Statement of Purpose

24Jul08

No, no, no…I said PURPOSE.

In the critically acclaimed Broadway show entitled Avenue Q, the character named Princeton is looking to find his purpose. After getting a BA in English, he finds himself broke and without direction, surrounded by a host of hilarious caricatures modeled after Sesame Street characters who missed the gravy train while the show was at its height.

The premise is genius and the show is excellent, but my point is the most important thing here.

Imagine a world where competitive advantage ruled the day. Think about what would happen if everyone did what they were best at, and it happened to be the most profitable for everyone. Hairguy would leverage cynicism and water-pouring; Burton would make piles of cash out of defeating foreign armies in Generals; Tyra Banks would look good in front of a camera and regularly look a fool. Those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be wildly successful at things we love to do (studies show this to amount to just around 99.9%) get to settle for something we’re moderately skilled at that might lead to bigger opportunities down the road.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about instant gratification. Being a typical, predictably proud Gen Y member, I believe that I have a lot to offer the big bad world. I could list out to you my many laurels, but this seems just slightly antithetical to the purpose of the musing. Being all about purpose around these parts, this we cannot abide. Regardless, if there’s one thing I have learned about myself this summer, it is this: I don’t do boring.

“Kristin,” you may now be chiding, “no one likes boring. No one wakes up in the morning hungry for a heaping bowl of boring flakes slathered in tedious milk.” But I really mean it. I hate boredom like you wouldn’t believe. Every single book on Gen Y I’ve studied so far includes one statistic or another about how Gen Y don’t want to spend a lot of time “paying their dues”. That’s the problem with these kids today: they don’t want to put in the work.

This is simply not the case. I am ready and willing to work. I’ll put in long hours; I’ll live off of $2 happy hour appetizers and haul my bulk food purchases back from Costco on the Trimet bus; I’ll wrestle tigers for a spot in the Starbucks line and parachute off the Koin tower to avoid walking across downtown in heels again; but there’s one little caveat: I refuse to be bored. There are literally hundreds of ways to make money in this world, and if we settle for the 99.9% of the boring ways, we only stand to flare with jealousy when the smile of a 0.1%-er hits us on the street.

The way I see it, college students in my generation are faced with a choice. Businesses are like robots – there are all kinds of moving parts that need to keep turning in order to keep the machine functioning. When one cog retires, another is needed to continue the cycle of operation. Businesses need smart, capable cogs, and the right cog in the right machine can make a lot of progress (and, let’s face it folks, boatloads of moola). The catch with being a cog is that your fit is pre-determined. No one asks a cog to think outside the box – in fact, rogue cogs can be a liability.*

*Think Industrial Revolution. Your 8th grade history teacher will tell you: nobody loses a finger when the machine does it’s job…

The alternative to the path of cog-dom is far less determinable. As per the usual, I can best describe what I am thinking via a list:

I currently have friends who are…

…in China, fighting an absence of free Internet
…working on a cruise ship taking rich people’s money
…salsa dancing and taking picture of tequila-drinking senior citizens
…in Senegal saving orphans and puppies
…aiding the humanitarian efforts of a bureaucracy in Washington, DC
…saving the planet at Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development
…sacrificing a summer for the Excel edification of peers
…planning August/September/post-Christmas weddings
…mourning the fresh loss of a soulmate

There are people who can jump off the assembly line and make great things happen. There are people who get incredibly good at being a cog. Whichever part of the plant I end up in, let’s just hope that lunch isn’t another serving of boredom gruel.

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2 Responses to “Statement of Purpose”

  1. 1 kathleen

    I like this post very much. It’s very interesting…but still doesn’t give me an answer to my family’s “what are you doing with your life” queries.

  2. 2 Amber Beyer

    What a wonderful post! Yay, I am glad we can be “blog-buddies” now. And believe me, this question plagues me every day. I think as an English major, I have kinda already chosen my course. I’ve “got to make sure that my life will be greeeaaaaaaat!”


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