I realize that when I discuss my former company, I still say “we,” as if I remain a part of it. Life is so much easier when you can wrap yourself within the veil of a big company’s identity. People assume that so much of what you do is who you are, and it’s easy to believe that yourself. There’s a stamp of worth that you get automatically by association.
— Kathleen Finn, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
I don’t wrap myself in the “veil of a big company’s identity,” but I understand the sentiment nonetheless. So much of our identities comes from our jobs and the organizations to which we belong. I find myself still saying “we” and “us” when I speak about Bryn Mawr, or Genderqueer Chicago, or especially TJLP. It may be telling that I do not particularly identify with the job I currently have or the company for which I currently work, but despite the 400 miles and the over six months since I’ve been in the office, I still am deeply tied to TJLP.
There is definitely a sense that what we do is who we are. When I was in college, introductions nearly always included our year and our major (and our college, if I wasn’t at Bryn Mawr): central to our identities were where we went, what we studied, and how far along in the process we were. Even now, “tell me about yourself” generally translates into “what do you do?”
In a way, that makes sense — we spend most of our time at work, so it seems logical that it would say something about us. Beyond that, there are only so many hours in a day: anything important enough to us for us to make time for it is a part of who we are.
On the other hand, we are so much more than what we do and who we work for. Our values, our passions, our beliefs — they’re all key components of who we are, and they don’t necessarily have anything to do with what we do for a living. It’s certainly not as neat and easy a question — or answer — as something like “where do you work?” or “what do you do?” but it matters nonetheless.
We are valuable by ourselves, regardless how we pay our bills or the companies or organizations to which we have connections.