Endings are complicated.
Take it from me –– I just moved back to the US after living abroad for two years. I get it. I’ve been thinking lately about what makes endings feel so damn sad, and how we either numb the effects by focusing on the silver linings, or think (read: worry) about the next thing.
In my case, I’ve bounced from one AmeriCorps position to another AmeriCorps position, to a job at a nonprofit, to living abroad, to working as a full-time freelancer, to now preparing to balance a full-time job with grad school starting in the fall. (It’s been a wild ride.)
Not to mention I’m also building a business (you’re reading it, yo) focused on help others like me –– young, enthusiastic, service-minded and hell-bent-on-making-a-positive-impact-in-the-world-people –– figure out just how to do it.
Making (literally) my way towards where I fit in this whole puzzle –– trying to find the kind of impact I’m best suited to make.
What will be my change?
It’s an overwhelming thing to wonder about, to say the least, and I know I’m not alone in thinking it.
Whether you're ending something old, starting something new, or anywhere in between, it's always a good time to start thinking intentionally about what's next.
I'll show you how.
Realize You Can't Do it All
Have you ever listened to the TED talk by the co-founder of Kiva, Jessica Jackley? She talks about how when she was young, she became overwhelmed by thinking of the many people out in the world who would always need help, and how she feared that she would run out of things to give. (Spoiler alert: this made her change the way we think about “helping” altogether.)
Or maybe you’ve heard the starfish parable –– where the guy walks up to the beach only to find it full of starfish dying in the sun. He throws his hands up in anguish that he can’t save all the starfish, but he’s saved from himself by noticing a young girl happen upon the same beach. She doesn’t walk away, but begins throwing the starfish back into the ocean –– one at a time.
Maybe she didn’t save all the starfish, but she certainly saved some, didn’t she?
It’s in situations like these that I see many in my generation.
We are so willing and ready to help, but the mounting pile of problems in front of us –– climate change, xenophobia, racism, sexism, pollution, education gaps, healthcare access –– you name it, it’s on our list of things to do.
No wonder we’re both completely gripped by the need to make the world a better place, yet also paralyzed by indecision. I’ve talked to a lot of people lately about this exact phenomenon with us millenials –– we don’t want to miss a single second of the action, sometimes to our own detriment.
We know that even if we choose Door A (or in this case, Social Problem A), all those other doors and problems still exist. They’re still awaiting answers. They still need willing pairs of hands to come clean up the mess. And so, if we choose one path, we neglect the others.
How could we live with ourselves if we decided to commit to improving quality public transportation when the school systems are failing?
How could we focus our careers in nonprofit management when social enterprise is the future?
How could we limit ourselves to fighting for gender equality when there are children going to school without enough to eat?
How do we even begin to handle the intersection of all those issues? How can we make sure we stay woke on all the problems we want to fix?
Those of us committed to fighting for social justice might feel at times like there are just too many problems to solve, fires to put out, starfish to save.
It’s hard stuff. No one said this was gonna be easy!
Each one of us is just that. One person.
And despite my frequent petitions to JK Rowling to just let me have the Time Turner (I know it’s got to be real, Joanne), each one of us only has 24 hours in a day.
When you put those calculations in the mix, things get pretty depressing, pretty fast.
Trust me, I, too have done the math and wondered how many hours of sleep a person really needs, and how many cups of coffee is too many.
Opt to Work Together
But there’s one thing I/you/we are forgetting.
Do you know what it is?
You might be one person, but you are not alone.
There are millions, if not billions of other people around you who are feeling the same damn thing as you:
When you think of it this way, things don’t seem so bad. When you think of it this way, we might stand a fighting chance against the odds.
When you think of it this way, you don’t have to feel like an overworked mom handling a dozen screaming kids, who won’t stop throwing tantrums.
You’ve got help.
Pick Your One Thing (For Now)
When you realize this, a new question emerges –– what is the best way I can help?
If all of us are out here hustling to make things better, what should be my contribution, specifically?
What superpower do I possess that no one else does?
Focus does not mean you’re giving up the ability to care about many causes. In fact, it’s great that you do, but it’s not sustainable to try to save the world yourself. You need help.
In the wise words of Ron Swanson, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
The greatest part about this strategy? Once you’re off and running, it’s a ripple effect –– other people join you.
But finding your one thing, your calling, however you want to frame it, isn’t enough.
There’s that niggling little concern we still have to figure out. I call it logistics. Other people just call it money.
How are you going to get paid to do this work?
‘Cause maybe, just maybe, while you love service, the idea of volunteer stipend salary fo life doesn’t appeal all that much to you.
By the way, if that’s the case, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s more than ok to want to change the world and also make a good living while you do it. But that’s a blog post for another day.
I know it’s a tough spot to be in, and how many of us are in it. Not only are we trying to figure out how we’re gonna make an impact on the world, but then the looming beast of student loans, family obligations, partner needs, and the ever-growing list of personal considerations goes on and on.
Is it any wonder we are so stressed out?
I firmly believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. That it shouldn’t be this way.
We service-minded individuals can create meaningful lives with careers, hobbies, lifestyles, and communities dedicated to our values, that are also sustainable.
And we can do it without being overstressed, overworked, underpaid, and alone.
We can do it together.
In this spirit of both endings and new beginnings, I want to help other people find their way to finding their unique way to serve the world, and building a life around supporting that mission.
So, over the month of June, I will be popping in every day with a tip for the Transition to Next.
What does that mean?
On Impact Explorer, I’ll be sharing my favorite resources, guides, books, networks, communities, sites, groups, initiatives, talks, interviews, and much more about building your way to Next with intention.
I’m so excited to start this journey with all of you, and look forward to helping you discover and create your Next.
The world is waiting. Will you join us?
Punch your email in here to make sure you don’t miss a single tip:
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.