Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day 2011 -- Is It Your Job Or Your Life?

Labor Day -- Whoopee!! A three-day weekend!! The Last Blast before the Fall activities begin again! So Labor Day has become in American tradition. W inhen I was a kid no one went back to school before the day after Labor Day, so even though we were delighted to have another holiday, and the adults were glad for a day off work, we school kids were aware that early on that Tuesday after Labor Day we were going to be kicked out of school, force-fed our breakfast, dressed, spit-shined, and sent off to meet another academic dictator and a room full of kids who may or may not turn out to be friends.

Nowadays Labor Day means many different things to many people. Here in the small community where I live they still start school the day after. But throughout Southern California schools are starting at many different times and there is no longer a summer vacation in some districts with year-round school schedules. Yet there are still family picnics, company get-togethers, celebrations of one kind or another, a beer-burger fest in backyards, traveling to visit family or friends, accidents, drunk driving, and all the good and not-so-good that comes with holiday observances.

This Labor Day I have been thinking about what it means to us as human beings to work. My daughter and I were talking of this just this past weekend as we traveled to one of our So. Calif. Blogger get-together days, about what jobs and careers mean to people.

My grandmother (from Western Kentucky) always made a point of reminding me to " . . . never forget who my people are." It took me some adult living to recognize what I think she was trying to tell me. In our society it is common, when being introduced to someone new, to first inquire: "And what do you do?" This is especially true of men. More and more it is becoming obvious that we as a society see people based on what they do rather than who they are. It was one of the realities that crashed in on my hubby the first time he lost his job. For quite some time he was very depressed. At first I thought it was because of the financial crunch. Later he admitted that it was because he felt worthless, not living up to my expectations or those of "society" or being a "real man."

In truth, judging people according to their job or career is, in my opinion, very demeaning. I like what I do, feel that is what I should be doing to use my gifts and talents productively, but I would hate to think that is all I am. Surely I am more than what I do! I think of some women I have known that were single moms, worked endless hours doing two low-paying jobs, often thought to be at the "bottom" of the social ladder. Yet, they were some of the best people I have ever known. Giving, caring, considerate, responsible, selfless--all the qualities that make a person a stellar human being. In the eyes of many they were just human "flotsom & jetsom." What does that say about our society that can dismiss these wonderful women as "disposable?"

My hope is that my life is lived in a way that testifies to who I am rather than what I do. I often spend time reminding myself that while I may be married, be a mother and grandmother, active in a career, that I am who I am and I am a career person who happens to be a woman, who is also married with children and grandchildren. While these activities certainly enriched my life and I am deeply grateful to have found my life partner and brought four wonderful people into the world and made richer by far with the lives of six delightful grandkids, I am who I am as a person and that is who I trust the world can see.

There is a genuine possibility that this may all seem irrelevant to many. In my counseling life, however, I find that many persons get tripped up in their self-image because they confuse their jobs with who they are. I like to think it this way: my vocation or calling is to be the best human I can possibly be; my occupation allows me to make a living and pay my bills. There is a significant difference. This Labor Day reminds me that my most important labor is to continuing working on me while, at the same time, I continue earning a living.

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday!!


Hilcia said...

Thank you Dr J. Thank you so much for this insightful post. I often muse about just this subject, and recently read a book about a Turkish man who when he first travels to the US is taken aback by what he terms "Americans identity issues." The fact that they introduce themselves as... "I am a lawyer, professor, psychiatrist, etc..." and of course he questions if that is WHO they really are.

I've always thought along those same lines. I never ask people WHAT they do for a living,(that doesn't really make a difference to me) or introduce myself that way. I rather get to "know" the person for who they are, not "what" they do for a living.

Rowena said...

What a fabulous post Judith, it's given me much to ponder.