by Katie Rich
We, the millennial generation, live in a period of self-discovery. Arguably, everything we do is geared in some way towards finding ourselves, creating ourselves, or expressing ourselves. We picked Boston College over the thousands of other institutions out there because we thought it matched our personality (which is ironic, really, because does everyone on campus have matching personalities?). We picked our major because it pulled at our heart-strings, excited that little academic nerd within each of us, or lit a fire under our ambition for success. We’re big dreamers, soul-searchers. We’re afraid to settle for not only anything less than the perfect job or the perfect person, but the perfect version of ourselves.
Is this bad? Certainly, it’s unprecedented. My grandfather was a banker in small-town Minnesota. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Scandinavia, searching for a better life. His older brother announced he did not want to go to college the night before he was set to leave. Instead, my 17-year-old grandfather packed his suitcase and the next morning headed out to Luther College. When he was unable to continue paying the $36 tuition, however, he had to drop out and transfer to the University of Minnesota. Only with this college education was he able to go on to get one of the first banking degrees offered in America.
But my grandfather wasn’t a banker because he dreamt of it since his boyhood days of counting coins for penny-candy. He was a banker because he saw an opportunity and pounced. Luther wasn’t his choice because of such things as a Division One athletics program, the Jesuit tradition, or beautiful Gothic architecture, but because he was handed that opportunity, and that one alone. And when $36 proved itself to be too extravagant, he was quick to transfer to the public university.
Our continent was settled by Europeans looking to discover new land. Our country was founded by patriots looking to discover a new way of life. Immigrants chased the American dream across the Atlantic and later the Pacific, searching for a better life with the promise of opportunity for their children. Those children scouted out success within that realm of opportunity. And then came the millennials. We have the land, we have the constitution, we have the promise, we have the opportunity. We stand at a crossroads, before a plethora of pathways to success. We are the product of generations on generations of explorers and pioneers, and that thirst for originality is in our blood. But what is left for us to discover besides ourselves? We are born in a swamp of narcissism, to quote my professor. We are handed everything, and we do not know what to do with it. I’m not naïve enough to say that we do not each have our own hardships, that we don’t know what it’s like to sweat for each dollar we earn or be told that there are things we simply cannot have. But we likely weren’t told we could go to BC the night before we moved into our freshman dorms. We chose to come here. We chose our majors. We chose our peers, our clubs, where we spend our Friday nights. We chose Crest over Colgate, J. Crew over Vineyard Vines, Five-Star over Mead.
So what am I saying? That we should be grateful for our opportunity, but also be wary of it. Part of our opportunity is that we are offered a chance not only at financial success, but success in finding ourselves in our work, in realizing our life’s passion. We are given this time to search our souls that our ancestor’s never had. We should use it, not only to find the best major or best internship or best job, but to find our best selves. Use this gift of time that was slaved over and sought after for so many generations to become not only a beautifully groomed and educated professional, but a beautifully groomed and educated soul. Try to prayerfully discover who it is that God is calling you to be, in the biggest frame of the picture, and strive after that with all your might.