I attended a fabulous gathering last night. It was at one of my favorite places, with some of my favorite people. It also brought out many of the ‘Who’s Who’ in the Twin Cities area.
I LOVE meeting new people, whether they may be considered ‘fancy’ or not. It’s one of my favorite things. But this event reminded me just how difficult that can be, especially when you feel like you can’t measure up to who ‘all the other people’ are or what they are doing.
When I got home last night, I thought about much fun it was to be introduced to the people there with such exclamations as “She’s written a book! She’s co-hosting a podcast with Melissa Gilbert!”
Now that’s pretty fancy, right? These amazing things that I’m doing have been a long-time coming. Years and years of trying to figure out who I am, what I really wanted to do, how to fit it all in with my family life, how to make it happen. LOTS and LOTS of trial and error. At 56 years old, I can finally say that I know what I want to do when I grow up, and I’m HERE.
Some of us are lucky enough to have a straight life-path trajectory. We went to school and have become architects or lawyers, manage a team of people at a marketing firm, or teach Kindergarten. These things define us and give us something to feel proud of. They announce to the world that we have our shit together and are doing something with our lives.
But what if we are ‘only’ a Stay-At-Home Mom? What if we can’t seem to get out of retail hell? What if we need a second job at McDonald’s, or have recently lost our job and are drinking water at said event because we can’t afford to buy a drink?
And what if we are in that new mid-life stage where we are rediscovering ourselves and who we are, we don’t really ‘DO’ anything, and we have no CLUE what’s next? How do we introduce ourselves then or answer what becomes the dreaded question, “So, what do you do?”
I thought about that this morning and admonished myself for putting such an emphasis on what I do and the fact that I finally feel like I can impress others with my answers. Why wasn’t I enough before, when I was a stay-at-home mom, joining the direct-sales movement to hock someone else’s wares or suffering in retail hell?
Why wasn’t I enough when I didn’t have a job, the kids were older, and only my spouse was bringing in the money?
Here's the Thing(S).
What We Do Does Not Define Who We Are.
It’s how we are doing what we do. You are an at-home mom? That’s amazing. You have the toughest job in the world that’s 24-7. You do incredibly creative things every day to keep your kids happy, learning, and occupied. It’s about the only job that doesn’t come with any kind of manual.
Taking ALL the heat in retail hell? Dealing with crabby customers, staying late when someone can’t decide WHAT they want, taking on register snafus and the ever-glamorous back stock? But, wow! You have a lot of responsibilities! You really know how to juggle things! You get to meet new people constantly and can really think on your feet!
All of these things go with the fast food job, the front desk job, and the street cleaning job. You are being responsible, paying your bills, solving problems for yourself and others, and making people’s lives easier and more pleasant.
When you can mentally put this twist on whatever you’re doing, it helps you realize that there is no job that is not worthwhile or relevant. And when you believe that, you can proclaim what you do with confidence!
And when you aren’t working at all at the moment? You are in the process of dreaming and scheming, and even if things are really tough, you are using your talents and drive to push yourself forward. You get to start over, and that’s a wonderful thing. Often it’s not our choice to be in that place, but whether it is or not, you can decide to look at your circumstance as a way to take control and point yourself in the direction you want to be going.
So first comes the mindset, and then it’s about finding the confidence to proclaim who you really are when you’re at a fancy-schmancy party and someone asks that dreadful question.
“I’m lucky enough to be home with my kids right now–best job in the world!”
“I’m working at J. Jill’s (or McDonald,s or Target, or…) and I just love connecting with so many different people. There are so many things to problem-solve every day, and it feels good to be good at that!”
“Honestly, right now I’m dreaming and scheming about what comes next. It’s overwhelming but also exciting!”
If I heard these statements upon meeting you I’d think, wow, this person is so interesting, I want to hear more. Because you aren’t really talking about the job you’re doing, you’re talking about yourself.
Here’s the other thing…whether you are working a job to get by or not working at all because you are trying to figure things out–even if you are thriving in a corporate position but are also a secret writer–TELL PEOPLE!
If you are working on a story or blog, you are a writer. If you practice your guitar for you and only you, you’re a musician. If you find yourself grabbing your kids’ or grandkids’ paint and puttering around with watercolor, you’re a painter. The more you say these things that you love doing out loud and claim them, the more you believe it yourself. And you never know who may be dabbling in the very same thing or have a connection with someone that you can bounce ideas off of.
What you do doesn’t have to be a money-making venture. Everything we do is a part of us, and we are made up of so many parts.
I hope this reminder to myself is something that helps you as well. We are all interesting because of HOW we do what we do. That’s who you are.