On November 14, I joined my colleagues, supporters, and funders at an event in New York City that launched both our organization and the next chapter of the service year movement. Last week I wrote about the history of bipartisan support for national service and John Bridgeland, our vice-chair, dug into this history during his remarks on Monday. I encourage you to read them – each time I see Bridge I feel like I’m a US history master class.
Our event had a mix of representatives from service programs, higher ed, nonprofits, funders, tech companies, and more. In some ways these are unlikely partnerships, knitted together by passion and the belief that service has the power to uplift communities and empower the young people who serve.
Passion is a funny thing. Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a good chance that your passion won’t necessarily pay the bills. There’s also the risk that when it does pay the bills, passion becomes your work and you end up hating it. That’s a risk I’m willing to take. Although I most closely associate with the generation before me, I’m technically a millennial. One of the ways that I am a millennial is that I want to be passionate about the work that I’m doing. We spend more of our time at work than we do with our friends and partners. It’s a fact of life in America.
I spent 11 years in school and racked up tens of thousands of dollars in loans to have the credentials to work in the higher education sector at a high level. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be wealthy, but I get to work with issues I care about and with people who (generally) share my enthusiasm. I am lucky. I had a good support system which you’ll read more about next week, and the cultural and social capital to pursue higher education. Not everyone has the opportunity to do this, and my hope is that both my professional work and my work as a mentor can help help more people who want to follow their passions and be able to pay the bills.
It’s also okay not to know what your passion is and go through the motions to get credentials that will help pay the bills until you do. If I’ve learned anything it’s that what is right for one person may not work for you. As a society I think we’re quick to share our personal experiences in the hope that it will help someone else out. I am guilty of that.