This is a question which over the years has caused me an untold, and completely unnecessary, amount of angst. So small, just a conversation starter. But for me, as I suspect for the vast majority, my whole sense of self and self worth, were tied up in that one little question and its response.
We live in a society where, from the outside at least, what we do says more about us that what we are. I’ve come to realise that that isn’t necessarily the best way to look at things. We we do is important – if nothing else, it takes up a lot of our time – and if we’re lucky, it’s something we enjoy. But what about those of us who don’t have a vocation? What about those of us who just have a job, who work simply as a means to an end?
For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to be an archaeologist. All through school I was determined. I actually had teachers laugh at me when I said it (how’s that for encouragement??!), and I went to college with that exact aim in mind. For a while, it worked. I spent a few years doing fieldwork, enjoying it despite the often horrendous weather we’d be working in. But then I had to make some choices. Physically, the work was taking it’s toll and my back wasn’t very happy. I started to feel confused about what direction I was taking – I wanted a sense of security as well, and archaeology isn’t exactly permanent and pensionable. So I headed back to college, hoping that further training would lead to a career in the heritage sector. Briefly, it did, and I spent a few months working at the National Museum of Ireland. At this stage I had met Hubby, although he was still Boyfriend then. We had been together a couple of years, and he was offered a job in Galway. Decision time. Do I stay and try and progress my career in the museum? Or do I follow the love of my life? No brainer!!! We came west and I don’t regret the decision for an instant.
But, there were consequences for me with work. However possible it may have been to get work in archaeology in and around Dublin, there was nothing doing in the west. And so my working life did a swift about face and I took whatever I could get, which led me to bookshops. I love books. Love them. I can get lost in a good book for hours at time, and get panicky when I know I’m reaching the end of my ‘to read’ pile. We recently did a massive book clear out (to make space for more) and it almost broke my heart. So, there were far worse places I could have worked! At the time though, I couldn’t see that. All I could see was failure. I was no longer an archaeologist, the very thing I had dreamed about for so long. My sense of self worth was under attack.
After two years in the book world I moved again, this time to that much sought after permanent and pensionable admin post. Again, a strategic move more than anything else. It gave me security. But still, I felt there was something missing. When asked what I do, I would often say ‘oh I’m just in admin’. I mean, what class of a response is that?? There is nothing wrong with working in admin and if I was inclined, there’s a steady prospect of career progression, or at least there was before the arse fell out of the economy. But that wasn’t the point. For me, because I couldn’t say, ‘I am a (insert whatever………teacher, archaeologist, nurse)’ I was a failure. I’d like to point out that this particular label only applied to me. Other folk were grand doing whatever they were doing, this was all very personal. It was as though the only way I could be worthy as a person was by having what I deemed to be a worthy job. As I saw it I didn’t, therefore I wasn’t. Simple as that.
After a considerable amount of time spent looking at this with Therapist, I’ve come to realise that perhaps, just maybe, my view on this was slightly skewed. My job was just that. A job. It allowed me to buy my house, pay my bills and provided the security we felt we needed to start a family. It’s what I do, but it’s not who I am. There’s a whole lot more to me. Right now, I have other priorities. I’m a mother, a wife, a friend. A blogger!! And I’m me. I love to read, to walk, to do yoga. I love a good belly laugh. Tea and a natter with a friend. Cake. I’m a fantastic listener. There will be time in the future to find my dream career, but now, I have neither the time, the energy, nor the inclination. I have more than enough going on to keep me busy.
As for my job? I’m in admin!