Recently I celebrated my 3-year anniversary at my full-time, big kid job. It’s been a good fit–I like most of what I do most of the time, which I think is probably pretty typical. There are days when I’m completely energized and would confidently answer yes, I love my job, and there are other days that are frustrating and make me want to walk out the door.
Not long after I started my job, I wrote about not wanting to become my title. It’s an easy thing to do, and I get the sense that it’s even more prevalent in the United States than in other places. Recently I met some new people and internally kicked myself when one of the first questions out of my mouth was, “So what do you do?” Some people do define themselves by their job, but I think we can do so much better than that. At least I want to.
My job is a thing that I do. Yes, it takes up a good chunk of my waking hours during the week, occasionally spills over into nights and weekends or sends me across the country, but I hope it’s not the most interesting thing about me–even though it is often the first and easiest thing to talk about in certain settings. There’s a reason I don’t write specifically about what I do in this space or mention it on certain forms of social media; as much as I like what I do, it does not define me. And I hope that never changes. As I wrote several years ago:
I want to approach it as a shirt, one I wear proudly and well when the time is right, but not as skin. This job, this title, any job, any title, does not define who I am as a being.
It’s good to be passionate about our work, and I feel fortunate to have a job that aligns well with areas I’m gifted in and even with my beliefs. I’m also aware that I likely won’t have this job forever, either because I choose to move somewhere else or because of changes at my workplace. If or when that happens, it will be a major adjustment and I will probably go through some mourning, but I don’t want to feel like I’m leaving behind a piece of my identity as well as leaving behind a job.
For the past three years, I feel like I’ve done pretty well with not letting my job define me. It’s not always easy though. There are times when it’s nice to have a job to help give me a certain level of status, but I always feel a little icky when I think that way–it’s a societal norm to assign ourselves worth and value because of our jobs, but I don’t want to be that way. And when I do it to myself, it’s far too easy to do it to other people as well, either for good or for bad.
The next time I meet new people, I want to do better than asking “So what do you do?” I’m not sure what that looks like though. If you have any great ideas of how to start conversations without asking about what people do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Til next time…
p.s. What questions do you ask people when you first meet them?