The Day That “What You Do” Is Just That

You become who you are

"shape shifter" art by: "Thunderhands"

One of the things a job seeker who has been out  of work for a half-year or more learns to do is to “disassociate”. By “disassociate” I mean uncouple a former job title from the definition of the self. Please allow me to elaborate.

Many people will introduce themselves like this: “Hi, my name is Sean; I’m a mechanic down at ABC Garage”. Notice that a job title is used as a modifier in the statement of personal identity (like a little commercial for the company especially if the brand name of the company is well-known) as if  the company name is a part of personal identity. For a long time after the loss of a job, a former employee might say, “Hi, I’m Sean who used to work for ABC Garage” before launching into a tirade about being out of work and cursing the government official currently being blamed for it. After not having lived in an employer-employee relationship for over six months, that introduction may begin to sound like this: “Hi, I’m Sean Dannon, Angelica’s husband. I noticed you were alone at the punch bowl so I decided to come over and say hello”.

What is the difference you might ask? Disassociation. The more remote the last  workday becomes in memory, the weaker the emotional ties to that employment become. Making new possible work relationships feels less like betraying  the old workplace. The company name is dropped as a modifier of  personal identity. Notice how people whose job search has been longer begin to identify themselves by their own names plus the relationships that have meaning instead of the former job title tag.

The process of disassociation in the beginning feels something akin to a child’s separation anxiety on the first day of school. It can be so acute, it feels like choking;  imminent death; annihilation; non-existence. Once on the other side of this first stage of the  shape-shift, behold, “all things are become new”. The sun shines and there is something to get out of bed for.  The mere fact that day has come and being out of bed is what happens after a period of sleep feels “right” and “normal”. There is a day to plan. There is a looking forward to Life presenting her challenges, joys and surprises. The search for new work takes on a different meaning. Looking for work ever so slowly become less “the new job”  but just one of the tasks necessary to accomplish a certain goal. It becomes something on a “to do list”. This is sane, businesslike dispassionate disassociation.

About the same time or soon after the frenzied stretched-to-the-limit attention, “looking for a job is my new job” phase is over, “finding a job” falls into a new position in the order of things.  No longer queen, it becomes merely one part of the mix in life. Certain seekers begin to cast glances around and find out that “having a job” or being an “employee” is not the only way to do “making a living”.

Half a year out from the initial event of job loss, “what I do for a living” and “my person-hood” are two very non-associated things. This is actually a new reality. “I am me, not what I do”.


3 thoughts on “The Day That “What You Do” Is Just That

  1. Pingback: Fade To Black: What The “Becoming Me” Process Looks Like « VICTOREE'S BLOG: No White Flag

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