So last night, my wife and I find ourselves at one of those shindigs where people invite their friends and neighbors to come to something disguised as something enjoyable, and yet is actually a marketing presentation. We knew what was coming, and went anyway. Fortunately, it turned out to be rather educational, all things considered.
Before the main event got going, however, our good neighbor who invited us spent some time introducing us to some of the people who worked at the place that was giving the presentation. Not surprisingly, I got asked, "What do you do?" Pretty common question for a guy to ask another guy. My response was to talk about my day job.
My wife opened my eyes to what I should have said. "He's an author," she chimed in, "who also used to do some engineering."
It struck me that, here I am, in the early stages of doing the professional author thing, and I still haven't fully ingrained the idea in my head that, yes, I am an author, despite the fact that I'm published and selling, and that more books are on their way out the door (that's right--a new novel should be out in coming months; more on that in later entries).
Rather, I'm so accustomed to defining myself by what pays the bills rather than what else I am that it didn't occur to me to even consider answering the other guy's question the way my wife did.
And yet, she was more right than I was.
I think it's natural to define ourselves by the things that occupy the majority of our time or attention or--especially for modern men-- to define themselves by what they do to earn a living. Certainly, that's the intent behind the question, "What do you do?" Really, however, people are vastly more complex than their day jobs. Considering how often people change jobs--and even careers--in our times, it almost seems foolish to slab such fickle labels on ourselves. Yes, those labels are accurate, and yes, they work perfectly well to satisfy the question. But how much am I limiting myself by allowing myself to get stuck in the rut of believing who I am and "what I do" is a function of "which activity produces the largest paycheck"?
I'm not sure, really. But this is something I'd like to change about myself. Let's work on that.