Why is my career so important that people would want to know that information right away? Do you not care that I am married, or that my kids learned how to cook, or that I am growing some sweet potatoes, or that I'm learning a new language, or that I'm expecting a grandchild? Of all the things that you could ask about me, why is my career among the top three things you need to know about me?
Sadly, because we put so much emphasis on careers, we tend to identify ourselves with our careers. We allow our careers to give meaning to our lives. We let our careers make us into who we are.
So, if we don't have a good career, we don't feel good about ourselves. If we have a great career, we would feel important.
How many of you are quick to tell people that you are [fill in the blank]? How many of you are ashamed of yourselves when somebody ask you what your field is? How many of you spend much of your waking hours wondering what would you do when you "grow up?"
For a while, I've wanted my doctorate degree, and maybe one day I will have one. But, the main reason why I wanted a doctorate degree was because I wanted to feel important. I wanted people to take me seriously. I wanted something that my family could feel proud of.
When it comes to what to do as a career, I wanted to do something that I felt was important to society as a whole. I wanted to tell people with pride what kind of career I'm in. When I was in EMS, I used to walk around in the store with my EMS uniform on, because I wanted to show everybody that I was important, doing important things.
When I went to training to become the highest level in EMS, which was the paramedic level, I was excited because I was about to become MORE important. As a paramedic, people want me! I could brag to everybody that I'm a "medic."
The older I get, however, the more it distresses me to identify myself with a career.
I don't want to be known by what field I am in. What if I can't participate in that field ever again? Would I just not feel important anymore? Would I lose my identity? Would I go into despair because I'm not "Aiyo the Paramedic" or "Aiyo the Doctor" or "Aiyo the Firefighter?"
The older I get, the more importance I see in the other things I do that ought to give me a sense of importance.
- Being a loving husband.
- Being a loving father.
- Being a good counselor for a friend who needs someone to talk to.
- Being a good motivator for people who need it.
- Being a gardener who grows his own food.
- Being a person who likes to help people save money.
- Being a good servant to those in need.
Why don't those things make me feel important? Because society as a whole doesn't value those things. Society values the career that you're in, and if you're in a good career, society makes you feel good. If you're in a not-so-good career, then no matter how wonderful you are in other areas of your life, you would be a nobody in society's eyes.
There are so many wonderful people in this world who are not in any glamorous careers, and they are often times overlooked in society. Yet there are so many horrible people in this world who have awesome careers, but society only cares about their awesome careers and would make them feel good about themselves.
If your career is the only thing that gives you identity, you will be in trouble when you can't do that career anymore.
I won't be foolish as to think that I'm indestructible. Anything could happen to me so that I can't teach fitness classes anymore. What would I do if that happens? If I don't let my career define me, then I could always find other things to do. If my career does define me, I would fall so much into despair that I might kill myself -- or do some other kind of harm to myself.
Ask my kids who I am, and they will tell you, "He's my daddy." Ask my wife who I am, and she will tell you, "He's my husband." Neither of them said, "He's a ZUMBA instructor" or "He's a teacher" or "He's a writer." These things are what I DO, but they are not who I am. I am a husband and a father who TEACHES fitness classes, or who WRITES inspirational messages, or who does this, that, and the other.
When you look yourself in the mirror, don't define yourself with your career. Your career is simply that: a career. It's what you do to pay your bills. You are not a doctor first. You are not a teacher first. You are not a police officer first. You are not a civil judge first. You are YOU first...and your career is what you DO, not who you ARE.
So, who are you?