identity

I want to bring up something that I’m sure a lot of creative people struggle with, especially when they’re just starting out.

Maybe you’re a writer, or an actor, an artist, a musician. You know your passion and you work hard at it. But you still have rent and bills and food and clothes to pay for. So you get a job to support yourself, as a shop assistant or a waiter or something like that.

When you meet new people, one question always comes up; ‘So what do you do?’

(Sometimes the question is worded more like; ‘Who are you?’

That’s even harder to answer.)

Do you tell them the day-job you tolerate to survive? Or do you tell them what you really do, what you really are, what you dream and work on.

There are plenty of people that will love to hear about the latter. They’ll be supportive and interested. But, in my experience, there are many more who don’t think like that. These people want to know how you bring in the money, what your realistic, driven career ambitions are, not your ‘hobbies’.

The other day I met someone and when they asked me the dreaded ‘so what do you do?’ I answered as I always do.

‘I’m a writer’

‘Oh. So, a journalist? Do you write for a newspaper?’

‘No, I mostly write fiction. I’m just starting out but I’m working on some stories that I’m really excited about.’

‘Oh, that’s nice. Have you thought about getting a job at a newspaper?’

‘No.’

And here comes the worst part, the one thing I can’t stand to have people say to anyone

‘And what will you do if that doesn’t work out?’

UGH.

Top tip: when you’re talking to someone about their passion, DO NOT ask them about plan B, don’t question their aspirations or wonder why they haven’t got a ‘real job’.

People like to hear things like ‘I’m a doctor’, ‘I’m a lawyer’, ‘I’m a teacher’. They might even be happier hearing ‘I’m a shop assistant’, ‘I’m a waitress’.

But here’s the thing. Not everyone identifies as their job. I am not my day-job, I am the thing that drives my every step. I am a writer, regardless of where my publications are or how much money it brings me.

I know that this will ring true for every struggling creative out there, but I think it will also feel familiar to others. You might have a successful career but love volunteering at the animal shelter more, or directing short films in your spare time that make you prouder than you’ve ever been. Your passions and dreams are the most important, beautiful things.

And getting to know someone’s passions tells you a lot more about them.
So, can we all just stop assuming that someone’s identity is directly tied to their job?

You know what else makes up my identity? Being a Gryffindor with aspects of Ravenclaw, the music I practice, the jewellery I like to wear, the fact that I can’t play a board game and wish I could live under the sea. I identify as a witch, a warrior, a lost-girl of Neverland.

You know what has never been an important part of my identity? Every damn job I’ve ever worked in my life.

Does the man known as Bruce Wayne identify as a playboy millionaire?  No, he’s freakin’ Batman.

I guess, to conclude, you’re all beautiful, amazing people and I believe in you. Do what you love and love what you do, no matter what.

happy reading, happy living

x

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