08/14/2012 12:11 pm ET Updated Oct 14, 2012

What Do You Work For?

I recently read one of my college friend's tweets (nerd) and it read: "What do you work for, money or health care?" Four years ago if you would have asked me what I was working for I would have been swift and stern in my reply.


If I break a leg, sucks, I want some new kicks.

I was 18 and driven by shiny, expensive, and state-of-the-art, you know, the works. If I had a Dell computer I wanted a Mac, if I had an iPad 2 I wanted the 3, I just thought it was keeping up with the times and being cutting-edge, and I seemed to thrive on that.

The typical "oh, shiny" mentality.

But my first reaction when I read that tweet was neither, and that initial gut feeling, startled me. I have slowly reach the conclusion that the projects, people and athletics that I've been a part of have me working toward something bigger than "oh, shiny."

It seemed to start my junior year of college after watching the movie Reporter in our social justice course. My colleague and I decided that conflict minerals would be the topic of our project for the year. We immersed ourselves in the hearts and minds of Congolese villagers, professionals in the arena, and cast of the movie Reporter to complete a 25-minute audio documentary.

Basically we never took the word "no" when we found a contact that we thought would add an interesting point to the documentary. (Sorry for all the voicemails, Nick Kristoff)

In multimedia you end up cutting hundreds of hours of audio and video. However after all those hours there is a single sentence that will forever be etched in my mind. Eric Metzgar, the videographer for the movie, told us "When you hear peoples stories straight from their mouths and you're looking into their eyes, and you can see and smell them, that tactile feeling is the most soul-rattling experience."

Cue goosebumps. The journalists in us praised Woodward and Bernstein for the amazing kiss-off quote that this man had just given us, while the common good in us realized that this project would be our soul-rattling experience.

The second project I referred to (above if you skipped down, which I hope you didn't) would be the convergence site that my fellow senior classmates and I worked on for the better part of a year. The site was about the Arab Awakening.

Do you know what that is? If you don't click any major news site (right now) and then click Middle East, you will literally find hundreds of thousands of articles about Syria, Egypt, Tunisa, and any other country in the Middle East and Northern Africa. They are currently going through a very serious revolution.

Honestly before this project, if you would have said "Egypt" I would have said "pyramids" or "cat-worshippers." Never would I have thought "civil unrest." However, that is what I should think when I hear Egypt; in fact, that's what everyone should think.

In this project, my personal soul-rattling experience would come from not one interview, but several. Sarah Tonsy was a graduate student at the American University of Cairo that I had interviewed several times through the course of our yearlong project.

She (in essence) became my pen pal, informing me through the elections, staying up till 3 a.m. Skyping during riots happening behind her, and letting me know her fears as a young adult in such a turbulent time. She once, jokingly said to me, "It's funny sometime I think had I been born, anywhere else in the world my life would be so dramatically different."

Do you ever actually think about that? Because I know (on a daily basis) I don't. I don't think about what it's like to live in Egypt during a revolution as a 22-year-old, I don't think about what it would be like to live in Columbia (which is also experiencing civil unrest), and I really don't think about anything past what is happening to ME after this week.

Count the disgusting amount of times that "I" or "me" shows up in those four sentences (it's six). Six times in three thoughts, this is unreal.

Don't stop reading: because I'm not going to tell you to drop a corporate job, or go and work for a nonprofit, or run away to Jecca Craig's reservation in Africa (although you might be able to meet Prince Harry; if you do, #hitmeup). Unless that is what your heart truly desires.

I realize that you do need to think about the "me" and your families and all of those pieces, and trust me I love new Sperry's just as much as the rest of us. But could you use your business skills to volunteer at a nonprofit a few hours? Probably. Could you redesign a website for a no-puppy-mill campaign? Definitely. Helping out the common good (in whatever way you find interesting) is good for the mind as well as the soul.

When you're older and retired you don't want to think, "Well at least I worked for good health care," (well at least I hope you don't) -- everyone strives for that soul-rattling experience, even if they don't voice it, so donate a few hours and I'm sure you'll find it.

But I am curious to see, what is it that you work for?