by the sea

Have you ever defined someone based on what they do for work? You know, they tell you what they do for a living and in your mind you place them in a neat little boxed labeled 'teacher' or 'police officer' or 'stay-at-home mom' or 'secretary' and that's that. I've even done this with students and what they happen to be studying. There they go into their neat little box - 'law student' 'Political Studies student' 'Theatre student.' It's a terrible thing, and I'm so embarrassed to admit it.

This mindset has affected how I view my work, too. I used to be so afraid of being labeled by my job. People would ask me what I do for work (as you do when you meet someone new) and as I told them, I would be so quick to add the caveat that 'it's just a job' or 'you know...it pays the bills.'

You can imagine my shock and horror when I realized that I actually like my job. If you've perused my 'about me' page, you'll know that I'm an office assistant at a university science department. It's not glamorous, it's not particularly creatively stimulating, and it's definitely not what I want to do forever - but I like it.  

I used to be so worried that if I admitted I enjoyed my job I would a) be labeled as an office assistant for the rest of my life and b) be stuck being an office assistant for the rest of my life. Let me be quick to point out that neither of those things are true. Those lies came from mistake of defining people based on their job description. And so of course I defined myself in that way, too.

My realization that it's okay that I like my job hit me in two waves. The first wave was when I realized that my job doesn't define me (or anyone). I came to the decision that, instead of being discontent with a job that isn't the dream job, I would be grateful for having a job that allows me to help people, that encourages me to grow, that provides opportunities to learn new skills, and that gives me free time to pursue my passions. It was an incredibly freeing decision. 

The second wave came when I was on Facebook scrolling through the Humans of New York page. This caption caught my attention:

I'm a Customer Engagement Program Operations Director with a pharmaceutical company. I started working there twenty years ago. At the time, it was just a temporary position. I was writing standard operation procedures to ensure FDA compliance. It was boring and technical, but I was trying to become a theater director and needed the extra income. I remember looking at my coworkers, and thinking: 'I'm not one of them. I'm just here to make money and leave.' But I moved to a full time position after my daughter was born. I didn't want her to be at the mercy of me wanting to become an artist. Soon I no longer saw myself as different than my coworkers. The sense of 'other' disappeared. I realized that nobody saw themselves primarily as an employee at a pharmaceutical company. A few years ago, the company gave us a survey to test our morale. One of the questions was: 'Do you have a best friend at work?' Everyone laughed at that question. But I do have a best friend at work. His office is down the hall and we've seen each other every day for ten years. And that does make a big difference in my life.
(original post can be found HERE)

This story put into words the way I used to feel about work... and also the way I have now decided to view my job and the people I see everyday.
I don't work with finance officers, receptionists, academics, or administrators. I work alongside individuals with dreams, goals, hopes, fears. I work with sisters, fathers, aunties, friends. I work with creative souls, closet health-nuts, dreamers, and world travelers.

I needed a mind shift. No one, including myself, is defined by what they do with the working hours of their week. We are much much more than that.

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