Shaping the World Through Shared Stories
I am asking you to join me on a journey of reflection. As a recent college graduate adjusting to the modern work force, the past few years have provided ample opportunities for looking back and taking personal stock of the various bumps and bruises that have brought me to this point. Admittedly, my ship has entered calm waters. Over the past few years I’ve established myself in a Manhattan office, got elected to my hometown’s Board of Education, and played an active role in alumni events and programs for my alma mater. In the midst of it all, I’ve even found the time to start up little pet projects, like these memoirs.
Don’t let this fool you, the sailing has been far from smooth up until this point.
College graduation hit me like a stray branch in the wind. By my senior year at Marist, I had accumulated a number of positions and titles, which kept me actively involved in the campus community. Feeling as though I was sitting at the top of the world, I failed to recognize that one, important piece had yet to fall into place; I had no job prospects lined up after graduation.
When the commencement roll came to its end, I returned home to continue with my usual post in the retail world. The following months were spent juggling two, part-time jobs while I struggled to find something a little more permanent. In that period, I battled against a considerable amount of personal doubt. Watching many of my S.G.A. friends’ hard work paying off as they joined the ranks of major companies and institutions left me feeling somewhat inferior. For all I had accomplished, and all that I had built on campus, I was nonetheless bounced right back to square one.
Before things leveled out, and I stepped into that interview that would ultimately change the course of my budding career path, my friends were my greatest support group. Talking to my peers as they faced similar hurdles and grappled with familiar senses of defeat and dejection helped me to put my own experiences into a larger context. In one case, a friend and I bonded over our interest in reading biographical novels during our job search. Something about those stories of accomplished social movers and game-changers helped to inspired a sense of hope.
After all, there is no one, true path to success. Depending on your outlook, interests, and means, the road to your dreams will differ greatly from those taken by the people around you. And yet, while we cannot follow precisely in the footsteps of others along the way, there are little gems of wisdom and comfort to be extracted from their experiences.
Clinging to these stories, however, was a lot like playing with paper dolls. Sure, they were beautiful to look at, but beneath the surface there was very little substance left to cling to. Though they touched on the struggles these individuals would face before ultimately staking out a corner of the world’s stage for themselves, the fast-pace of biographical novels, coupled with their well-known, inevitable endings, stole something away from these hurdles and pitfalls that colored their careers so drastically.
Instead, they left us with an impression of the pluck and grit that had helped their subjects attain stardom. Unfortunately, the spirit of hope they instilled was fleeting. After all, there is no one, true path to success. Depending on your outlook, interests, and means, the road to your dreams will differ greatly from those taken by the people around you. And yet, while we cannot follow precisely in the footsteps of others along the way, there are little gems of wisdom and comfort to be extracted from their experiences.
As the voices that will soon define our generations, let us find those common threads that will draw our stories closer together in their later chapters.
That’s why I grew to find the experiences of my peers, caught in the thralls of their own life stories, to be so much more valuable than these tales of “established” leaders. Through our similar struggles and shared concerns, we pulled on common threads between these stories to building a more lasting connection than the one-sided narratives to which we had initially turned. The realization drove me to start writing down my own story, before time and hindsight could take their toll. It also dawned on me that there might be others out there, not only looking for support and direction, but seeking to share their own stories in the hopes of guiding others. It was the latter which ultimately prompted us to start this journey and launch the Memoirs of a Student Leader. Throughout this journey, Brittany and I will be calling on old friends and colleagues to share their journeys from the classroom to the “real world” and reflect on the lessons therein. Along the way, we’ll also take a more colorful approach to getting to know the minds behind the stories through a series of icebreaker interviews that mix core concepts with fun facts.
And so, I am asking you to come along with us on a journey of self-discovery, wherever you are in life. Whether you’re in the midst of conquering your mountains, or nestled comfortably at its summit, it is our goal to bring young leaders together in an exchange of ideas and experiences that will ultimately create a richer experience for us all. As the voices that will soon define our generations, let us find those common threads that will draw our stories closer together in their later chapters. Whether you’re here to jump into the discussion, or simply sit back and listen, I’m excited to welcome you all to the table.
Onwards & upwards.
-Michael D. Johnson
Read more from Michael Johnson under the “Mike’s Campaign” category