Prompt for December 30: Identity. How did you identity yourself in 2011? Did it change? How will you identify yourself in 2012?
I’ve struggled with identity crises at various times in my life. It usually rears it’s ugly head during a time of transition. When the course of life changes, it causes ripple effects along the way.
The length of the identity crisis depends on the major change going on in my life. Graduating college, starting my first job, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, pregnancy, quitting my job, motherhood.
Of all the identity changes I’ve encountered, motherhood impacted who I thought I was in the most profound way. The combination of leaving my job and becoming Kate’s primary caregiver created the most major identity crisis.
Before Kate, I either tied myself to school or my job. After I finished graduate school and lost half of my identity equation, I hung onto my work identity with all my might. It didn’t matter if I actually liked what I was doing. Heck, most of the time I didn’t like my job. It wasn’t as if I held the job of my dreams. I wasn’t even sure I was in the right field for my skills and talents.
But for whatever reason, I believed that one’s job is the most important thing one can do. Jobs result in paychecks, which are arguably pretty important. Going to a job means you are doing something and keeping busy, also good. Performing work means you are working towards some greater good, with is awesome.
So, since I am not part of the workforce, I’m not earning money, must be lazy, and obviously not working towards any greater good. And I don’t have any field to hang my hat.
As a stay at home mom, I’m the dirty diaper changer, dinner maker, trash taker-outer, laundress, toilet cleaner, grocery shopper, organizer, toddler wrangler, driver, errand runner.
Definitely not a glamorous job. And my duties leave me feeling that the only reason I’m here, on this Earth, is to clean house for my family. And I’m not even that good at it! Clearly this identity of housewife isn’t working for me.
Feeling frustrated with my lack of identity, I almost let myself get all down and in despair. But I thought I’d try an exercise. I thought about Dan and his identity. How would I identify Dan? What words would I use to describe him? Who is he? What attributes make up Dan?
A father, son, son-in-law, brother, husband, friend. He can build anything. And is currently take orders for custom poker tables. He’s a reader. Loves the Internet and all things computers. Enjoys biking. Can problem solve like no one’s business. The best listener.
Of course, I can go on and on. But then I realized something striking. Never once did I think of worker or employee. What he does for a living, his profession, never entered my thought process. It isn’t how I’d identify him.
I went on to think of the identities of my close friends. Again, things like baker, crafter, exercise enthusiast came to mind. Never once did any one’s profession come into play.
So if I don’t identify people by their careers – or their lack there of – why does work play such a role when I think of my identity?
Maybe whatever job I do – or don’t do – isn’t really part of my identity. Perhaps jobs, work, professions, don’t have anything to do with who I am at my core.
My identity is something I define myself – not something defined for me.