What is the Meaning of (My) Life?

A Guest post from the man behind the woman behind the blog

I recently did a post on discovering our purpose in life and about how we have a tendency to look for our purpose in our kids or our careers, when really, we need to simply apply our purpose to everything we do. You can read more about that here.

As always, my husband has the perfect perspective on life. I’ve found throughout our almost 10 years of marriage that what I need in tough situations is not for him to totally understand me and to reflect my feelings back to me, but to allow our two unique perspectives to come together to form one, well rounded outlook. This has never been more true than in the topic of finding our purpose in life.

I asked Mike to share with you his take on life, purpose and your career. He is so wise and funny and sexy. You are allowed to appreciate the wise and funny part. I’m so honored to call him my own, and to get to reap the benefits of his wisdom, character and leadership. 

So without further ado, here are Mr. Shipper’s thoughts that he would like to share with you today:

What is the Meaning of (My) Life?

We live in a society that thrives on choice. I’ve often wondered how different universities can offer so many majors. Explorative Studies can be a major?! How can this be? Colleges created a major for students who can’t make up their mind.

I get it though.

When I go to Lowe’s to pick out a paint color to spruce up our home, I am completely overwhelmed. Not only do you have to choose between the hue of blue you like, you also have to consider if you have incandescent lighting, fluorescent, “soft white” fluorescent, natural lighting, etc. Whatever happened to good ol’ Roy G. Biv?

Believe me, I like having options, but sometimes too many options can feel paralyzing. I work in public education and I feel for our high school seniors this time of year. They must choose a school and a major. Choose between joining the military or start working full time. Choose to live on campus or commute. Choose the direction of the rest of your life. Don’t make a mistake in your choice for your career is your purpose.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American will change jobs 11 to 15 times. This alone should be proof that our jobs are not our purpose.

Either our life purpose changes every other year, or we are constantly seeking purpose in the wrong place. I believe the latter is more true than the former. I was a victim of this mindset for almost 10 years.

I was the rare kid who decided in 8th grade I was going to be a teacher. I declared my major as a high school junior and never once considered changing my path. However, when I graduated college in 2006, a year before the bottom fell out of the economy, teaching jobs were nowhere to be found.

My confidence in my decision to be an educator was rocked.

Maybe I wasn’t finding a teaching job for a reason. Maybe God was telling me to consider something else. Maybe I didn’t understand my purpose after all, because no one would hire me!

And then it happened…paralysis. I started searching for a job anywhere I could find it, mainly because I needed to put food on the table. Deep inside though, I was letting each job become my purpose. Coffee shop manager, home builder, pipe organ builder (yeah, you read that), waiter, and tutor was a pretty messed up purpose. The perfect recipe for an identity crisis. The jobs were great and I gained a lot of experience, but not one of those matched my life’s purpose, or so I thought.

Then, I finally got hired as a teacher. My life’s purpose was complete, right? Nope. I don’t know if you know this, but teacher pay is kinda terrible. If you want to argue about summer breaks, weekends off and snow days, just come follow me for a day (after I punch you) and see how exhausting a teacher’s normal day can be. My point is not to complain about my job. I love my job! I really do, but after a few years in the profession and seeing how hard I had to work to keep the bills paid, I got the itch. Maybe there’s more for me out there. What about all those other careers I haven’t tried yet that pay so much better? Paralysis began to set in again.

A few months ago, though, I had a revelation about my life and it’s purpose. I am an educator. I am a teacher and I cannot turn it off.

I have determined that my career will always revolve around education either as a teacher, administrator, or working in education reform. I also realized that I am a teacher outside of school. I love teaching my boys about life, God, love and being a man. I love teaching people how to do remodeling projects. I love teaching people how to do anything that I am familiar with. Teaching fulfills me. I look back on my random resume and see that I was happiest when I had opportunities to work with people and witness their growth. The job was simply a medium to fulfill my purpose. The job was not my purpose. Teaching 7th grade math is not my purpose. Helping students grow is my purpose. This is a freeing truth.

Choosing your career path at age 18 is a daunting task when we think we are choosing our purpose. Changing careers is terrifying when we think we are abandoning a life purpose.

Choosing anything in your life is overly complicated when we think it revolves around your purpose. Let it go!

We are all blessed with unique gifts and talents. Your purpose is to apply those gifts and talents in all areas of your life. If you hate your job, try applying something that fulfills you to your job. If you are depressed about a relationship you are in, try applying something fulfilling to the other person. Circumstances are a fickle thing. They do not define you. Choices are not your identity. Successes and failures do not determine your future. Your purpose defines your future.

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