Cue a 26-year-old male. Brown hair parted to the left with a face that both mothers and daughters can agree on. He’s getting ready for his work job selling advertising space for a mid-sized website.
Let’s call him Peter.
Peter grabs a light blue dress shirt, snapping it in the air a few times. He doesn’t remember exactly when he stopped ironing his dress shirts before work. It wasn’t a conscious decision. He just grabbed the iron one morning, stared at it for a few moments, and put it back in the closet.
In the grand scheme of things, wrinkles just didn’t seem worth the time.
An A- student in college and the editor-in-chief of the university newspaper, Peter had big plans as he crossed the graduation stage to be a journalist, maybe an editor, at the city newspaper. His dream was to write stories that matter, to highlight the good going on in the world instead of the bad.
Everyone knew Peter would make it.
Through a friend’s dad he was able to land an internship. He worked hard, started getting a few small assignments… He could see some light breaking on his dream. He even landed his first big interview with the mayor.
Then, his whole department was laid off.
Cue Peter, scrambling to find a job anywhere. Cue Peter, selling advertising space instead of sharing stories that can change the world. Cue vague memories of the last two years, each day blending together in a kaleidoscope of monotony.
The Looming Question
Peter can’t really complain about his job. Oh, he used too. Every day. But not now; he’s settled in. He has a good wage. He gets good hours. He works for a good boss. He sits in a good corner cubicle and if he leans backward far enough and to the left, he can just see the window and the top branches of an elm tree. His dreams of being a journalist have slowly died. But his 401k is alive and well.
But as he loops his tie this morning and cinches the knot, his hands stop. He stares into the mirror, his eyes locking like two spies trying to tell if the other is lying, or telling the truth. Then THE QUESTION hits him. The one that he’s been avoiding. He wants to run from it even now, but it’s caught him like a tuna in a net.
What am I doing with my life?
There. He’s said it.
He has a good wage at a good job. But it is monotonous, meaningless, mundane…
“My life was supposed to matter,” he says to the mirror. “To have an impact. To do something worth doing.”
Our generation’s greatest fear has gripped him tight this morning and is not letting go.
That fear? Insignificance.
Peter’s story is my story.
And maybe it’s yours. Sure the details are different, but I believe insignificance is the monster looming in the back of our generation’s closet. You could call that entitlement. Self-absorption. Narcissism. Or could call it the dreams of the young. Call it our search for meaning. Call it a commitment to finding our passion. Call it Nancy, Fred, or Jack and the Giant Beanstock.
However you want to name it, I don’t believe this generation is satisfied with good. With comfortable. With 401k’s, bonuses, the corner office, or climbing the ladder. This generation is not motivated solely by external perks. Our generation is motivated by significance. We’re motivated not by sounding important, but by actually doing something important.
We don’t want a powerful title. We want to fulfill a purpose.
I don’t want my life to begin and end in status quo. I don’t want to push paper in a cubicle and call it my lot.
But will I be all right if what God deems significant looks downright insignificant to me? What if significance carries with it no accolades, billboards, or a feel-good movie of the year? What if I toil and no one gives a rat’s behind?
Will I have the courage to find meaning in the seemingly mundane?
Will I be willing to dream in the big, while being faithful in the small?
I believe this fear of insignificance could be our generation’s greatest strength. It will motivate us to let go, to push through barriers, to break the impossible into pieces, if we can find significance in the insignificant.
Have you ever settled for a routine in your life instead of choosing to do something more significant? What fears were holding you back? What are doing now to pursue God’s purpose for your life?
Paul Angone is the creator of AllGroanUp.com – a collaborative community for Gen Y in-between growing and grown. His upcoming debut book All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! has been described as “Donald Miller meets Office Space.” Find Paul at @PaulAngone.