We Are What We Do?

When I was a full-time journalist I always prided myself in the fact that I had a life outside work. Sure, I was a hard worker and I was proud of the stories I produced, but I didn’t eat, drink, and breathe journalism. I did not have the obsession with news that so many of my colleagues possessed. I watched CNN every morning and browsed my favorite blogs and news websites daily, but in my car I listened to bad pop music, not NPR, and at the gym I read Glamour and Bust, not Newsweek and Time. I loved what I did, but I refused to let it define me. Or so I thought.

Now that I’m no longer a full-time reporter I’m beginning to realize how much of my identity was tied to journalism. I love teaching. Next to marriage, it’s probably the most challenging and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. And while I didn’t eat, drink, and breathe journalism, I can’t say the same about English education. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about ideas for my classes. I can honestly say that I am obsessed with being a good teacher. Nonetheless, I miss writing terribly. I miss interviewing strangers. I miss telling their stories. And, quite frankly, I miss seeing my byline!

I told Edd the other day that I don’t feel like myself. Being a journalist was such a huge part of my life, whether I realized it then or not, that now that I’m no longer a full-time reporter I’m not sure who I am.

So what’s a girl to do? Should I simply look forward to that day when I finally have this teaching thing down and that begins to become my identity or should I practice what I preached in years past and not let my career define who I am?

We all know the correct answer. This recession showed us. So many people define themselves through their careers and when they were laid off this year they were completely lost.

But how do you actually define yourself outside of what you do? I thought I had. My life is a full one. I have strong faith, great friends, a loving family and an amazing husband. I make sure I do something fun every day and I am confident that my life will keep getting better. I know these are the things that matter most in life, not seeing my name in print. But at the end of the day I am a writer. I have been since I wrote my first bad poem at age 8. And now I’m striving to add “English teacher extraordinaire” to my handle.

Furthermore, we live in a society where what you do is so important. From the time we can speak, our parents, teachers, and family friends start asking us what we want to be when we grow up. When we meet someone one of the first questions we ask is what he or she does for a living (even though in this economy chances are the person we’re meeting is unemployed). And when we introduce ourselves our career is one of the first things we mention.

So again I ask how did you live a life in which who you are isn’t defined by what you do?



  1. I totally feel your comments. I think I underestimated how much I’d miss the randomness of the day and the newsroom when I was a reporter. I think I miss the environment and people more than anything!
    Also, I think you are probably a wonderful teacher. Your students are lucky to have you.

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