Shortly after I turned 25, I suddenly felt compelled to action.
I spent hours writing punchy articles and sent them to the New York Times and Washington Post.
I planned multiple book proposals and plotted a Kickstarter campaign.
I even tweeted one of my favorite podcasters in hopes of convincing him I was interesting enough to be featured on his show as a non-famous guest.
None of these things came to fruition, in case you were wondering. But I did certainly learn something about myself:
I still think my self-worth needs to have numbers or titles attached to it.
I've got to have a life that's worth writing a biography about.
Or at least a byline that sounds a little more impressive than "I'm a wife and mom who lives in Tampa and writes for a blog that about eight people read." (Of course I'd figure out a way to mention that I've written for Christianity Today---meaning I wrote one article four years ago---because that's my biggest claim to fame.)
And I'm not alone in this desire to have quantifiable value, or a worth that can be measured by objective achievements. In simpler words: we want to prove we're important. Our culture is sick with it, and that's part of the reason that investing in the next generation isn't prized as an intelligent woman's way to spend her days.
Think about it: how many of the most highly-esteemed careers of our day actually involve spending time with children or the elderly? Our promotion-driven mindset leads us to believe that if we're actually growing in skill, knowledge, and value we've got to do something bigger and better. "Progress" is moving past humility and in-the-trenches lifestyle. If your job makes you wear the kind of clothes that need to be dry-cleaned, you've found yourself a legitimate career.
Even in mom-world, where I'm with other people who agree that people-investment is a valuable occupation, I find myself establishing worth by my achievements. At my first La Leche League meeting, I made sure to mention that my son was born at home, and I immediately gained approving nods of respect and knew I had reached "crunchy-mom" status. I've noticed that I've even begun to relish the quantifiable-ness of how many children I have. Four kids at twenty-five! I've got to be doing real stuff if I'm managing that.
I also have friends who are doing majorly important things and they don't have a fancy career or children.
One of my close friends earned a masters degree and spends her days working with blind students who don't want to learn. Many days---especially due to failures in the school system---surely feel like a total waste of time and effort. But it was difficult for these students to mask their joy when they found out that their teacher is actually going to stick with them for another year, unlike everyone else who was wearied by them after a year and moved onto "bigger and better things." Who knows what will become of these students who needed just one person to love them and think they were worth investment.
Another one of my smart, productive, and beautiful friends spent a long season as a stay-at-home wife with no kids. She stepped away from her lucrative career because she wanted to focus on being a good friend and neighbor. And she most certainly was to me. Her impact on the world is incalculable but vastly important.
One of the phrases that makes me grit my teeth is "if you don't start making something with your life, you're going to be flipping burgers at McDonald's." I'm sure there are burger-flippers at McDonald's who are being a bright and shining light of joy and encouragement to their co-workers, their friends, their families, and whatever else they're involved in off-the-clock.
My husband spent much of our first year of marriage shoveling sand into a concrete mixer; a couple years later he started a successful business and his salary quadrupled. Did his inherent worth change even one bit? Nope. Different joys and struggles, same importance as a person.
Let's stop talking about people of less-glamorous vocations as if they're less-than. People are made with great purpose and an inherent value that none of us can even wrap our minds around. To objectify someone---in praise or pity---because of their achievements is to have a very short-sighted perspective on the world.
This certainly doesn't mean we should spend all our days scrolling on our screens and fleeing from any scent of ambition. But I think it's high time we put our goals, dreams, and definitions of success on the table and evaluate what's really going to matter in, say, 10,000 years. (I'll write more on that later.)
Platform and prosperity are fleeting; just ask Lindsay Lohan and Haley Joel Osment how their once-enviable careers are continuing to flourish and satisfy. (They're not.) Whether we're seeking quantifiable value through bank account or job title or family-size, let's remember that we're already valuable, and it's qualities like faithfulness and forgiveness and self-sacrifice that are going to be what really changes the world.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like lime green, Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they have holes in them...or melt.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today