My Job Is Not My Identity: A Necessary Self-Reminder


I’m riding in a boat with what has to be at least a million other young persons like me. We’re all jobless, nearly hopelessly stuck in this state of being because we just so happen to be directionless as well.

Having direction — that seems to be the key to it all. Even if you’re working a job you don’t want or like, at least you have something else you’re working towards. Maybe you’re taking classes. Maybe you’re taking a gap year before moving on to higher education. Maybe you’re actively searching for another job in exactly the field you want to be.

I don’t have any of those things. I don’t have direction. I work only 2-3 times a week and the rest of the time feels like I’m out in space untethered. The hours I am at work, the thought of putting my head through a wall becomes more and more appealing with every tick of the clock.

But here’s something I have to remember:

My job is not my identity, nor does it have to play any significant role in that.

Too often, I fall into the trap of equating the work I do with my sense of self. I forget to distance myself from it and the utter “stuck-ness” it leaves me with.

It’s a danger a lot of us face.

When we are introduced to new people, first we tell them our names, and the next question is almost always “What do you do?” We answer with our occupation, and the asker of the question for some reason feels as though that is adequate enough information to begin a discussion. Since when do we always want to talk about work? To me, that question always feel like they’re asking “What kind of a person are you?” and my answer seems to tell them I’m unambitious.

Even when we were children and the adults would as us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we answered with an occupation. We couldn’t just say “a good person,” or “personally fulfilled,” because that’s not what they meant.

My answers were actress, writer, archeologist, artist, hairdresser, teacher. It changed a lot.

Now, as an “adult” I’m finding myself jealous of a friend of mine. She always answered that she wanted to be a dinosaur when she grew up. See, she thought outside of the box. Her answer wasn’t about what she would do for money, it was more about her identity.

While she could never physically become a dinosaur, her answer showed how stable she felt even at a young age in who she was and who she wanted to become: larger than life, powerful, strong, with good instincts and the determination to keep fighting and moving forward.

Perhaps she didn’t comprehend all of this at that age. But why do kids always best us when it comes to imagination? When a kid meets another kid, they don’t choose “What do you do?” as their first question. Instead, they pretend they’re both dinosaurs — they improv, they judge each other not by how they happen to occupy their time, but by their creativity and the joy they each feel playing with the other.

Maybe we should do the same — judge the living, not how we happen to make one.

I am not my job.

How often do I have repeat it before I believe it?

This is not about giving up on finding a job that is fulfilling and worthy of my time. This is for all the other in-betweeners who don’t quite know what the next step is.

If we start associating ourselves with our jobs too much right now, we’ll lose ourselves. And that’s the last thing we need.

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