Untangling What You Are From What You Do
When I had fancy jobs, tangling what I was with what I did felt fine:
People oohed and aahed at me because my work was “important.”
But later I got sick of the work—literally—and quit to recover and start something new.
Things didn’t go as I’d hoped, and I wound up under- or unemployed for years. That “minor situation” made the question, “What do you do?” awful for me—after years of not getting back on track, I felt like a fraud saying I was changing careers.
Worse than that, I felt embarrassed for not doing “noteworthy” work like before.
Me, the woman who’d scoffed at people for assessing others based on their jobs or education.
I felt ashamed about feeling embarrassed and started to hide, even from my family.
Distanced from prying people, I recalled a quotation I’d read:
“WE ARE THE PERMANENT HOLDERS OF A SPIRITUAL CAREER, FOR IT IS WHAT WE ARE AND NOT WHAT WE DO THAT REPRESENTS OUR GREATEST WORK IN THE WORLD.”
The messed-up thing is that when I felt good about folks admiring my jobs—and me by extension, right?—my life was infused with dread.
At one point, an acquaintance even called me “depressive.” When I found out, I got upset:
I WAS NOT depressive. I WAS JOYFUL, DAMN IT!!!
But joyful wasn’t what I was being in the world:
I put doing prestige above being true to myself and my soul got battered.
You are not your job.
You are love in all its forms—peace, prosperity, joy…
Your true work is being your true self, which happens to be the way to make a prosperous world.
When you be what you truly are—pure love—you spread goodness just by showing up.
You naturally do caring things.
And to paraphrase Rosalyn Carter, there are only four kinds of people in this world: current, past, and future caregivers, and those who will need one.
If you must measure yourself by what you do, forget employment, and let joyfully caring for yourself, others and the earth be your yardstick.
And let these words from Maya Angelou bring you comfort:
People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Still, I get that you may want to run and hide when people ask what you do. If that happens, start practicing how you’ll answer going forward. One of the following responses might help:
“For fun, I do [fill in the blank].”
“This isn’t my job, but I’m excited about [fill in the blank].”
“How about we change the subject and talk about [fill in the blank]?”
Then suggest any topic from flying pigs to climate change. Seriously.
YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED to satisfy anyone’s curiosity about your employment.
Or anything about you.
And you can tell folks I said so. 🙂
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