How Would You Define Yourself Without Work?
By Karen Ballum on September 12, 2011
One of the things that struck me as I was reading Slow Love is how rudderless Dominique Browning was without work. She, like many of us, was defined by the work she did. Without that work, she asked, who was she?
"What did define me was the plain old simple act of working. The loss of my job triggered a cascade of self-doubt and depression. I felt like a failure." p. 12
It's something I've thought about before. When I moved to the city where I now live, I moved because of a guy. (I know... I kind of groan when I think of it that way too.) We had decided to live together and while he wasn't opposed to living in my city, facts were facts and the facts said that employment opportunities were better in his city than mine. Whether this thing between us worked out or not (it has!), from a financial and future employment perspective it was the smarter move.
When I landed in this city I was doing part-time freelance work. I had quit my full-time job some months before. I continued to look for work and did, eventually, pick up a part-time office job that meshed well with my freelance work. It was also during this time I was meeting the people, both on my own and through that guy I moved for, the question of what I did was a bit... awkward. I didn't have a proper title and despite the fact that I probably worked more hours than they did in a week the fact that I didn't have a full-time job seemed to offend some people. It was not a positive experience.
I once read somewhere, and heaven knows if it's true, in France asking a new acquaintance what they do for living is considered to be very rude. I remembered it because it made me wonder how people navigate those early discussions. Often when I've been in a group of people I don't know one of the first things I'm asked is what I do. I'll confess I ask it myself. But what it we couldn't do that?
Think about it. No Jane is a lawyer or Mary is a stay at home mother. Think about how that conversation would go. It's hard, isn't it?
How would you describe yourself or introduce yourself to someone if you couldn't say what you do? Who are you without your title?
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