Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What do you do?

The first time I was laid off from my job—my first bona fide career job, not my pay the bills high school or college job—I was blindsided. What was I going to do now? How was I going to pay my bills? What was I if I was not an advertising copywriter?

I was an idiot.

I fell into the trap—like many young people do—of defining myself by my career. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a natural thing to do. You pick out what you want to “be”. You go to schools that teach you how to do that thing. You study hard. You interview. You get the job and become that “thing”.

The “thing” is what you tell people you do when you’re making small talk at parties. “What do you do?” It’s a classic. It’s also a trap.

You’re not just a thing that you do. You’re a person. And for me, it took losing my job to realize that I am a man, a human man, a brother, a cousin, a friend, a taxpayer, a U.S. Citizen, and a Person of Earth.

I ride bikes. I draw pictures. I eat like a starving goat. I alienate people with my cleverness. I lose patience with blowhards. I enjoy doing new things with old friends. I play music when I can’t sleep. I take a joke because you’re a fool if you can’t or you won’t. I smile awkwardly at strangers when I’m out shopping on my own. I write ads for a living. I know that it’s not who I am.

[NOTE: I've been getting messages all day asking if I've just been fired. I can see why that is (the first sentence). No, I'm still employed (as far as I know). I've just been laid off multiple times. It's just the nature of the biz.]