To the Ones Who Aren’t Happy with Average
TO ALL OF YOU OUT THERE WHO HAVE EVER ASKED YOURSELF, "WHY CAN'T I JUST BE CONTENT BEING AVERAGE?" - THESE WORDS ARE FOR YOU.
Today I sat in a senior luncheon to celebrate the end of my undergraduate college career and it was awkward. Even though I've had classes upon classes with this same group of social work students over the last several years, it felt uncomfortable to talk post-grad plans and what we're going to do with our lives. You can feel the comparison, nervousness, and fatigue in the room as we discussed job offers, applications out, and licensing exams.
When it was my turn to share, I mentioned that I was going a more nontraditional route with pursuing photography and working with nonprofits in that setting. Instantly, as I have many times before, I felt the internal discomfort of being so far outside of the norm.
Throughout my college experience when we'd talk about the future, my plans and dreams always felt like they were on a different planet. I want to see an inner city community be completely transformed into a thriving, safe place. I want to practice social work in other countries. Start my own nonprofit. Explore new fields like art therapy and social entrepreneurship.
While we have pinterest boards full of motivational quotes about thinking outside the box, famous poems about taking the path less traveled, and a culture that celebrates the pursuit of our dreams - it doesn't mean that it still isn't really hard.
There's a reason that most people follow tradition.
Breaking tradition is difficult. But if you are still reading this, then maybe you are someone whose heart aches for more. I know that sometimes it feels selfish and frustrating and impossible, but here are a few things that I want you to know:
1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
You may be surrounded by dozens of people following a set career path. Or maybe you're receiving pressure from family who really wants to see you have a job with benefits. You may feel like a total weirdo. Despite the crowds, there are many people out there who are taking a nontraditional path in life that their peers are not. There are law students who become wedding photographers. There are Juilliard musicians who become professional food bloggers. If you are doing something creative, risky, and something totally different than what you paid lots of tuition money to study - you are among a tribe of crazies. Join the club.
2. NO RISK, NO REWARD.
While I cringe a little being transported back to being a junior high homeschooler in traditional evangelical circles, Alex and Brett Harris have a quote that says: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." (Maybe I could blame reading Do Hard Things at 13 for all my dissatisfaction with the status quo...)
It's true that if you don't reach out and just try, you will never know what lies on the other side. There could be failure or there could be something truly wonderful. You will not know unless you take that leap of faith and let your story unfold.
3. DO CRAZY THINGS OUT OF OBEDIENCE, NOT PRIDE.
If you take a path less traveled, take some time to check your heart and verify its intentions. It can be easy to start feeling "above" or "better" than those following tradition. This is an attitude that will seep into your relationships with people and build needless walls. Do everything you can to keep your heart humble. This comes from a sense of your why. If your why is just because you don't want to be like everyone else, that's pride. If your why is because you believe that there is a passion, calling, and dream on your heart that the world needs and you can't bear to keep it dormant, then that can be really beautifully humble.
DON'T LOSE HEART.
Someday, we'll stand on the other side of our twenties with hopefully a little more clarity and a lot more wisdom. It's okay not to have our plans together. It's okay to fail.
And while I'm writing this to you, know that I'm also writing this advice to myself. It's a "gird up your loins" sort of post. We're in this together.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Marianne Williamson