Maybe we can take advantage of the widespread recession unease to change a few things about how our society works. Hey, after all, with so many out of work, it’s not like we have anything better to do!
But it’s precisely the “so many out of work” bit I hope we will learn to rethink. In a country where we’re used to introducing ourselves as “Hi, I’m Jane. I’m a schoolteacher,” a lot of people are having to rethink their introductions. “Hi, I’m Jim. I’m unemployed” just doesn’t have the same ring. Rather than replace it with “Hi, I’m Jim and until recently I was a loan officer,” maybe we could rethink this whole system. As one woman recently put it in an article I was reading, with so many in the finance industry out of work or soon to be, you no longer date Banker, because tomorrow he may be something else. Instead, you start to look at character before profession.
Does it really take a recession to bring that home? Maybe it does. I as much as anyone else have trouble separating my identity from my line of work. I mean, I was signed up as an English major before I even arrived at college. But several rejection letters into the graduate application season Sydney very nicely reminded me that I was a person, grad school or no grad school, and that he wasn’t dating English Grad Student. And, though I think it is funny how very easily Sydney the Philosophy Professor seems appropriate to his way of thinking (I mean, have you tried having a conversation with him?), I’ve also gotten glimpses of Sydney the Farmer, Sydney the Photographer, Sydney the Dry Wit, etc. And I’ll admit that, when thinking about what I understand is a nasty job application process (coming up next year!), I am reassured to think that I will walk into those interview rooms having more of an identity than the interviewers could approve or deny (Erin the Mom, anyone?).
Although having a couple of extra identities around when the job market goes sour probably isn’t quite as far as we need to go with this, I am glad that social circumstances are undercutting our death-grip on the synonymity of who we are and what we do for a living.
[For those who may wonder whether pregnancy is affecting my mental activity: in one of my many, many bad-sleep pregnancy dreams I found myself at an academic party with a lot of snobs, saying “This is my husband, Sydney. He’s a lumberjack.” I then began to hum “I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay . . .” — at which point I woke up, since the addition of Monty Python signaled to me that I had lost my grip on reality.]