What Defines Us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question since I was laid off almost 5 weeks ago. Sitting in the conference room with the HR director, amid my tears, sniffles and general falling apart, she said, “Your job is just a job. It’s not who you are.” I know this. I’m a many splendored thing. Or something. Whatever. I loved my job. I was proud of it. I enjoyed doing it and I worked hard at it. Not to mention the years of schooling I endured in order to get a job like that one.

If your job is not who you are, then why is it that we put so much emphasis on what we do for a living? What is one of the first things a new person asks about you? “What do you do?” Why is that? Well, because what you do for a living says something about you. It’s true. It can show if you’re driven, a slacker, educated, self-educated, your likes and dislikes. Watch Jeopardy or any show on TV, they always say what the person does for a living. Because whether or not that HR director was right, what you do for a job matters. To me it does.

So now here I am, jobless. I’m in a much better frame of mind than I have been since this happened. Last week I took Riley to the park at 10 in the morning. There was a grandpa there with a little boy. We struck up a conversation and the second thing he asked me after asking Riley’s name was, “Are you a housewife?” Yes, the terminology is wrong in 2010, but he was right. I nodded.

It surprised me. I’m not a “housewife.” Those stay-at-home moms are thrilled to be with their kid all day, out of board rooms, away from the pressure of the rat race. Or are they? Maybe they’re me. They love being around their kids, but never planned to do it 24/7. I guess we don’t always find ourselves in the perfect place at the perfect time.

But when it’s 70 degrees in October in Wisconsin, maybe the park at 10 a.m. on a Thursday, is the right place to be.

In the grand scheme of things, I used to be an editor. But I’m still a wife, a mom, a dog owner, a daughter, sister, good friend, skating teacher, funny person and a few other things. I’m accepting this new me and I can’t help but think that in the long run, I’ll be better off.


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