(Here's some music to read along with if you'd like. It's one of my favorite artists - I've listened to this album more times than I'd like to admit...)
To previous generations, finding one’s purpose in life seems to be the greatest expression of existentialist belief. Looking deep within yourself, finding what makes you most alive?
“Psshh, go get a job, y'hippie. You need to provide for a family, plan for the future, work hard and invest yourself into a ‘normal’ job that will bring home the bacon. You don’t like your job? Well, tough luck — you’re not supposed to like your job. Enjoyment is what your leisure time is for. Quit writing music and making art and go do something with your life.” Right?
But to you and I, the millennials, it’s the one thing that matters most. To find the reason that you’re sucking air on this beautiful planet — to partake in the journey of self-discovery and identify what really makes you alive. There’s no greater joy than to know that you’re worth something, that you’re valuable, and that you matter. Significance is the currency of our generation.
But that’s not to say that members of the previous generations had it wrong. What was most important to them at the time of their youth was to find security and stability in a time that didn’t provide much of that. Your parents highly value a college education because that was their ticket to having a job that mattered. What about your dad’s seemingly relentless obsession with asking you to get a job? It’s probably because when he was your age, that’s what he had to do in order to do even half of the things that you’re privileged to casually do every day.
It’s the wonderfully horrible tension that’s constantly warring within our relationships. If something that you consider to be important isn’t important to me, why would I care about it, and vice versa? Difference causes wars, it causes headache, and it causes division. It’s what causes the massive divide in people’s minds between art and business, poetry and mechanics, and beauty and industry. It’s also what manifests into the chasm between two generation’s mantras of importance.
So, how the heck do we make this thing work?
Talk about it. It sounds insane, but… I bet your parents would absolutely love to hear what you have to say when it comes to your passions. Instead of simply feeling the crushing weight of expectation and feeling remorse, make conversation. Maybe you’ve never really talked to the important people in your life about this sort of thing. Yes, it’ll probably be pretty awkward at first, but push past it. The most significant moments often come as the result of the greatest vulnerability.
Here’s something you may have never considered: Your parents are probably awesome in some way. They didn’t always used to be your parents. They were once young, spry, and reckless just like you and I. Successes and failures and heartbreaks aren’t exclusive to you — they’ve got the experience and the stories to prove it. For example, I found out that my dad used to hold national records in marksmanship and won tournaments in shooting. What?! You would never be able to tell… but I’d bet that every “grown up” that you know probably has hidden talents and strengths just like that.
“Parents are just kids that grew up and had kids.”
And if you’re a parent or someone from this “older” generation that I keep honorably mentioning… do your part too. Be willing to hear a new perspective and even change the way that you approach these sorts of topics. Whether you know it or not, you have immense influence in the lives of those younger than you, especially your kids. When you can get behind a young person’s dreams and support them in their endeavors, you’ve given the best gift that you could possibly give. Understand your importance, and realize the impact that you have the potential to make.
CHALLENGE: Have a conversation about what you consider to be important with those that are most important to you.
I pray that you would be inspired and encouraged to bring unity to your families and communities. There’s nothing more powerful than a person who understand their value, works emphatically and purposefully, and strives to better the world around them. Harmony amidst opposition and difference is one of the most beautiful things in life, and you have the power to create that sort of culture. I hope that in this day, you do what makes you come the most alive, because the world needs that. The world needs you, so be the best you that you can be.