April 2, 2009

My Name is Katherine and I'm a Triathlete

When someone asks you "what do you do?" how do you answer? Is it what you do to bring home a paycheck? Is it what you do to relieve stress? Is it what you do to bring yourself joy? It's incredibly easy to answer the common question "what do you do?" with what you do for a living. That doesn't need to be the case. My mentor once told me that what you do for a living doesn't define you. You chose what defines you.

A while back I was having a particularly difficult few years in my job. I would come home and shut myself off because I couldn't come out of the funk I was in every day. It took a while but I finally found a great way to help myself out of it- I practiced defining myself in other ways. It was really hard at first. Our society is such that we work more than we play and my generation is such that we choose careers that reflect our personalities. I grew up thinking I could be whatever I wanted to be because I liked so much stuff. I pictured being a ballerina because I love to dance, I pictured being an engineer because I am great with spatial math, or I pictured being an arts administrator because the arts make my soul sing. Currently I am in a job that reveals nothing about myself. I never expected to be here and I don't know how to make it work for myself.

So since I'm sort of stuck here professionally speaking, I'm trying new things elsewhere and putting myself out there more. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined I would race in triathlons. Now I am a triathlete. I used to just as soon buy gifts but one day coworkers invited me to make some jewelry with beads. Now I make gifts for loved ones with my hands. I am happier now than I've been in a long time because I don't think of myself in terms of how I spend eight hours a day. Now I think of myself in terms of how I make the other time count.

We should all conduct an experiment. The next time we meet someone and that question comes up, we should answer with a hobby or a craft or a personality trait, even. "What do you do?" I race in triathlons. "So, what do you do?" Sometimes I like to collage. "What do you do?" I manage a winning fantasy football team. "What do you do?" I care. Try it and see what happens. Maybe you'll discover something new about yourself.


Carrie said...

Very insightful (as always).

I'm a fan.

Emily said...

Being in the same work predicament, this really made me think about what I do, what I should do to at least, like you said, help define yourself and not just be all about this mundane job I have. I love sketching and painting. And after reading this I remembered that I have two extra canvases downstairs which will hopefully get some paint on them this weekend when I make time to sit down and paint. You have inspired me ! Haha.

dad said...

To always have something to look forward to is a great lesson, which you have mastered. I think it's true most people are not self-actualized by their jobs and have to compartmentalize things in their head to stay sane. That awful job I had in Vermont was made palatable by my thrice daily trips to the vending machine for fru-fru coffee.

Deniel Hopkins said...

Great Post! interesting and informative :) keep tri-ing