Are we what we do?

It always seems strange to me when people say “I am a (lawyer, doctor, teacher, architect, etc.)” as if you are what you do for a living.

For years and years (it seemed like centuries) I went to work everyday just like my mom did. Having a job gave me a sense of who I was, an identity. Not only did it fill most hours of my day, but I could say I am a “somebody”. It feels safe to wake up in the morning and hurry up to get to the office on time, to then do a series of tasks (a lot of them meaningless) to be able to go home and have a quick answer when people ask you what you do, or better, what you are.

Having a profession, an office, business cards, going on business trips was a source of pride for me. But I also felt imprisoned. I didn’t own my time. I felt like a robot that received orders, executed, and went home to check on emails in case there was something else to be done. I had to get approval to go to the doctor, go on vacation, anything that required being absent from the office. So, basically the company where I worked, owed me and my time.

So, at 48 I quit my job and jumped into the unknown. Now when people ask me what I do I just say I’m “transitioning” not sure from where to what. It’s not a good status. And sometimes I feel like a weirdo. Who am I if I don’t have a job? Am I not important anymore? Are we defined by our jobs?

I used to think I would be like the polar bear in the Barcelona zoo walking from one end of the cage to the other, even if I was let out of the cage. I thought I would not know how to be free and decide what to do with my time. It made me very anxious at the beginning to manage my time by myself. No outlook calendar to dictate what I would do from one hour to the next.

Not having a job feels like being in a train with an unknown destination. Uncertainty makes you anxious and you start thinking about the most horrible things possible. Not that having a job gives you security because we all know we can be fired at any time in almost any job. But when you have a job title it gives you an identity. You know who you are.

Turns out I am still the same person, not pacing in my cage, but actually enjoying my time, my life. Writing this blog. Trying new things. Giving myself the chance to maybe be something other than a job title. Learning to be OK with not knowing where I will end up. Not caring if people look at me weird when I don’t have a straight answer “I am this and that and here is my card”. I still need to figure out how to make a living. I just don’t want to feel like I have to give my life away in exchange. I’d rather take the risk and be surprised.

Do you feel like your job defines who you are? Share your thoughts.