For the last two years I’ve been working as a freelance writer, but recently took a second job at a coffee shop to get out of house and help make ends meet. It was actually really hard for me because I’ve realized that taking this seemingly simple second job made me confront a lot of intense issues surrounding my idea of identity. Like, for the past year and a half, I’d been a WRITER. That was my identity and I’m really proud I was able to support myself by writing. But somehow, the moment I accepted the job offer, I felt like a failure, and I felt really confused about what I was and who I was.I hope that doesn’t sound cocky or stupid or both, but I felt like being a full-time writer had defined me for quite some time, and the addition of 20 hours a week slinging espresso muddled that definition. Do you have any insights on how much your job should play into your identity? It’s so crazy too because I’ve always valued things like relationships and creativity and sleep more than career advancement, and here I was having an emotional breakdown about working at a coffee shop at age 24.
If you’ve been writing/dancing/trying to invent cold fusion since you were 5 years old, it’s probably unlikely that you can disentangle those interests from your identity. And I, personally, think that’s okay! Don’t feel guilty about it! But you should also realize that just because your job title no longer coincides with your interests doesn’t make you any less of what you are.
When you are making the rounds at those ubiquitous holiday parties, you don’t need to introduce yourself as a barista/office temp/professional couch potato. If you were a writer for five years, and you’re currently making coffee occassionally, you’re still a writer. And who knows who you’re going to meet? It’d be a pity to introduce yourself to a book agent as a coffee slinger when you’ve had three books published.
Even if your income is currently coming from your job as a bank teller rather than from photography gigs, it doesn’t mean that you should stop learning PhotoShop. In fact, this should be all the more reason to take it to 11! Re-entering the world of professional potters/event planners/tap dancers will be easier if you’ve got some new tricks up your sleeves.
If you work in a creative field or a field that requires a lot from you emotionally, you’re going to need a bit of downtime once in a while. I get reallllly emotionally involved at my job and there are times that I’d like nothing better than to serve coffee to strangers who won’t tell me about their families being hunted down by Burmese soldiers. And artists? They need time to let their left brain do a bit of the heavy lifting. View this as a time to let your grey matter rest a bit.
If you’re a laid off research scientist who’s currently working at The Gap, there’s no reason that you can’t keep hanging with your researcher friends. This isn’t to say that you need to blow off that very nice college girl who folds sweaters so well, but spending time with people who are excited about the same things as you, know about developments in your field and actually care when you talk about genomes will make you feel a bit more normal.
Ya like that? How I made a nerdy writing pun because we’re talking about a girl who’s writer? Yeah, I thought so.
photo by gk.giannis // cc