As I prepare for my last semester of college, I’ve been getting a classic piece of advice from the adults in my life – “enjoy your time in school while it lasts.” Usually, I just laugh and nod in response, but really, I can’t stand hearing it.
Why? Because, to me, this seemingly well-intentioned remark implies that college is as good as life’s going to get. What’s even more maddening is that students all around me have accepted that this is how it’s supposed to be. They are living in the moment now because they’ve been convinced that post-graduation means 40 hours of cubicle monotony per week for the rest of their professional lives. How depressing is that?
In my opinion, there’s something wrong with a culture that embraces such an outlook. I’ve considered what leads us to spend the rest of our lives wishing we could be back in high school or college: Maybe its that the people who do not take school seriously (but have a really good time) end up with careers that are unfulfilling—but I’ve realized this is an arrogant and limiting view. As I’ve thought on it further, the real problem, I think, is that many don’t realize that alternatives to this corporate monotony exist.
Previous generations have looked at work as a paycheck, a necessity to provide for one’s family, a means to an end. Now, there are clear ways for people to pursue a career that has more than financial gain—a career that actually gives back and creates positive social impact. Our view of work has changed, but the systems we work in have not.
Much has been written on why so many millennials seem to be enamored by social change. I think a great deal of it has to do with the pursuit of a fulfilling career and an impatience for existing business and industries to provide it. I think that millennials see their careers as not a part of their lives, but rather what they do with their lives – and life is so much more than making ends meet. It’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual. It’s about pursuing your passions, building relationships, and giving back. CSR initiatives and the growing buzz around intrapreneurship show us that the corporate world is taking notice and trying to change, but these efforts are fragmented and still developing at best. Until our careers reflect our lives, we’ll be left wanting. Think beyond the idea of work/life balance where the two are looked at as separate pieces. Instead of balancing your personal life with your work life, it’s time to integrate your passions into your career trajectory.
Now to be fair, I’m 21 years old and maybe haven’t had enough lessons in the school of hard knocks. Maybe life after college really is as difficult and unappealing as so many of my parents’ generation make it out to be. There’s a possibility that I’ll eat my words and regret not taking more time to enjoy the time I had in college.
But despite that possibility, I have absolutely no intention of making these the best years of my life. I’m driven by the belief that it’s only going to get better from here on out. I’m going to accomplish things and solve problems and make a positive impact in the lives of others. I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of what I’m capable of doing and experiencing in my life. And besides, I’ve been working too damn hard up until this point for it to go any other way.
A former teacher once told me if you live for the weekend, you waste 5/7th of your life. I think millennials understand this better than most. Armed with a firm grasp of an interconnected world and a growing number of new and exciting possibilities in social change, more of us will take a pass on careers that only offer a paycheck. As far as I’m concerned, the days of the split between working and living–working and pursuing your passions–have passed. Businesses and organizations that realize this and adapt will flourish – the rest will fail.
photo credit: http://thiscurrentplace.blogspot.com