a chance on me fresh out of college. For that, I am so grateful.

But work still does feel like work most of the time.

Here’s why: devoting yourself to anything for eight hours a day feels like a loss of freedom at first. Especially when you just left college. This job challenges me and pushes me daily to be organized, tactful and composed under pressure. College, though difficult at times, never tested me in the way this full-time job does. I like it, but it still feels like work.

The most promising realization I’ve had lately is this: it’s ok that work feels like work.

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I’d love to be a missionary one day. I’d love to live overseas for six months, a year maybe. I’d love to write and encourage for a living, and lead others to uncovering and pursuing their own passions. But even these things would still feel like work at times. And in those moments, I’d probably forget that I once considered those things shiny.

What I’m learning is that I can absorb the skills, tools and grit I’m developing now and have confidence that I’ll use them later on in life, as well. Maybe when I do those things I mentioned above.

In wallowing in the fact that we don’t live what we perceive as shiny, we rob ourselves of joy. An attitude of thankfulness turns into doubt: “Am I wasting my time? Do I deserve something better?”

I don’t want to live in those questions.

So to you, wherever you are right now: it’s ok to use your positioning to identify holes in the world and uncover what you’re suited to do. But please don’t miss out on where you are currently. Even purposeful dream jobs are dull sometimes.

The other day, I was writing in Thomas’ birthday card, and a simple message articulating all of this presented itself clearly on paper.

“I pray this year finds you hopeful for the future, but fills you where you are.”

This is my wish for you, too.

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