I was at my favourite bed & breakfast in Toronto. I’ve stayed there nearly a dozen times. It’s my “Cheers” – the kind of place “where everbody knows your name” – and I love, love LOVE it! I even made it onto their Christmas card list this year.
James, the manager, wasn’t there. He had a few days off and David (the weekend guy) was filling in for him. I’d never met David before, but James had briefed him.
“James told me about you. You’re a writer, right?”
Hmmm…. how do I answer that question? My first instinct was to say, “well, I’m not really a writer. I make my living as a communications director in a non-profit organization and when I have some time, I do some freelance writing.” But I didn’t. At that moment, I wanted to simply be the writer that James said I was.
“Yes… yes I am,” I said simply. And then I found out that David was (very happily) an accountant when he’s not working at the B&B.
It’s something we all do, don’t we? We let ourselves believe that the only true way to define ourselves is through our professions – that which pays the bills and puts food on the table.
But is that the truth about who we are?
It’s not that I don’t like my professions – most days I like it very much. But that’s not the full picture.
As I’ve said before, writer is and always will be part of my truest essence. I could add other definitions to that – photographer, artist, speaker, fumbler, workshop facilitator, blogger, wanderer, mother, wife, seamstress, cyclist – but the truth is, you’ll rarely hear me use those words to define myself, at least not in the “elevator pitch” you’ll get in the first 30 seconds. To be honest, that’s partly because I feel like I am so many things that I’ll lose your attention span before I get to the list, but it’s mostly because we’re used to hearing people defined in a certain frame.
What about you? How would you define yourself if you didn’t have to connect it to “what you do for a living”? Perhaps you’d be different things for different people?