For many of us it is the work we do, whether we actually like or enjoy our work, or not.
For others, your principal defining quality may be your role as a parent. Alternatively, it may be the sporting, academic, career or artistic achievements of your children that you chose to be defined by.
There are several factors that drive our decision as to what defines us. It may be the activity we devote most time or most emotion to. It may be what we perceive others or society will perceives as our defining quality. It may also change as we evolve.
A friend who very clearly defined himself by his work and career surprised himself when on becoming a first time Father in his 40’s, became aware just how unimportant his work was as he re-defined himself by way of immediate family.
His was a case of being very conscious of his personal definition but I suspect many are not as aware of “what defines us”.
I became involved in a conversation at my favourite Nundah café today with someone I know in passing but cannot claim to really know. He referenced not seeing me much lately and I told him about my career change and this lead to a most interesting discussion.
He revealed that he is going about life seeking to not be defined by anything specific. He does not want to limit any opportunities or experiences. He further revealed that for many years he was so wrapped up in “stuff” that his concentration was on the day to day where the primary focus was, the day to day “noise”. There was little or no time to reflect, think or consider where he was going and why; being swept along on the wave (my words not his).
He reflected that an unexpected serious illness gave him the motivation and more importantly, the time to think.
He now moves between full time and part time employment to both fund and provide the time to design and develop a men’s line of fashion. He studied fashion design at University. His first product is nearing production readiness.
I asked if he answers to being a “designer” and he said he doesn’t, even though that is how his Boss introduces him.
He was really clear that he does not want to be defined or pigeon holed as being any one thing. He explained that he is many things, surfer, skate boarder, designer, entrepreneur, barista, biker and musician. When meeting someone for the first time, he finds great difficulty, even discomfort answering the simple question “and what do you do?”.
It is an interesting and illuminating take on his position in the world, and one worth reflecting upon.
We tend to feel a need to be something, to define as someone. There is an expectation we present ourselves as “doing something” acceptable.
The lesson from my conversation today, is to remember we are made up of many things, multiple different components and they all roll up to being who we are. What dominates our world will change at any given point of time and we don’t need to define ourselves as being any one thing or another, at any particular time
We generally feel a need to conform, it is easier, but is it really better?
The alternative as articulated in my conversation today strikes me as being honest, authentic and a label free representation of freedom.