So… what do you do?
You and a stranger meet for the first time. After subconsciously making assumptions about who they are, what they do, where they come from, how they make money, the question pops into the conversation. It is a benign curiosity that can be appeased easily enough with a simple answer: a job title.
In the Western world, our job titles have become synonymous with who we are. I’m not sure I like that. It is one thing to love what your profession, to have passion for your work, to live up to your dreams of industry…. it is another beast entirely to allow ourselves to define who we ARE with what we DO. Especially when you’ve got no clue who you are in the first place.
A recent comment on one of my articles, MythBusters, had me thinking these past few weeks. How can I explain further the unexplainable, my whirlwind of a life, can I bring the truth of seasonal work and travel to closed ears? How do you break down your own existence and serve it up to others as an understandable parcel of truth? I’ve got no idea.
When asked what I “do”, often the expected answer is your JOB title. As if that defines what you DO. But I suppose when most of America spends 9-5, five days a week for 50+ years under certain job titles, roles, and rules… you may begin to define yourself more narrowly. I am a strong believer that what you do for a living, what you do to pay the bills, is not WHO you are. It is not what you DO. For instance, I can accurately say that I am a waitress, or a lifeguard, or a sommelier-in-training, or a bartender… at any hour of the day. But does that describe who I am? Perhaps it CAN, but I doubt it will do me any justice.
I “live” in a place that cultivates the kind of Wanderlust I have inside of me. Mostly a tourist destination, the small community that calls Wellfleet home have a very different outtake on life. Be an artist, an oystermen, a writer, a photographer, a lifeguard, a waitress… these labels are your roles in the community, your job title, something that is not synonymous with who you are. Other than those with children and year round jobs, most of us out here are working towards a goal, or a destination, or an annual trip to _________.
I choose to live in a seasonal area, where work opportunities are abundant during the Spring, Summer and Fall months. My job titles over the years have gone from the most basic, to career-oriented, to how-the-hell-can-I-do-it-all. Nannying, lifeguarding, waitressing, schizo-affective direct care professional, child care worker, Department of Mental Health respite employee, catering server, wine tasting-er-um-leader? … you get the point.
However, whatever I do in the summer months, this year I chose to juggle three jobs, working 65+ hours a week… I know that the winter months bring freedom. While now I may not have time to shower in between double shifts, or change my bra for that matter, I know freedom is around the corner. Most associate summertime with vacation.. but I like to think of my winter as more than a vacation, it’s an exploration time. After 6-8 months of working myself to the bone, I take some time to visit family, maybe work a little while home (any odd job will do)… and then it’s takeoff!
So here it is, a basic breakdown of what I “do”… I’ll warn you before I begin, that because I am who I am.. things change all the time.. nothing is constant… this list can never be permanent or exhaustive. Between leading wine tastings at a local vineyard, lifeguarding oceanside beaches, and waitressing.. my May through October my work schedule is something like this:
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9-5
Saturday 11am to midnight
Sunday 4pm to midnight
Time off? Maybe an odd day here or there… I count mornings, afternoons, hours, minutes as time “off”. Go jump in the ocean, the lake, run around the block, sit in the grass, lay in bed, drink coffee, watch the moonrise… anything can be done in 15 minutes or less, and shit, that is a lot sometimes. See what I did there, “real world”? I took your M-F 9-5 and raised you two days and two jobs… but I’m taking my retirement early, like way early, like in two months.
The key to such a life? Just three easy-peasy things.
- SAVE like your life depends on it. Be frugal, be present, be aware… I know, we all have our weaknesses.. September is usually my worst month for mindless spending. (Remember when I told you guys about Mint.com?)
- LIVE like your life depends on it. A crowded schedule doesn’t mean you come home from work and watch hours of TV or Facebook. On the contrary, you need to rejuvenate, get out there, watch the sunset, walk through the woods (or the neighborhood).
- WORK like your life depends on it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like what you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability. Nothing assures your future more than deliberate effort and a strong will to succeed.
Oh.. and rent month to month. Signing a year lease means a year without travel… and that makes me nauseous. Usually, my life affords me the opportunity to travel in the winter months, whether it be through a work exchange in the Virgin Islands, a Costa Rica wedding, or a maniacal surf hunt. Sometimes all you need is a few weeks off to scratch the itch.
I may be writing, but I am not simply a writer.
I may be exploring, but I am not simply a seeker.
I may be traveling, but I am not simply an explorer.
We owe ourselves so much more than one definition.
As humans we are all changing, redefining our roles, becoming something new over and over…
Don’t let what you “do” become who you are.