This week I think I’ve finally breached the disillusionment of school that so many seniors feel every year. I am tired, of course; too many late nights spent working on projects out of insecurity to succeed in the over-competitive job search has certainly taken its toll. But I’m beginning to look beyond my current emotions and ask the difficult question of where my frustration really comes from.
I ran into a friend of mine in the Atrium this morning and confessed to him that I’m beginning to believe that my time would really be better spent through self-teaching. The idea is this: we’ve finally learned all that is expected of us as 7th semester business school students (myself with a grand total of 4 credits left to take on my degree audit), and are almost simply going through the motions to prove our credibility to employers in the hopes that they will let us work for them. My friend -who is by far one of the most entrepreneurial and brightest minds in the business school -couldn’t have agreed more. I believe that we both have understood that our work should achieve more than mere academic success, and we have certainly realized that -just like money -good grades will only motivate a person so much.
I have discovered that my peers and I live in a society where we have learned that it is our responsibility to secure for ourselves more than the most necessary provisions in life. We push ourselves to excel in school so that we can land a job where we will ensure our own livelihood for years to come, but we rarely ask ourselves where our aspiration has gone. Ask yourself; when you were nine, did you believe that you could change the world? Perhaps, more importantly; ask yourself at what point did you begin to give up your aspirations to make way for the pursuit of wealth and security. My point is not to convince you to believe a false ideology that we all need to be the MLKs and the Ghandis of the world, but rather of the reality that sooner or later we will all die, and none of our accomplishments will come with us (at least as I’ve come to learn it).
The implication of this though is simple: what brings you greater joy? It may be completely legitimate that your happiness comes from securing your own $50,000+ salary for next year (or 2 years from now for all you juniors), and all the things that will come with it. But I myself am not entirely settled on that yet. What I am learning about myself is that I am motivated by a number of things: freedom to pursue my own lifestyle -where I live; how much I can travel; how much time I can spend with my family; how much time will I be able to invest in the community in which I live? I’m motivated by the nature of my work; will I get to transform a country’s civil infrastructure and help them get out of poverty, or will I spend my career making production lines for consumer products run more efficiently?
If I was given free reign over my education this semester, I would spend a lot more time reading; probably a lot of Harvard Business Review articles, but more likely a whole lot more C.S. Lewis. I’d probably teach myself a skill like web programming or graphic design. More than anything though, I would examine the world around me -though this is hard when living in State College -and I’d find a way to fix some part of it. I don’t have any grand reason why, other than I don’t think that life comes from seeking my own prosperity. The interesting thing is that I also don’t believe that life comes from selflessness either. As the late Steve Jobs once said, “We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time”, so why would selflessness in and of itself matter either?
I invite you to examine your own life and the world you live in, and particularly I invite you to challenge the values you hold regarding purpose: what it is, and whether you are actually searching for it. I found my answer in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, verse 68, though I am continually trying to understand what it truly requires from me. Ask yourself, what your life requires from you.