Nice to meet ya. What do you do?

(As promised, a post from another coast…sort of. Texas, really. Either way, read and enjoy! And many thanks to Jessica for writing this!)

Job titles frighten me. Like my super friend just pointed out, most people can define their occupation. This alone is not a bad thing. The issue occurs when people begin to define themselves through their occupation. It starts with the seemingly harmless question, “What do you do?” Most people answer this question without giving it a second thought. Something like “I’m a manager,” or “I’m in human resources.” The actual question being asked is, “How do you make money?” Because to a lot of people in our society the whole point of existence is to make money; it becomes what you are focused on. It becomes what you do. After all, isn’t that the American Dream?

Unless you happen to be earning money doing everything that you are passionate about, I see employment very much like playing a role on a television show. Your boss is your director. You show up every day and while you are there, he or she gets to tell you how it is that you are to act. Of course you get to contribute, but your boss is the one that can see the big picture. So you play this role while you are on the set, then you go home. Can you imagine what it would be like if a television actor went home and still thought she was her character? Not only would clinical intervention be recommended, but also there are a lot of personalities that are written for the screen because they are such a stretch from reality. Odds are, it would end badly.

Some of these job titles are actually very good descriptions of people’s lives. For example, “I am a teacher.” Sure, you earn money that way, but you become a teacher because as a person, you have a passion to collect information and share it with the people around you. That is a great description of what you do. How about the descriptors “musician” or “actor” or “writer”? Each of those titles says to me, “I am a voice trying to express itself through said medium. Oh, and it would be great if I could support myself doing it too!” Not a bad life goal if that happens to be your calling. But when you start to describe yourself by what it is that you do only for money – when you introduce yourself by your character’s name – it’s time to put effort into discovering who you were before.

Start with baby steps. Try to remember why you were drawn to that occupation in the first place. What DO you do? Say you’re a pilot; how about, “I love to wake up every day and challenge the limits of what seem impossible.” You’re a student: “I surround myself with knowledge in a continuous search for truth.” What about a parent: “I have dedicated my time to training the next generation how to have a better life than I did by not making the same mistakes.” A personal trainer: “I am fascinated by the potential of the human body and dedicate my time to helping people find freedom in movement.” We all do something important, we simply have to remember what it is.

So what do I do? I exist. I observe. I try to learn and grow from every situation present to me. I seek awareness of my surroundings and myself. I’m a friend. I’m a teacher. I’m an explorer of the world.

Why? What do you do?

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