Typically, at least in America, when someone asks you who you “are,” they really mean what is your profession. This came up at work recently when our team’s question of the week was “When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?” Whenever I get that question, of course I know the intent, but I refuse to acknowledge that I AM what I DO for a living, wholly or in part. My answer to that question is always “an otter” or “a bird,” because that is truly what I wanted to be. I still want to be a bird when I grow up. It just might take a couple incarnations.
Of course this question is really getting at the ROLES we play in life. But your relationship to your workplace is the setting for only one of your roles. That is your career. So wouldn’t the question be more accurately stated “what did you want your career role to be when you grew up?” We are all occupying so many roles at any given time. I also refuse to acknowledge that my role at work is supposed to be the only, or even the primary, role I occupy.
There are only so many things you can “be” in life. There are not enough hours in the day or days in a human life. Some choices about who we are and the roles we will play are apparent very early on. For example, I guarantee you that by the time I was able to begin expressing myself at age 2-3, I would guess it was pretty clear to my parents that I wouldn’t be a child actor or a drama major in college. But many other paths not taken magically appeared with choices taken over the years, and for many reasons. Who knows if the only reason I’m not an engineer is that my high school physics teacher told me that wasn’t an option for girls. Yup, and this was in the 90s, folks. Not exactly ancient history. Maybe the only reason I didn’t lean into music performance was because I never had a music teacher say to me that it was OK to fuck up once in a while. I was so scared to be heard, exposed, on my own, that I never went to a solo contest, never wanted the soloist role. The bigger the band, the better, because it was easier to hide. Much of the time, I didn’t even practice at home because I didn’t want the commentary from my siblings or parents.
That being said, I have many roles now in my middle age. I am a wife, a rescue dog-lover, a data analyst, a member of the company’s DE&I Council, a blogger, an active Twitter-user, an autist, a homeowner, a musician. You get the point. What if my whole theory of my own life shifted and that there were all these new rules I’m also supposed to be finding that I haven’t yet? What do I have yet to evolve into?
I think I might be an artist. I have ideas like an artist, but I am trapped in the mind of someone who has been an economist by profession in the past. The study and application of economics is all about the efficient allocation of scarce resources and the only true scarce resource is time. Time, on earth, above ground is fleeting. The voices in my head tell me not to waste it, to earn money, to work until you drop. I say no.
Maybe I want to be an artist? Maybe I have time to spare. Maybe I just need encouragement, psychological safety, a group of friends who will be genuinely supportive, even if I fuck up and waste time.
All things I’m thinking about…
I want to blow glass. The brilliant colors and smooth shapes have always fascinated me. My favorite shops in the little beach towns on the Oregon coast are the ones with all the display cases filled with glass art. My dear husband got me a gift certificate to a shop in town for a glass-blowing class a couple years ago and I really wanted to use it. I have my fingers crossed that they will still be able to have classes and I’ll be able to go post-pandemic. I’ll also have to find the little gift card somewhere in one of the many piles of mail and other crap on my house.
This year, I will become an artist.