I went through with it. I sold my car, gave away half of my clothes and left my friends back home to move to the big city to pursue my dreams. I should have been living on top of the world, right?
And yet there I was, alone on a Saturday night, sitting on the dusty wooden floors of my over-priced, dilapidated apartment in Washington D.C. Thousands of young professionals mingled in bars and nightclubs a few blocks away, but I could not bring myself to force another surface-level conversation with people I had never met before and would probably never see again. I felt isolated.
Although I had recently enrolled in a prestigious graduate school and landed an internship with an innovative communications firm, I could not help but ask the horrifically difficult question—Was this worth it? Should I have left my friends, family and church community for the ‘next step’ in my career?
Our generation values professional opportunities and ambitious dreams over most other aspects of life. We often sacrifice depth in friendships, closeness to family members and commitments to local organizations and churches for the sake of adding lines to our resumes. Sometimes this takes the form of moving to new cities to start new jobs, but other times we simply overwork ourselves at the expense of the most important relationships in our lives. Sure, we have ambitions to run HIV clinics in Sub-Saharan Africa, to inspire inner-city students in underfunded U.S. schools, or to launch start-up companies with innovative tech solutions, but at what cost?
A generation in flux
Today, most young adults delay buying homes, getting married, having children and settling in long-term careers for the sake of flexibility. Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to change jobs in less than three years, and this often involves transitioning cities or living situations, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey. As a result, we’re a generation constantly in flux. Although we desire rich community and genuine relationships, we often do not stick around long enough for these connections to flourish.
Describing young adults today, pastor and author Tim Keller illustrates this tension by saying, “I’ve never seen a generation more interested in community, more desirous of it, [but] the younger generation doesn’t want to make the sacrifices that enable community to happen, which means you have to limit your options. You can’t just move every two years.”
So what is the answer? Should we simply graduate high school and go to college, work jobs, buy houses and raise families in our hometowns for the entirety of our adult lives? Perhaps some of us should, but I believe with the proper balance, we can pursue both community and opportunity.
Thoughtfully, prayerfully consider each transition
I once saw a documentary on a guy who spent 13 years traveling around the world on bikes and boats. Although he saw amazing sights and met incredible people along the way, he completed the majority of his journey alone, and when he returned home, he lost his ability to relate to others. If we live in perpetual transition and do not take the time to root ourselves, we grow further and further away from relationships and the chances of finding genuine community decrease. For this reason, we must thoughtfully and prayerfully consider each transition before completely reshuffling our lives.
The writer of Proverbs says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” While God gives us the ability to plan, dream and pursue opportunities, we must recognize that He alone determines where we go and what we do. In other words, we are not the gods of our own lives; He is. Therefore, we must weigh our decisions in prayer and wisely consider the options. If a transition requires abandoning current commitments and only serves selfish ambitions, it is probably not a wise choice. On the other hand, if an opportunity enables growth, learning, giving and connection with others, you should feel the freedom to pursue it while asking for God’s will to be done.
Stay in touch with family/friends
The Apostle Paul embarked on three separate missionary journeys along with a trip to Rome, a distance that some scholars estimate to be about 10,000 miles total. While he repeatedly joined and left different communities, he consistently maintained relationships by writing letters and relaying messages. In addition to sending epistles, he asked his recipients to share his love and thanks with these past communities with requests like, “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea.”
In the age of iPhones and social media, staying in touch with family and friends should be much easier. We simply have to be intentional with upholding connections to those that matter the most in our lives while making ourselves available for new connections. A phone call to your family matters much more than finding out via Facebook who your high school lover is dating, yet in times of transition we often lose this perspective. Sometimes the mere act of picking up the phone can mean the difference between losing a friend and strengthening a relationship.
Pursue community wherever you are
After wrestling with isolation and the lack of stability that came with my move to Washington D.C. last year, I decided to make a change. I moved into a community house with 10 other people in the heart of the city. Although some of the guys in the house struggle with honoring “personal space” and do not understand the concept of “inside voices,” the friendships I’ve made have been invaluable. I now have both community and opportunity, and I could not be more thankful for the transition I made.
None of us should trade friends and family for jobs, but in an age of global opportunities, we should feel the freedom to chase our dreams, so long as we do not isolate ourselves in the process. As a poet once said, “No man is an island.” Wherever we go and whatever we do, we should seek community and willingly make sacrifices to foster depth in our relationships.