It is time for me to set things straight. I don’t like following my passion to help others. I am frustrated and tired and I realize that, yes, it is because of the end of the year and because of disappointing realities that did not match up, but also because of the fact that I don’t like following my passion to help others.
Before you turn away from this page, stop to consider the greatest reality that we as young South Africans and generation Y’s are faced with:
We want to do what makes us happy.
Let me explain what is meant by generation Y, if you don’t already know:
The term ‘Millennials’ generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s. It has also been called the Peter Pan or Boomerang Generation because of the propensity of some to move back in with their parents, perhaps due to economic constraints, and a growing tendency to delay some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career.
There is a determined, if not annoying, debate about whether Millennials are self-entitled narcissists or open-minded do-gooders; surely the truth lies somewhere in-between. Generally, however, there does seem to be more of an emphasis on the self than in previous generations, one reason why this group has been called Generation Me.
I have met a lot of friends who ‘binge work, binge travel.’ They earn R250 000 a year working abroad and then they travel the world and repeat the process the next year. I have also met a lot of friends who fit perfectly into the ‘Instagram / facebook / ’look at me all generations y’ish with my cool photos from around the world.’ What they don’t instagram about are the parents who could afford to get them there. Then I have also met a select few who gets paid to truly do what they love and then, would you believe it, gets to see the world as well.
So where does this leave us? Where does this leave me?
Like previously stated we are called either self-entitled narcissists or open-minded do-gooders.
Lets say you have done some soul searching and that after many hours of tears and smiles you have decided that you want to make the world a better place. Maybe you have a business idea to go with it, but for now all you know is that you want to go on adventures and truly mean something for the world. So then you decide to raise money to go somewhere, always first setting out into the unknown. You document your findings and you blog about this with the campaign you started. Then you return, moved by what you have seen. People won’t give you money to start up your own company because you seem like a self-entitled narcissist and because they work hard for theirs and they are jealous of the fact that you just picked up your things and left on a meaningful adventure. Besides, people have been ‘going places’ long before you have.
You do not want to get stuck in a mundane job that does not impact the world. So then, because you have no idea of how to start a business, you get involved in a local NGO that shares some of your views. There you learn how to convince people how to give money to your cause and then after a while, it becomes hard. It becomes a relentless task holding you accountable for the fact that you are actually an open-minded do-gooder.
It seems to me that every 2nd Millenial wants to start up a NGO and save puppies or go and teach Africa something. I firmly believe that Africa’s wealth of knowledge is yet to be seen. It’s heard around a fire and not yet documented like we are use to documenting information. The truly wise business leaders know that the opportunity hidden within Africa is locked up in a safe that has to be understood first, before it will open. Clever young and aspiring entrepreneurs go there to listen and learn and be taught, not to aggressively sell the next big mobile app that is only applicable in places where you have the luxury to turn a tap and have drinking water. Every 20 seconds a child in Africa dies because of hunger. Yes, I gave a statistic about children dying in Africa. Still, the smart entrepreneur builds mobile sites and apps that can eliminate actual problems, and not feed virtual stages of uninformed irrelevance and ignorance.
What will happen if we all started working for wonderful NGO’s, changing the world one NGO at a time. If you only do good deeds because of a trend we would be a bunch of hollow shells running around handing out t-shirts and caps and food that, yes, makes a big impact, but sooner than later you will stop doing it because it does not leave you with any real sense of joy, doing more damage than good. Out there, what literally kills people is if you give them hope, and then take it away by staying away. Too many just follow the Millenial trend and uses this as an excuse for laziness. You know what, it is because it is all just a trend to them.
How many hipsters have you seen drinking coffee and claiming Africa’s beauty because they sit next to a hessian bag with a cool logo on it and sport an Africa tattoo on their wrist next to the iphone he is holding. What do you think they know about Africa? The question is what would they like to know about Africa? The emphasis falls on ‘you’. Do you want to go there to learn or is it because you ‘feel so deeply connected to your continent.’ Pff. You wont know that by sitting next to coffee beans in a hessian that came from Africa.
I also sit in coffee shops all day. But when I am there I invite people to share the stories that they have gathered from within Africa. Then I plan my next vocational expedition into Africa.
You see, I cannot go without it. And I remind you that this is my own opinion. Wanting to go on expeditions into Africa is like holding your breath under water. Once under water I am back home in Stellenbosch, enjoying the beauty around me and as free and motionless as a bird. But I cannot go without air. I cannot. Africa is the gasp of air I so badly need.
My statement is simple:
Do not follow your passion to help others.
Follow you passion to help yourself.
Do not expect an R50 000 investment from your parents to send you to Chile to go and help out at some orphanage because all you can see now, in actual fact, is the amount of new followers you will get on Instagram. Explain to them how this investment will benefit you as their unique son or daughter with a tangible plan that strengthens your need to help others. Do this, and you will help more people than you could have imagined because you set out to help yourself. You will find that those who truly help others have long before it started reached a content state of acknowledging themselves and who they are. You have always known what your heart is about regarding your need to make a difference. Use this, and do not cheat with it.
If you have not anesthetized the passion you have for yourself and what you aspire to, give yourself a pat on the back. If you like your job and feel that you are making a difference where you are in your workplace or during the little time you have with holidays, or maybe even because you can afford to pay for child’s (not your own) education, good for you. This means that you are not cheating yourself or anyone else. This means you enjoy and love the path that you have chosen for yourself and I respect that, because others will benefit from that. It reminds me of Thurmans’ words:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.“
If you see a mainstream hipster at a coffee shop sporting his Africa tattoo and enjoying his coffee next to the hessian bag, slap him behind his head so that his slicked back hair falls straight and beautifully, forward. Then strike up a conversation and get to know the guy. Who knows, he might have actually been to Africa. What good is giving mainstream a slap if you can’t make a new friend, especially if they all look the same? Let’s hope they all have different stories to tell. Don’t you?