View Full Version : Occupational Head Crisis

02-06-2009, 06:38 AM

So I'm having (it is a long term problem) an identity crisis. Since we are so defined by our jobs (especially in the Midwest of the United States) I don't really understand what it is I do for a living.

I have an engineering degree, and worked as such for awhile. Then I had kids and quit because I figured that I'd never see them. I started writing and have completed two novels. I also work part time as a math tutor.

So when people ask me, "What do you do?" I don't know what to say. Am I an unpublished writer, an unqualified educator, or an unemployed engineer. Or maybe a homemaker... but I'm truly terrible at that. If I claim homemaking, I might have to wash my kitchen floor more than once a month.

Anyone else have this problem? Have you claimed to be a writer even if you are under-published?

02-06-2009, 07:49 AM
You're a writer if you write words, published or not.

You're a homemaker if you make a home for yourself and family, even if the floors aren't as clean as the mop sellers would like you to have them.

But basically, you're a full time person, trying to make a life as much as you are a living. Go beyond defining yourself by your job, and find out what and who you really are inside your skin.

When I did that, I found out that I really, deep down inside, define myself as a musician, even though I've only ever earned seventy dollars in forty years of playing instruments and singing. But music is what defines me, not what I do for a living.

Clair Dickson
02-06-2009, 08:02 AM
I think you're going to have to figure out what to call yourself-- and this is more about introspection than anything. But, you will have to realize and potentially get over your self-perception problems with several of the titles listed.

For example-- a homemaker does more than just 'wash floors'-- do you clean, care for the children, take care of grocery shopping, laundry, and all the other things that are involved in being a homemaker. A homemaker takes care of the house and family. That is the definition.

Going on, many educational jobs don't require "qualifications." You are a math tutor because you tutor people in math. Presumably they improve with your help, therefore, you are a math tutor. How are you unqualified? Because you haven't gone to school to be an educator? In Michigan, you can be a long term sub with on 90 credits of college. That's right, you can do most (if not all) of a regular teachers job without even being on an educational track so long as you have 90 credits of college. Being able to teach (or tutor) is what makes a person able to call themselves that. My mom calls herself a computer teacher, even back when she taught comptuers through the local community education program-- she has no teacher training. She taught, and thus was a teacher. It's not a trick of semantics, it is what itis.

And as Yeshanu said, if you write, you are a writer. (Though careful, this can be a dangerous statement to make because everyone wants to be a writer, or tell a story, or whatever.)

You could also call yourself a mother. That's a big role in and of itself.

This really is a question of how you see yourself. I'm going to guess (little armchair psychology) that you're having trouble not just with semantics but with where are in life right now. You don't quite know who you are, which makes it hard to figure out what to call yourself. But understand that you are who you decide you are.

Best of luck.

(My answer is usually "alternative high school teacher" but it does change depending on who asks-- sometimes includes real estate agent, online course facilitator, writer, wife, daughter, sister, sister in law, etc. ;-)

02-06-2009, 08:05 AM
Writing makes you a writer, so you're clear on that point. They'll probably follow up with "Ooh, are you the next J.K. Rowling?" Just say yes, and act surprised that they haven't heard of you. :D.

You could also say you're a full-time mom (If it's good enough for Michelle Obama...). There's also "I do a lot of things! I've written a couple of books, and I knit/fix cars/wrestle alligators," or "I'm fortunate enough to have the luxury of staying home with my children." There's no reason for you to apologize for choosing a career that makes you happy.

02-06-2009, 08:08 AM
I've never defined myself by my job or by what I do.

And I never answer questions of what do you do. Because that doesn't define me either.

I view myself as too complex to be pigeonholed like that.

William Haskins
02-06-2009, 08:20 AM
i just tell people i'm an embalmer.

there are few follow-up questions.

02-06-2009, 08:34 AM
Hmm, I understand where you are going (I think) I've run into this before.
I am an ex-soldier, I am unemployed. I am a homemaker.....the list can go on but in the morning and before I go to bed the last thing I see and know is that I Am a Mom. And that holds power over all other occupations to me.
It's just a matter of finding what has power or a 'hold' over you...

02-06-2009, 08:36 AM
I say that, now I'm retired, I'm a full time domestic servant and write for a hobby. It brings a smile.

02-06-2009, 08:49 AM
Are you what you do? Or what you dream?
It's not that obvious a question, ya' know?

02-06-2009, 09:02 AM
This thread is interesting. Best of luck to those who seek, I hope you find.

I've been flustered lately because I'm juggling three lives: writer, musician, and computer guru. I love playing guitar, I'm skilled at writing, and I am challenged programming and fixing problems. I might be able to make money at any of these, but I will have to leave the other careers behind. It's like being in love with three beautiful women, who love you, knowing you can only be with one. :tongue not that I'd know
Seriously though, I spend every night alternating between my activities, and trying to figure out how to market myself and get paid to do what I'm good at. I have a dead end desk job, no family and no real friends - hell I can't get a date. I don't have a night to sit back and watch a frigging movie. I hope soon, not one day - very soon, it will have been worth it.

Carry on.

02-06-2009, 06:57 PM
Tell them you're retired. And if they persist with questions - tell them it's 'classified'.

02-07-2009, 01:15 AM
I like these answers. I'm tempted to tell people I'm retired, because it would get a good laugh, especially when I'm out with my kids. It might also explain why my kids feel the need to wrestle on the floor of the grocery store. ("Yes they're my kids... but I'm retired.... or at least resigned.")

Are we what we do? Or are we what we dream? Those two questions together might stump a Zen master. Because it's both in some ways.

Nice thoughts... Thanks.

02-07-2009, 01:17 AM
You dabble.

02-07-2009, 01:17 AM
I hate the "What do you do?" question. I tend to answer, "About what?"

02-07-2009, 01:24 AM
Just answer whichever way you feel at the time, or say that you have multiple abilities.

Wayne K
02-07-2009, 05:15 AM
When I went to have my insurance adjusted I told the agent I was a writer and she entered "Other" into her computer. I felt like a complete ass but my wife noticed that and spoke up loudly and said "Your book is being considered by a publisher, so you're a writer." The whole office attitude changed when she said it. I certainly could have said "I'm a lover." because I did better than I deserve with her.

Kate Thornton
02-07-2009, 08:08 AM
I am different things to different people at different times.

Yes, I am a writer, a painter, a part-time investigator. Retired military. Retired secuity engineer. I guess to my doctor and the Social Security people I am disabled. But there's no end to what I do, what I am interested in, what I read and what I find out about - at home, I am a cook, a gardener, a housekeeper and a mom to 5 pets, somebody's wife, someone else's friend, someone's auntie, sister, buddy, and co-worker.

So when someone asks me, "What do you do?" I always ask, "When?"

02-07-2009, 08:37 AM
Anyone else have this problem? Have you claimed to be a writer even if you are under-published?

I don't know if the old definitions hold, and I'm asking for input about that.

From what I've heard, you're a writer if you write, especially if you write with the intent of trying to publish.

You are an author if you have completed an novel or book (so novellas and short stories count?) as I understand.

You are a professional writer if you have been paid for doing it, even if you aren't still on a payroll.

You are a published author if some prints your book (short stories, poems, too?).

That's how I understand it.

Now, all that said, it can be good to let folks know you write if you can get them to beta read for you. It can suck if you just get constant 'published anything yet' comments.