There are a few things in this world we are taught to believe define us: where we came from, our relationship status, our friends, our family, but most importantly our career. More than likely, one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone is “what do you do for work?” We ask this, because without even knowing we’re doing it, we are trying to compare someone to ourselves, to label them, to put them in a box.
We come to think of someone not by who they are, but by what they do. Michael is a Doctor, so he must be extremely intelligent and dedicated, Sam is a Police Officer so she must be brave and just, and Leila is a waitress, so she must be an aspiring actress or a student, right? Whether we like to admit it or not, these titles conjure up images in our heads – we classify people in terms of what they do to make money. What we don’t consider is that Leila might be the most intelligent of all, but her goals, her circumstances and her life have led her in a different direction. Maybe she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing.
The truth is that our occupation, our career, our job (whatever you want to label it) only makes up the tiniest percentage of who we are as a person. It may help shape us and change us over time, but it does not define us. For a long time we were just young school children, then we were travellers, we studied, we partied, we experienced loss and heartbreak and love and adventure. All these things are just as crucial to moulding who we have become, some even more so.
Two weeks ago I lost my job. At first I felt this very strong sense of loss. For a few days I questioned who I was without my role. What was my identity now? How did I answer people when they asked me what I did for work? I’ve come to see that this has actually been a blessing.
There are very few moments in life when we actually get to sit back and think, to ask ourselves what we really want. I’d been gliding along uncertain if I was doing what I wanted to be doing. I was content but not ecstatic. I was curious about what else was out there. I have now been given a chance to take a breath, to take a step back, to look at the bigger picture and to take my time deciding what the next journey in my career will be.
I’ve also been able to really see myself clearly, not through the lens of the ‘Advertising Sales Manager’, but through the lens of Lauren. Not as an employee, but as a woman: a strong, resilient, bright, enthusiastic, caring and tenacious woman. Those things say so much more about me than some job title.
Sometimes a sabbatical is planned and sometimes it’s unexpected. Maybe you’re happy in your role right now, but maybe you’re not. Maybe you want more. Whatever your circumstance, I implore you to stop and think for a minute and to look at yourself through a different lens. Give credit to who you really are – every single part of you. Then take that advice and apply it to others. Get to know who someone else really is – everything that is ‘underneath’ their job title.