As a 22 year old college student nearing graduation, sometimes the world can be a bit overwhelming. I realize I am standing at a precipice in my life, right about to step into the “adult” world. However, all I have ever wanted to do since I can remember was make a difference in the world, and sometimes the road to getting there seems impossible. I think my friend’s dad said it to me best: “All you’re life you’ve been on a road of education and growing to try to figure out who you are. But, now the road ends, and you have to bushwhack your way through the weeds to make your own path. Life is going be what you choose.”
Life is definitely an adventure that can be exciting, but it can also be scary, and it can be hard to find the courage to take the first step. Personally, I know I tend to underestimate myself when I’m scared about where I’m going in my life: What can I even do to change the world? I’m only 22.
However, just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. Plenty of young entrepreneurs have established themselves within the market. This is especially noticeable in the tech industry. Mark Zuckerberg was only 19 when he created Facebook. The founders of Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr were all under 30 when the websites launched. There is no question that Millenials are driving and creating the culture they are consuming. However, it doesn’t seem to be the same way for other aspects of the market like social entrepreneurship.
Every year, the “30 Under 30” list for Forbes reminds me that even at my young age, I can make a difference in the world. Take for example Malala Yousafzai, the young schoolgirl from Pakistan who dared to speak out for education for girls, and was shot by the Taliban because of it. While Malala wasn’t on the list, her chief strategist, 24 year old Stadford grad student Shiza Shahid, was honored by Forbes. Shiza met Malala in 2009, and in 2012 when she was shot Shiza got on a plane to London and helped to oversee her medical care. Today Shiza is helping to turn Malala’s dream of global education for girls into a reality, and is cofounder of the Malala Fund – proving the power and innovative possibilities when young people collaborate in the face of great need.
Inspiration for social entrepreneurship isn’t just found on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list. One of the stories that I find most inspiring is the story of Best Ayiorwoth, a young woman from Uganda. At 13, Best was forced to drop out of school because her family could not afford tuition. At 19, Best went on to found a microfinance institution that invests in women business-owners who commit to keeping their daughters in school.
Even though I am young, I know plenty of people who are trying to change the world. I have friends who are activists, friends who are committed to making their local community better, and friends who are committed to creating socially responsible business models. Looking at Shiza and Best and all of my friends who are committing their lives to making the world a better place provides enormous inspiration for me, and reminds me that even though I am only 22, I can still make a world of difference.