My name is Alex Wilson, I am a millennial, and I have something to say about it. I feel like, on a whole, the vast majority of us are really into the idea of helping others. Is that just me? Are we not really into the idea of building careers that make us feel valued and valuable? Of rising to the top because, (in my most cheerfully sarcastic voice) “we can be great at anything we set our minds to?”
We’ve deeply romanticized this idea of making a difference in the world. We want desperately to be the next Einstein, Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, JFK, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey or [insert influential person’s name here].
It’s as though our lives won’t amount to anything if we don’t make some sort of difference in the world; if we don’t influence others.
I’m no different. Or, at least, I wasn’t… until recently.
Yes, I too have felt this burning need be someone. I wanted to be an influential writer. Or a therapist who guided broken people toward recovery. I wanted to help people get their lives together, to be a leader and show people how to live their best lives. I wanted to contribute in a way that mattered. I wanted to live my life in service to those who needed me, and I wanted to be paid for it.
This is a valid and honorable thing to aspire to… But personally, the more I think about this lately, the more I wonder: why?
Why I’m so concerned with other people? Why on Earth am I so desperate to help others when I’m still trying to figure out how to help myself? Why does it matter how what I do affect others, so long as what I do satisfies me personally?
This is the piece I’ve been missing. Until recently, I’ve thought that in order to feel satisfied with what I’m doing, I need to be serving a purpose. I need to be contributing to something bigger than myself.
Well, why can’t I just be satisfied with doing the things that are important to me? Why can’t I just write to write, because I enjoy it? Why do I feel like my writing has to affect or influence other people in some way in order for it to be meaningful? Truthfully, it doesn’t. At the end of the day, so long as the things I am doing make me feel good, and they make me happy, then shouldn’t that be enough?
Honestly, as I’m writing this, part of me is thinking, I hope other people can relate to this. But I also realize that it doesn’t matter. I enjoy writing about my feelings on the matter, and it makes me feel good. And at the end of the day, writing this is making me a better person, whether anyone else reads it or not.
I don’t need to serve other people to be happy. I don’t need my work to make a difference in the world. Would it be pretty awesome if it did? Hell yeah! But I don’t need that to be the end result in order for it to serve me.
All I need is a stable job that pays my bills, and set of priorities that allow me to use my time in a way that serves me best. So if writing is what makes me happy, then I should make time to write. If it’s photography, calligraphy, dance, music, horticulture, exploration, exercise, literature, science, mathematics, pop-culture, trivia, film, food, travel, history, animals, politics, or whatever else – I just need to make time for it. And I don’t need it to make me successful. I just need it to make me happy.
I would like to attribute this new higher way of thinking to my recent reading of Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Thank you Elizabeth, for showing me the truth. For helping me realize just how much time I’ve wasted trying to become a writer, and how little time I’ve spent actually doing what I love.
Anybody out there feel this way? Do you feel like your work has to serve a purpose in order for you to feel valuable? Think you can’t truly be happy unless you find occupational/vocational success? Why do you think you feel this way? Lets talk about it in the comments below.