How (Not) To Define Yourself

Reporter's notebook

The end of May is such a strange, conflicted time of year. Is it just me? I mean, for the last five years, the end of May has been a period of major life changes, stress, and packing up whatever room I happen to be living in and moving out. I know some of you folks out there feel me on this one!

My struggle to find a real, big-girl job is something I've been pretty frank about on this here bloggity. I've mentioned how I hate the impermanence of my life at this stage, but a huge part of what scares me about not having a job has to do with having a sense of identity. Call me crazy, but what I do plays a pretty big part in how I perceive myself. Even when I was a student, it was the same thing. I identified myself by my class, or my grade, or my school. I mean, think of how you'd talk about yourself if prompted. "Hi, I'm Darci. I'm a recent graduate of the University of Miami working in the sport industry." Name, school, job. So when I didn't have a job for a month earlier this year, I was beyond afraid of being totally unattached to anything.

Recently, I was flipping through my old reporter's notebook (and I already don't remember why. But let's just roll with it). I got that baby back in 2011 when I went to the National College Media Convention with The Miami Hurricane. It was a long weekend of various critiques and sessions and workshops, so the first few pages of my notebook are filled with notes from those. When I flipped open the cover, on the very first page, one of the top bullet points from a session called Make Money Blogging said: "Don't let your school, job, etc. define you."

Granted, this was in the context of blogging, but I was kind of struck by how relevant to life it is. We get so caught up in studying and working that we sort of stop being ourselves. When I hit high school, I had so much damn homework to do that I stopped reading for leisure. Me, the kid that spent entire weekends at a time with her nose buried in a book! I'm still trying really hard to get back into reading regularly. Way too many people find it way too hard to answer questions like "what are you passionate about?" and "what are your hobbies?" and "what do you do in your free time?" (Myself included. I spend too much time each weekend sleeping or otherwise spending time in my pajamas, recharging from the previous week.)

There's a great article on Business Insider called "5 Things To Realize About Unemployment" that makes some really good points about dealing with being jobless (seriously, it's 100% worth a read). My personal favorite takeaways are that, 1) everything ends, and 2) I am not what I do. Our lives are about so much more than work and school, and there's so much more that we can (and should) focus on. Hobbies! Passion projects! Yay!

One of my favorite quotes is by C.S. Lewis, who said, "Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." For myself -- someone who's driven to the point of single-mindedness -- my employment status has a huge effect on my happiness. Being unemployed for a month kind of forced me to work on that, and I think I've gotten better about it. But there are still good moments and bad moments (and really bad moments). This is definitely a process. Having a sense of self after stripping away anything you may lose is a very interesting challenge. But I'm hanging my hopes on the fact that it's bound to get easier! (...Right? RIGHT?!)

How do YOU define yourself?
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  1. I am really loving this post! Your follow up question is how do you define yourself, however to answer this question, I would have to go slightly against what you have said. Given this question, I instantly define myself as an individual with a passion for children with special needs. My job is actually working with children with special needs. So in a sense I am defining myself by my job. However, that is technically not true. Instead of defining myself as passionate about my job, I am defining myself as having this passion and turning my passion into my dream job!

    I believe that what you have said holds great truth to the generation we currently are in. It is so true how when we go through introductions we say: Hi, I am Beth, a student studying "" at "" instead of saying: Hi, I am Beth, an individual who is passionate about ""

    Good luck on seeking employment! I am sure something will come your way soon. Until then, we will hold on to our passions and dream of the day we are defined not by our school/job/etc. but by our passions!



    1. That's awesome that you turned your passion into your dream job! I'm in the process of doing the same. :) I guess that's why it's kind of hard to separate my job from who I am, but it also makes it slightly easier to deal with unemployment because nobody can take what I'm passionate about away from me!

      Thanks so much for the feedback!

  2. this post is excellent! more than once i faced the situation of who i am. I'm a powerful girl who wont be defined by my school or major

    1. Thanks girl! :D Awesome attitude. You do you, and rock it!

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