Identity Crisis

A few weeks ago, I had a startling realization.

Many of you know, I sew stoles for clergy.  It’s not my full-time job, but few of us are unlucky enough to have their whole identity captured in a single pursuit.  I sew stoles on weekends (and evenings when demand or procrastination require it), but I had resolved last summer when taking up this endeavor that I should not let this “part-time” status define me.  I am an artist.  Through and through.  I’ve been wanting to make art for years… ever since I was a little kid and I didn’t know that art was so special.  To me, it’s been a way of being for as long as I can remember.

But I’ve not always referred to myself as “artist.”  I made the decision last summer to finally take on this mantle.  A few weeks ago, I realized that I had slowly, imperceptibly forgotten this decision.

At a social gathering, someone asked me “what do you do?”  They did not ask me where I work, or how I earn the money that pays my bills.  They did not ask me where I spend 40 hours of my week… but that’s the answer I gave them.  I was shocked at myself.

Where did “artist” go?  I love what I spend 40 hours a week doing (don’t get me wrong there), but I also love that I get to make art!  And that people actually kinda like it!  Even more, the fact that I get to make art makes me better at what I do 40 hours a week–I get to be more creative and engaged during those 40 hours because I know that, in the end, everything that I do is filtered through the lens of making the world a more beautiful place.  How could I forget that I was an artist?

It’s all about identity.  “Who do you say that I am?” is not a question reserved for only the greatest figures… they ought to be aimed firstly at ourselves.  Who do you say that you are?  I bet that if you think enough about it, you’ll be surprised at your answer.

Is the thing you do 40 or more hours a week how you define yourself?  Yes?  Great!  No?  Look harder, then.

Let’s make a choice to identify ourselves in our best light… not the light that the world finds most convenient.


One Reply to “Identity Crisis”

  1. But don’t you think “What do you do?” has come to mean “What do you to do make money?”

    Someone at our class reunion deeply appreciated the way I asked the question – “So, what do you to do make money?” instead of simply asking “What do you do?” I was interested in her profession, so I asked a pointed question, rather than post four vague words that really aren’t that vague at all.

    I guess what I’m saying is… go easy on yourself, and/or ask your questioner to clarify, and or just startle your questioner. In a world where “what do you do” has become “what do you to do make money”, there’s value in offering an answer that’s removed from the money economy… however puzzling that might be at first for your listener :)

    Finally – don’t underestimate the very real affect your “work” has on who you are as a person. Perhaps part of the reason “what do you do” has come to mean what it does is the fact that spending 40(+,really) hours at a certain kind of activity really shapes the kind of person one becomes. I think you start to get at that in your post, but I think it’s worthy of further consideration.

    Thanks for posting!!!


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