Vulnerability in (even) considering the question

It boggles my mind how hard it is for us to pause and objectively assess ourselves. I am certainly guilty of this.

It seems many of us are more comfortable considering the ways family or society expects us to be than really deeply considering our own identities, hopes and dreams. Peeling back the layers of outside expectations creates a vulnerability in realizing we are not entirely sure what rests in our core. Who am I, really? What do I really want? How can I be sure??


Until this spring I never appreciated how strange I am for spending so much of my energy living these questions (I devote an insane amount of my mental energy lingering here!). Teaching an undergraduate career exploration class this semester only solidified my belief that while these concepts are difficult to engage with fully, they are absolutely essential to personal and professional success… and more importantly, happiness. And this takes hard work. Lesson learned: Thinking about who we are, who we want to be, and the life we want to live is harder than I realized.

In my class I had the students develop a presentation to explain their personal definition of “meaningful work”. I asked them to explore the forces and people that have influenced how they think about meaningful work and share their perspectives with the class. While I expected it would take them some serious reflection time, I was surprised when many of them confessed that they had never really considered what meaningful work was, or could be. Many of my students are first-generation college students who have been fiercely dedicated to their goal of just getting to college. This has required their complete attention. But this simple truth only fuels my fire to nurture those sparks that lie within them.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to deeply consider one’s identity and life aspirations. So few of us have a choice about how we spend our days. This is part of what drives me to support all students, but especially those who are lost, as they engage in questions of what their personal and professional purpose might be. My drive to support them in mindfully finding a fruitful way forward is grounded not only my desire to help this one student, but also in my hope that this student can maximize their privilege to unleash their greatest gifts to meet the deepest needs of our world. What a richer world it would be if more people had the privilege of intentionally choosing the work they will take up in their lifetime.

For today I do not have answers about how to push for more focused consideration of these deep career questions, but I take away a need to temper my drive and better respect the vulnerability, space, time, and natural rhythm that all must come together for glimpses of an individual’s deepest passions to shimmer though the noise and distraction of daily life. Praying for the gift of patient persistence to (carefully, mindfully, respectfully, and responsibly) push for more…


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